The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

some technical advice please

Digital cameras - we are aiming to get a new one before leaving on our trip overseas in a few months and there seem to be some good deals* around at the moment.

Basically neither of us are very camera savvy, we just need something that can point, zoom and shoot, and preferably upload easily to the internet directly, or to CD so that we can save and send home. Sony is desirable as we already have two memory cards for those cameras.

So what I'd like some advice on is:
- how many megapixels? I'm thinking over 5 is sufficient for our needs (printing out as 6 x 4, maybe the odd enlargement a little bigger, and posting on the internet) - smallish files are important in terms of space and emailing home.

- zoom - I'm thinking a 3x optical zoom will be just dandy. Do I need to care if it's "Carl Zeiss" or not?

- are there any other bits and bobs that it is particularly handy for the camera to have?

Thanks in advance my wise blog readers :-)

* I'm particularly taken by the Sony DSCW5 which Farmers has for $499 at the moment


Joe Hendren said...

One of the most cunning travel tips I ever heard travelling with both an ipod and a digital camera.

Apparently there is an adapter you can get to transfer photos to the ipod from the camera, thereby creating a backup of your snaps before you take it to a camera shop to transfer from memory card onto CD. The greater capacity of an ipod could be a useful place to store your pictures.

There may be an adapter to run sony memory cards on other cameras. I say this as I just got myself a new sony phone, and it came with a memory stick adapter. I would take one of your cards with you when shopping ;)

Aaron Bhatnagar said...

I think Canon cameras are excellent - they have fast processors for quick series of shots which is handy for weddings etc. Casio are nice and feature laden for the price but are a little on the slow side. Sony are excellent, but their memory sticks are more expensive than the industry standard SD cards used in most cameras. has some excellent reviews on consumer class cameras.

However, note that you do not need any more than a 3.2 megapixel camera to get good 4x6 photos. My recommendation is that you get a good camera, but if you like top quality 4x6 photos (and print mostly these), get a good camera and also get a dye sublimation photo printer like the Canon Selpy 400 or sucessors.

However, most good printers these days will give excellent output if you use the recommended photo quality glossy paper. The printer manufacturers aren't lying when they say that their brand paper works best with their printer - often they test for results and rebrand the best performing paper as their own.

Psycho Milt said...

5 megapixels is plenty unless you're planning some serious enlarging.

The lens is just as important as in a film camera. It doesn't have to be Zeiss, but it's worth noting whether the salesperson mentions lens quality without you asking about it - if a good-quality lens is one of the camera's selling points, presumably they'll bring it up.

Zoom's a compromise between "zoom is good" and "I don't want to carry this big heavy bastard around all day". 3x zoom is OK for shooting portraits without making people feel like you're getting in their face - beyond that, whatever extra you can get will help you out with all that stuff you want to photograph on your travels that nobody's going to let you get up close to, but it's really a luxury unless you like toting a camera bag everywhere.

And I'd absolutely recommend what Joe said about backup storage - whether it's an ipod, a Palm Pilot, a notebook PC or whatever, if you've got one take it with you for storing photos on.

the denizen said...

As you are talking about "snapshots" as opposed to fancy photography, then 3 meg is heaps as Aaron says, but 'cos it's digital, I suspect that rather than printing them out, you'll mostly be viewing them on a screen (goes all misty eyes with childhood memories of "slide evenings" looking at Dad's holiday photo collections) ... that's a computer screen, so no less than that would be desirable, but more can be a boon.
Best tip I ever got was to get as much memory as you can, and then to ALWAYS take photos on maximum resolution (pixels) 'cos when you get that one-in-a-million shot, you want it to be good quality. (You can always immediately delete any crappy shots to conserve space). You might get more photos onto your card by shooting with lower resolutions, but the results will not be as flash when showing 'em off to friends & family, while the higher res pic will take pride of place as your screen wallpaper for a few months ('till the next gret shot gets taken).
With the optical vs digital zoom: Go for as much optical as you can, 3 is a real minimum, and digital zoom is of little value.
Firstly it (optical zoom) saves you from having to get so close to the subject (e.g. that whale rising just off the headland) and secondly, optical is TRUE magnification, whereas the digital zoom is doing exactly the same thing you can do back home on the PC with photoshop or the gimp ... it just crops the picture to something smaller & then displays it bigger with no increase in resolution.
Personally, I recently purchased, and got an Olympus with the 10x zoom (you know, the one on the telly where the lion charges him on safari), but when the daughter went buying, we opted for the Panasonic (yeah yeah, with the Zeiss Lumex lens) which was VERY intuitive to operate, and had almost exactly the same feature range as the Olympus.
I wish you a happy consumerism experience,
what ever you buy will be superceded by something better & cheaper within a couple of months

span said...

thanks for sharing guys, very useful.

space is at a premium - i haven't seen a lot of digital cameras with zooms greater than 3x optical in a compact size (yet). don't have an ipod or a palm pilot and won't be taking the laptop - basically the camera is the only thing of value that i'll be taking, beyond actual money, passport etc. do have two Sony memory cards though, and the camera I'm looking at has 32Mb storage, so I was thinking of copying the good shots to a memory card regularly, then getting them burnt to CD and sent home as often as possible. would that suffice?

is it worth waiting until we get to Dubai (first stop) to get the camera?

Icehawk said...

Um, we're really happy with the Sony T1 we got a couple of years ago.

dpreview is really good:

Sounds like your camera is going to be your storage/display device as well a bit. If so then the size/quality of the LCD screen can matter a lot. Consider on holiday going through your pictures on the camera in the evening, trying to pick which ones you'll keep and which ones you'll delete: you want to be able to look closely at the pictures you've taken.

Ed said...

Advice seems to be pretty well covered above, but I'll add that I'd second any reccomendation for Canon cameras, I've had great experiences with the Ixy/Ixus range but I've only had limited experience with other brands.

I'd reccomend taking a look at Parallel Imported cameras (, they usually tend to be cheaper than most retailers and taking a look at your specifications the Canon Ixus50/IXY55 seems to fit perfectly ( so it may be worth a look. I'm pretty sure that's the camera my brother bought recently, if so, it's very compact and takes excellent quality photos. I've got some photos I can upload if you're curious about the quality of the camera.

A handy if a touch unnecessary addition to any camera is a power adapator so you can charge the camera as you use it which comes in handy if you're reviewing photos at the end of the day wherever you're staying.

Best of luck with your travel plans though.

Anonymous said...

In answer to your questions

(1) 5 megapixals is plenty - it will allow for up to A4 sized prints for most shots.

(2) 3x zoom? Ummm .. if you can go more .. but it depends on what you wanna take pics of. If its mainly people, then 3x is heaps. As for the lens - well any good brand for the camera means the lens will be fine.

A small thing - non propritary batteries are nice (ie taking double As as opposed to the expensive "Sony" ones at $50+ a pop). Also image stabilisation is handy too (means you can take take a pic with less light and still not need a tri-pod. Especially useful indoor.

If you do want the W5 (good camera btw) try here - (saves your $25). Oh .. and you can get the black one from here too (much sexier). You could also try and see if you can find it cheaper (probably can).
If you aren't absolutely set on the W5 - take a look at the Sony P200 - it has received excellent reviews and has has the same zoom range, a few extra million pixels, and smaller (handy)

My personal pic of the Sony range right now would be the H1 - its as cheap as $799 in NZ, but not sure if that's overkill for what you want, but its a damm fine camera! It is larger, so not sure if thats an issue. But it has image stabilisation, super zoom (12x), takes AA batteries, and has had rave reviews. Here are the 3 cameras I have mentioned compared

One final thing - be aware you will need to buy a bigger storage card that the one that comes with the camera. They can get pricey, especially from std retailers. The best place to buy them from in NZ is (very reliabable). Get at least 512meg.


Anonymous said...

Just read your more recent post re space.

Based on that, scrap my suggestion of the H1, but the P200 could still be a go-er.
Perhaps a look at the sont t-series too, since they are all 5 or 6 megapixel, 3x optical zoom etc, and lots smaller that the P or the W series cameras. T5 seams to be the pick for most punters (better than the T7).

If you're off overseas - worth the wait, as most countries its way cheaper than here (do your research on the net to check, it does depend on the country).


stef said...

Is great. I'm running an olympus that I'm very happy with.
Tip...look for cameras with low ampage as battery life can be a bitch sometimes.

5 megapixles is way too much for your needs I'd think.

If you were going through asia it would be worth checking out the electronics. I've picked some neat stuff up at my one and the ones in japan are even better.