There’s nothing like retail therapy to cheer yourself up. In my case, I’m still at the planning stage with the retail therapy, but I’m still cheered up.
This morning, after visiting the council offices to get the forms I need for the windows planning application, I went to a couple of camera stores to try a few cameras out. I tried the Minolta Dimage Z2, the Olympus 760 UltraZoom and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ10B. I wanted to try the Kodax DX-6490, but nobody had one in stock.
The Olympus lost out straight away for two reasons – firstly, it has only 3.1 megapixels, which is probably less than would be ideal for me. But more importantly, the LCD was really quite small, which is a hindrance when a lot of what I’ll be doing will be in the macro range. It also lacks a hotshoe for a flash, which might be a problem if I subsequently decide that a flash would be useful for pro-amateur studio plant portraits. On the plus side, the Olympus was wonderfully small, so if you wanted a camera with a good zoom lens that would fit into a (large) pocket, then it would definitely be worth a look.
The Minolta also was dismissed reasonably quickly – firstly, I didn’t find the controls comfortable. Secondly, I didn’t like the general grip of the camera. Being left handed, I often grasp a camera in my left paw. This one is definitely designed for righties, with nothing much other than the lens to hold on the left side. I also thought that the LCD was a bit coarse.
The Panasonic was by far the best. Of course, it’s a little more expensive, so that is barely surprising. Although the reviews describe it as being huge, it isn’t frighteningly bulky. It’s roughly the same size as my current vintage Olympus OM-2n SLR, and is only a fraction of the weight. Big positives for me were the large LCD and viewfinder, both giving really good definition; the fairly easy grip and left-handed-friendliness of the camera, although a slightly sturdier right hand grip would have been useful; the ease of use – without reference to any manual or instruction from the sales assistant, I was able to grasp the basic controls in a matter of seconds – since Hels and I will want to use this camera for pleasure snaps as well as for work, this is an important consideration; and the lovely 12x optical zoom lens, which is fun in itself.
Of course, I’ve been doing my homework. I’ve read two in-depth reviews online, plus the reviews at Dealtime. I’ve also looked at the pictures posted at the Alive in Kyoto weblog – some of them are beautiful, and they give a good indication of the camera’s abilities, particularly in low light conditions. On that subject, the optical image stabilisation system is another strong plus factor for this camera.
I’ve also researched the price. The Jessops in-store price is £30 cheaper than their online price, and my local branch has one on the shelf. But I’ve found other online suppliers who can offer it for £45 less than that. But they don’t have it in stock. Jessops offer a "price promise" that says they will match any price on the High Street, but would that include online competitors? It did when I purchased the nursery’s Kodak DX-3900 from them – all I needed was a printout of the website with the URL on it. Anyone got any recent experience?