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Grit Trumps Glitz in Camera Hunt

The latest model doesn't always offer more.

It's funny how things that have been there for a while sometimes suddenly get renoticed.

Oddly, out of the blue, several people recently have asked about or complimented my camera. Okay, yes, it is very nice, but when it was new, not so many people cared.

I've had the same camera for just over four years, and it's served me well. Better than 'well' actually—after more than and an 'odometer' turn over, it still takes .

Still, lately, particularly when the conditions are less than optimal, there has been a small drop in picture quality. Nothing you'd see in published photos, but random excess “noise” and the occasional dropped pixel is just enough to irk the professional graphic designer in me. It's also acquired a minor lag between photos.

Part of me said, “Get a new camera card.”

The other part of me, reminded that the card is only six months old, said, “The processor and/or light card may be getting tired—perhaps it's time to start hunting for a new camera.”

Preparations for the hunt

I realized I hadn't bothered to keep up with the market. Like, what's my camera worth? What's the latest version? Would it be worth selling off my current camera to offset the purchase of an updated version?

So off I went to view some models and prices.

I really, really like my Fuji FinePix S8000fd, and last I checked, Fuji offered the best features for the price, so switching brands wasn't on my list.

Stick with a company who's quality is a known quantity, is my thought.

So, what did I find?

The camera with pretty much the same specs but a few more megapixels is about the same price as what I paid four years ago, which was $200 off the list price. With some serious hunting, I might get the price down further, but the price I found was about $150 under list and pretty consistent among suppliers, so likely, that's pretty much what the camera costs.

A camera with pretty much the same specs, but with 30x optical zoom instead of 18x, weirdly enough, costs about the same.

And, the latest model of “semi-pro” cameras, with a whole host of extra nifty features goes for about $100 more than I paid for my current camera.

The thing is, the latest and greatest didn't get such hot reviews. Neither did the updated model. Word on the street is, wait another year for them to iron the bugs out. Seems it takes a great pic, but can take up to an unacceptably long 5 or 10 seconds to do so.

The lag I found annoying and unacceptable on my camera is about half- to three-quarters of a second. So much for the "latest greatest."

The best game already captured

Out of curiosity, I decided to check what my camera goes for used, only to find they pretty much don't exist. People that have this model don't part with them often, apparently.

You can, however, buy a new dead-stock one—for $540, which is $15 more than the list price four years ago.

Suddenly, my camera is not only looking fairly sweet, it's looking downright precious.

But its rating or rarity doesn't fix processing speed, noise or pixel drop-out issues.

But then I noticed something in the specs, and that is, that my camera has a larger card capacity than I realized. For some reason, I thought it was limited to a 2 GB SD card, the write-speed of which is limited.

SDHC cards are available in much higher write speeds, and a higher write speed shortens the lag time between photos, but the smallest they come is 4 GB..

So, would it make a difference? I swapped in the 4 GB SDHC card, a Class 4, out of my disused PDA.

Wow! Snap, snap, snap. Fast and clean, even in low light. Like new, possibly faster.

The $11 solution

So I upped the ante—for $11, an 8 GB Class 10 card, the fastest available, is on the way.

Meanwhile, checking the specs again, I've also rediscovered a couple of features I'd forgotten about, and poking through them and what they do has actually been more fun than a new camera, since there's no learning curve.

I've always been a believer in function over form, but I have to say, I was almost victim of the consumer trap, “new is better.” I'd be lying if I said having an excuse to buy a shiny new techie toy didn't entice me for a bit.

But when I looked and realized the new toy was more glitz than grit and I could fix the performance issues with the camera I really enjoy for $11 instead of paying $400 for one I would likely be disappointed and frustrated with, the wisdom of choosing function over form was made clear to me once again.

And, if my camera caught the eye of several folks recently enough for them to ask about it, it would seem, its form isn't so bad either--four years and 10,000 photos later.

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