Digital Camera: Second Round of Research

After setting a mostly arbitrary budget of "under $200" for a compact digital camera that can also record video, in my previous blog post on this topic I made a list of cameras that seemed to fit the bill. Since then I have done a second round of research, this time focusing less on price and more on my overall camera requirements (both photo and video related).

Video Blogging Requirements

I started off by doing lots of research on the web and found these two useful resources:

Different blogs suggested different brands of digital cameras for video recording, by the way, so they weren't all that much help. Of course, most of the video bloggers I know use camcorders or webcams anyway (while Robert Scoble uses a Nokia N95) so I wasn't expecting much from these sources in the first place.

Digital Camera Guides and Reviews

I then looked at review sites and camera buying guides:

  • Yahoo! Shopping has a great article from Digital Trends' David Elrich on buying digital cameras called 'Digital Cameras: Buying Made Simple'. This is very useful in assessing basic camera requirements.
  • CNET has an excellent 'Digital Camera Buying Guide' that also talks about recording video on digital cameras.
  • CNET's digital camera finder suggested a few cameras that would suit my requirements, though most of the top ten -- all of which were Sony or Canon cameras, by the way -- had a price tag of over $200.
  • That said, two of the CNET Editors' 'Best 5 Digital Cameras' (i.e. best overall) are in the sub-$200 range and most their 'Best Compact Digital Cameras' (most of which are, again, Canon and Sony cameras) cost around $200. (Can you tell I love CNET? Teh ossim.)

Local Retailers

Next I checked out a few Aussie retailer websites:

Then, I went both a Ted's outlet and a JB Hi-Fi camera store -- they're a few shops apart on Elizabeth Street in the Melbourne CBD (#235 and #261, respectively) -- and got these recommendations:

  • Ted's salesperson: Your budget should be a little over $200. Get a Panasonic Lumix FS3 for $267 (8.1MP, good lens, 640x480 30fps video) and, if you don't like it, you can always utilize our 14 day exchange guarantee to return it and get another one instead. [Official page]
  • JB Hi-Fi salesperson: Under $200 is fine since you probably won't notice a marked difference till you go over $300. Get a Panasonic Lumix LS80 for $148 (8.1MP, decent lens, 640x480 30fps video) and we'll throw in a 3GB high-speed memory card for free. [Official page]

This confused me at first because, after reading all those CNET reviews, I was expecting to be pitched a Canon or a Sony which both shops had plenty of. Then I realized how silly it was of me to think that. Of course they wouldn't pitch those: those brands probably give them the lowest margins and are mainly there to draw-in customers who are then pitched all these other brands that make the shop more money.

Still, this wasn't bad for a quick trip to each store: I learnt quite a bit and also picked up their latest catalogues so I have all the latest brick-and-mortal retailer prices for comparison.

Personal Suggestions

Finally, I got suggestions from a number of different people -- thanks, everyone! -- all of which were most useful though no I talked to had used digital cameras for video recording before. Oh well. I did get some good tips from Yahoo! Answers, though.

Next: Word-of-Mouth, Hands-On, then Purchase

Next up, I'll be hitting online digital camera forums to see what's being said about all these makes and models by the people who actually bought them and use them. 

I'll focus on the four brands that have come up most often in my research -- i.e. Canon, Sony, Panasonic, and Casio -- though I will look at others such as Pentax and Fuji which came up a number of times as well. I'm hoping this will help me narrow my final list down to 3-4 specific cameras.

Once that's done, it's back to the stores for some hands-on time. I'll try each one out to see what the results are like and, once I've thought about it some more, I'll go ahead and buy one. I'll probably buy it from Ted's since I really like their 14-day exchange guarantee.

Oh, and then I'll blog about all that too :)

Final Thoughts

Some final thoughts about my general preferences:

  • I'd much prefer a really compact camera (sometimes called a slim or ultracompact camera) to a regular compact camera. I'd love to have something that'll fit comfortably into the pocket of my jeans or jacket and I can take with me pretty much everywhere.
  • I'd rather not buy a Panasonic since that records video in QuickTime and I don't like QuickTime because it's a resource hog and generally makes life on my crappy old computer much more complicated.
  • If I have to choose between two similarly-priced cameras, I'll go for the one that takes great photos and average video over the one that's only above-average in both.
  • I need to factor in the cost of a carrying case, batteries, a big memory card (4-8GB), and a small tripod.