Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Hunt for a New DigiCam

The Canon 860-IS we had picked up from Palika Bazaar in New Delhi in December 2008, is still working but only just.

The camera has survived numerous falls but the day after it dropped from my pocket and crashed on to the granite slabs of Shivananda Ashram at Rishikesh, its LCD-TFT screen had developed a 'dead-spot'. The pictures continued to be pretty good though. But recently something seems to have gone wrong with its CCD itself. Any contrast of brightness seems to spill into rest of the frame, making the pictures look like this -

Shifting to the manual mode seems to help but the images lose their depth and contrast.

So, two years and 7000+ pics later it was time to look for another camera...but the big question was - should it be a 'replacement' or an 'upgradation'? Another compact digicam or a Digital SLR?

After a few window-shopping trips to KS-Denchi and Yodobashi Camera (Akihabara / Ueno), I shortlisted three compact camera's and two digital-SLR's: Compacts - Nikon P6000, Canon G11 and Lumix (Panasonic) GF1, and among DSLRs - Nikon D-90 and Canon EOS 7D.
  • Nikon P6000 was neat and light with a built-in GPS device; it was launched last year and the reviews were mixed.
  • Canon G11 was launched just a few months ago and was upgrade from G10 which was reputed to the favourite compact for professionals, war-correspondents and fashion-designers. This model had reduced the MegaPixel count from 12 to 10 and added a swivel screen. Price - Yen 54,800.
  • Panasonic Lumix GF1 was just a month old and the pro-photo mags were full of glowing reviews about is SLR-sized sensor. But it was expensive at Y62,000 and I was not too thrilled about the fact that it was being promoted as a `ladies camera`.

The SLRs were, of course, beautiful pieces of equipment but they were expensive (Yen-80,000+... just the body!) and heavy. It was no fun lugging around a 1kg camera everywhere.

Since I wanted somthing that I could carry in my bag everyday the expensive SLRs were out of the reckoning straightaway. The Nikon P6000 was nice but it had features like the GPS which I didn't really need. I would have loved to have the Lumix GF1 but it was as expensive as some SLRs.

While I was gravitating towards Canon G11 and brooding about the prices, Go.Y suggested that I take a look at kakaku.com , an online retailer. Everything was selling here at a surprisingly generous discount. The G11 was Yen 41,700 here - about Y-15,000 less than the prices being offered by huge retailers like Yodobashi-Camera. Even after considering the point-card system at Y-C (10%, so a 'discount' of Yen 5400) it was much more expensive than the prices being offered by retailers at kakaku.com .

Was there some catch? Were the kakaku-retailers selling the equipment without the standard accessories like the battery-pack and cables? (This is what folks at Palika Bazaar would do!).
I asked around and learnt that people purchased regularly from kakaku.com had faced no such problems - the price difference was perhaps due to the huge overheads for off-line retailers. The clincher was that online purchases could be paid through COD (cash on delivery), for a nominal extra fee.

So, finally, today I placed an order on amazon.co.jp through kakaku.com ...now I can`t wait to get my hands on the new camera! :P

Update and Cautionary Note    (3 August 2010)

Seven months and ~3,400 clicks later the buttons on my G11 suddenly stopped working. Despite full charge, none of the buttons - "on/off", "menu", "display"...nothing worked except the "playback" button. And when this was pressed the calender-cubes animation would come on the screen. If you pushed the same button once again, the playback function would get activated. But everything else, including the lens cover, remained unresponsive.

The software needed a reset but neither the use-manual not the internet revealed any solutions. One user on DP-Review seemed to have encountered a similar problem under "Wierd Canon G11 Issue".

Luckily, I happened to be working in Tokyo now. So I took my camera to the Canon Service Centre at Ginza, and they repaired it within four working days, for free. It seems to be working just fine.


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