Go-go-gorilla

December 5th, 2006  |  Published in pictures and photography

Go-go-gorillaMy Powershot S2’s flash died, which made me sad, so I replaced it with a Powershot A630 and consoled myself with a Joby Gorillapod to make it more fun.

There’s definitely a tradeoff element to the new camera. I’ve had my eye on a DSLR for a while, and we almost decided the S2 getting broken might be a catalyst for making that move, especially since Canon up and ruined the Powershot G7 and because the S2 tends to produce images a little on the soft side, even with the image stabilization. But after spending a week obsessing on affordable DSLRs, then getting sticker shock from the price for good lenses, I decided there are still too many budget tradeoffs involved to make that move quite yet. I need to save enough to afford the kit lens and a nice prime.

For now, though, between the holidays and a trip or two to see family in the next few months, it’s more important to just have a camera that can take pictures indoors and someday be the second camera for a DSLR.

I actually went out and bought a Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ5, feeling virtuous for saving a lot of money, but an afternoon of using it indoors convinced me it isn’t the camera for me. The menus and overall usability are nice and smooth, and I loved the feel of the camera in my hand. But it did weird crap like take two seconds to bring the LCD back when it used the flash (perhaps to recharge the flash more quickly/not encourage the user to try to get another flash shot before it was ready) and its low-light performance was way too fussy to provide pretty bad results. I also wanted a bit more control of stuff that camera was not designed for.

Mensies TestThe Powershot A630 I settled on set me back some more scratch (though still under budget), but provides a lot more flexibility. It doesn’t have half the zoom the S2 has, but it’s also smaller and lighter, which will be important when I finally get a DSLR and a few lenses.

In a lot of ways, the A630 reminds me of the Powershot S10 I had several years ago, to the extent it feels solid in the hand and tends toward the “advanced point-and-shoot” point on the continuum when compared to the “prosumer” point the G-series is going for. At the same time, it has a lot more control than the S10 did, and it has that flip-out/rotating LCD, which makes it behave more like my old Powershot G5 in terms of what I can do with it. And it’s much faster than the G5. If it shot RAW, it’d be perfect for what I’m after.

Oh, it also runs on NiMH or plain old alkaline AAs, which means no proprietary batteries to worry about. On more than one occasion, the G5 and S10 both ran out of juice because they were accidentally left on or got turned on by hitting something in my bag. In each case, that’s it: you’re done if you’re somewhere there are, say, gas stations but not camera shops willing to charge your new battery while you wait. With AA’s, you can always pick up a four-pack somewhere, and it’s cheaper to have two or even three backup sets stuffed under the seat.

Anyhow, seems like a nice enough camera, and it passed my mensies test.

Oh … and a quick note on the Gorillapod: its flexiness is really nice, but it’s also a minor issue. If you want to use it in conjunction with a timer, set the timer to five or ten seconds. The Gorillapod still has the shakes for a few seconds after pressing the button. If your camera doesn’t have IS, that’ll be an issue.

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