I'm looking for insight for my next digital camera decision. I've set a ~400 € budget looking to buy a good quality, future-proof digital camera without stepping into pricey DSLRs with their absurdly pricey accessories.
I'm aware that I'm comparing two different kinds of cameras, which is why I'm looking for advice. My budget allows for any ultra-zoom camera and out of the ones I've read about I like the Canon SX40 best. The Olympus E-PL1 is the only micro 4:3 I can afford that comes with a decently ranged lens. So, what am I trying to compare?
● Canon PowerShot SX40, 28 mm² CMOS-type censor, (35mm eqv) 24~840 (35×) f/2.7~5.8 lens at 385 €
● Olympus E-PL1 with M. Zuiko lens, 225 mm² CMOS-type sensor, (35mm eqv) 28~300 (11×) f/4~5.6 lens at 449 €
Of course, in order to provide advice, you'll need to know what I want to do with the camera:
● Lots of tourism: outdoors architecture and indoor dark scenarios is what I take most, followed by natural landscapes in my local forests. I'd rarely need as much tele as the SX40 provides, though it's nice to have for the occasional picture. I like the SX40 lens specs better, more due to its wider angle at 24mm eqv than its tele 840mm eqv end and being much faster at wide angles.
● I'm concerned with the ability shoot hand-held with low light in high ISO. Obviously, the reason why I'm interested on the E-PL1 is the decently-sized sensor.
● More often than RAW, I want quality, ready to archive JPEGs off them, with decent (i.e. low, conservative) compression. I've seen lots of quality cameras reducing their effectiveness brutally due to bad NR or JPEG codecs (hello Fuji).
● While I take mostly pictures, I want to record high-resolution video with it as well. This is important because I'm not buying a dedicated camcorder. Both cameras do 720p30, but the Canon also shoots 1080p24. It's also supposed to have better IS but some reviews praise the E-PL1 more for IS.
● As lazy as I am for post-production, I like HDR images with absurdly unrealistic tone mappings. Ideally I'd like some sort of fast in-camera HDR composition mode for JPEGs, but as both cameras lack that, I'll be ok with bracketing, which both support, and perhaps taking single RAW files. The SX40 doesn't dump RAWs because Canon thinks at 385 € I haven't paid enough for that (ah, corporations), but the CHDK for it is being developed and it looks like I'll be able to unlock that functionality. I'll see if I can setup an automated script for bracketed JPEG, bracketed RAW or single RAW files with dcraw and other tools on my GNU/Linux workstation.
● Size and weight don't matter at all to me, even for tourism. Camera speed and interface comfort matter (I think both are not awfully slow but take 0.5s at AF).
● I don't pretend/expect to be an amateur photographer, at all. I'm a random person who takes pictures. However, I like the manual controls of my SX100, and I'm not scared by options, power features, having to read or Maths, so disregard complexity as I'll study what I need to take advantage of any camera I buy.
Any suggestions on what should I go for? Thank you very much in advance.