The last day of our road trip, my small camera broke down all of a sudden. All I was doing was turning it on to take a picture. The lens extended part way, then there was some grinding noises of it trying some more, then a couple of beeps. The display said lens error and the camera shut down with the lens extended. I don’t know if it was the heat of the badlands or if a grain of sand had gotten inside or if I’d been turning it on and off too many times.
We had atrocious internet that night at the Ramada Inn Mitchell, I spent the little connection I had on the iphone in the lobby googling how to fix lens error. Methods included cleaning around the lens with the edge of a sheet of paper and tapping the side of the camera. Nothing worked. Fortunately a) it was the end of the road trip and b) I had my big camera. Worse case scenario, the iphone camera takes acceptable pics. Lesson learned: bring 2 cameras on a long trip, even though it’s a pain to lug the big camera.
The small camera is my day-to-day camera, so I have to get it repaired or replaced pronto. I bought it almost 2 years ago, so it’s out of warranty. Official repair quote was US$170. Gulp.
A little more digging led me to a small local shop that quoted me US$50. I figured, this guy Raymond has good reviews online and it’s worth a gamble of $50. The tiny shop, more a glorified store room, is located on the 22/F of a dingy office building in the middle of the most crowded shopping district in town. The shop is stacked full of boxes and equipment and parts with a tiny space just inside the door for customers to stand. They’re professional though, taking care to mark down my camera’s serial number, not charging till it’s fixed and giving a 30 day warranty. Took them a few days to get the parts and fix the camera, I picked it up yesterday and it’s working fine. Raymond told me that the lens mechanisms on s100 and s110s last about 500-600 times, so obviously Canon doesn’t test like Ikea.
Since there were no other customers, I asked him for recommendations and tips. We agreed that the s90 and s95 are better and more reliable cameras than the newer models; the product cycle for modern electronics is too short for meaningful testing. Interestingly second hand s95 cameras are still costly, which reinforces our argument. I’m also half thinking of replacing my almost 10 year old EOS 350D. His response, ditch the dSLR and instead look into the G1X. It occupies an undefinable place in the market, with all the power of a dSLR (except detachable lens) and yet too large to be a real point-and-shoot. He showed me the quality achieved by the 4x digital zoom and it’s impressive.
Reviews are okay, there are some issues like slow auto focus (which I also find with the s110), macro needs filter (macro on s110 isn’t up to par with s90) and it’s neither here nor there in terms of size and weight. It’s more expensive than the s110, and the s110 was already at the top of my price tolerance.
I’ll always want a small camera that fits in my pocket so the question is whether the G1X is the right camera if I want to downsize from the big camera. I need to think about what I really use the big camera for: the last few years it’s been events like conference and weddings. Can a mid-range camera do the job? Should I get a second hand dSLR instead? The ideal set up will be s110, G1X and either 5D or 7D. That’s wishful thinking, I don’t do enough photography to justify the expense.