My Mission for the Perfect Picture

by Barrett

Every so often a great picture bumps into me.
Whether I’m able to capture it is another matter.

Now I like to think I can snap a photo.  But I’ve got a little secret to share.
And I’m not proud of it.

I just take lots of pictures.  Lots. Really.  I’m like a machine gun. Eventually, you’ve got to hit something.

With digital photography, it costs you nothing to do just that.
(Managing all those photo files is another story for another day.)
The pocket film camera is a thing of the past, even though my father keeps asking me if I’m using his old Minox spy camera from the 1960s.

Over the past few years, I’ve recruited a couple different cameras to try and satisfy my craving to take the perfect photo.  And believe me, as my boy keeps moving faster and faster, it’s getting harder and harder.

I know part of the problem is taking pictures in low light. We’ll come back to that…

So everyone’s got a pocket camera these days. You can easily pick up a good one for under $200. Some have even broken the $100 barrier.

I prefer Canon cameras. I know that along with Nikons, you pretty much can’t go wrong with a Canon. Kind of like Hertz and Avis. (I’m not saying which is which.)

Also worth mentioning is a couple of my friends are married to the Panasonic Lumix series.

Another reason I’ve stuck with Canon over the years is the functionality is similar from camera to camera, and the movies these cameras capture are all QuickTime files. It’s a format I prefer when editing home movies on my iMac.

So what do I have in my little arsenal these days?

My main pocket camera is the Canon SX230.  The camera is about a year old, but it’s still on the market for about $250.  That’s a little pricey, but you get a huge 14x zoom.  It’s also a little big to jam in your pocket, and I’ve been a little envious of people with those wicked small cameras seemingly the size of a matchbook.

So I splurged and got a smaller Canon pocket camera last month.
The Canon PowerShot Elph 300, an older model that’s still available.  I got a sweetheart Valentine’s Day deal, which was hard to pass up.
The newer Elph 310 is available for $220 at B&H Photo.  ($199 in pink on Amazon)

And why do I need another pocket camera?
(I know my wife is going to be paying special attention to this answer.)
It fits easily into the pocket of my jeans. It’s really tiny. Takes great photos. And with the exception of a flimsy battery door, is pretty tough.
That’s important, because I’m grooming it to take over as my ‘Toddler Cam.’


That’s right, my two year old has his own camera. It’s currently my old Canon Digital Elph SD960 from 2009. He likes pressing all the buttons and snapping lots of photos. He takes amazing self-portraits. (not really)  He also knows how to change all of the settings.  (really)

The truth is, I assigned the SD960 for home duty to be the camera of choice for others to capture my son’s adventures. The problem is somewhere along the way, he annexed it to his toy collection. Now, even though we still use it, it belongs to him. (Disclaimer: I was not present when this unauthorized incident occurred.)

And now the 960 is a mess. Eventually, the entire front fell off like the face of a Terminator. (The guts look shockingly cool.) The body is now being held together like a toddler art project with scotch tape. My original fix was a more manly super-glue repair job. But when I realized I had also super-glued the battery door shut in the process, requiring an hour to chisel the fossilized guck away, I acquiesced to the SpongeBob band-aid solution. But I digress…

So the 960 is still working, but I know its days are numbered. Plus it can’t take a low light picture to save itself. When I come home to see what the little guy has been up to, it’s sometimes like a Big Foot sighting. I know he was there, but the blur is hardly worth framing.

The 960 is actually Toddler Cam 2. The first one was my old Canon G9. This Canon series is a tank of a camera. (The current one is the Canon G12.)  It’s expensive, big, and bulky, but built beefy and strong. I retired it as my main camera before its time, simply because it didn’t take HD videos, and I wanted all my home media to cross over that line together. (I’ll address this issue in another post.)

What happened to Baby Cam 1? One day, the G9 just didn’t turn on anymore. There were no signs of blunt trauma. The tank was just dead. We’ll talk no more of this.  Can you see a pattern forming?

So I’m training the Canon 300 to become Toddler Cam 3.

But my mission to capture the perfect photo moment is not complete.
I still craved that crisp low light photo, and everyone knows you always need the right tool to get the job done. You can’t send a pocket camera out on every mission.

Cue the orchestra and curtains.

Yes, I also have a DSLR. The Canon T1i.
I bought it right before my son was born. (Canon is now up to the T3i.)

It’s got the big sensor, capable of sucking in every bit of available low light.
Plus that old-fashioned looking DSLR lens demands respect from everyone within your perimeter and will solve every photo challenge you’ll ever encounter.

For the most part, it’s been a solid camera.
And I’ve gotten some really nice shots of my son. But…

I still take a lot of blurry low light photos.

There are two problems.

Problem 1:
It’s the glass. (Excuse me?)
The glass. It’s what people in the business call the lens. Lenses are really expensive. (Hundreds and thousands of dollars.) And the cheaper kit lenses often sold with consumer DSLRs are relatively average. They’re still going to shoot better shots than your pocket cam. But if you really want amazing low light shots, you’re gonna need better glass.

Problem 2:
It’s too big.
Yeah, I know.  This is becoming a circular argument.
But come on! It’s hard lugging a big camera around when you’re also carrying the diaper bag.

I guess I’ll just keep trying.

Uh oh… I think I’m hearing Yoda.
“Try Not.  Do, or do not.  There is no try.”

My Jedi training continues…