Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Initial thoughts: Moving from Canon S30 to S70

A week and a bit ago my beloved Canon S30 died suddenly and with no notice. One second it was happily snapping the buildings on Third Ave, the next - nothing. Taking the battery out and putting it back in - no change. Taking everything out and putting it back in - no change. Trying to slide the front cover back in different ways, in case the switch was broken, no change. In summary: nothing worked.

This was however not the worst timing in the world as for my birthday I was planning to upgrade my camera to either the latest member of the same family, the S70, or a smaller pocket camera such as the Exilim. Given my now lack of S30, the S70 priority got pushed up the pile and purchased with a rapid delivery to the office.

So what was it that made me want to get a new S30 variant? Well, I've had great experiences with the S30 in general - aside from its slight bulk and badish battery life it's a great camera. The colours are rich, especially when firing it off in low light (a favourite trick), the controls are intuitive and it just takes great pictures - well, I think so anyway. I also have an underwater case for it which has given many happy underwater hours. Getting a bigger, badder version of the same thing seemed like a no brainer, but I'd been umming and ahhing a bit to see if something more suitable was on the market - finally, I decided there wasn't so bit the bullet.

Now I've had the S70 for just under a week, courtesy of Beach Camera for $400: how does it match up?

The main differences between the two cameras are as follows:

  • S70 has 7 Megapixels as opposed to 3
  • The case is very slightly thinner and the buttons have been moved around (except for the standard Canon control dial which is still there)
  • The lens is slightly wider angle (28mm equivalent instead of 35)
  • It is lighter
  • New extended battery life, but still takes old batteries
  • Updated Digic 'digital film' chip and Direct Print
  • Some new modes, including underwater

All of these are all well and good, but what's it like in practice?

Generally the S70 handles very similarly to the S30 and the picture quality is excellent as is the new battery life (a whole day of shooting on one battery! never managed that on my S30). Here are my main thoughts:

  • The body feels more fragile than the S30, especially the controller dial at the top which is more exposed to getting caught on things due to the revised button layout.
  • I have to adjust my shooting style to match the slightly wider angle - after 3 years of 35mm as default, being at 28mm is throwing me slightly.
  • As someone who tends to keep their camera in their pocket at all times (sans case) the new slimline body is a bit of a godsend. There are 2 problems however: 1) the battery cover now slides off to the side of the camera instead of the back, which means as I pull the camera out of my pocket I regularly open the battery back, 2) the sliding lens cover sticks out and catchs more for some reason, especially worrying as it feels more flimsy.
  • The ASA only goes up to 400, not the 800 of the S30! For someone who shoots a lot of dark, ambient light photos this is absolutely killing me! You feel that it should be possible to run the resolution lower (eg, back to 3/4 MP) and get an appropriate increase
  • The camera not fitting my underwater case from the S30 is a bit of a pain - the new S60/70 case costs another $250. One advantage is that it goes down to 40m instead of just 30, and the S70 has an underwater setting.
  • The method of accessing image settings for things such as ASA and white balance, by generating the bar down the left, at first seemed like a great idea - however if you want to take a photo quickly after changing a setting the menu does not disappear when you half press the shutter button! This might actually be useful in many situations, however in terms of laying out the shot it's pretty painful.

All in all it seems like a good camera and once I get used to it a lot of these issues will hopefully fall off. My other option is to go get a good quality second hand S30 again that I can use for a) underwater and b) dark light shots. The fact of the S30's sudden death has made me a bit nervous though - none of my film cameras has ever died so suddenly and absolutely.

For a more serious, in-depth review check out DP Review's analysis.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Colr Pickr

While reading of the potential imminent bruh hah hah at flickr over their requirement to have a Yahoo ID, I came across the colr pickr. This cute little gadget goes through a pile of flickr photos and selects them based on the colour you choose. Very clever and very pretty too.