For most of my photography, I’m happy with a good quality point&shoot with custom settings I can tweak, such as the amazing Canon A720. But sometimes limited zoom range and the lack of easily installed filters causes frustration. So I picked up a Canon SX20 “super zoom” for something closer to a full-on SLR, but more compact, with a built-in zoom, filter holder, and filters such as polarizer and clear lens protector.
|Corona Arch off Potash Road, Moab area, Utah, today. Please click image to enlarge.|
The SX20 saves weight and bulk by using an electronic viewfinder instead of a prism. It’s hard to get used to that as you’ve got to check at colors and shadows without looking through the camera, as the electronic view is fairly whacked, though it does show pretty much your exact composition. But perhaps the biggest disadvantage to electronic viewfinder is its near uselessness for checking focus. Any SLR user would find that hard to get used to. For me, coming from thousands of point&shoot photos, not having visual focus is no big deal, as I’ve learned to visualize it from knowing the camera settings.
(Note, SX20 has a nice foldout LCD, but this suffers from the usual lack of legibility in bright light.)
Aside from its amazing lack of bulk for what you get, the other crown of the SX20 is a “super zoom” lens that racks from 28 mm to 550 mm (35mm equivalent). This allows nice wide-angle creativity, but gets you out in the fancy zone with long lens effects such as selective focus and background compression. More, electronic image stabilization lets you use the lens long, handheld, at lower ISOs and shutter speeds so you get that “film” like quality.
I’m not sure this is the camera for much ski photography, as the control dial is so sensitive it’s difficult to operate with gloves (I even have trouble with bare hands in warm temps). But I’ll give it a go this winter, and meanwhile the unit seems quite nice for everything else.
Like I said, this probably isn’t a great rig for backcountry skiing photography if you optimize your settings much (due to the difficulty of the control dial), but it’s worth looking at for just about anything else. Used on automatic, however, it would work as good as any other point and shoot, and perhaps better because of the zoom. So for the curious or any holiday camera shoppers, buy link provided above.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.