In two weeks I will be in Prague! And while I'm taking my Canon 6D with two zoom lenses, I wanted something small and light that would be better for video (light weight, easier to hold steady) and woud fit in my pocket.
Two weeks ago I went to Las Cruces and ended up at Best Buy seeing what they had on offer. They had a lot of intriguing cameras, the one that really caught my eye was a Nikon CoolPix 9900. I like Nikon glass (yes, a Canon guy saying there's something about Nikon that he likes) and this one had a remarkable feature -- a GPS! Now, my Canon 6D also has GPS (and WiFi), but I don't use it for normal shooting. It increases battery drain and I know where I'm shooting. But in Germany? In the Czech Republic? I can probably puzzle out general location based on date and itenerary, plus I can photograph any landmark signs when I arrive somewhere spiffy, but for Europe the GPS will be cool. And I have a spare battery or two for the 6D. And the boat that we'll be on has 110 VAC in every cabin, so I don't have to shlep around a bag full of adapters.
The problem with the Nikon is that it only shot JPEG. In fact, upon research, every single effing camera sold in the store by Best Buy only shot JPEG, no RAW. For most people this makes no difference, but serious photographers want RAW format. JPEG compresses the image, so you lose detail that can never be recovered. It also does some sharpening and tone adjustment, which, again, cannot be undone. With RAW, you're dealing with the pure pixel output from the camera's CCD: all the information, unadulterated. Which means you're going to have to do some Photoshop work to make good images.
Which is OK: serious photographers are a bit weird and enjoy doing things in Photoshop or other image editing software. And most serious photographers cheat: we shoot in a mode that gives us both RAW and JPEG, so we have both a photo that we can instantly post online and a photo that we can manipulate the heck out of.
So I started digging around on Adorama's and B&H Photo's web sites, and I learned that there is no such thing as a pocket camera that has both GPS and RAW. Olympus has one that will be released soon, but it's not out yet.
So back to digging through sites. Turns out that I couldn't find any Nikon pocket-sized cameras that shot RAW, so scratch them. I was probably going to end up with a Canon, when a friend recommended looking at Panasonic Lumix cameras.
This was Sunday. Last week Monday I ordered a Lumix LX-7 and it arrived Thursday.
It is not the latest and greatest in the series, which means it's only 10 megapixels. Perfectly adequate for what I need. The newest/best in the series has a lot of complaints, two of which stand out. First, the control dial on top that sets the mode that the camera is using has a problem with the lettering and typically in two weeks all of the lettering wears off. Unacceptable. Second, and this isn't camera-specific, Panasonic has a terrible reputation for customer service if you need a camera repaired. So I bought a two year warranty, hoping I could make the warranty company deal with Panasonic if mine needs service.
I've got to get to bed, so here's some highs and lows.
More 'special' exposure modes than I can count. I'll list them later. I don't know if I'll use them, we'll see. I am experimenting with them, just don't know if I'll use them for stuff on the trip.
Seems to be well-sealed. It has a proper lens cap that snaps on and off rather than those bladed lens covers that so many cameras have. It has a very good feel: solid body made of metal not plastic.
Best thing -- Leica/Zeiss optics! And they look like they perform quite well, I'll post some pix later (and during the trip).
Battery life: I received the camera Thursday and charged it. Shot 220 images Saturday through today and the battery warning was blinking red, but it was still shooting. The battery is on the charger now.
Camera size: fits quite nicely in my pants pocket. I always wear cargo pocket pants and keep my wallet in one of the sides, so there's lots of room for the camera. So I think it'll travel well.
I have some apprehension about Panasonic service. I used to sell Panasonic and Matsushita/Technics electronics and they were always a superior product. I don't know what happened to their service, hopefully it'll be a long time before I find out.
Elements of construction: I don't like their button design on the back, I'm concerned that the button will eventually catch on something and get pulled off, and then I'm at the mercy of Panasonic service.
My biggest complaint is crazy stupid: the latch on the battery cover door. The door is spring-loaded to stay open, as you might expect. And the battery compartment is also where the SD memory card is (I have a 16 gig and I'm not sure I could fill it on my forthcoming trip). But the latch does not reset when you open it -- you slide the latch open to remove the battery, and it stays in that position. You have to slide it closed to lock it when you want to close the compartment. VERY stupid design.
Conclusion in brief: looks like a good camera. Good images, versatile (the lens is the equivalent of a 24-105 zoom), good battery life (I think if I charge it nightly I'll be fine during the day).
I took it to Three Rivers Petroglyphs Saturday along with my Canon with its 24-105 zoom and did a lot of side by side shooting. I'll try and post some of those pix and more very soon. I will be posting JPEGs, but that'll be good enough to demonstrate capability.
Cost: $400 new. You can find used ones in varying conditions for $250-300.
And I have to get to bed, 5:15 is too damn early for my liking but that's the way it is.