I bought myself a new compact camera, a Canon S90. It took me a while to decide on this camera, so I thought I’d write a bit about my thought process.
Currently, I have a Canon XTi with a few lenses, my favorites being a Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 and a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8. The Sigma is great as a light, flexible walk-around lens, and the Canon has served me well at weddings and dance competitions. My other camera is a Fuji Finepix F31fd, which I’ve pretty much stopped using regularly because Pamela’s Canon SX200 is so much better in most situations. I still carry the Fuji when I don’t want to be walking around conspicuously with a DSLR and I can’t use Pamela’s camera for one reason or another, but most of the time it just sits at the bottom of my backpack.
Originally I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to get a new DSLR body or a new compact camera, but I soon decided that I was much happier with my Canon XTi than my Fuji compact, so I decided to look for a new compact camera.
I wanted a camera that had the following:
- Manual / aperture priority / shutter priority modes
- Quick startup, fast focus, negligible shutter delay
- Easy access to controls for exposure compensation, white balance, ISO, etc.
- Large aperture wide-angle (at least f/2.8)
- RAW support (nice to have)
- As little noise as possible at higher ISOs
- Compact enough to fit in a jacket pocket
I didn’t really care about the following:
- HD video recording – 640×480 @ 24/30fps is fine with me
- Scene modes – I rarely used them on previous cameras
- Optical viewfinder – great on my DSLR, but not worth the extra space it would take up on a compact
- External flash / accessory mount – same as above
This naturally led me to the large-sensor and “prosumer” compact cameras, like the Panasonic GF-1, Panasonic LX3, and the Canon S90. Early on in my research, I was leaning toward the Panasonic GF-1 with its 14-45mm (28-90mm 35mm equivalent) f/3.5-5.6 kit lens. However, I didn’t really like how bulky this lens was, and I wasn’t happy with the lens’ f/3.5 maximum aperture. I considered getting both this lens as well as the 20mm (40mm 35mm equivalent) f/1.7 pancake lens, but that would have been even more expensive and wouldn’t be as convenient. At about that time, I realized that I really just wanted a simple compact camera that could take good pictures in most situations, without the bulk and hassle of an interchangeable lens system.
That realization pushed me toward the Panasonic LX3 and the Canon S90. Both of these cameras are ~$400, which is still expensive for a compact, but much cheaper than the $800 GF1. I read several reviews of each camera, and found that the two were well-matched in almost every aspect. For example, I preferred the LX3’s fast 24-60mm (35mm equivalent) f/2-2.8 lens to the S90’s 28-105mm (35mm equivalent) f/2-4.9 lens, though the S90’s telephoto reach would certainly be more useful in a lot of situations. The one thing that pushed me over the edge in favor of the Canon S90 was it’s retractable lens cover – once again, this was a just matter of convenience; I didn’t want to deal with the lens cover on the LX3.
I should be getting the camera in a few days. I’ll report back after I’ve spent some time with it. =)