Last night, after a week of hemming and hawing, I finally purchased my camera. The winner is
- Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5A 9MP Digital Camera with 10x Wide Angle MEGA Optical Image Stabilized Zoom (Blue)” $276.94
- Lenmar DLP007 Lithium-ion Digital Camera/Camcorder Battery Equivalent to the Panasonic CGR-S007A Battery” Electronics; $9.15
- LLC1 “Samsonite Adaptor Plug – Europe, Middle East” Apparel; $4.50
- Joby GP1-0BEN Gorillapod Flexible Tripod (Blue) $21.95
- Mack 3 Year Extended Warranty For Digital Cameras – Value Up to $500 $29.95
- 2 “Transcend 16GB SDHC CARD (SD 2.0 SPD CLASS 6) with Compact Card Reader” $46.82
A few observations about the camera buying experience.
First, the lowest price on retail isn’t always the cheapest overall. Typically you have to pay shipping or compare things as a bundle, not a single product. Amazon’s camera price wasn’t the lowest, but they had a larger variety of lower-priced accessories, including the Mack warranties. Buydig (also an excellent company) had the lowest price, but they were selling more expensive Mack warranties and didn’t offer the selection of memory cards or the Gorillapod tripod. Of course, the truth is that Amazon merely is the front end for several electronic stores, so they are providing the illusion of an all-in-one-place shopping experience.
The big choice for me was between Canon G9 ($450) and the Panasonic TZ5A ($276). I went to Circuit City and tested that G9 camera to death…and absolutely loved it. It had several extra features (such as audio recorder, a flash shoe and a great user interface). But at Circuit City the TZ5A battery was dead every time I visited, so really all I was able to do was glance at the outside. Conventional wisdom is that the G9 is great but overpriced (if you want that much camera, why not just buy a low end SLR?). TZ5 is the perfect spot for price, portability and features (although there was a lot of lukewarm feelings about its new HD capability). As you see, I bought two 16 gig SDHC cards, so that lets me take a lot of video footage.
I looked at reviews and forums about both cameras and was overwhelmed with information. The expert reviews gave great opinions (I especially liked the ones which dated their reviews and compared them to the competition). I really liked the Cameralabs reviews (and seriously would have clicked on the camera link to amazon through Pricegrabber to give them a commission, but apparently Amazon no longer participates in pricegrabber).
The Lumix TZ5A has more automatic settings than the G9 (which was good as well as bad). The fact that G9 offered RAW files was actually a reason against buying it. I wasn’t ready at this point to tackle a new set of processing technologies (however superior I’m sure they were). Not only did the Lumix have HD (sort of), but they had wide angle and 10x optical zoom (which is amazing). Ultimately though, the amount of features is less important than the user interface to allow it. G9 offered lots of knobs and dials ; I felt that many features were within easy reach (That said, I couldn’t figure out how to enable Face Recognition, which apparently is becoming a standard feature these days). Interestingly, the fact that the G9 was so expensive wasn’t as big an obstacle to me as the fact that it would make me paranoid about it getting stolen during my September Europe trip.
Now there are many places to showcase your videos and often many user groups form around a certain camera. On Vimeo it’s easy to find videos tagged with TZ5. It’s also possible to read hundred of reviews and forum threads and be no more enlightened about a gadget before you read it.