The camera gods have not been smiling upon me lately. On our recent excursion to Shoals Junction my trusty Nikon D50 DSLR’s mirror got locked in the UP position for several panic-filled minutes. The camera was already showing its age, and I’ve been putting away a bit of cash for a replacement, but the incident made me think that might come sooner rather than later.
Then my little Nikon S70 decided it was going to die on me. Well, not quite die, but give up the will to live. Every image is now fuzzy and the colors aren’t right. I tried tricking the auto-focus into working correctly, but with no luck. Even under optimum conditions the images were washed out and out of focus. I think it’s in worse shape than my D50.
That’s put me in a quandary as replacements are concerned. I know I’m going to replace the DSLR with another Nikon. I’ve got good lenses, so it makes sense just to replace the camera body when the time comes. I also like the control and flexibility a DSLR provides. But what about the little point and shoot?
The old saying is that the best camera you have is the one that you have with you at any given time. Starting with the Nikon S1, followed by the S50, and now with the S70 I have always tried to have a small camera with me. I’ve always had a phone with a camera with me. However, it wasn’t until I got my Android that I had a phone with anything remotely like a “real” camera, or, at least, one I would consider using.
My personal Android and the iPhone I have for work both take great photos. The iPhone’s camera seems especially sharp. With these devices, do I still really need another small camera?
There’s actually a good argument for keeping a small, dedicated camera in addition to a smart phone. A camera tends to respond more quickly, and its controls are usually better suited for quick shooting situations. Smart phones don’t have optical zoom lenses, and a dedicated camera usually performs better in low light.
Even so, on a regular basis a smart phone would probably do most of what I would want a small camera to do, so I still have some room to alter my set-up. Here are a couple of scenarios…
Scenario 1 – Same as it ever was
I keep my DSLR, smart phone, and point and shoot. I may change over from a Nikon to one of the Panasonics with the Leica optics, but the basic workflow would remain the same. The main thing is that the point and shoot would still be a “pocket” camera – very small and easy to carry.
Scenario 2 – Beefed up intermediary
In this scenario, I don’t worry about the smaller camera being pocket-sized. I get a better point and shoot with greater zoom range and capabilities. However, it may be too large to comfortably carry with me everywhere. For those situations I start to reply more on my smart phone cameras. With a better mid-range camera, I could also start leaving my DSLR at home on kayaking trips, not risking it for better shots.
Scenario 3 – Going mirrorless
Smaller cameras are getting better all the time. The new 4/3s mirrorless cameras take almost as good a shots as a DSLR. You could almost replace both the point and shoot and the DSLR with a single multi-purpose camera and almost get as good a performance.
Almost. The quality of lenses and performance of a DSLR is still hard to beat, and it’s really the only option for serious shooting, at least for the time being.
Cost is always an issue. I don’t want to spend so much on a smaller camera that I can’t really get the DSLR I would like to have. There will have to be some compromise on performance. There is also the issue of survivability. Even with dry bags and dry boxes there is always the risk of damage to a good camera. At what price point do I consider it not worth the risk?
I have a Fujifilm waterproof point and shoot, but it doesn’t take as good of a photo as my Nikon S70. I guess I could just keep that on hand everywhere. That opens up one last option – getting a much better waterproof camera and letting that one be my small pocket camera. Too many options.
I guess what it will boil down to is which will give me the best performance for the best price, without depleting my DSLR budget too much. I guess we’ll see.