A couple of readers have asked which camera we ended up getting.
I read around a bunch about the Canon point-and-shoots (and even their mega zooms) but eventually went ahead and bought the Fuji S700.
It's got some features that I've already really got to like. Notable so far, the Natural/Flash function -- available via the default mode wheel on top -- which takes two photos in rapid succession: one natural night at appropriate exposure, and then another with flash and a faster exposure. On film cameras, I'm very much a natural light fanatic (in fact, I don't own a flash for my SLRs) and even with something like this the natural light values are often better. On the other hand, the flash can clean up weird shadows and such. And the photos are taken within a second of each other, so even with squirming kids the lighting is pretty much the only variable.
Here's an example from some fooling around the other night with Monkey #2 in very low light conditions (at night with a single overhead incandescent on):
Natural Light (I believe 1600 ISO and f3):
In this case, obviously, flash is the way to go. (And even with my lens that goes down to f1.2, this is a shot I couldn't have taken with my SLR at all, given I've normally got 400ISO film in it.)
It's not as large and heavy as I like a camera to be in order to feel "real", but the extra size vs. the point-and-shoots is probably going to be a plus in the Darwin family where things that look like toys tend to come to unfortunate ends.
There are a few things that aren't quite what I could have wished. For instance, it has manual focus, but you have to use the zoom switch (which in focus mode) to do it, which is far less intuitive than simply turning a focus ring. Still a point-and-shoot wouldn't have solved that problem for me by a long shot. Overall, I'm pretty happy with it so far.
In other gadget news, I've been experiencing life without a cell phone for the last week. My Motorola Razor -- which I'd picked up last spring because they were finally old enough that Verizon would give me one free in thankfulness for my many years of giving them lots of money every month -- decided to take itself on an unauthorized, one-way exploratory expedition out into the world from the safety of its holster while we were walking along a mile long stretch of road, in the dark, with a few thousand other people at a Christmas parade last weekend. Subsequent expeditions over the same ground later that night and the next day did not succeed in bringing the prodigal electronic device home, so I decided to get tough on it and reported it missing (lest someone decide to make all their holiday calls home to Mongolia or Botswana on it.)
I wandered into the Verizon store a few days later to see what my options are. When the salesman saw someone in "casual business attire" sporting a badge from a large corporation walk in and say that he'd lost his phone, he probably figured he had the chance to sell something nice and expensive at retail price.
"So what do you need from a new cell phone?" he asked me.
"Not a whole lot," I confessed. "I don't have to use it for work any more. I need it to have a vibrate setting for when I'm at work or church, and I'd prefer it to have Bluetooth in case I ever get around to buying accessories."
A "how did you get in here" look came across his face, and he said, "Well, maybe you should ask around with friends and family and see if someone has an old cell phone you can activate to your number. We don't have any deals for people who've lost their phones and have more than a year left on their contracts. Feel free to look around at the prices, though."
Well, of course, at that point I didn't. I went back to work and spent my lunch break browsing eBay instead. From this I have learned four things:
1) There are over 10,000 Verizon cell phones available on eBay. (I can't help darkly wondering if mine is one of them.)
2) Motorola Razors are moderately expensive without a contract.
3) Most other cell phones look kind of dumpy after having a Razor -- which makes you reluctant to pay for them either.
4) eBay is cluttered with old BlackBerrys, because you can't use one without a data plan, and people willing to spring for the extra 20-40/mo buy newer BlackBerry's. (Thus finally proving that people are in fact elastic to cell plan pricing.)
So before I dig into trying to figure which of 10,000 people on eBay to trust, I thought I'd ask the digital assembly of friends and family:
Do any of you have an old Verizon cell phone (that has something like decent battery life left and a vibrate mode) that you'd be willing to part with? I'd be happy to pay up to around $50 via paypal (for the phone, charger and shipping) depending on what it is. Or, if barter strikes your fancy, I have (courtesy of the office "holiday party") a gift certificate for $100 off a minimum two night stay at any Marriott hotel or resort. (Expires in March.)
Email to the darwincatholic @ gmail address if you're feeling helpful in this regard.
Heaven Can Wait
11 hours ago