Cameras and computers present the eternal temptation to upgrade, with new, improved versions every six months or so. Since I'm not a professional photographer I usually resist the temptation unless I absolutely need a new camera, but recent developments in technology have made an upgrade irresistible.

My Photography Needs

What I looked for is a good quality general-use camera which allows me to make significant adjustments in aperture and shutter speed for creative effects, but which is not too bulky. The camera you have with you often gives better photos than the one you leave at home, but I find that tiny pocket cameras just don't do really good quality photos even though most the capacity for adjustments. On the other hand, I travel a lot by plane, and I really don't want to lug an enormous DSLR plus all the extras around with me, so that puts me into the middle ground - a high-end point and shoot, with plenty of options for in-camera adjustment.

The Big Advance

The big improvement which has motivated my upgrade is the HD video option, which is absolutely awesome, even though I probably only use video for less than 20% of my shooting at present.

My Contenders

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100 with its Leica lens has impressive HD video as does the (cheaper) Nikon Coolpix 110 and I really like their large viewing screens, but I find their still photos have more artefacts than my old Canon IS3, let alone the new Canon SX30IS photos and I really like the flexibility of Canon's articulated viewing screens even though you sacrifice screen size for it.

On video performance alone, it would be hard to choose between the Panasonic, the Nikon and the Canon models, although I found the Canon sound a little clearer, but the Canons offer much better quality still photos, so my choice came down to two Canons - the SX30IS and the G12. Both offer an articulated viewfinder (great for lining up shots at tricky angles, or using the self-timer), rechargeable battery with excellent life-span, ability to use an adaptor for filters etc, and a hot-shoe for external flash - and, of course, great video. The G12 is smaller, but still substantial enough to keep steady easily without a tripod if you want to, and offers RAW or jpeg options, the SX30IS has a long-enough zoom built in that there is no need to regret the telephoto lens I had for my IS3 - and it is quite a bit cheaper.

The difference in the number of megapixels on the chip doesn't make much difference once you get over about 8mp unless you are upgrading to a DSLR camera because the chips are so tiny, and the focal length so small that extra pixels can make photo quality worse, rather than better. Most of the other features of both cameras were close enough that they didn't make much difference either so in the end I decided on the SX30IS over the G12, reluctantly giving up the RAW capacity and the smaller size for they flexibility of the lens.

The new video is as incredible as I anticipated, so I'm shooting more video now that I have it. You can now zoom in and out while shooting, and it does an incredible job of keeping moving objects in focus. You can also shoot much longer clips (up to about 30 minutes if you have a high capacity card). The sound using the built-in microphone is also good, and the only accessory I'm seriously thinking about is an external flash.

Overall I'm very glad I invested in the upgrade, and expect to do a lot more video in future.