Focusing on new camera options for business travel
by Alan Zisman (c) 2011
published in Business in
Vancouver July 19-25, 2011 issue #1134 High Tech
When I was travelling this summer I noticed something that I haven’t
seen commented on. Lots of people had digital SLR (DSLR) cameras around
their necks. That’s nothing new. What was new, I think, is that a lot
of those necks were female.
In the past, while popular, DSLRs seemed to be a guy thing. Apparently
that’s no longer the case.
They’re not my thing, however. The other popular picture-taking option,
using the camera built into a mobile phone, also doesn’t appeal to me.
I like – especially when I’m travelling – a DSLR’s ability to go from
wide angle to close up, but otherwise find them too big, too complex,
Camera manufacturers offer “ultra zooms” lacking a DLSR’s detachable
lenses, with zooms up to 36 times, but they’re still too bulky for my
taste. More recently, we’ve started to see “compact zoom” models – not
as powerful as the ultra zooms, but much smaller. Both Nikon and Canon
loaned me current models to take on my trip.
Nikon’s Coolpix S9100 packs an 18x optical zoom, going from the
equivalent of a traditional SLR’s wide-angle 25mm lens up to
super-telephoto 450mm. It has very good close-up (macro) capabilities
and is very easy to use. Some users (not me), however, will be put off
by its lack of manual controls.
Like the Coolpix S9100, Canon’s PowerShot SX230 HS takes 12-mega-pixel
images. Both cameras include image stabilization (a must-have at high
zooms), multiple shooting options, including night modes, and 1080p
high-definition movie recording. Neither camera offers a high-end RAW
image mode. Also on each: the flash pops open manually – a feature that
I like, making it easy to control whether the flash fires or not.
While Nikon’s model comes in black or silver, Canon offers its
PowerShot in your choice of black, red (actually hot pink) or blue.
It’s also a bit slimmer than Nikon’s model, perhaps because its lens is
a more modest 14x zoom (ranging from SLR- equivalent 28mm to 390mm).
Unlike Nikon’s model, it offers manual exposure options but delivers
less powerful macro abilities.
The PowerShot includes GPS, which makes it possible to tag shots with
their location. Your photos can then display where they were taken on a
map in software like Apple’s iPhoto or uploaded to a website like
Flickr. The downside: leaving the GPS on dramatically reduces battery
Both cameras start up and are ready to fire quickly – about two seconds
after pressing the power button. Nikon’s camera produces sharper images
in low-light settings and offers smoother 1080p video (30 frames per
second compared with the Canon’s 24 fps). It can also refocus while
A plus for the Canon, however: its settings dial stays put. The Nikon’s
dial didn’t when popped in and out of pocket or carrying case. The
resulting incorrect modes ruined some of my shots.
With both cameras listing for the same $380, each will have its fans –
the Nikon for its larger zoom and better macro and low-light picture
taking; the Canon for its manual options, GPS and slimmer body in cuter
Another Nikon model has a feature that might appeal to some: the
Coolpix S1100pj (about $450). While offering a more modest 5x zoom, it
has a built-in projector, can be used to project the images (or video)
on the camera and can be connected to a Windows PC or Mac – after
installing software on the computer. It can also be used to display
PowerPoint presentations and the like.
While it won’t replace a dedicated projector for large presentations,
it delivers an image of up to a metre-and-a-quarter wide that is
surprisingly bright. For someone on the road with a laptop making sales
presentations to small groups, it could be handy. I wish it could
connect to a smartphone or tablet, though, for real minimalist
Maybe the next model.