Monday, May 4, 2009

How I bought a camera

My Canon digital camera finally died, forcing me back into the market.

What mattered? Price, for one thing. Since new cameras seem to be released every few months, I didn’t want to spend too much, knowing there could be good cause to step up to something else within a year or two. So, I didn’t want to spend more than $200.

Megapixel rating is a much touted and overrated feature. In reality, for typical real estate applications—posting to the web, images in flyers and brochures— a 3MP camera would do. But sensors have evolved well beyond that, except on phones and Webcams. So I knew any current camera would serve.

More important were the camera’s optics. As both a Realtor and avid photographer, I wanted a wide-angle lens, and a powerful optical zoom.

Versatility, too. I don’t shoot that much video but wanted that option so I would no longer need to carry a camera and camcorder. A determining requirement for me was that the optical zoom function when recording video. That’s not such a common feature.

For convenience, I wanted a compact that felt good in my hand. Internal memory and SD card. With everything else, it had to be durable: I carry my camera on a lot of hikes.

So what did I get?

Panasonic Lumix TZ-4, purchased in a bundle at Sam’s Club for $179. It’s one of last year’s models in the Lumix line, so the price break. It’s a compact with a stainless steel body. As far as the optics go, it’s got a Leica (synonymous with quality optics to those of a certain age) 10X wide angle optical zoom lens. Optical zoom works in the video mode, and it can record high resolution video at 720p in the 16:9 aspect ratio. There’s a step-up model, the TZ-5 which records in true HD (1080 lines of resolution)for less than $50 more.

The only compromise I've discovered so far was giving up a through-the-lens-view finder. That takes some getting used to... I’ve also learned in some situations it’s best not to shoot in the camera's “intelligent” mode. That and carry a tripod for when I want to shoot with the full zoom.

This is not an endorsement, nor a glowing review. In fact, mine may not be the right camera for you. But that’s not my point. It’s this: when you think these things through before you start shopping. prioritize which features and functions matter. Computer, phone or camera you’ll end up happy with whatever you’re buying.

I am.

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