I finally decided and pulled the trigger on buying a new camera. I’ve been researching which one to buy for the last year. I wanted to get one earlier this year but then both my laptop and printer broke and repairing the laptop and replacing the printer cost me my money that I was planning on spending on a new camera. Such is life.

I was an early adopter of the digital format in photography. I switched over to a digital camera way back in 2000. It was only a three megapixel camera but it cost a whole lot of money. Before going digital I shot with a Canon EOS Elan 35mm SLR camera. I liked it. It was a step up from the Canon Rebel and a step below Canon’s pro SLR. I don’t think that category exists anymore.

My first digital camera was a Nikon Coolpix 950. At least I think it was that model. I really can’t remember. Besides liking digital photography the one thing I learned with that camera is that I liked shooting from the waist. It had a body that twisted so that you could look down at the LCD screen. Instead of putting the camera in front of your face and looking through a viewfinder or at the LCD screen you could hold it at waist level like an old fashioned box camera.

Since I like shooting candids and street photos I found it easier not to have the camera in front of my face. Not only could I see what was going on around me easier but people were more relaxed. Somehow putting a camera in front of your face makes people tense up. Or maybe that’s just an easy cue telling them that they’re on camera. Shooting from the waist is less of a cue and people stay more relaxed. I’ve made sure all my digital cameras since then have swivel LCD screens.

The lack of a live view swivel LCD screen has kept me away from digital SLRs for the last decade. I don’t want to buy any camera that I can’t shot from the waist with. Except for a pocket point and shoot camera. I’ll accept no swivel LCD with one of those because they don’t make them with swivel LCDs and it’s just a supplementary camera for when I don’t want to carry the bigger one.

The last time I bought a new camera was 2005. A nine megapixel Coolpix 8800. It’s served me well but after five years there have been many improvements to digital cameras so I wanted a new one. That camera is one in what has become known as the “Ultrazoom” category of cameras. It’s a camera for the advanced amateur that has a big zoom lens on it but the lens is built in. There is no switching of lenses in this category. What the camera has built in is what it has now and forever.

In deciding what camera to get I, kind of, wanted to step up to a digital SLR system. But almost all of those don’t come with a swivel LCD. That is a deal breaker for me. Even the Nikon that does have a articulated LCD doesn’t have the range of motion that I expect from a swivel LCD. Though I didn’t necessarily want another Ultrazoom I certainly wanted that swivel LCD.

Over the last year or two a new type of digital camera has come onto the scene. The new four thirds standard. You see a DSLR doesn’t shine the light of the picture you’re taking directly on the digital sensor. It’s reflected on by a mirror. With a four thirds camera the light directly hits the digital sensor. The sensor is also smaller than on a DSLR. The cameras I was looking at were micro four thirds camera which means they were small and light.

The micro four thirds cameras I was looking at had swivel LCD screens and interchangeable lenses. Of course the immediate question with an interchangeable lens system camera of any kind is, “What lenses should I get?”. Lenses can get real expensive. Every photographer wants a “Fast” lens. That’s a lens that opens wide and lets in a lot of light so the shutter speed is fast and the photographer can freeze the action without blurring. Or the photographer can take photos in low light. Both of those thing come with a fast lens and a fast lens can be expensive. A fast zoom lens even more so.

In researching the micro four thirds system and lenses I found one that I wanted. It consisted of the camera body, which only came in a kit, a short fast lens, and a zoom lens that wasn’t too fast. The cost for each of those parts: $700, $350, and $300. You can see how that gets expensive quickly. Not only did I not have the money I wasn’t sure I wanted to drop that much on a new camera even if I did.

I went on to check out some of the new ultrazoom models that have been coming out. Though they have nice big zooms they are fairly slow lenses. No slower than what I’m shooting with now but I wouldn’t be able to switch to a faster lens if need be as I would with the micro four thirds system. I ended up with about nine cameras bookmarked on my wish list and I kept looking at them and trying to decide which would be best.

After a month of pondering the low-priced option won out. I went with an Canon Powershot SX20IS. That’s a new ultrazoom model that is a lot like my old Nikon Coolpix 8800 except it has a bigger zoom, is 14 megapixels, and saves to the card a lot faster. Saving to the card a lot faster was also a reason I wanted to get a new camera. I like to burst shoot (the digital equivalent of a motor drive) and after I did that with my old camera it took nearly a minute to save to the card. The new one takes seconds to save.

The Canon ran me $429. With tax and a second battery it came in at just over $500. Not an insignificant sum but a third of what going for the micro four thirds model costs.

I’ve shot with the Canon a couple of times so far and I like it. The zoom is ridiculously big and I will probably not have much need for it at full magnification but it is cool. The controls seem pretty easy to learn but I’m not sure if I’m totally happy with the image quality yet. That could be because I have a setting wrong, specifically using the auto-ISO, and it’s going to take some more photos to really know but I’m glad I got it. I’m very much a “Use whatever equipment I got” kind of artist but I like to get new things too. Plus now I can stop wasting my time trying to decide which camera to buy. That’s a plus.