Thursday, June 3, 2010

Polar Opposites: Travel with Nikon D3 or Canon S90

I will leave San Diego this summer and venture to the northern stretches of the European continent. Hopefully my journey will take me into the Arctic Circle to experience nearly 24 hours of daylight! With this northern exposure in mind, I am preparing a list of camera items I will need for my backpacking excursion. The real dilemma comes down to which camera system I should take, the Nikon D3 or the Canon S90 (article link: The Canon S90, to Asia and Back). Every camera is a balance of factors; my two choices are no different. The Nikon D3 and my 17-35mm f/2.8 weigh nearly 4.5 pounds. Once a camera bag, filters, memory cards, batteries, charger, tripod, and ball-head are factored in, my Nikon D3 travel photography kit weighs over 10 pounds (on top of 50 pounds of gear)! This weight directly translates to quality, flexibility of composition and printing alike. My inclination is to take the Nikon D3. After traveling Asia with a brand new Canon S90, I realized that this little compact camera is the best I have owned. The weight of the Canon S90 is not worth mentioning, and the size of the camera is negligible. The Canon S90 was an afterthought while in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Hanoi, and Ha Long Bay because the camera slipped easily into tight-fitting pants. The S90's manual control rings and custom settings are the best I have seen in a compact camera, but the resolution leaves something to be desired (e.g.: very sharp at the center and blurry from the image's middle to periphery). For this reason, I lean towards taking the cumbersome Nikon D3 on my upcoming European adventure so I will not have to rely on center crops for prints. As I decide which camera compliment I will take on the journey, I am perplexed by two issues: weight and quality. The Canon S90 is revolutionary for what it is; a pocketable, high-resolution, low-light capable, image-stabilized digital camera. Ergonomics are good. Weight and size are not worthy of consideration. (The Nikon D3's charger is twice the size of the Canon S90!) However, image quality is my biggest concern. When I get to picturesque locations I will want to record the scenes on the D3's full-frame sensor. On the other hand, the Canon S90's tiny package allows photographers to go unnoticed whereas the Nikon D3 draws all sorts of unwanted attention. What is a photographer to do? If you have any suggestions, do not hesitate to comment or email me. Ago vita vos somnium (live the life you dream)

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