The best digital camera in auto mode?
So we're looking at digital cameras, but we have a requirement. See, we're having a kid, I run my own business, and she's starting a new job. We are not blessed with an abundance of time, and frankly we're not even that interested in becoming photography experts. Because of that we're hoping to find the camera that takes the best photos on auto mode. I want to leave that dial parked and just take some photos.
Other than that, our only other hope is to keep it a little bit on the inexpensive end. Anything over $1K is out, and below $700 would be highly preferred. It doesn't have to be the latest and greatest, so I'd take the RX100 M2 over the M3, for example.
What should I be looking at? Should I stick with what I have?
(BTW, my buddy is an awesome photographer - often for NPR Music - so I'm sure he'll help us document our little one now and then. Check out his site here: www.adamkissick.com )
- Many pictures will be indoors in dim light of moving kids
- Thus there are only two realistic options: (1) use the flash or (2) get a camera with a giant sensor
- I got a NEX 5N which was somehow the worst of both worlds. It's a great camera, but the APS-C sensor is too small to use in dim light with moving kids *without* the flash, and the flash is actually too powerful, and tends to blow out (unless I fiddle) indoor pictures if used
- So I'd recommend either a full-frame camera so you don't need to use the flash, sticking with your current point-and-shoot, or getting a point-and-shoot that handles indoor flash photography very well
- Personally, I've concluded that a point-and-shoot with flash is the best option, the key being that such a camera is on me at all times. What do I use now? Samsung Galaxy Zoom2 for $480. LOVE IT!!!
- If I were to do it again, I would swap the NEX 5N for something with full manual controls, because like another post said, you might start to really enjoy capturing just the right shot eventually. I would use the Galaxy Zoom2 for every day shooting, and maybe a full frame DSLR for weddings, etc
No matter what, movement in low light generally results in blurring if you don't use a flash.
And there's certainly something to be said for an inexpensive DSLR like the Nikon D3200/D3300. You get much faster focusing for action shots, which I imagine is useful as a child grows up.
Fast forward to 2014, and I've owned/still own many of the Canon SLR models since the D30 with an arsenal of lenses.... plus 10+ point and shoot cameras and over 100,000 exposures taken in my Lightroom library.
Point is, once you start taking great pictures... it is addicting and once you are addicted, you will use your gear to its limits. I used to start cursing what would have been the "perfect" shot because of slow lenses or ISO noise, and then go out and buy a new camera, lens, flash, tripod, etc. At the end of the day, no one camera or piece of gear will be the catch all for every situation.
My now 13 year old son is probably the most well documented kid of his generation. I've taken pictures on 5 continents, in all kinds of situations from runway models to F1 cars...from the vantage point of tops of buildings, mountain, and forest canopies...of famous people and close friends/family alive and long lost. The only advice I feel rings true is "carry a camera and take a lot of pictures....because one day you'll want to look back at those memories."
The problem as piatigorsky has pointed out is that you are wanting to upgrade from a very good point-n-shoot without a real firm set of expectations. At the price level you are looking for, darn near every camera can be expected to be similar on auto. And there really is no comprehensive testing done that would bear out any of the suggestions you are given. As a grandfather who loves shooting pictures of his grand-kids, and as somewhat of a hobbyist, I can tell you that skill is your best next upgrade. And you don't have to become much of an expert to get to a level that will have you venturing off of auto some by the time your child is two. Visit wbclark.smugmug.com for examples of what I'm talking about. Auto is fine for catching them as they are running around, but the best shots are seldom found on auto.
Now I know time is not on your side, but I'm telling you that raising a kid takes time, and precious little of it spent increasing your skill will get you further than a new camera. Spend the $700 on something else, or put it in the bank and visit digital-photography-school.com (digital-photography-school.com/digital-photography...) instead. You'll have to find time to spend with that child when it comes along, may as well start finding some spare time now.
I tend to think that there might be a difference in the results from different cameras even if they're just in auto mode. You seem to be partly arguing that auto mode is worse that using manual features, which is a no-brainer and something I never disputed.
I don't have any other requirements because that's all I'm looking for. Just whatever will take the best pictures without me having to study photography while I'm knee-deep in diapers.
That article's idea of an "amateur camera" is a D80. While I understand that this is an amateur camera relative to what professionals use, it's certainly a nicer camera than what I have. While I like my S100 a lot, it has limitations.
If you looked at the smugmug site I mentioned earlier, you'll see several shots that were taken in aperture priority and many that were taken on auto--sometimes you just don't have the time to play with the settings. You should be able to see a huge difference between the two sets of pictures, and I'd bet most of the ones you like the best were where the aperture was set to blur the background.
As to lighting, I mentioned on one comment that I liked the camera because it gave you the option for an external flash, which is a good thing for pictures of kids in the evening, but the built in flash might be adequate for you. I wouldn't worry about learning much about lighting at the beginning because the basics--no outside pictures around noon, use plenty of light, ... will go a long way. An external flash usually gives you the option of bouncing light off of a ceiling or nearby wall and getting a better--less glaring--picture. But for a newborn you may well wish to avoid the flash for the first few months. Learning about those aperture numbers and what they mean can help you pick a better camera/lens for low light shooting as well.
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I think if you are intending to upgrade, you'll need to consider that most of the price you will be paying is going to go to more flexible and powerful software control on part of the camera itself, and in the case of cameras with interchangeable lenses, flexibility in hardware as well. However, if you are going to leave it on auto, I think this would be a waste of this capability and flexibility (and therefore money). As it stands, the S100 occupies a position where using auto gives quite impressive results without breaking the bank, while also leaving open the option for full manual control — in fact, I upgraded to a Panasonic GF6 not because that I thought the S100 was bad (it wasn't), but because I was shooting in manual mode most of the time anyway, and I wanted more powerful controls on that front.
As for compacts like the Sony RX100 series, again I think the question is would you notice the difference in image quality, and if so, would it justify your cost? If, for the sake of argument, we take the RX100 MII, do you want to spend approx. $500 for 8 more megapixels, a larger sensor, a slightly larger aperture, but a drop in zoom?
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