How to choose a digital camera...or how to choose a Canon G12 anyway!

So after much umming and ahhing and should I or shouldn't I, I have finally plucked up the courage to buy a decent camera to document my travels with.  The capacity to take decent shots is essentially my only luxury must-have, and I am happy to accept that this means I have to buy an expensive piece of kit which will inevitably need replacing on a regular basis.  Mainly because technology and me have a habit of parting ways - I have killed one mobile phone by dropping it down a toilet and lost one camera by leaving in a public toilets.  *Note to self: toilets are clearly dangerous places, you should probably avoid them!

I have purchased a shiny new Canon PowerShot G12 for the grand sum of £280 (the cheapest deal I could find for this model).  Why the G12?  Well it was a long and painful process of research, but here are some reasons why...

I started with a bucket list:

  1. Budget - under £500. 
  2. I wanted it to take really good pictures, even in poor light, with not too much fiddling with settings to be done.  I am no camera expert, though happy to learn the basics if it results in significantly better results.  It needed a reasonable automatic setting though as I won't always have time to play about with it.
  3. It couldn't be too big.  I don't need something so small that it will fit in a girly sized pocket, but I didn't want something huge that screams "steal me" and weighs a ton.
  4. If lenses are required, they needed to be small.  Very small. 
  5. Video is a nice to have...but doesn't need to be amazing quality.
  6. Something which at least makes a vague attempt to be durable, shockproof, waterproof-ish.
  7. A screen on the front or a flip round screen would be great.  I'm a lonely loser who has to take pictures of themselves, and it is a freakishly hard task with a normal camera arrangement.
  8. Good battery life.  I have yet to meet a camera which doesn't require to be virtually constantly on charge, and I dislike their addiction to power. 
With a little research (read: help from a friend), I learnt there are four main types of camera.  SLRs (the enormous ones...didn't want one of them), compact cameras (cheap and rubbish...didn't want another one of them) and two types which fall somewhere between these two: bridge cameras and compact system cameras (CSCs).

CSCs have the same kind of sensors as SLRs but in a much smaller body. They then have removable lenses which are again smaller than what you would use with an SLR. The advantages of these are that you get the image quality of an SLR but in a smaller form factor.

A bridge camera is closer to a compact in terms of the techy bits (sensors etc) but has the physical appearance of a SLR but smaller. They also have a permanent lens which normally has a massive zoom range. In general they are pretty good but you won't get as good picture quality as a CSC camera. They are generally cheaper and have more features though.

I decided that having a flip screen was the most critical feature from my bucket list, which is very rare in CSCs, the only one I could find from the "Big 3" manufacturers (Nikon, Canon, Panasonic) was the Panasonic DMC-G3.  For bridge cameras I had more options and ended up shortlisting the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 and the Canon Powershot G12: essentially the highest end models within my budget that seemed to still be of a reasonable size and weight.

I then dragged myself along to Jessops to take a look at my shortlisted 3 cameras.  The G3 is for sure the "best" camera, but it was just too large for me and this problem is not improved by the need for a separate lense.  However it is a brilliant price for the quality of camera it is and it would be a great buy for anyone prepared to carry the extra weight.  Personally, I was doubtful that I would necessarily fully utilise its additional abilities, and even if I would do 'Im not sure that would outweigh the issues caused by it's size.

I didn't like the FZ150 at all in the flesh, it seemed really huge and it didn't feel that good quality...everything looked like it would snap off really easily which is not a great feature for a very expensive camera!

But like Goldilocks and the three bears...the Canon Powershot G12 was just right!  It is not too large, everything feels chunky and durable, and I also liked how it had lots manual rather than purely touchscreen-based controls.  So after a little internet shop-around, I am now the proud owner of one, it is definitely my new favourite toy.

Now...I just need to learn how to use it!


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