Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Unless You're a Photo Nut, Skip This Post

I'm an avid photographer. I figure if life is worth living, it's worth remembering. Well, most of the time.

So, to my family's fatigue, I snap photos of what we do together. If we're on a vacation, I'm recording it all; I download these moments and relive them on my slideshow screensaver with great delight. My middle daughter, to my heartbreak, will allow herself to be in one or two photos during an entire trip away. If she sees me raise camera to brow, she puts forth her open palm to block out her face. I must have hundreds of photos of "the hand," ruining my reminiscences of family gatherings.

Though before going digital in 2003, I'd lug my Nikon D60 with Nikkor 28-200mm lens with me everywhere, since then I've become spoiled by the "throw my camera in my purse" joy of a Kodak DX7590 with 10x optical zoom. It does away with carrying a separate video camera, recording my daughter's performances and our family by the pool--limited only by the size of its SD card. I love that I can control the flash, deciding when I want natural light (just don't open it) or fill (an easy button on top). It focuses smoothly and accurately.

But, it's only 5 megapixels, and it takes FOUR SECONDS between pressing the shutter and taking the picture. I've lost way too many photos that way. Cute expressions on toddler nieces just won't wait that long.

I've been looking to update for a long time. I even bought a Kodak P712, 7.1 megapixels and 12x optical zoom. But I hate it. I didn't know that it has an automatic flash; in order to override it, you have to go deep into menus. I don't have time to do that when the groom and the bride are being hoisted on their chairs at a wedding. Also, that camera has a jerky zoom; when I see a photo, I want to just go there; I don't want my zoom to keep moving in too close after I've stopped pressing it.

So it's been several years since I've bought a camera, since nothing's been made that addresses my needs. My husband, who hears my muttered curses while I wait the four seconds between pressing and shutter release, keeps urging me to buy a replacement that's faster. I keep looking for a toss-in-my-purse mega-zoom cuz I won't return to the lens-toting or changing of an SLR.

I thought I'd found it when I came upon the Nikon P80. With 18x optical zoom, a flash I can control, 10 megapixels, compact size--all the specs united to send my heart a-flutter. Then, when Costco put it on sale in a package with case and SD card, I caved.

I read the manual carefully and last week went out with my husband to the Skagit Valley to view the flocks of snow geese and swans that over-winter in the barren tulip fields and other farm-y expanses. Snow geese congregate in enormous white masses, commonly 50,000 or more. Trumpeter swans' white swaths are fewer birds, but they're fatter and far grander when they fly. A swooping raptor can set them into a magnificent tizzy.

It was a frigid and mostly overcast day, but being out in the open fields was energizing. We followed the course suggested by a newspaper article on the geese, and indeed, there they were, gathered in a formidable line just closer than the horizon. That wasn't good enough--we went on the proverbial wild goose chase, seeking to come close and watch their group ascent.

Not to be. But I tried out my new camera on fluttering birds on a nature preserve pond, views of Puget Sound, winding trails bordered by pink-branched bushes just barely budding. I saw two enormous eagle nests, and some herons flapping across the sky.

The photos are dark, their elements blurry. I can't figure out how to turn off the auto-view that pops up when I want to keep shooting, showing me the photo I just took. I am not happy with this camera. Every picture I took--outside!--needed editing. I'm headed back to Costco. And my husband, once more, will start his nagging for me to find a new camera--or stop muttering.


  1. Depending on the price range and size you're willing to spend...

    Cheap/small: Canon SD 1100 or 770 IS (the ELPH series). 770 is 10mp over the 1100's 8mp; otherwise, no real difference. (Actually an excellent review of a whole bunch of Canon's series here.)

    I turned off the red-eye and they go really fast - not just taking the picture but allowing me to take the next one.

    My mom won a Canon Rebel XLR I believe it is; it's amazing and super fast. Obviously does not fit in your pocket though.

  2. Ezzie, mega-zoom is crucial for me; the ELPH has only 3x optical zoom. Keep suggesting...

  3. Ezzie, ANY time. I use the zoom constantly, and I mean constantly. Weddings especially--I can get close-in shots without being obtrusive. That's when I turn off the flash. My Kodak does just fine, and it doesn't even have image stabilization.

  4. My brother has a workshop coming up. He is an excellent teacher for all levels. He is also a Canon Explorer of Light, which means he shoots only Canons and can help you select what fits for you. Contact him through his blog link. Tell him who you are and that I sent you. He is an excellent resource.

    Every family needs a photographer, a lawyer and a plumber.

  5. Thanks, Ruth Anne--I'd have to be convinced Canon has any option for me; I've eliminated all the models I've seen, for various reasons.

  6. Talk to my brother. He's really good at fitting the right camera to your needs. Even if it isn't the brand he usually shoots. His email and contact info is on his blog.

  7. And here I thought that I was the poster child for serial buying of and discarding of point 'n shoots. I never had a single one remotely meet my expectations. Same thing with camera bags, though I am in like with the new Crumpler bag I found a couple of weeks ago. So I schlep the Nikon D80 with the 18-200 lens around and just deal with the weight. Although last month in Hawaii, when they told me I couldn't take the dSLR up on the zip line, I ran out and purchased yes, yet another p/s so we wouldn't miss any photos of what will be my first and last time dangling above a deep green valley. If you do find a great little camera that fits in your purse, though, I want to be the first to know.