Analysis Part 3: handling

To start with, I looked up the average size of an adult male’s hand and checked several sources for confirmation. It’s about 19cm (7.5″) from wrist to tip of middle finger. Thus my hands are actually normal size, and not gigantic as so many of the tiny devices in our lives today have led me to believe. This doesn’t really change things, though.

Over-all, ‘handling’ is a highly subjective criterion. Gripping the camera easily is surely the main part, and secondary to that would be the controls falling into place where those most frequently needing changing would be readily accessible. This is somewhat (but not very much) standardized across camera makes and models these days, with only the occasional “gotcha!” cropping up to ruin the experience. Your actual mileage may vary, as the saying goes. So let’s look at me gripping my cameras and discuss some other minor details.

The ‘camera to beat’: Nikon P610

I generally have no trouble holding this camera or operating its controls (except when they stop working). The grip area measures about 4″, which is a little shy of accommodating the whole hand but does take up more than half. I’m pretty comfortable with it. My major complaint about the controls is that ISO is buried in the menu settings instead of being a dedicated knob or at least easily-accessed adjustment. There may be some way of programming that, but even if so I’d never remember where it is. I don’t like “programmable” buttons for that reason. If you only have one camera or multiples of exactly the same camera you might remember which button is set to do what, but … not me.

Second best: Canon T100

As you can see it’s a little smaller handful than the Nikon, despite having a larger sensor and generally being about the same body size. The ‘finger grip’ in front simply doesn’t stick out as far. Still very usable, and some of the small controls are more sensible on this camera. Of course there’s no zoom control because of the detachable lenses. The ‘PASM’ dial, which also serves as the on/off switch, on top is fine. The ISO access button on the back is okay. Adjusting shutter speed or aperture when in the respective ‘preferred’ mode is also okay with the thumb dial, but I do prefer actual dedicated controls.

Getting difficult: the Olympus E410

I like using this camera. It has the build and ‘feel’ of a 35mm SLR. But holding it is something of a challenge. There’s almost no ‘finger grip’ and the body is small (and lightweight). Most of the controls are well-placed, and it has a door on the side for memory cards (in this case CF or xD: no SD card) where it should be. Yeah putting them under the same access as the battery is a cost-saving measure, not a better design. The settings access for ISO, shutter, and aperture could definitely be better than it is. I still like using it. Too bad the battery is failing and only lasts about 20 shots at best. Also the auto focus is abysmally slow. Then again it’s an old (by digital standards) camera, dating from 2007.

Here’s trouble: the Sony a6000

This one is problematic in the extreme. I can practically encompass half the camera in my hand, and its utter lack of front ‘finger grip’ means my palm hits buttons on the back changing settings when I don’t want to. This can make it really annoying to use. Paradoxically, it has ‘handy’ knurled wheels for adjusting settings which are right where you can change them with your thumb – albeit sometimes you do so accidentally. Other than those problems, which are significant, it’s a good camera that takes good pictures. In some ways it’s the best I’ve got, such as the speed of autofocus and ease of adapting vintage lenses. It’s a dust magnet though, and the handling really is problematic. Oh I said that already. Did I mention the handling is problematic?

I will take a moment here to talk about lens rings. I like them. I want one for focus, one for zoom, and one for aperture out there in front like a film camera would have. None of my cameras meet that spec, although zoom and focus rings are present on some of the DSLR lenses. The Lumix has a ‘pseudo’ lens ring which can be assigned different functions such as zoom or focus or program adjustment, but it is not dedicated and sorting through the menu to find the adjustment is frustrating. The Sony’s kit lens has both a zoom button and a zoom ring which is redundant and annoying. Duplication of controls is never helpful. Using manual lenses eliminates a lot of this, but also eliminates autofocus and exposure. I see many Fujifilm professional cameras have very ‘film-like’ controls and so I envy Fuji users that. I certainly can not afford one though.

Now let’s step over the edge of the cliff into the realm of the sublimely ridiculous:

Are you strong enough? Canon 1Ds

Right. Same hand, different camera. No argument about a “too small” body here! It would be great – if it didn’t weigh in at over 1.5 kilograms (more than 3 lbs.) and did have a 1500mm lens – which it would need to be because it’s a full-frame camera. Only 11MP, but great for low-light photography like night skies or infrared work because of that ‘low resolution’ in combination with the sensor size. Fairly impractical for daily shooting, though. Of all my cameras this one has the worst controls for convenience of access. Nothing is straightforward or dedicated about them, and a lot of ‘double pushing’ is needed to change things (hold one button down while advancing settings with another).

Tiny power: Fujifilm F80 EXR.

Yes if the lens were retracted I could hide that one in my hand. There are smaller cameras than this, but they do not take as good pictures. Again the viewfinder issue (it hasn’t got one) and focal length limit. But you can carry it anywhere. Besides that it’s the only one that automatically shifts resolution to get a better picture. That EXR function is quite a thing: so good that I never take the camera off automatic. This one is point-and-shoot heaven.

Is there a winner here? Yes, and it’s the *cough* Nikon P610. Were you surprised? One of the things against the P950 and the P1000 is that they are physically larger (and heavier), but offer no advantage from that increased size: they have the same tiny sensor as the P610 inside. Mostly the bodies got bigger to hold the larger lenses which at 83X and 125X respectively are probably best described as “overkill”. Or maybe “clunky”. I guess the thinking was “half an improvement is better than none”? The P610 aside, the next best in my collection for handling is the Canon T100. It is the most modern as well, with an 18MP sensor that allows some reasonable cropping (the 24MP Sony a6000 is actually an older design).

I don’t know how a Canon SX70 or Panasonic FZ80 handles and it’s unlikely I’ll find out. There are no camera stores near me and the closest is over 2 hours’ drive away, with no guarantee they’d have what I want to look at.

Even if I could afford it.

Addendum: adding a picture of the Pentax K100Ds. As you can see it fits my hand as well as the Nikon does, and indeed is a very nice-to-handle camera. It has a few faults, though: it’s only 6MP which I find too low for my usual photography (even though the images get shrunk way down before presenting), I’ve only got one auto lens for it and any new one costs as much as a lens for the Canon or Sony, and the pentamirror is desilvered to the point where not only are there large black spots in view but the light transmission is lower than normal for a DSLR. But it is a nice camera. I would have had the slightly newer K200 but ego-Bay killed me before the sale was complete. Another thing to ‘thank’ them for.

Pentax K100Ds

One out of thirty-six

A knotty problem

Since I’m “re-learning” my cameras it was only fair to give the infamous Panasonic Lumix ZS60 another shot.

Actually it was a waste of a considerable amount of time. It’s a lousy camera.

Let me tell you what I did to try and overcome the built-in flaws. First of all I turned off the idiotic touch screen. All those things ever do is louse up the picture. Dedicated controls are what’s needed for photography, not infinitely nested menu options accessed by child-like behaviour.

Which brings us to the next issue; trying to get decent colour. I tried all the preset options and fiddled with the in camera contrast, sharpness, saturation … all to no avail. The sensor simply does not produce acceptable colour results. So I switched to monochrome. Hey, it has a ‘Leica lens’; will it be as good as a Leica Monochrom? Ha, ha, ha!

Next trouble was that even in B&W it produces poor results. Contrast and sharpness had to be turned up a bit. I also tried the included yellow, orange, and red ‘filter’ settings. Mediocre at best. Some of the problem can be attributed to the poor exposure evaluation: I found under exposing by 1/3 stop helped somewhat, but this camera over exposes in bright light and under exposes in low light. Frankly it has the dynamic range of a slug and needs constant over-riding of settings to get anything acceptable. Might as well be shooting manual.

Ah yes, manual. Have I mentioned that the autofocus is lousy? So let’s try manual focus. The ZS60 has a neat ’round-the-lens ring that can be used for manual focusing. *sigh* Unfortunately the photographer no longer has good enough eyesight to tell. The EVF is much brighter and higher resolution than the failing one in the venerable Nikon P610, but I still couldn’t use it. So I was using the LCD display, which doesn’t wash out as bad under bright light especially on B&W setting. It still does, though. Focus peaking? It’s got that. Makes a horrible mess of the view and does not aid in getting a sharp image.

So what did I do? Went back to autofocus, reset for single centre point. Honestly the ‘intelligent’ focus selection and multi-point function too often grabs on to the wrong part of the image. Hey you know what would work well for me? A rangefinder in the middle of the screen.

In the end I turned off/did not use more than 90% of the ‘features’ built in to this over-rated piece of junk. That is how I finally got one decent shot (with a bit of post-processing because even then it wasn’t good) out of it.

To sum  up: the lens isn’t sharp, the sensor isn’t good, the processor is poor, the exposure system is almost always wrong, and the ‘features’ are just an over-burden of technological gunk that get in the way of taking pictures (especially disappointing since none of the settings produce any better results than plain ‘automatic’).

Honestly, a camera that can’t take a good picture under normal conditions when set on ‘automatic’ right out of the box is a failed product. As a result of my bad experiences with this camera I will never buy another Panasonic model, new or used.

Seeing out the year

While most people are engaged in reviewing the past year and reiterating how awful it was or trying to pretend it really wasn’t that awful, I’m going to be different as usual and just go forward with some more new pictures instead. (And my late brother the English major would give me an award for constructing such a wonderfully awful run-on sentence as that one.)

The camera is, of course, the new-to-me “Zen Canon” PowerShot G11. Truly a fine quality device which I’m still ‘experimenting’ with. I would have taken more street shots when I went to town Tuesday, but it was all of -10˚C and also totally overcast – so no good for taking pictures or even being outside. Instead I had to sneak some shots in whenever I could to come up with the latest batch.

Lens testing. Wide-angle and close up, full automatic. The result is excellent.

A couple of the resident ravens.

Glacé. This is a segment of a shot which contains many potential images. I liked this bit best.

This camera looks and works like an old but automatic 35mm rangefinder. It has lots of controls on it, most of which I’ve tried and now ignore. For functioning on ‘automatic’ the G11 is second-to-none. I rarely even flip the LCD out and make use of that, much less dive into the menus and change settings. It’s like … using a film camera. So are the results.

It’s all about colour tonal range: CCD sensors!

Although not ideally suited to such extreme photography, the G11 performs well in skilled hands.

And away we go!

As you can see the G11 does a fine job as an ‘artistic’ camera, even though that’s not why I bought it. This is what the infamous ZS-60 was supposed to be capable of. Aside from the extreme difference in zoom capacity, the Canon is absolutely superior in every way to the Panasonic. Never mind the difference in price. The bargain PowerShot makes up for the waste-of-money Lumix. I’ll just pretend the prices were the other way around; that would make the cameras fit their costs. (For those who can’t follow my convoluted reasoning, I paid $12 for the used Canon PowerShot G11 and $300 for the brand new Panasonic Lumix ZS-60. In terms of performance the value is completely the other way around.)

Footnote: there is an optional ‘lens adapter’ for these cameras which twists on around the lens once you remove the protective base ring. It is a tube that sticks out and has a 58mm thread in front of the extended lens. To it you can affix filters or ‘accessory’ wide-tele lenses. The cheapest one I’ve located so far is 3X the price I paid for the camera. I don’t really think it would add much to the functionality so I won’t bother with the expense. Besides those add-on-to-the-front lenses don’t work very well, since the base lens was never designed to have the extra element stuck in front of it. A thin filter is one thing; a thick chunk of glass is quite another.

Bleak week

The weather promises to be truly awful all week. I got in a day of wood harvest and shutting down the water system at the cabin. In light of the forecast, here’s some images in black and white – which is how it will look the next few days.

Raven on the wing. (Canon T100)

Northern flicker. (Fuji EXR)

Plane in flight. (Kodak P850)

Moon, of course. (Nikon P610)

Layers of trees. (Panasonic Lumix ZS60)

Ghost dog. (Tesco trail camera)

The best laid plans …

Today was supposed to be sunny and dry; a good day for dropping a dead tree and bucking it up and loading the trailer and thus getting some more firewood in. Instead, it’s raining. Imagine my surprise that the forecast was wrong. I wasn’t. Nevertheless my plans are ruined and I have to sit here and wait out the weather before I can even slice up the logs I’ve already got out there and bring in another load.
I’m bored, and that’s dangerous.
It’s too wet to do any photos because I can’t afford an environmentally sealed Pentax K or anything like it. I tried to take some pictures of the eagles circling the lake before the rain got too strong, but the Nikon failed to focus correctly on each and every shot. This keeps happening. It’s one thing when the subject is still and you can go back to it. Flying birds are there then gone: miss them and you’ve missed them.
Anyway WordPress is still allowing access to this primitive editor that works, so I’m annoying you with a post while it still functions. I actually have a few images saved up and may even share some. But mostly when I’m bored I go “camera shopping”. And then have to stop myself from actually ordering anything. It’s difficult.
Let’s take a moment to make fun of camera reviews, shall we? Revisiting the Lumix GF2 and a certain web site’s evaluation of it I take issue with their opinions. Vis:
CONS:
No wireless connection (that’s a pro not a con)
No image stabilization (debatable: if you remember your “one over” rules IS isn’t really that necessary for still photography, and you hardly notice it)
No built-in viewfinder (now that is a con as the LCD screens are useless in bright light. Curiously they list the lack of VF as a con under “Portrait Photography” when in fact that’s one form where it is not needed and the LCD screen is probably better)
Low resolution 12MP sensor (uh, sounds like Spec Snobbery to me)
Poor low light performance (yeah – physics again. Seriously low-light performance requires full size sensor and big glass and it all costs a ton of money. Simply pretending that you can get ISO 6400 out of a MFT or 2.3 sensor doesn’t make it happen)

So remember not to use any commercial review’s opinion as an absolute. Half the time they are just parroting popular opinion and never are they understanding your personal needs. For example the particular site evaluates cameras for Portrait, Street, Sports, Daily, and Landscape photography but utterly misses Wildlife evaluation which is quite a different thing yet majorly popular.
Since this wandered off into comparisons, here’s the Kodak sunset vs. the Nikon sunset:

Taken with the Kodak P850, no adjustments other than sizing.

Taken with the Nikon P610, no adjustments other than sizing.

How to talk yourself out of buying a camera

I recently came across a pretty good deal on a Panasonic Lumix GF2 camera: $80 plus shipping. Not bad. I thought maybe I’d buy it. But why? Uh … because it was cheap and I was bored, frankly. Do I really need to spend money on anything right now? Nope. Not a good idea. Okay, so far these arguments aren’t steering me away from the purchase. Time to try harder. Get some Con Points going!

1). It has no lens with it. Even the cheapest lenses for this MFT mount go for more money than the camera. We’re talking “you could buy a decent lens for the Canon with that cash” levels. Oh you might find one used eventually, but a camera without a lens is useless. The Lens Is The Camera. Any other peccadillos you can work around, but not a bad or missing lens. Option: lens adapter that lets me put an EOS lens on it. That’s another $30 and the Canon lenses I’ve got aren’t great. Could then adapt again to use the Takumars, but in either case it would be manual all the way. Hmm. This is a significant Con Point.

2). It had no viewfinder, just an LCD screen. Bleah. My only complaint against the little Fuji is its lack of viewfinder. Those screens are useless in daylight, which is where and when I shoot most pictures.

3). It’s a Panasonic Lumix which I haven’t been impressed with. My one foray into that brand was the worst photographic experience I’ve had so far, and that’s saying a lot. Other people have had great luck with different P-L models, but I am soured.

4). It’s micro four-thirds format. I’m not sure this is Pro or Con. I’d like to see what the format can do, but it doesn’t really hold much promise of adding to my repertoire. A full-frame sensor would be of more use to me.

5). It’s mirrorless. Ah, sensor covered with dust! In just a few experiments with the Canon I have seen how easy it is to bugger up the imager on an interchangeable lens camera. Mirrorless models have not even a mirror to help keep the dirt off. Definitely a point against. And for those who say “leave the lens on”, well what’s the point of being able to change lenses if you don’t do it?

6). It has a touchscreen for most of the controls. Ew. And yuck.

At this point I was pretty much resolved not to buy it. I honestly couldn’t think of anything in its favour other than it being relatively cheap and something to disturb the monotony. That’s not good enough. Especially when my last cheap purchase was less expensive and delivers some fine photos like these (all taken with the Fuji EXR):

Corvair on the go

Dogs pretending to be innocent

Cloudbow

Rose hips

 

The Black Camera Gang

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Most of my cameras are black. It’s the traditional colour for cameras, mainly due to their having been made of leather-covered boxes for a long time but also to reduce unexpected light reflections. When I was young, the really expensive SLRs had an all black “professional finish” which eliminated the common satin-chrome trim. This cost the manufacturer less to build, but the customer more to buy. Go figure.

Here I am, then, with five black-finished ‘professional’ cameras. Okay, maybe not so professional, but mostly they work well for my purposes.

The Canon Rebel EOS T100

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Raven – a 640×480 segment taken from a 5184×3456 image

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Unlucky horseshoe – would also have worked in B&W but I like the warm red colours

This is my ‘experimenting’ camera as it has interchangeable lenses and a really wide selection of settings for … well just about anything. It is also the best in low-light because it has the largest sensor. Don’t be fooled by high ISO numbers as that isn’t all there is to getting decent nighttime shots.

Both of these were taken with the ‘long’ kit lens, 55-250mm, which is slightly sharper than the ‘short’ 18-55mm kits lens.

The Fujifilm FX80 EXR

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Don’t even try to understand this

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Crater Lake

This is my slip-in-pocket-take-everywhere camera. It replaces the ailing Kodak V1003, which I actually coerced into taking the group photo at the top (after a few false starts). It has a unique processor function which lets it ‘sacrifice’ pixels to improve the image. Not much good at anything besides snapshots, but it does those beautifully with film-like quality. And yes I realize I’ve just used it to present two “artsy” shots instead of the more-suitable-for-its-type documentation images.

The Kodak P850

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Contrail-wise

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Bubble, bubble

This is an old workhorse camera I’ve had for many years. It’s not great under conditions other than good lighting, but it has the most ‘artistic’ rendering of any thanks to its CCD sensor. This gives it a wide tonal range and full-yet-soft contrast.

The Nikon P610

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A moon without friends

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The baby day

This camera has the best optics of all, save putting one of the Super Takumars on the Canon. It also has the most fantastic zoom range which is great for someone like me who does a lot of telephoto work. It rarely disappoints and I usually don’t have to play around with any settings to get a decent image out of it.

The Panasonic Lumix ZS60

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Resin blob

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Stating the obvious

The worst of my cameras. I’ve given it all sorts of chances and tried every setting combination I can think of. Getting even a halfway decent image out of this is like pulling teeth – from a chicken. Its ergonomics are excellent, except for the near useless touchscreen. The EVF and LCD are the best of all my cameras, and it has the greatest manual focusing of any except the Canon with a manual lens. Beyond that … the exposure is consistently wrong and no simple EV ‘fix’ works around it, and the lens is so noticeably not sharp it isn’t even funny. Whereas the Nikon produces 90% successful images this thing doesn’t even make 10%. It’s so horrible I’m reluctant to even contemplate selling it on to someone else. Panasonic should be ashamed of themselves for making this camera; lots of glitzy features but it utterly fails to be able to take a decent shot most of the time.

I also have four silver cameras, and two blue ones. But they are not in regular use now due to various factors. At this point there are no other types of camera I particularly want, with the possible exception of a full-frame sensor. Other than the admittedly limited advantages they give, my photographic needs are so far met by the equipment I’ve got.

B-sharp

After the nice results with taking a picture of the wild rose thorn using the $6 Canon, I decided to try other cameras on the same subject to see how sharp they are. So here are the results in ‘alphabetical’ order.

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Canon T100 – remarkably sharp

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Canon PS A70 – nicely sharp for a cheap old camera

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Fujifilm F80 EXR – no good at close-ups

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Kodak P850 – pretty good for an old 5MP ‘bridge’ camera

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Kodak V1003 – cheap point-n-shoot does better than some

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Panasonic Lumix ZS60 – epic failure; the worst of the lot

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Nikon P610 – knocks it out of the ballpark

The shooting method was consistent but not perfect: I set the ISO at 100 and let the camera pick settings (noticeable in variations of exposure). Focus was in automatic close-up mode, again trusting to the equipment. Not zoomed, but due to differences in wide-angle focal lengths and inconsistencies with framing from one camera to another (it would be nice to set a piece of this up on a stand so the distances would be the same for all) the composition varies quite a bit as does the size of the stalk represented. Some of the cameras could go much closer than others, for example. All pictures are 640×480 segments of 100% sized images, regardless of the total pixels. I tried multiple shots when needed and picked the best from the bunch. In the case of the Lumix, that’s pretty sad to report; it really doesn’t do good at this despite my having got the occasional decent close-up from it.

Collecting Cheap Cameras?

After playing with my inexpensively acquired Canon PowerShot A70, I got to wondering about the viability of cheap digital cameras and how they might fare as collectors’ items. Thus I did a bit trolling on Amazon and came up with a little information, some of which is presented here.

First of all, there is a huge number of brand new low-dollar not-really-brand-name and not-named-at-all offerings starting at about $12. With prices like that and specifications that can only be called “suspect” you can readily understand why you probably shouldn’t put your trust or dollars in something called “YTGOOD” or “Cobra” or “TEXXIS”. Many of these cameras are cookie-cutter copies of one another, and there’s no reason to expect any of them to work at all, much less work well.

However, a few old familiar names popped up too.

Argus

Argus. The name that brought us the venerable C3 35mm camera that every film photographer must have had at some point in their lives. Of course the company that built those cameras went bankrupt and obviously the name got passed along. The name, but not the quality. No matter how much lipstick you put on a pig it will never look like a horse.

Bell

Bell & Howell. In the days of film this name was best known for projectors found in schools, movie cameras, and a few clunky still cameras. Industrial strength and styling, and tractor-like quality – in a world that wanted sports cars. I had a few myself and they were not overly impressive in operation or image quality. Here we see the fine old name hung on more of those cookie-cutter cameras. They kept the worst aspects, and threw out the best.

Poloroid

Polaroid. Edwin Land must be spinning in his grave. The first self-developing cameras were quality units that worked. As years went by efforts to maximize profits saw metal bodies and glass lenses replaced with plastic everything, to the detriment of quality in both cameras and images. (Side note: while the instant camera market was clearly dying, Kodak saw fit to introduce their own. That was a not-smart move that didn’t help them at all.) Again we have a familiar name attached to regurgitated industrial rubbish. Besides, I can’t help but read that second model name as “Sociopathic”.

Vivitar

Vivitar. A company that used to make top-quality and reasonably priced photographic accessories such as lenses, filters, and electronic flash units. I’m sure I have one of their flashes in a box around here, and it probably still works. I know my 135mm M42 lens with their brand on it does! But alas, here is another great house that has sunk to the level of street beggar.

Should you buy any of these? In my opinion, no. The fact is even when they don’t look identical the specifications are so bland that there’s nothing really interesting about them. Largely these are the basic “Instamatics” of the digital world. Some may claim to be waterproof, some of the weirder ones come in odd shapes or colours, but on the whole they are quite frankly cheap plastic crap. Not even Diana F quality.

What should you look for instead? A name brand like Canon, Fuji, Kodak, Nikon, Olympus, or Pentax. But beware of the odd image storage methods like xD cards, Sony  sticks, and Compact Flash as they can be difficult or expensive to obtain if not included with the camera. Even then you are up against the “Plain Jane” aspect for most of these cameras: the same X MP and Y zoom capacity without much else to say for themselves. Also, trolling through Amazon shows a large number of such cameras available for what we can only call ridiculous prices, as they meet and in some cases exceed the cost of brand new offerings that are better cameras. Look around a lot, and be careful with your money.

Here’s an example of something I would buy, albeit I’d prefer a lower price than the $106 it’s being offered for:

NikonS4

I wouldn’t expect it to be a great IQ performer, but the unique design configuration makes it collectible. The one used camera I did buy off Amazon, the Fuji F80 EXR, is unusual and collectible because of the different way it operates – the EXR function.

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I don’t think I’ll be getting back into camera collecting. At least not per se, but I seem to be acquiring them anyway as I try to fulfill my photographic wishes.

What would I buy to fulfill those wishes if I could? I’m not keen on mirrorless cameras, as some experiments with the DSLR I have show how easy it is to get sensors dirty on anything with a removable lens and mirrorless doesn’t have the extra ‘protection’ of the flip-up mirror, nevertheless some of the things I’m interested in come only that way.

Assuming money were no object, the ‘Holy Grail’ would be a Fujifilm X-Pro3. I seriously would like to try one of those because it is so ‘film-like’ in design and function. Using the EXR has really piqued my curiosity about Fuji’s X series.

Otherwise, for my own purposes it would be nice to try a high-MP (at least 24 to have a 1/3 advantage over my current Canon) camera just to see the difference. I know it wouldn’t be much, but just how much it would be intrigues me.

I’d like to have a full-frame sensor for the same reason; not that I expect either to make any spectacular difference in the pictures I take, but to see the subtle effects I expect to find.

Another addition would be something with a flip-up LCD (despite my constantly iterated objections to them) so I could do waist-level view pictures. None of these are great reasons to shell out hundreds of dollars for a camera.

Especially not when you can have fun for a few dollars with a little patience and searching.