I was thinking to get a camera for my parents. I thought it would make a nice gift and I would get to see more funny photos of my brother.

The requirements are very demanding though. The camera should …

  • be easy to handle, since parents don’t want to tweak dials and fiddle with the settings for more than 1 minute
  • perform well indoors and in low light – you know, for school events and Christmas parties
  • not cost a fortune; yes, there’s a budget, otherwise we wouldn’t be having this conversation. And I would buy the Canon G1 X. Or a mirrorless  hipster camera of some sort. And keep it for myself.

I am the proud owner of a Canon A710 IS. For a while I thought of its successor, the SX 150 IS, but its specifications are rather poor. The lens is significantly slower (F/3.4 – F/5.6 compared to F/2.8), the sensor is more or less the same, and the plastic body seems more fragile than it should. For the record, I dropped my camera on numerous occasions, so this is a serious concern. Ok, the newer version has a decent zoom – 12x, twice more than my old camera, but its greatest advantage remains the incredible macro at <1 cm. Sadly, that’s not on the above list. To be fair, it’s a very nice, cheap camera that performs stunningly in daylight, and lets you get incredibly close to your subject, but that’s about it. At 200 ISO you already feel its limitations. Also, the prices have dropped and the camera is mostly out of stock, which makes me wonder about the features of the next model in the series.

The next best thing seems to be the SX260 which is a weird camera – compact, with an insane 20x zoom and GPS (not sure that’s necessary). The reviews mention some strange feature about fixing the ISO at 100 for exposures shorter than 1 s. I didn’t manage to test that, since the only camera I found in the shop quickly ran out of batteries. It has a CMOS sensor and it should perform well in low light. However, dpreview does not recommend it for flash photography, especially portraits of super-fast children. Unfortunately, this item is very important on the above list. Also, there’s some concerning discussion about the lack of clarity/sharpness at 100%. I’m surprised and disappointed, Canon! In spite of the minor issues, the camera looks and feels great, it’s very easy to use (it even has a button for recording) and it’s affordable. There aren’t so many dials for exposure/ISO, but that might be a plus for my parents. This camera tempts me.

I hope you’re still reading because now it gets interesting. I’ve reached a price range that allows some quality and refinement. These cameras fulfill the most important item on the list – low light, indoor photography, but are at the edge of my budget. As in, I’m not sure I want to spend £400 on a compact+accessories. I’ve been recommended the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5, but I haven’t seen it in the shops today, so I can’t say much about it. I’ve played with the Fujifilm X10, though, and it’s been an exciting experience. It took me about a minute or so to figure out how to switch it on. I even yelped „Help!”, but the staff decided to ignore me. Eventually, I located the switch on the lens, I turned it gently and….rainbows poured out of the screen. All the buttons, all the settings!! I’m used to the Canon menu, which is slow and obnoxious, but having so many controls on this camera confused me. Although I could sense its potential, I soon realised that my parents are not so keen in pressing buttons located all over the camera, and searching for certain features around the screen, or the lens, or wherever the producer felt like adding them. I’m sure my dad would appreciate the vintage looks, but when you want to snap a photo quickly, you can’t spend too much time looking for the right dial. Not to mention they both wear glasses…

So I moved on to the next item on the list, which was the Canon G12, but stumbled upon the G1 X. And boy, was that a revelation or what? Let’s say I used to be crazy about the G12 and today it just felt like cheap plastic. Anyway, again, too many buttons for parents.

Which leads me to the real problem. I’ve seen the S100. And I thought this must be a joke. It looks like a joke. Unfortunately, it didn’t have any batteries and I couldn’t be bothered to ask the staff. It’s a toy. A powerful toy. It seems to be the right camera for the job, but I’m not sure I want to spend that much. I was also considering its predecessor S95, which might be a better deal than the SX260, but pales in comparison with S100 (different type of sensor, less zoom, not as wide).

There is also the IXUS series, which I know nothing about. Apparently, they are „social friendly” and I’ve seen a few good flash photos on the web. I’m not very fond of pocket cameras, but the appearance of S100 altered my perspective.

So, what to do? I have no idea what to choose. Does it seem obvious to you? What am I missing?

Should I just give up and buy this instead?

[Later edit:] I had a look at the IXUS cameras and I’m going to make a note here, otherwise I will forget everything. The most suitable candidate seem to be the IXUS 230, which is the only decent one without a touch screen. The 240 has a wider lens and some others  offer more zoom (ok, I’m lost between 510-1100, they all have two sets of very confusing names), but their price nearly matches the SX260 and the S95, so I don’t see any advantages here.

[Later edit 2:] S100

  • Amazon.com  – $363.99
  • Amazon.co.uk – £380.00, not even sold by Amazon; OK, I can find it elsewhere for £340, but still…WHY???