Next Sunday is Father's Day and while I can't afford to buy all the fathers in my family a new digital camera, my favorite fathers make such a diverse group that this fantasy wishlist for my top five dads makes a great top five cameras list for those of you shopping for your favorite patriarch:
My Father: The World Traveler I clearly inherited my penchant for traveling from my peripatetic dad. Though he boarded his first plane relatively late in life (in his late 20s, compared to my children who both got their first passports at 3 months of age), he has made up for lost time in spades, especially now that he is semiretired. Among the other trips he drags my mother on several times a year, he's closing in on his mission to visit 50 Places of a Lifetime (and is actually in Vancouver ticking off one more place as I write this). His digital camera needs to be easy to use, pocketable, and very versatile -- in a nutshell, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3. I've written about this megazoom a lot (because I love it). With its 25-300mm-equivalent 12x zoom lens, 3-inch high-res LCD, and AVCHD Lite HD video-shooting capabilities -- not to mention 27 easy-to-use and useful scene modes -- the ZS3 would have served my folks well on their month-long jaunt through Africa back in February. If your favorite father has the wanderlust as well, look no further than this camera.
My Father-in-law: The Tech-Savvy Grandfather My husband's father is the most tech-savvy senior I know. A computer consultant with a doctorate in electrical engineering, Grandpa (as my daughters call him) is the one I call when I'm having trouble with my home network. The only problem with my pick for him is that it doesn't exist yet. Well, it probably does exist, but as of this writing, the Olympus E-P1 Micro Four Thirds camera is still just an unconfirmed rumor. A "dSLR-lite" camera (like the Panasonic Lumix GH1 and G1) would be a great option for my father-in-law, who is technical enough to understand that these Micro Four Thirds cameras are not actually dSLRs at all, but rather, interchangeable-lens compact cameras with dSLR-sized sensors. While the Panasonic versions that are already available could be good options as well, if the Olympus camera does come out tomorrow as rumored, I'm expecting it to have a cool retro look reminiscent of the old Olympus PEN cameras, which would appeal to my father-in-law who was in college when the original PEN cameras came out (plus, he has a thing for old technology). (Check back on this blog in a day or two to find out if the rumors are true.)
My Husband: The Professional Photographer Your favorite father may not be a professional shooter like my husband, but if he's a photo enthusiast or already has a dSLR, a high-end compact camera like the Canon PowerShot G10 would make a great gift. With a bigger sensor than most compact point-and-shoot cameras, the 14.7-megapixel G10's image quality will satisfy hard-to-please camera enthusiasts. Though it doesn’t match the lower-resolution Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 (which doesn’t have to cram as many pixels on a roughly same-size sensor) in low light, the G10's image quality is hard to beat at base ISO settings (some even argue it’s indistinguishable from the image quality of a $40,000 Hasselblad), and it’s an extremely well-built and usable camera, with excellent ergonomics, intuitive controls, and a top-notch feature set.
My Brother-in-law: The Business Traveler My brother-in-law Paul works hard and plays hard, and is always on the road -- whether it's weekly business travel or globetrotting with his family on weekends and holidays. A expert frequent flyer, Paul travels light, so the ideal camera for him is something like the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1, which is compact enough that it won't weigh down his carry-on, but rugged enough to take on family beach vacations. An avid snorkeler, Paul would appreciate the fact that this 12.1-megapixel shooter is waterproof to 10 feet in depth, shockproof to a 5-foot drop, and dustproof. It also records AVCHD Lite HD video and features an Intelligent Auto mode, including Panasonic’s face-recognition technology, which remembers faces that you’ve shot before and allows you to register them for focus and exposure priority when they are identified in a scene.
My Brother-in-law: The Outdoorsman My brother-in-law Andy is a forestry professional and is more in his element out of doors -- whether he's hiking in the woods, fishing with his sons, or playing frisbee golf -- than he is indoors. He needs a super-tough camera that he can toss in a backpack, drop in the bottom of a canoe, and that will withstand any abuse that my two young nephews can throw at it. The perfect camera for him is the Olympus Stylus Tough-8000, which is waterproof to 33 feet, shockproof to 6.6 feet, crushproof to 220 pounds of pressure, and freeze proof to 14°F (perfect for icefishing at his family cabin in Wisconsin).