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A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Motorcycle Camera Decision Time

A couple of blog entries back I laid out the choices I had in mind for a new camera for the wife and one that I borrow from her and carry more easily on the motorcycle than my Nikon D90.

It finally came down to two cameras, the new Canon S95 and the new Sony NEX-3. I'll spare you the techie crap, there are lots of reviews out on the 'net with that stuff.    I couldn't decide which to get, the cameras are different in physical dimensions, mega pixels, and philosophy. I fretted, I read more reviews, went to Best Buy to fondle the demo models there, and still couldn't decide.

The difficulty of the decision process was compounded by the fact that I had very little money to spend, so little in fact I decided to drag some old film camera junk, bike stuff, and R/C model airplane stuff out of the garage and put it on Ebay. As happens sometimes with Ebay, people with more money than sense paid too much for some of my goodies thereby leaving me we an excess of funds (a rare occurrence).   So naturally I then did the only logical thing, the guy thing, and bought both of the cameras.

I like the S95 for the Mrs. because of it's small size, it easily slips into a pants or jacket pocket, but also like the features and interchangeable lens of the Sony. The Sony will make a nice bike camera and take up less room in the saddlebag or tank bag than my Nikon does.

In due course the cameras arrived from Amazon.com and I went out this weekend to give them a quick try, shooting my Nikon D90 along side the point n shoots for comparison.  Back home, to my amazement, there was scant difference between the images from the little cameras and the big camera. There was a difference but for the average person it just wouldn't matter.  Only those of us who labor diligently in front of a photo editing screen will see the difference in shadow detail and highlight clipping and even then it shouldn't matter but it does.  If motorcycles are liberating, then trying to improve one's photography can be a trap.

From the Canon and the Sony here are some of the photos from the quick, late afternoon Sunday ride and the Saturday trip to my favorite airport.  These have no editing except for maybe a crop and straightening horizons (click to see the larger version if Blogger isn't broken again):
Camera: Sony NEX-3
Camera: Sony NEX-3

Camera: Canon S95
Camera: Canon S95
I was standing by the side of the road and heard a bike coming. I turned quickly with the Canon S95 and snapped this shot. Don't know the rider, I'll bet  he'd love to have the photo though.

The Sony has a very nice built in panorama shooting mode. It takes a series of photos and stitches them all together in the camera. Some distortion is obvious but still it's and impressive feature and one I'll be interested in applying to bike photos.  The image above, right out of the camera is about 8,000 pixels wide, more than twice or three times the size of a normal camera image. Click on the image to see the 1/4 size 2000 pixel version.

And from my Saturday trip to Coolidge Airport:
Camera: Canon S95. Airplace: 1954 Yakolav YAK-11

Camera: Sony NEX-3
Of the two cameras, the Canon S95 has an edge in image quality and a big edge pocketablility.  It's also less expensive by $200.  Slipping it into the pocket of your riding jacket is easy and leaves room to spare. I even rode for a while with it in the pocket of my jeans.   The Sony has some great bells & whistles but the photos are a tad soft and need a bit of sharpening in the computer, more than the S95 photos do.

My conclusion?  The Canon S95 might be the perfect camera out there right now for carrying on a motorcycle.  I give it a big thumbs up.  If you have big hands and like to handle a larger camera, the specialty features of the Sony NEX-3 are very cool.  I'll carry the Sony with me on the bike because I enjoy the features but the ultra compact size of the Canon makes it tempting to sneak it away from the wife when she's otherwise occupied.


My Bikers World said...

Of course, Canon S95 is a great camera, but why haven't you though about buying another Nikon? I see that the one you have now is a pretty good model and almost all my friends, who are photographers like Nikon more than other companies.

FLHX_Dave said...

Thanks! Yeah, I was looking really close at the picts you took with each camera and I have to agree that the Canon took better picts than the Sony.

Do you contol the features on Canon with a touch screen on the back of the camera? Does the Canon shoot 16:9 aspect ratio? (I know..."Go away kid, you're bothering me!")

Well, this helps me out. I have been looking at that GoPro. I have been following Gary's (USA Tour On A Harley Davidson) adventures in the U.S. and that little video camera seems to take great footage...or pixage, heh, for under 300 bucks.

Side note...I got to see a P-38 actually flying Sunday! I have only seen one static but was able to gander at one, during the Salinas Airshow, flying formation with a F-15...It was a moment! Now, the only thing left to see a A6M3 Zero flying. (Good luck on that one.)

Doug Klassen said...

MBW, Nikon doesn't make a small point n shoot that's really that good, at least not until the recent arrival of the new P7000 which I did consider. I'm a "Nikon guy" for 25 years now but sadly, they don't always get it right with their smaller cameras.

Dave, Neither camera uses a touch screen. My fat fingers would have a tough time on such a tiny screen. The GoPro is an excellent camera for on-bike or pretty much on-anything video but it's still image quality is only fair.

Stacy said...

I'm a reluctant photographer -- I shoot photos by necessity, not by choice -- but I love my S90 so much that I'm just about ready to buy an S95.

On that note, anyone want to buy a gently used S90? ;)

Jac Brown said...

Com'on Doug. Only 2 cameras? What about HD video or underwater? You definitely need more cameras!

Doug Klassen said...

Jac, both cameras do HiDef video too.

Drifter said...

Hi Doug,

I just picked up a Panasonic ZS7. Am checking out the photos now.

Btw: I am in your country (Milpitas, California) for the next 2 months on a business trip :). Dont have a bike though :).


Doug Klassen said...

Drifter, welcome to the USA. I hope your trip has some fun and isn't all work and that the new camera records things to your satisfaction.

Drifter said...

Hi, Thanks Doug. Yeah in the weekends I am generally free and I have a rental car. So I will take it out and roam around a bit. My friends ofcourse want me to see Disneyland etc., although my aim is to see if I can drive up to Death Valley in the Nevada border. Or atleast the Seqouia national park. Let me see :).

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