After my last article on cameras for Z scale I find I’m still on the hunt for a good, inexpensive point-and-shoot (P&S) digital camera to do most of our photo work here at Ztrains.com. Previously I had purchased a $200 Canon P&S that I found myself unhappy with, too much noise in moderate to low lighting was one of my big gripes. I then went slightly retro with a Nikon 5700, an excellent quality prosumer model from 2002. Sadly this used model had gear problems with its lens. Ok, by my count that’s strike two in my budget camera quest.
Back to shopping I go and I see there’s a new collection of Canon cameras being released in just a few weeks and many of them are being talked about in glowing terms. But wait a minute; the Canon I returned to the store not a month ago was also talked about in glowing terms. Could it be me? Is it possible I don’t know what I’m doing with a camera?
I decided to do a little more research on inexpensive (or cheap, if you like) P&S cameras and found myself hip deep in conflicting information with lots of lively debate. First stop was the TV show House, a big budget production for sure. Last year their season finale (see clip below) was shot entirely on a $2500 Canon D-SLR. While not a $200 P&S, I thought this was incredible. The same camera that shot a multi-million dollar TV episode is the same camera you can pick up on Amazon.com. Cool. Technology does trickle down from the high end models to the lower end, maybe I was too quick to dismiss my $200 Canon.
A $2500 D-SLR is not in the $200 P&S range I’m hunting in but it may be an indicator that I missed something with that Canon of mine… yep, the one I recently returned. I began reading about professional photographers and how a lot of them also carry and use these inexpensive P&S cameras. Not just for their ease of use but for the quality. So if a professional photographer can use and trust a cheap P&S…maybe I can too?
Now here’s where it can get a little contentious. Go to a photo user forum and ask, “What’s a really good P&S for taking great photos”. You’ll see a few helpful suggestions but you’ll also see a lot of people telling you it can’t be done, that if you’re serious about great photos you need a D-SLR with an array of expensive lenses. Now I’m not photo-savvy enough to argue the specifics of these objections but after listening to professional photographers and seeing some of the work done with a cheap P&S camera… I’m going to be revisiting Canon very soon.
It almost seems like some experienced (but still) amateur photographers are offended that P&S cameras can deliver the goods in many cases, and that the typical P&S user doesn’t know or care about f/stops or aperture settings. Some folks get very defensive about their realms of expertise. There are a few professional rebels out there however who are more concerned with good lighting and having a good eye than what cameras they use. This might be a good lesson for the amateur like me.
Photographing Z scale model trains has its challenges including low lighting, lots of macro shots, field of depth issues, etc. Still, I’m going to take another run at a $200 Canon and see what I can learn and what kind of results I can get.