2011: A Camera Odyssey

For the past two years, I've used a Sony Cybershot DSC-W90 for all of my business and creative needs. Thankfully, it's proven itself as a very dependable and highly capable instrument. Along the way I've captured thousands of great shots and more importantly, discovered a real passion for producing videos.

Sitting in my office earlier this month, I thought about all the juice I'd squeezed out of that little point-and-shoot. I also reflected on my business and creative projects - how they've evolved and become increasingly complex. Perhaps the "little Sony that could" had pulled enough weight already. So with Christmas on the brink and my girlfriend suggesting an upgrade, I began to research.

Frankly, the process was much longer than anticipated. Half of my time was spent comparing rival products and their features. Half was spent determining what I needed and didn't. I used helpful websites like digitalcamerainfo.com and www.dpreview.com. These are great for product discovery, comparison, and in-depth reviews. The best website for making a final decision, it turned out, was none other than YouTube!

The big challenge throughout the process was balancing needs vs. wants against a backdrop of real financial constraints. The Great Recession has been kicking my ass just like everybody else. Anything above four hundred bucks including tax, memory cards, etc. was completely out of the question.

Eventually, I figured out what I needed: the ability to capture HD video with stereo sound, 9 or more megapixels, and at least 10 times zoom. Three cameras met the criteria: Sony's Cybershot DSC-HX1, Canon's Powershot SX30IS, and Nikon's Coolpix P100.

How did I reach a decision? First, I read comparisons and expert reviews as mentioned. Then I searched YouTube and watched "unboxing" clips along with footage recorded by each camera. Lastly, I drove to Best Buy and played around - even though it was right before Christmas and the place was a freaking zoo.

In the end, I decided on the Nikon Coolpix P100.

Indeed, the Canon does several things better than the Nikon: longer zoom, better stabilization, a more maneuverable display, and four extra megapixels. All that is nothing to sneeze at. But the Canon's video capture capability tops out at 720p and sources describe its capture duration as "short." The SX30IS is a fine camera, I just think it was designed for photography first and video a distant second. With several cheaper compacts already offering 1080p, I just couldn't do it.

The Sony DSC-HX1 was tough to dismiss. The product has remarkable reviews and has been out since 2009. A big part of me wanted to remain brand loyal too. But there were glaring deal breakers. The process of zooming with the DSC-HX1 was like pouring cold molasses from a jar. It was that damn slow. I factored in other drawbacks: lowest-in-class resolution (9 megapixels), premium price tag ($400), and a looming forced purchase (Sony's proprietary memory products). My decision had become clear.

Is the Nikon Coolpix P100 the undisputed best-of-breed? All I know for sure is, "I got a Nikon camera ... I love to a take photograph ..."
~ Paul Simon, Kodachrome

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