I am looking for a bit of advice on getting a new camera.

I take quite a lot of photos. I’ve owned three digital cameras over the years. Since I’ve had an iPhone I am mostly happy with that. I do like to have a camera with a good zoom as well. I mostly take photos outdoors, plant, birds and animals, and a zoom helps.

I don’t really put much effort into the craft of taking photos and don’t have any real technical knowledge. I can’t see me learning any at this stage. I’ve occasionally started or some kind soul has tried to teach me but it doesn’t really stick.

I do really enjoy having a visual notebook of things I’ve seen, walks I’ve gone on and interesting flora and fauna.

For a while I had a PowerShot SX10 IS which I really liked, it stopped being reliable, failed to take photos often and slowly faded away. I then go a Panasonic DMC-TZ80. I liked the zoom on this, but the photos didn’t seem much clearer than my iPhone 6. It also didn’t take being stuffed in a rucksack or pocked very well, the wee dial on the back fell off and later it just stopped working altogether.

This year I’ve just had my iPhone. I do really like it but I’ve taken a few photos of distant dots where I can’t get close enough, typically of birds. I’d like a new camera with a zoom.

The problem is camera reviews don’t seem to help much. The TZ80 had good reviews but the pictures weren’t all that good and it was not robust enough. I bought it mainly because it has a view finder. I was going to replace the canon with anther canon, but at my price range they don’t have one.

Here is what I think I need:

  • A ~50x zoom
  • A view finder
  • < £300 preferably nearer 200
  • Not too flimsy

I don’t need the latest, there seems a lot of previous models on amazon that look ok. I probably want things that help automatic, stabilisation perhaps. Easy time lapse and long exposure would be nice.

I don’t really want to have to learn much, I’ll use auto 99% of the time, dip into to random settings and go back to auto. I don’t care about “creative” modes, filters etc.

There seems to be plenty of choice, I just don’t know what to pick.

The Panasonic DMC-FZ72 is the sort of thing I’ve been looking at, but the last one I had was a Panasonic and did not last. I’ve also though about giving up the viewfinder and getting the older Canon SX530

Any thoughts or opinions gratefully received.

I’ve been thinking of how I’ve used digital camera in class over the last few years. I know this is not a very ‘new’ topic for a post but I think my experience and thoughts are worth noting. I blogged about the use of cameras as part of activities countless times but I want to work out of a sort of practical overview here.

When I started blogging with my class at Sandaig, I was assuming that quite a lot of our visitors would be on dialup and kept photographs on the blog to a minimum. A year later we were adding photos but keeping the size down. At that stage I was often taking the photos and certainly helping loading them onto the computer. Another year on (2006) we had settled for 400 pixels as a good with from the blogs and all of the posts had at least one photo, the children were using MS photo editor to resize the photos.

By the time I left Sandaig I had the children taking photos every day for different purposes.

I know that this is still relatively unusual, in many classrooms it is the teacher, or PSA who takes photos or children use cameras under tight supervision. I think we need to relax that.

First you need a purpose for taking photos, I had a rota of class bloggers, even if they never finished their posts they usually took photos and transferred them to a pc.
We also had a photo a day section on the website How does our Garden go a simple image gallery, were a different pupil would take a photo in our garden each day, rain or shine, of anything they liked (within reason). This activity linked to our eco schools efforts, but its main purpose was to give the children practise in taking photos so that they should then use them in other areas without thinking about the practicalities.

By linking the activity to public display on the school website you immediately have an excuse to talk about appropriate images and responsibility. Children of course want to take ‘silly’ photos of their friends grinning and fooling around, discussing why we would not use these when reporting on a class activity cuts down on time wasting pretty quickly.

The only time it is worth a member of staff taking photos is when the children all want, or the teacher wants them, actively engaged. In these cases the photos can become part of a follow up activity.

Once you have your photos they can be used in many ways. These ares some I’ve used.

  • In a one computer classroom photos of events or activities can be printed as part of a template for children to write reports on. you can do this on the fly as groups of children finish a practical activity.
  • As a stimulus for writing, a slideshow of images, promotes discussion and can be run during the actual writing. If the writing is word-processed photos can be added.
  • For blogging, as part of a post, writing of any type, or as a slideshow made with various online tools (oneTrueMedia example).
  • For comic-life, a great way to motivate those children reluctant to write, for quick sequencing etc, etc. Examples: Eco Ninjas, 3D Shape.
  • To make ‘movies’ on movieMaker or iMovie (with one computer this can be a class activity, each child dealing with one picture, titling and adding transitions, the whole class discussing sound tracks.) individual examples, whole class example.
  • After an art lesson I often had a pupil take photos of all of the work for a web gallery (example), I think I’d now have each child take their own. These could be used for a portfolio, say in powerpoint with 2 stars and a wish, building up a record of all the art produced in a year. This ould be part of the clean up routine, clean brushes, take photo…
  • As a quick and dirty scanner, taking photos of drawn work to incorporate into a report, not necessarily the cleanest looking pictures, but effective: for example.

All of these are pretty simple ideas and the list could easily be extended. What, I think, makes the difference is the attempt to make use of the cameras an everyday activity, owned by the pupils, and familiar enough so that they use technology transparently. Using the images in blogs and wikis etc gives the task an audience and makes it real and purposeful.