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To whit, a Canon PowerShot A1200.  I’ll let you follow the link and read the specs for yourself if you’re interested, but it has the two must-have features I was looking for:  An optical view finder, and an optical zoom.  I’ve been playing around with it and I thought I’d share some of the results.  I have no formal photographic training, and  the cropping was done with the crop function of the editing software that came with the camera.  The images are otherwise unretouched.

The camera has an auto mode, which I have been using as it continually adjusts focus and lens aperture.  The above picture was taken under “manual zoom” and was only cropped a little to center it better.  (I’m beginning to get the hang of this bread machine thing).   I like this feature.  The options include a pair of brackets, visible on both the optical viewfinder and the LED screen, that show the point of focus, which helps greatly when you are trying to photograph a specific object or focus on a face.

This image of a climbing rose in my back yard was only slightly cropped and was shot without zoom.

This image is uncropped.  The autofocus feature really gives you clear details.  This is the best shot of his whiskers I’ve ever gotten.   He does have a splendid set of hirsutery.

There is a delay between pressing the “shoot” button and the actual shutter release, but the motion capture is good.  This image of the library monster was taken in low light conditions.  I pressed the shutter at “maximum yawn” but still managed to get the tail end of it.

Following are a series of four images I did on some sow thistle (Sonchus asper) that is growing in my back yard. This first image, the “big picture” was cropped down about 15%, but as you can see,  the detail  is still very nice.

The next series of three images represent an exercise in cropping:  First the original “manually zoomed” image, which was itself cropped by about 20%, followed by two images that were cropped out of it.
The amount of detail I was able to retain on the crops is impressive.

I guess you could call this an “establishing shot.”  It was taken without zoom and is only slightly cropped. Those two blobs in the center are mourning doves (Zenaida macroura) foraging in my yard.   This photo is remarkable in that it was shot through a pane of Plexiglass (back door window) and a pane of “regular” glass (glass paneled “screen” door), and it still retains a great amount of detail.  The subsequent “zoom test” photos were also shot from this viewpoint.

This feral tomcat wandered in and curled up in my iris bed in a location just above where the left hand dove was in the first picture — which is why there are no more pictures of doves!   This was shot with the zoom lens and cropped only slightly to center the image a little better.  This is pretty good detail for zoomed through two panes of glass.

Our visitor then decided he could be more overt in his lounging.  The Siberian elm seedling (Ulmus pumila) above his hindquarters is the same bush that was over his face in the preceding picture.

Then he espied a butterfly which is just out of frame to the lower left.  Again, this is zoomed through a pane of Plexiglass and a pane of “real” glass.

I then cropped him out of that same shot.  Again, the detail is very nice despite two panes of glass and about 60% of the image cropped off.

Here’s another “establishing shot” of the gleesome threesome watching Bird TV.  They are backlit by the same lighting conditions that prevailed in the tomcat pictures (the previously mentioned back door is just to the right out of frame).  The grey one is behind the curtain.  The image is a little washed out but not nearly as much as you would expect given the backlighting.

This is a zoomed image of my little girl kitty shot through the aperture between the window and the curtain, with my right shoulder against the back door.  The windows is inset into the wall with a good 6 inches of window sill and the tip of her nose was cut off by the wall.  Still, she is in bright sunlight through the window which was coming at a right angle to the camera from the right.

This was cropped out of a zoomed shot.  I’m very pleased with both the detail and the color.  Again, none of the pictures in this post have had any “manipulating” except cropping.

The mighty Pu in a mythological setting (the blue book behind him is “Bulfinch’s Mythology” with Edith Hamilton’s Mythology beside it).  The light source, the window, is about two feet to the right of his face.  This was cropped out of a zoomed image.  I was standing approximately 5 feet away from him.

This one is a “manual zoom” of my lavender bush. The day was breezy, and the flower stalk is out of focus, but I like the color, which is very true to life and has not been retouched.
I will close with one last shot, taken under the same lighting conditions as the other cat pictures above, of the black one watching Bird TV.  The detail is such that you can see the random white hairs on his neck and the little ridge of fur that runs down his backbone from his shoulders to the base of his tail.

So far, so good.  This is proving to be a versatile little camera that is relatively inexpensive.  I’ve only begun to explore the features both of the camera and the “photo managing” software that comes with.  I need to take it out on the town and try some architectural shots.