Monday, May 16, 2011

Buying a Camera: Canon G12 vs. Sony NEX-3

I often get asked my opinion on cameras. Unfortunately, just as often I don't have a clue about the cameras that the person is asking about; but I'm always willing to offer an opinion!

A friend recently asked my opinion of the Canon G12 vs the Sony NEX-3. He was looking for a camera for personal use; something that would take good stills but also take some video of the family. He'd looked at the NEX-3 at a Best Buy and felt it was kind of clumsy with the large lens sticking out of the small body, and it didn't seem very rugged.

Here is an edited version of my carefully considered opinion. Notice that I sort of tried to steer him in one direction:

I think the G12 is nice. I checked the video specs and it supports 720p, which is the same as the NEX-3. The NEX-5 supports 1080p, but for casual use, 720p is pretty good.

The G12 is a really excellent still camera, with some video capabilities. I actually thought about getting an earlier model - the G7 I think - a few years back, but ended up getting a different Canon PowerShot model instead. Personally, I wasn't impressed by the optical viewfinder on the earlier model because it didn't feel at all like a DSLR optical viewfinder; it felt the same as a cheap point-and-shoot, and I was hoping for something a bit better. That's totally a pet peeve of mine, and if you tried it out and liked it, then that's great!

My other concern is that it sounds like the video is a little limited. I bet it does a better job than the iPhone, but there's limitations to these point-and-shoot cameras. From the review on DPreview:
You get some basic in-camera video editing, but just like the S95, the G12 cannot be manually zoomed during movie shooting (see the clip above for the effects of digital zoom), and focus must be preset before recording commences.
With the Sony NEX-3, the zoom is on the lens, so you can zoom during shooting (but having played with it, I know that the zoom isn't very smooth....the lens barrel is a bit stiff, but at least you can zoom!) That may be the only advantage the NEX-3 has; other than size and the ability to switch lenses

My *feeling* is that the NEX-3 would be slightly better as a video camera, and the Canon G12 a slightly better still camera. It really comes back to what's important to you? If you mainly want to shoot stills, and capture a few video sequences now and again, I think the G12 would be great. If you want to shoot equal amounts of video and pictures, I'd probably choose the NEX-3.

Did you look at the NEX 5? The case of the NEX-5 is metal instead of the plastic on the NEX-3. It might feel more solid; though it's the same basic form factor; a tiny camera hanging off a big lens.

You might also look at an Olympus PEN, like the E-PL2 and see if you like that better. I'm not sure that it's any better in the video department, but it's in the same price point.

If you have no specific goals and needs, I think either of these cameras would take good pictures and video. Since it's for personal use, I'd look at interface, and see how it feels to operate it and use it. Which camera do you feel most comfortable with?

Of course, he bought the Canon G12, and is very happy with it!

See also:
DPReview: G12: New Features
B & H: Sony Alpha NEX-3 Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera w/18-55mm Lens (Silver) [$599.99]
B & H: Canon PowerShot G12 Digital Camera [$499.95]

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