Sunday, July 19, 2009

Everyone should have a pocket camera...

It doesn't matter if you have the most amazing whiz bang billion mega pixel uber-DSLR on the planet, it won't mean a lick if you don't have it with you when you need it. I don't know about you but my pockets aren't big enough to carry my 5DMKII around with me wherever I go and I probably wouldn't feel safe carrying it around everywhere anyway.

Enter the point and shoot camera, the much laughed at kid brother to our "serious" cameras. With technology getting better by the nano-second it might be time to re-evaluate the pint size light digitizer. There are a number of reasons to have a decent P&S around, the biggest is obviously size and portability.

Point and shoots are often relegated to candid snapshots at birthdays and drunken party picks etc but they don't have to be. In this post I'll speak out for the little guy and pitch it's story and hopefully sell you on the ideas and views I've arrived at.

1)Size - Obviously this is one of the biggest advantages that P&S camera have over their bulkier brothers. Small enough to fit into a shirt pocket, there is no reason why you can't have a camera on you at all times.
My SD780IS in a slightly modified Altoids Mint Tin - a nice cheap protective case

2) Video - While some video cameras moonlight as still cameras, often with very poor results, point & shoots do a marvelous job as video cameras for the average person's needs. The trend now is going towards HD video which makes them all the more attractive. There has been a few times when I've sent photos or video clips into the local news simply because I was the only one who captured a spur of the moment event. Case in point, a few weeks ago two moose wandered into our parking lot, on a whim I took a clip and sent it in. They ran it the next day and I then had the newspaper calling me to see if they could use it on their website. Did I get paid, no, but it got my name out there and maybe my website got a little boost in traffic.
Little clip from my SD780IS of two moose wandering into our parking lot at work

3) Macro - With their small lenses and sensors P&S cameras have an advantage when it comes to taking macro photographs. Its not unheard of to have a 1cm minimum focal distance when the camera is placed into macro mode.
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Shot with my G10 at the Mendel Conservatory

4) Photo-stitching - OK so maybe the little point and shoot is a little light on resolution, don't let that stop you from capturing a nice landscape shot. Instead of taking the shot in just one image zoom in and take 30 photos, once stitched together it could easily eclipse your DSLR.

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Taken way back with my 3.2MP Canon SD200 this shot is made up of over 50 images stitched together.
Link to larger version which is still reduced by 50% or more

5) High-end P&S cameras- Don't want to leave the manual controls and external flash capabilities of your DSLR behind? Well there is still a market of high-end point and shoot cameras available. The Canon G series cameras for example are almost the go-to standard for reporters and journalists. Nikon and Panasonic also make models in this category as well so there are options even if you're not a Canon fellow like myself.

It's even possible to do a full fledged modeling shoot using one of these as is shown in this video.

6) Bells & Whistles - Lastly there are some new technologies emerging that can make your P&S even more versatile. Geo-tagging is just starting to catch on, companies like Eye-Fi are offering the ability to geo-tag your photos on the fly and upload them wirelessly to your PC or various photo sharing sites, all built into a little SD card. Nikon's P6000 is comparable to the Canon G10 but also comes with built in GPS for geotagging anywhere you can get a signal, this was enough to have my second guessing my G10 purchase.

In conclusion most people nowadays probably got their start in digital photography via a simple point and shoot, I know I did way back 2001 with a 2MP HP P&S. Often though people tend to overlook these cameras later on once they enter the DSLR world, hopefully this shows some reasons why you may want to reconsider them as viable photographic tools.

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