I'm an avid photographer and prefer to keep a camera handy at all times.
When I don't feel like lugging a heavy SLR camera around, I like to drop a P&S camera in my pocket or backpack. Up until now, it was recently a Canon S90. But I wanted a camera that I would be confident giving it a few knocks. I also enjoy fishing, hunting, and a lot of other sports so I was looking for a camera that was waterproof, dustproof, but still lightweight.
After using this camera for two months, I like it and it's a keeper but it can be overwhelming at times. It comes with a 242 page owners manual for crying out loud!
BLUF: I really like it but there are just too many features to remember. Sometimes the little things keep catching you.
Pulling it out of the box, initial impressions were good. I got the black model and it's a medium size P&S camera. It feels a little heavier than my S90 but that's to be expected with the waterproof and shockproof features.
I was kind of surprised that it came with a neckstrap versus a wrist strap like other similar cameras. Almost like it wasn't sure if it was a big little camera or a little big camera. I put it on but I'm thinking of putting a wrist strap on it. I don't like it hanging around my neck and a wrist strap would be more convenient for pulling it out of a pocket. As it is now, shoving the neck strap into a pocket leads to a tangled mess.
On the right side of the camera is the battery and SD card compartment with a locking knob. To open it, you have to depress a button in the center of the knob and then rotate the knob. It's a positive lock and not one to be accidentally opened. This locking knob is requried for the waterproofing feature of the camera.
The camera comes with the owners manual on a CD. While there is a quick start card, you need a computer to view the owners manual. Keep it handy because if you're like me, you're going to need it.
Now let me say that until now, I've been able to pretty much figure out every camera without having to pull out the owners manual. Usually I will be snapping away for a while and then refer to the manual to figure out some small nuance. With this camera, I was pretty much defeated within the first few pictures.
I had seen the video showing how you can just tap the "Action Button". I was expecting a menu of camera modes but I got a blue world map instead. Okay, fire up the manual. Ah, you have to select the action button feature.
Once I got that, it works fine. Tap the button and a menu appears. By flicking your wrist, the menu selection scrolls downward. When you come to the feature you want, tap the action button once more.
From there, it spirals downward. By tapping the action button, it allows you to access 6 modes. These include: Easy Auto, Auto, Beach, Snow, Landscape, and Other.
Under the Shooting Mode there are 19 different Scene (portrait, beach, indoor/party, sports, backlight, and more) modes. Now you may be able to tap that action button while wearing gloves, you will need to take those gloves off to select any of the 19 Scene modes.
By the way, to get into the different modes, you have to press a small button to the center, right of the view screen. It has a green camera sign on it and the word SCENE. You then use the 4-way toggle switch below to select.
So what how has it worked for me? In reality I just set it to Auto. When situations happen, I've never remembered to switch Scene modes. It's only afterwards that I think, "Darn! I should have used xxx mode!" Maybe someday I will.
The camera does have a GPS built in to it. You do have to turn it on in the menu. You will see a satellite symbol in the right side of the view screen reminding you that it's there. But in order for it to capture a signal, it must have a lock on satellites. If it has a good lock, you will see a vertical bar appear next to the satellite symbol. Then when you take your photo (and in the World Map mode), a map with the location of the photo will appear on the view screen. I guess it would be nice to know where you were when you took the photo. But I sure hope I remember to turn off the GPS if I take a pic of my house. I can see where there would be some security concerns or fear of stalkers with this feature.
If you do leave your GPS feature on, keep in mind that it keeps working even if your camera is off. So there will always be that small power drain. Be sure to turn it off before storing your camera for a while.
Another thing that caught me is the auto shutter feature in the Smart Portrait mode. In this mode, it looks for a smile and when a smile is present, it takes the picture. The first few times it took the picture without me pressing the shutter button really had me confused. I thought I was accidentally pressing a button somewhere. Then I thought the camera was haunted. Out with the owners manual....
But let me stress that I've been quite happy with the results I've gotten from the Auto mode. The camera has adjusted well for various lighting situations and have generally used the flash during appropriate times. The 12 MP CMOS sensor has done well under low light conditions. The image quality has been clean but a little on the warm (orangish) side to my taste. Though I have to admit that everyone else I've shown it to have had only praise for the color balance.
The camera is indeed waterproof and has been used to take photos of fish underwater. It really is impressive to capture a trout being pulled alongside the boat while it's still on the line! Which reminds me, I'm looking for a floating strap for it during these times. It may be waterproof but it doesn't float.
Haven't dropped it yet but do hope to check it's performance in the snow in a couple of months.
One other complaint. The rear view screen is bright, vibrant, and clear. But the glass itself has already begun to get some scratches on it. I wish Nikon had used Gorilla glass or the glass on the iPod Touchs, something more scratch resistant.
The camera also has a high speed USB and a HDMI port. The USB cable comes with the camera and allows fast downloads. It literally is like using a good card reader. The HDMI port allows you to play videos on your TV but HDMI cable not included.
I know I have left so much out but there is so much to remember with this camera. More will probably come to me tonight just as I crawl into bed
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Amount Paid (US$): 375
This Camera is a Good Choice if You Want Something... Flexible Enough for Enthusiasts