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A fond goodbye to compact cameras

CamerasBlog
by John C. Dvorak, 21 Feb 2013Blog
A fond goodbye to compact cameras

No matter what anyone says, phone cameras are still pinhole cameras. They should only be used in an emergency, when you don't have a real camera handy. These cameras are also fit for people who wouldn't normally own a real camera, and won’t take very many pictures with the phone anyway.

But this trend toward using smartphone cameras appears to be unstoppable. It will eventually decimate the market for compact cameras, leaving only the DSLRs and mirror-less versions of the DSLR.

Compact cameras are amazing products, but in the next few years, they will be considered collectibles, going the way of those old bellows cameras that people once used religiously.

My advice is to collect a few of the better ones while they are still available and falling in price. I'm a fan of the Kodak M1033, which is as small as they come. It's a 10-megapixel workhorse with the ability to shoot a 16 x 9 720p HD video. You can pick up a used model for around £50 or less online – and I still shoot with this camera.

If you want to up the ante to a near-perfect compact 18X zoom camera, try to dig up a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35. This camera is one of the highest-rated cameras ever and is remarkable by any standards. Originally released in 2009 costing hundreds of pounds, you can snag one for around the £150 mark now. Good cameras do retain some value.

It's crazy not to buy your next camera at a discount. The top compact cameras from a few years ago have only seen incremental changes. The standard pixel count has increased but it is still on a small die, which may affect the contrast adversely, although Photoshop has tools to fix the problem somewhat. These sorts of cameras are fun to play with and the oldest models that can shoot 8-megapixels or more will beat any phone camera out there.

Everyone should assemble a small collection of interesting cameras. If you want to be a serious collector, though, you'll probably have to hunt down some of the older seminal cameras from a decade or so ago. I've tried to put aside some of the older cameras I've used before they got too beat up. This includes a bunch of the now-clunky but still amusing 3-megapixel cameras that were once state of the art, like the Nikon Coolpix 910 that had a unique swivel body. While the sensor produced a decent photo, the flash was perfectly placed to guarantee red eye in every shot!

I have lost of few of the sub-1-megapixel cameras and regret it. Dig those up and put them in a safe place. One camera that is fun to own is the old Olympus rocket ship-looking 1.4-megapixel D600L with the "Progressive CCD." I'll go shoot with this thing every once in a while and people give me weird looks.

As a collector, I'd keep an eye out for some of the Agfa digital cameras. Sheer clunkers by today's standards, you could actually get an interesting .7 to 1.2-megapixel shot with a unique colour balance.

Just remember that with collectibles, condition is 90 per cent of the value, so do not abuse them. Have fun.

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