Camera-less, Else and I drove onto the pier-type ferry dock a block from my home. It was a gorgeous morning - crisp, cold, with clear blue sky and rising golden sun. And as we sat in the car waiting for the ferry, a seagull became my downfall. He hopped onto the wooden rail just a couple of feet from my car window. And he MOCKED me. He MOCKED me. He bobbed and stretched and cocked his head; he posed on one foot then did deep knee bends to show me how exquisitely balanced he is. He turned slightly sideways so the rising sun could reflect perfectly off his snow white feathers while simultaneously reflecting the bright red dot on his beak. I rolled down the window and he continued to pose. A man walked by, between car and rail, and The Mocking Seagull still continued to pose. Nothing was going to deter him from his role as the Mocker Of Camera-less Women. I could have had The Best Shots Ever. I could have taken Award Winning Shots. I could have written The Perfect Blog. But I had no camera. Waaaaaaaaaah!
And so the next day found me at the London Drugs Camera Counter, driving a poor salesclerk crazy with my list of eight cameras I wanted to see, touch, play with, test, and ask endless questions about. I had my list of "must-have" features: a good optical zoom, a small shutter lag time (time between pressing the button and snapping the shot) and small cycle time (time between shots) for action pictures, lightweight, user-friendly, seperate viewfinder. Two and a half hours later, I walked out with a Nikon P90. I'm sure Rolf, the clerk, was glad to see me go.
And I'm sure he was not happy to see me walk back in the next day, asking to return it in favour of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3.
In the store, the Nikon felt like a great camera. It fit my hand well - nice shape and size for the "grip", lightweight, controls easily accessible. It has a viewfinder as well as the LCD display - a feature hard to find on new cameras but a distinct advantage in sunny weather. And the LCD display can be tipped in various directions to enable short sneaky photographers to photograph over barriers by holding the camera up high or down low, or to capture images surreptiously from the lap without camera-sensitive dogs being stopped dead in their tracks by the Box In Front of Mom's Face.
In practice, the Nikon P90 was a disappointment. The 24X Optical Zoom produced fuzzy images at anything over about 12X, and neither the print manual nor the LCD menu were user-friendly. I spent hours trying to figure out how to get sharp images, how to change the settings, how to use it more effectively. But the information either just wasn't there or wasn't accessible to a technophobic illiterate like me. Combined with the fact that this camera is NOT a pocket camera (the one strike against it when I bought it), it was a FAIL.
The Panasonic DMC ZS3 is pocket sized. It has a 12X optical zoom, a user-friendly LCD menu, a quick menu that allows you to access your favourite settings at the push of a button. But I'm not totally hooked on it - it does not have a seperate viewfinder, so I am waiting for a bright sunny day to see if the very clear, crisp images on the large LCD screen are still as clear and crisp. And, with use, I discovered two features that are very problematic: the position of the thingy you push to take a picture (senior's moment...what IS that thing called?), and the position of many of the other controls. The thingy you push to take a picture is the second button over on the top. My finger hardly stretches that far. A more natural position would be the first button, which is where a dial for changing programs is located. The second problematic feature is the placement of the buttons which flip you into movie mode and the buttons which control the menu. When held with one hand, which I am prone to do when leashes with dogs attached are in the other hand, the thumb rests on those buttons - and the slightest twitch activates them. I have countless movie shots that I thought were stills, and settings are continuously changed when I inadvertantly press the menu button.
The zoom on the Panasonic DMC-ZS3 is also disappointing - it doesn't seem to bring birds in any closer than my old 3x optical zoom did - perhaps because it has a much bigger wide angle ability. I don't know enough about that stuff to figure it out. I just figure 12X should be 4X better than 3X - and it's not.
I'm going to give it another few days (I have up to 14 days to return it) to see if these are insurrmountable problems or not. If not, poor Rolf at London Drugs may want to go into hiding.
Meanwhile, here's a few of my initial attempts.
First I walked around town, taking the dogs down to the seawalk:
Busy Boat Scene
I wanted the zoom to bring this heron in closer - he wasn't that far out, but I still couldn't get a great shot:
On the other hand, I was happy with this close up picture of the winter cabbage in the planters near the ferry dock:
I had to make a quick overnight trip to the mainland for a Family Christmas Dinner at my mom's seniors' facility. That gave me a chance to try out some indoor, large crowd pictures - with rather disappointing results. (That's my mom in the pink pants at Table 15).
And the return trip last night gave me a chance to try the "night scenery" setting:
On the way home from Duke Point, I had to take a short detour through Ladysmith. This Christmas, Ladysmith should win the title of The Most Decorated Small Town in Canada. Ladysmith rises from the Trans Canada Highway like a miniature San Franscisco - hilly, hilly, hilly. When the main street (and much of the rest of the town) is decorated with more Christmas lights than I have ever seen in one place at one time, the effect is phenomenal. Take-your-breath-away phenomenal. The pictures don't do it justice.
And what's a blog entry on my life with the critters without a critter? This closeup of Oliver seems a bit fuzzy to me:
So....off to practice some more. And to write/revise some stories.....I've been invited to join a writers' group here, and my first meeting with the whole group is next week. What to share, what to share?
Edited to add: Hmmmmmm...seems to me the colour and sharpness of these photos definitely is not up to par once posted on the blog - the colours seem less brilliant than past photos taken with a less expensive, more basic camera. I would appreciate comments from readers - are you seeing what I'm seeing in these images? Recommendations for other cameras to consider gratefully accepted!