People choosing DSLR over basic point-and-shoot options
by Peter Vogel
It's time for our annual survey of digital cameras sold in the Vancouver area, something we've been doing in this space since 2002, and, in a slightly simpler form, going all the way back to 1996.
In the late 1990s digital cameras were still a relative rarity. My school received an early model from Epson, a company no longer in the digicam business. That camera still sits in my classroom, a small reminder of how far the field has come.
"Where is the screen?" students ask upon seeing the Epson unit. I have to explain the screen was a $300 add-on that was rarely used because it drained the camera batteries after a few shots.
As people return to an interest in photography through their experience with today's smartphones, they are tending to migrate to advanced digital cameras, bypassing the point-and-shoot models that previously dominated the market.
Even though smartphones have increasingly better camera functionality, there remains solid, albeit declining, demand for standalone digicams, be they of the point-and-shoot or DSLR variety. Of course today's digicams represent much better value and functionality than that near $1,000 sub-megapixel Epson camera.
To serve that demand we once again have our dedicated single-page website, http://vandigicams.ca, ready for you. The site contains information on more than 150 digital cameras, with additional listings being added each day until Jan. 6.
Cameras on the site are primarily those advertised in print flyers delivered across the Lower Mainland, and hence units most likely to be on sale. Additional entries come from retailer web sites and from advertising in Vancouver's major dailies.
Prices on the site are the lowest found in the November-December survey period. Quite often the lowest prices tend to occur mid-November. If you decide to buy a unit on the list you may be able to convince the salesperson to roll the price back if it has risen in the interim.
Cameras in the survey are allocated a single line on the vandigicams.ca site. Each model is hyperlinked to the corresponding manufacturer's web site for that camera's full specifications. Along with the camera sensor megapixel rating, there is an optical zoom value, an overview of about half a dozen features, and "street" pricing from up to three local retailers.
Over the past few years the survey has been dominated by units in the 16-megapixel sensor class. This year the 24-megapixel sensor class comes out on top, followed closely by the slightly lower resolution 20-megapixel units. That "16" class has dropped to third place, and it is heavily dominated by the popular MILC (multiple interchangeable lens camera) format.
Taken together, these three represent some 80 per cent of the cameras in the survey, the rest of the fragmented field spanning from 12 all the way up to a staggering 100 megapixels.
Want an inexpensive point-and-shoot digital camera? A Nikon S33 with a 2.7" screen and basic 1080 HD video recording runs at around $110.
A starter DSLR camera such as Canon's Rebel T5 with a basic kit lens can be picked up for $400 from numerous outlets, a price that has risen around 10 per cent from a year ago. At the other extreme you'll find models from historic Swedish manufacturer Haselblad approaching $45,000!
As in years past, the survey identifies several cameras as best buys, the optimum combination of features and price within a given class. Digital camera models tend to have a short shelf life.
About a third of the models available last year are still to be found on this year's survey, mostly of the DSLR variety. When considering buying a camera, do check out the manufacturer's web site (they are all listed at the bottom of the survey site) to be sure the model remains current.
Looking for a rugged camera? Colleague and outdoor enthusiast Andrew McCracken speaks highly of the Olympus TG line (shockproof, freezeproof, waterproof, dustproof, and crushproof) which he bought mainly for its f2.0 lens.
An older rugged unit, the Nikon AW100, he observes, has survived some very rough use and lots of underwater time without problems. This year's equivalents are the Olympus TG-4 and Nikon AW130.
As for a solid general-purpose camera, how about something like the Nikon P900 with an incredible 83x zoom lens. Priced in the $700 range, this unit takes fine outdoor shots and perfectly acceptable indoor ones as well, something often lacking in lower cost units.
If you are just starting out with a DSLR, consider buying an inexpensive 50 mm f1.8 portrait lens. Such a lens does wonders in low-light situations, even with a modestly priced camera.
On vandigicams.ca you'll find cameras equipped with Wi-Fi, GPS, and OLED touch screens. You'll even find the top-rated Fuji X-T2 that could easily pass as a retro film camera from the 1970s.
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