A couple of months ago now, I went ahead and bought that new camera that I had for quite a while been thinking about buying. The circumstance that provoked me into making a decision earlier than I otherwise would have done was a trip, early in February, to Paris. Yes, it was cold:
That’s a water feature, somewhat frozen when I photoed it, in La Défense, the big clump of modern architecture in the west of Paris.
The thing that clinched it for it, in favour of the Panasonic Lumix FZ150, was how reviewer after reviewer used phrases like “an all round winner” and “all round best”, as in best for the sort of camera that I wanted, when writing about it. Such talk suggested to me: excellence in what I knew I wanted (zoom, picture quality, good video recording) together with excellence in other areas that I would only learn about after I had started using the thing. So it is proving.
The other camera I was considering buying was the Canon SX40 HS. I can’t compare my new Lumix with that, and will presumably never know for sure if I made the exact right choice. But I can compare my new Lumix with all the previous cameras I have ever owned, and in particular with my most recent previous camera, a Canon S5 IS. And I can now tell you that I am a very happy snapper. Could I have chosen even better? Perhaps. Have I meanwhile chosen well? It certainly feels that way now.
The x24 zoom supplied by the new Lumix is wonderful, just as I expected it would be. The Canon SX40 HS has x35 zoom, but I reckoned that x24 would suffice for my purposes and so it is proving:
That’s a snap taken last week from Primrose Hill. On a typical London day, the limits of how far your camera can see with clarity are set not by its lens but by the clarity of the air, which is mostly set at: not very. So I am very happy with my new zoom superpower.
Other improvements on my old Canon were not quite so expected. The focussing works much better than on the old Canon, especially at the extremity of the focussing. Simply, far fewer shots now come out blurred.
But just as impressive as the detailed way that I can now photo Big Things far away, is that I am finding it much easier now also to photo Big Things that are much nearer, and which used to be too near. This new camera has a much wider angle of vision, close to. Many have been the times in the past when I have stood in a square or a street, trying to photo the whole of a building opposite, and failing because unable to stand any further away from the building. This new camera is positively panoramic compared to the old one. I can now stand across a mere street and photo a huge Thing only a few dozen yards away, in its wide-angled entirety. For an architecture fan like me, this is a major plus. I expected some improvement in this department, but not the huge improvement I now enjoy.
This is a new Thing that they are constructing in Victoria Street:
I know. Very strange. I will tell you what I think about it, some other time. Or maybe not, I promise nothing. My point here is, my new camera can now see almost everything of it that I can see when standing near it.
The new camera feels nice. Even though somewhat bigger than the old Canon, it feels no heavier. The build is light, but sturdy. The old Canon was made of metal. The new Lumix seems to be made of something discovered while heat-proofing rockets, or some such thing. The clicks when you take your shot have a satisfyingly solid and definite feel to them.
Best of all, when it comes to nice new surprises, the new camera can damn near see in the dark. Again, I was hoping for improvement in this department, but was not expecting what I got. It seems that Lumix (hence that name?) cameras generally have a good reputation for picture quality in low light conditions, which was another reason I went Lumix rather than Canon.
I used to do shots like that with the old Canon, but only because the marginal cost of digital photography is zero. About one in about half a dozen attempts might have seen me getting lucky.
Sometimes the colours look peculiar in these newly reliable, in-the-dark pictures, but this is why God invented Photoshop and why humans have followed with their many copies of Photoshop, of the sort that I use.
I have not yet used my new camera at an indoor and badly lit meeting, to photo badly lit people, notably the speaker. When I do, I expect a big improvement, and a much higher success rate.
In choosing the new Lumix rather than the Canon SX40, I was influenced by price, but not in the way you might expect. It told me something – that is to say, I think it did – that the Lumix was selling for around thirty or forty quid more than the new Canon. There were occasional moments when the Canon was a tiny bit pricier, out there in internet land, but these were only occasional. It would appear that others besides me thought the Lumix to be somewhat better. And since for me, an extra fifty quid was worth what seemed to be that extra ounce of all round quality, I went with the Lumix. I am sure entire papers have been written by academic economists about that single piece of consumer reasoning.
So excellent is the new camera that at no point during the two months during which I have so far owned and used it have I ever hankered for the old Canon S5 IS, for any reason. That’s an important quality with any new kit, I think.
I prefer A4 batteries, such as the old Canon used, to the little plastic brick bespoke battery that the new Lumix uses, because if you run out of puff while out and about, you can simply buy new A4 batteries to tide you over, in the event that you don’t already have an emergency supply with you. But, I bought a spare bespoke battery with the new camera, and that arrangement works fine. I’ve never yet been caught short for power on my wanderings, and do not ever expect to be, unless I have simply neglected to recharge before departing.
I have to faff about with the lens cap on the new Lumix, and would really like an automatic lens cap on it. But it was just the same with the old Canon, and that lens cap tended to come off while the camera was in my bag, which is not at all what you want. So, there’s been an improvement on that front also.
My only other grumble is that the little twiddly screen on the back of the new Lumix is a bit fiddly to get open, the way the one on the old Canon was not, but I’m quickly getting the hang of that, encouraged by the fact that the new screen is bigger and clearer, just as the reviewers said it would be.
I still have the old camera. Any offers? All would be considered, including even: I’ll take it off your hands for nothing and give it to my kid. But even the cheapest new cameras are now better in many ways than my old Canon, and for most this would now be an extravagance at zero. As with most of my previous cameras, I will probably keep it and hope it becomes an antique.
My basic problem with this new camera, far more major than quibbles about its batteries or its screen, is that it is so good that my productivity, so to speak, has rocketed. With the old Canon, about half my pictures were garbage, and a lot of the rest rather poor. Only a few were very good. Now, many more of the snaps I attempt come out really rather well, and many more snaps, such as very distant views, are worth attempting. So, given my previous voracious snapping habits, my successful snap rate has got up prodigiously. This creates a real problem.
Take my recent trip to Paris. While there, I did my usual thing, of taking my camera with me everywhere. And I now have a mass of photos of just about every intriguing thing that I saw. With the new camera, my best photos are not really that much better than my best photos always were. It’s just that I now take many more photos that are good enough to impose upon such persons as Samizdata readers. So, choosing which ones just got hugely harder.
My Paris archive is so overwhelming that I have not known how to start showing it off. I took all the pictures inside ten days, and what with the cold, I didn’t hang about when taking them. Snap snap snap, shiver shiver shiver. I managed to post here a few of the first pictures I took. But when I got home, and took a long look at what I had, on a big screen like we all have at home and such I have only at home, I started fretting about how best to use them, and … just carried on fretting. How to make the most of this photographic treasure trove? Which snaps to go with? In what numbers? To illustrate which opinion exactly. I started picking out good pictures for future display, but soon found that I had the internet equivalent of one of those horror shows of pre-internet legend, when those boring neighbours subject you to an interminably boring evening of holiday snaps.
I guess I will just have to do what I have done in this posting, which is make some kind of start, but without going too mad. Or, maybe I will have to overcome my reluctance to bother with Flickr, reluctance which is based on the fact that, for me, the purpose of photography is to illustrate blog-opinions or blog-reports, and to entertain blog readers, rather than merely to create vast galleries of snaps that few ever look at. But, comments about Flickr and its potential usefulness for someone like me would be very welcome. I believe Flickr has just had a design makeover. Also welcome would be comments about Flickr’s various more recent rivals, such as the similar offering from Google.
Anyway, I’ll end this posting with one of my many, many Paris photographic favourites, seen in a shop window:
This is, as I recently heard the comedian Tim Vine saying, about muggings in multi-story car parks, wrong on so many levels. I would never want to own a thing like this, but owning photos if this and other shop window amusements will supply me with much future fun.