The 12 Days of Randonneurmas 2012 Day One: Cameras. Cameras? Cameras!

We’ve made it almost through another year with just the holidays ahead. That means the 12 Days of Randonneurmas are back!

This year I’ve been looking closely at better cameras for our cycling adventures, and there are some good ones out there this holiday season at great prices if you don’t mind giving your loved cyclist/radnonneur the previous edition of a certain model.

I’ve lined up four cameras that I like to choose from for our bike rides. All but the Olympus can be used one-handed while riding. We like these kind of cameras to get those action shots of fellow riders, chasing dogs, and the obligatory cow photo. We’re partial to these brands because they all perform admirably and have good build quality.

Sony TX9, Canon SD4000 IS, Canon S100, Olympus XZ-1.
Sony TX9, Canon SD4000 IS, Canon S100, Olympus XZ-1.

Here’s a quick rundown, from left to right in the photo:

1. Sony TX series. I’ve got a Sony TX9 (above) and MG uses the waterproof TX5 — both have been superceded by newer models. These guys are the easiest to use while riding, by far, with the best quality if small size is the top priority.

Pros: sliding face turns the camera on and off, meaning no fiddling for the power button. In good light, they take pleasant if not the most sharp photos. Wide angle. Small and very light with fast operation. Lens does not protrude from the camera.
Cons: The TX models struggle with sharpness in low light. Touch screen requires a firm touch. The zoom toggle on the corner is too easy to activate by mistake. At wide angle there is some distortion at the edges of the photograph.

2. Canon low-light ELPH series. Pictured above is the older SD4000 IS; Canon’s newer model is the 500 HS. These cameras have fast f2.0 maximum aperature lenses at a relative bargain price. The former is a button-operated model, the newer has a touch screen.

They are not the latest models in the PowerShot lineup but are still available — I saw the 500 HS on sale twice this holiday season for $150. They suffer from some of the same image quality weaknesses of all point-and-shoot cameras but the low-light lens still gets acceptable sunrise, cloudy day and twilight photos, and better moving shots if you push up the ISO.

Pros: Low light lens, metal body. Fast operation, good auto mode with optional speed and aperature settings. Pleasing photos in good light. Better-than-most photo quality in low light. Small.
Cons: Protruding lens. Power button is tiny. The most useful controls are buried in menus. A little heavier than the Sony.

3. Canon S-series. These amazing little bricks have become the go-to camera for riders who don’t mind a little more heft in return for stellar low-light performance and all-around pleasing photos and video. MG and some of our riding pals have the S95. I bought the S100 (with GPS) and the newest S110 adds wi-fi transfers but drops GPS. The S100 is currently being sold off at $250 online, sometimes less.

Pros: Small, light enough to carry in a front bag or rear pocket. Excellent photo output on auto in dim light. Full manual controls. Wide angle lens. Metal construction. Sized small enough to still use on the bike while riding. Shoots optional RAW+Jpeg format for more editing control.
Cons: Protruding lens. Somewhat bulky. Possibly too expensive at full price to risk dropping while riding. No external flash option. Small power button.

4. Olympus XZ series. If one wants a superior low-light compact camera that can take an external flash or external viewfinder, the Olympus XZ-1 and new XZ-2 are admirable little brothers to the interchangeable lens PEN series. They have about the same size imaging sensor as the Canon S series but retain a wide aperature throughout their zoom range. Panasonic’s LX5 and new turbocharged LX7 compete with this camera. The XZ-1 and LX5 have been heavily discounted online.

Pros: Sharp, low-light lens. Fast operation. Excellent auto mode. Extensive manual controls. Optional external flash or external viewfinder. RAW+Jpeg output.
Cons. Too large for a jersey pocket. Heaviest of the bunch, though still lighter than interchangeable lens cameras. Best for use when stopped, not while riding. A great touring camera — not so expensive that losing or breaking it would be a heartbreaker.

If your randonneur is using a basic model or no camera at all, and wants to take good photos, these are four to consider. The Sony TX10 or TX20 would be good choices if they want rainproof and drop-resistant. Photos make a great ride that much more memorable and people love to see them (and themselves) in the days after the event on photo and social sharing sites.

Capturing that memory!
Capturing that memory!

That’s all for Day One. The 12 Days of Randonneurmas roll on tomorrow. See you then!


7 thoughts on “The 12 Days of Randonneurmas 2012 Day One: Cameras. Cameras? Cameras!

  1. Thanks for the tips! I’ve been eyeing some of the rugged shockproof cameras, but the one-handed operability is definitely an important feature.

  2. Thanks as well Lisa. The Panasonic TS3/TS4 are reviewed well for photo quality and have more substantial bodies than the Sony, but are bigger. Most of the rest of the breed seem to be sluggish and low image quality.

  3. Yay, randonneurmas! I like the Nikon Coolpix L26 because it takes AA batteries. No worries about how to keep it charged through a 1200. Fairly light, about 6 oz.with battery. Easy one-hand operability. ISO 80-1600, so not as wide a range as one might like, and the zoom is only 5x. But I hardly ever zoom while taking photos on the bike. About a hundred bucks. My first Coolpix L?? lasted about three years before my daughter dropped it in the sand with the lens open. I bought a used replacement that lasted another three years but finally broke.

  4. I have an Olympus waterproof, shock-resistant little camera (whose model I’m embarrassed to have forgotten) that has been great. It’s easy to snap photos with one hand, and because it’s waterproof I can just leave it in my jersey pocket and not worry about rain or sweat or whatever. It’s not great in low-light/indoor conditions, but for snapping photos on rides it’s great.

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