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Jun 24th

Catching Photons

My return to an iPhone (and hence to a phone I can actually take pictures with) renewed my interest in photography, so… well, let’s just say it escalated quickly.

I have a Canon 350D (which was great at the time I bought it, nearly a decade ago) and an S95 compact that replaced my Lumix FX-33 some three years ago.

The former is definitely long in the tooth (but I have some Canon glass that goes well with it), and the latter is undoubtedly the best compact camera I have ever owned, but I find myself wanting something with a slightly better sensor or a little more oomph in the zoom department1.

Smartphones are great (and the iPhone bundles a good sensor with great image processing software), but I need something better — even better than the S95, which compared to a smartphone has a much better sensor and more flexible optics that include a modest amount of zoom (3.8x).

So I’ve tackled the matter in my usual obssessive fashion, whittling down a list that began at around a dozen cameras — poring over reviews, downloading copious amounts of sample photos, peeking at individual pixels, checking prices and generally asking around.

Turns out I had a nice opportunity at grabbing a decent “second body” for my Canon glass a while back under the guise of the EOS M, which has a great sensor and has been heavily discounted due to both its auto-focus performance (which was apparently a serious problem until the 2.0 firmware update) and the recent launch of the EOS M3.

Irritatingly enough, pricing seems to have stabilized well above the as a result of its newfound popularity:

Pricing for the EOS M on Amazon UK

It is by most credible accounts a pretty decent camera, but I’ve never liked carrying a bunch of lenses around (a standard EOS 17-85mm alone makes for entirely too much bulk), and although I would most likely spring for it if the price fell again, it wouldn’t make much sense to spend money on something I’d find awkward to carry around all the time (especially if fiddling with external lenses was thrown into the bargain).

So I started looking at other options. Besides bridge and super-zooms (which are cute toys but which sacrifice a fair amount of image quality), there are a lot of compact cameras around these days (hence my starting out with a dozen options).

I got a number of recommendations towards the Sony RX100, but it is a tad above my budget — as were most of the others I looked at — considering that I intend to buy myself a new iPad this year.

Ironically, the further down the list I went (discarding options for being too bulky, too expensive or lacking in some aspect) the closer I came to the S95 — or, rather, to its newer iteration, the S120, which has mostly the same form factor, better sensor, better optics and, serendipitously, a steady decline in price (probably because there are rumours of it being replaced this year with a newer model):

Pricing for the S120 on Amazon UK

I’m not sure I’ll end up actually buying it — I wouldn’t know what to do with the S95, to be honest, and despite its many enhancements and pretty decent sample output the S120 makes me wonder if it’s that much of a step forward…

But at least now I have two reasonably sensible (and attainable) buying options, as well as a third one: wait and see what happens.

In the meantime, I’ve added both to my wishlist.

Let’s see how things go from here…


  1. Photography zealots who at this point go “the best way to zoom is with your feet” are certainly oblivious to the need of minding (or framing) their kids without moving about and should probably go and read something else for a bit. 


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