this is why you fail

Most of the photos I’ve taken of my daughter are with a now nearly eight year old Canon SD500.  Every once in a while, I think that I should replace it with something newer and faster: Theda tends to move at near-mach velocities in her calmer moments, and I miss a lot of shots waiting for the autofocus.  I’ve been thinking this now for a good two years, and yet I have not actually replaced the camera.  Why?  Well, this is what I see every time I go to Canon’s web page and start researching replacements:

I’ll spare you the effort of counting them up: that is THIRTY TWO distinct models of compact camera that Canon is currently attempting to sell.  Almost all of them are priced within the range of $110 to $250, and the model names are a sludge of letters and numbers that could only make sense to some sort of obsessive camera-otaku.  Some, but not all of them have completely meaningless star ratings: shockingly, they all get four or five stars out of five! And best of all, their “compare models” tool only lets you compare three models at a time.  So that’s helpful.

The only sane answer to the question “which one of these cameras do I want?” is “fuck it, I’ll just use the camera in my cell phone,” and according to Canon’s most recent financial results that’s pretty much what everyone is doing.

You’d think that someone in the camera business would have noticed this and decided to try something different, but they’re all just as bad: Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Samsung, you name it.  They all have dozens of nearly identical models, and they all introduce new models like clockwork every six months.  Surely the introduction of the new SX128g878ASDF7-HSPRO model in shiny purple (that won’t ship anywhere outside Japan for another four months by which time the details of the next model will have leaked) will reverse the trend!

The single smartest thing Steve Jobs did in the first FIVE YEARS of his second tenure at Apple was to take a very large axe to Apple’s overgrown product line, and reduce it from over 25 models to six, with clear feature differences at each price point.  It’s always amazing to me how many industries have yet to grasp why that was a good idea.

[After the fact edit: yes, people, thank you for the camera recommendations.  And yes, I know about third-party review sites that attempt to ameliorate the suckage of the original manufacturers’ product lines and web pages.  My point, such as it is, was that the manufacturers should stop sucking.]

[Edit the second: the really frustrating thing is that at least in Canon’s case, they demonstrably know better.  Their DSLR selection is everything that their compact line-up isn’t: there are 9 total models (really actually 7 with some older out-of-production ones still in stock), each at a different price-point, and with a clear and obvious performance reward for spending each additional $500-1000.  There’s no earthly reason that their compact selection couldn’t work the same way.]

Crossposted from: blahg.blank.org

Comments

Get a Panasonic DMC-LX3 or, since it seems to have been superceded, a DMC-LX5.
DON'T get the Canon Powershot A3100. We have it at work. It's OK, but not better than any cameraphone.
Well, that sure cuts down the number of choices to consider! :)
We've had great experiences with Panasonic's cameras. They use rather good Leica lenses, even in the more affordable models.

But really, just get this: http://www.lytro.com/
I have a lytro on order. Will post details once I get a shiny one in my grubby hands.
If you're looking for recommendations, http://thewirecutter.com/ is where I go to when I get lost in a sea of detail. They have some good things to say about the S100.
+1 for the Wirecutter.
I will not comment on what you should get, because hell, I don't know. I will just say - you are absolutely right. Fewer products, better differentiated, sell more.

Have you read about the "too much jam" study? IT proves your point.
I've been using the Canon Elphs for a long time now (going by the theory of "the best camera is the one you have with you" and I want something higher quality than my phone), and I've been fairly happy with them, replacing them only as needed. My latest is the Elph 300HS, and it's pretty much just what I want.
This is why http://www.dpreview.com/ exists.

I wanted to spec out a camera for my mom, clicked the appropriate filters, and bam-o.

(Compact size, 10x-ish zoon (optical), and a fast low f-stop number because she likes to take pictures inside of temples and other dark locations.)

You probably want one that does good continuous shooting. :)