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Clicking Hell: The Never Ending Search For The Perfect Camera


Clicking Hell: The Never Ending Search For The Perfect Camera

Edward Chester"Mistakes are the portals of discovery." -- James Joyce.

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results" -- Albert Einstein.

Compromise is often a laudable thing. Negotiating peace treaties, deciding what to cook the family for dinner; it's a good approach in many walks of life. But, over the years I've come to the conclusion that it just doesn't work when it comes to cameras.

It wasn’t long ago – okay 6 or 7 years - that my idea of a good camera was the venerable Sony Ericsson K810 camera phone, but it didn't take long being in an office filled with DSLRs and colleagues that talked endlessly about 'fast glass' to learn the error of my ways. However, I wasn't quite ready for the big leagues of an SLR yet – both financially, and because I wanted one camera that could do everything. Remember, most SLRs didn't do video at this time, and you had to have a host of lenses to get the most from them. So, I compromised.

The Fujifilm S9600 - The perfect compromise? Not for me.

I plumped for the Fujifilm S9600, a large superzoom compact with a large, SLR-like body, larger than average sensor and 18x zoom range. In theory it was the perfect camera, but in actuality I quickly found it lacking. Images were noisy and lacking in detail, while the small sensor and slow lens meant you could never achieve attractive bokeh effects and low light performance was awful. Compromise hadn't worked.

So, I learned my lesson, and after saving my hard earned pennies I invested in Sony's entry level DSLR of the time, the excellent Sony A200 – an absolute bargain at £270. I instantly fell in love with the easy handling, fast performance and huge leap in image quality. Okay, the stock lens was rubbish, but at least it was a start. Sadly, fate intervened.

The Sony A200 - The cheapest DSLR that ever was, and crackin' it was too.

One dirty rotten scoundrel and a broken window later and I was no longer in possession of my beloved. Worse, though, when it came to looking for a replacement, again, compromise crept in.

There was sound logic for justifying my approach. After all, while excellent for what it was, the A200 didn't offer video, it was rather big, and I never did get round to buying any extra lenses for it. And, it just so happened we'd recently reviewed the excellent Panasonic LX5. Fast glass, truly compact body, manual controls. Surely this was the perfect camera?!

The Panasonic LX5 - Impressive but only for its size.

I took the plunge and very quickly felt that nasty taste of compromise again. Yes, the glass is fast, yes the image quality is excellent for a compact but, no, it still wasn't quite good enough. So, I sold it, threw aside compromise and bought a Panasonic G2 – once again I was in camera heaven.

SLR image quality, articulated screen, video recording, microphone inputs, great handling, there was little I could fault. Again, by plumping for a large camera that first and foremost was about image quality, I'd found what I was looking for.

The Panasonic G2 - it was almost love at first sight.

At least that was until a flight across the Atlantic scuppered my plans. It's a truth universally known that a camera left in a suitcase will not survive a transatlantic flight, and so unto me it was proved.

All of which preamble brings me to this very day, this still cameraless day. Having been mulling over the idea for months of what camera to get to replace my G2, this morning I just so happened to visit Canon which was showing off its latest products at its summer showcase. And, what should I find but another tempting compromise, the Canon G1X.

The Canon G1X - Have I finally found the one?

Packing a near APS-C size sensor, full HD video, an articulated screen, a high quality 4x zoom lens (okay, so it's not a lot but it'll do) and enthusiast level performance and handling, it's once again tempting me to try and have it all, to barter with myself, to compromise…

Am I merely on the path to joyous discovery or have I already gone insane? Let me know in the comments what tech compromises you've lived to regret or are loathed to be without.


July 12, 2012, 2:36 am

The perfect camera? The one you have to hand.

For everything else, there is simply no substitute for the best quality, fast, fixed aperture glass. It's the keystone in every system. Everything else, everything, is and always will be, a compromise. Personally, for most scenarios in photography, I think that a 5DMk3 with a 24-70 2.8 is a 'compact' as i'm happy to go before compromises have to be made. (I shoot Canon gear).

I'd much rather shoot with a 5 year old, cheap camera body and L series glass than with a 1DX and kit lenses. This is also a big reason why so many amateur enthusiasts end up jacking it in. They spend £3K on a new camera body and a few hundred on glass and then they are too embarrassed to ask for help when all their shots are awful!

As far as compact cameras go, i've bought most of them over the years in a futile attempt to find one that I could tolerate, and I've sent them all back or sold them on, for one reason or another. (Mainly awful image quality). Instead, these days, I find that phone cameras suffice to capture a decent enough image to show friends and upload to social media.

Forget about chasing the camera technology - buy whatever camera you can afford, prioritise the lens over the body and learn to use what you have by experience. That way you'll soon discover than you can produce images on a camera phone that most amateurs with DSLR's would be proud to have taken. If you want a compact then the Canon IXUS range are very easy and fun to use and the S100 is pretty handy.

Of course, if Nokia gets its PureView technology into, say, an actual camera, that could be something to watch.


July 12, 2012, 3:36 am

I like this article Edward. It reminds me of myself.

I started with a Sony Ericsson K750i with a 2MP shooter I thought was unbeatable... subsequently I found the TR website and went from a Lumix FZ28 superzoom, Canon EOS 550D, Lumix LX5 and now I have a Sony NEX 5n. Which for me is both a compromise on size but in the end seemed to fulfil my image quality, performance and feature dreams!

Personally I think Mirrorless is the way to go. I've used my Boss's G2, another friends GX1 and I think both are great. Great image quality and packed with features. The G1X from Canon does look very nice. I hope you find the one for you :)


July 12, 2012, 4:08 am

I'm still searching for the perfect monitor - I've gone through a few of them and I've yet to find that special one.

My first LCD after years of CRT ownership was a 17" Ilyama, then followed a 20" Apple Cinema Display which cost me more then I'd like to admit. After that came a small bump to a 22" Samsung, but the upgrade-bug hit again and my current monitor is a 24" LED-backlit Samsung.

Now I find myself being swayed by IPS monitors, after only owning TN-based ones up till now. I don't need a new one, but after hearing all the wonderful things about IPS screens, I'm now weighing up whether another upgrade is due.


July 12, 2012, 1:30 pm

Nice article. I think this skipping from device to device is a problem in a lot of different tech areas, I know I struggle to find a mobile phone I really like. Maybe we all just have too much disposable income :)

Perhaps the Fuji X100 is the best current compromise camera ? It's good looking & well built, not as huge as a digital SLR, with an APS-C sensor, a relatively fast fixed 35mm equivalent Fujinon lens & hybrid viewfinder technology. Now the X-Pro 1 is out prices have started to soften & most of the early usability kinks have been ironed out with firmware upgrades.

I suspect I would become a better photographer by working at technique using a good camera like that, rather than by changing models every few years...


July 12, 2012, 4:11 pm

Whatever camera you end up with, I think you need to invest in some insurance.


July 12, 2012, 4:50 pm

Similar story to me on the camera front. I had a A200 I got for the even more bargain price of £200 at a store opening promotion. As you say the kit glass was soft - but I guess not surprising at the price. Was too big too. Sold it for an NEX5, which is nice, but I still end up currently using a Fuji 200EXR most due to its size. Next on the buy list is going to be the Sony RX-100, I think the Canon G1X is probably still a bit chunky.


July 12, 2012, 5:40 pm

Ermmm... Thanks for your input....


July 12, 2012, 6:34 pm

No love for the new sony rx100? Its cheaper has a faster optic a higher res if smaller sensor (its the same size as the nikon 1 series sensor) and a body not much bigger than the s100. Sure it will shoot lousy sony jpegs and the lens doesn't have quite as much reach but the raws should be outstanding and the high res should let you crop to achieve the extra length. Not to mention its been pretty well reviewed.

Still if it was me then i would be thinking about a panasonic gx1 with the 14-42 pancake or the om-d if i had that kind of cash.


July 12, 2012, 6:39 pm

Definitely time ips is the way forward especially with prices on ips screens going sub 150 the difference is huge. Unless you don't have ssd in which case get on of those first.


July 13, 2012, 4:51 pm

I just had a play with it last night. It's stunning performance wise - beautiful lens, great sensor, etc - but the handling is awful - it's just too small and awkward to use. At least was my first impression. We've got a full review going up imminently.

Yeah, the GX1 is definitely a contender too.


July 13, 2012, 6:33 pm

You're not wrong there. ;)


July 13, 2012, 6:35 pm

X100 is nice but I couldn't do with a fixed lens, and it's huge!


July 13, 2012, 6:37 pm

Yeah, it's all about the mirrorless really. EVFs are good enough now, as is image quality on most. It's just a case of deciding which one.


July 13, 2012, 6:40 pm

I'm totally with you on the fast glass thing, and if I'd bought some good lenses back in the day, before CSCs arrived, i'd probably be well settled into one of the SLR systems by now. But, having never bought any and had little luck with bodies, I'm constantly flipping between whether to invest in an interchangeable system or get a good compact. Fun fun fun.


July 14, 2012, 4:10 am

I have had a Canon EOS 60D for almost 2 years and have 6 lenses to go with it (a couple have kind of become redundant now), I have taken it to overseas to 5 countries, taken stills and video of things from Pandas to Glamour models and on to Aerobatic Aircraft and Warbirds...in May, I was fortunate enough to get 2 for 1 deal on the Canon Powershot G1X...I must say, the G1X is a very capabable camera, its low light shooting is good and the video is outstanding, it really is like having a small 600/650D in your pocket. The features of the G1X are amazing, it is more about what it cannot do (which is not much) than what it can. The only small gripe is the positioning of a couple of buttons when gripping the camera. I paid $850AUD and now you cna get them cheaper, anyone who invests in the G1X will not be disappointed. I take it to my 'low profile' shoots when I cannot be arsed with the DSLR gear. I wish I had had the G1X with me when I travelled before...it comes with me everywhere now.
The 60D still has its place but the G1X is its companion, much better to take the Powershot to dinner out than the DSLR :)

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