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Scott's Column
Canon ELPH 300 HS Camera & Dell UltraSharp U3011 Monitor

May 1, 2012
By Scott Lewis

This year my company paid out two bonuses. The first bonus was a small one to account for having frozen salaries last year. I will not get into the politics of that... the fact they got away with paying us once for one year what they should pay us for every year.

When they froze salaries last year... it came just after I was hit with a $5,300 income tax bill. That income tax bill came because I was foolish when I separated from my wife and didn't think of changing my withholding status. Of course, I did change my withholding status, which reduced my income by $460 a month. I had to move into a smaller apartment and drastically tighten my budget.

In the end I managed to survive... but I survived hating being poor every single month. This year I received two bonuses and a tax refund. I used some of the money to get some new clothes... and more importantly for this column... a new compact camera and a new monitor for my desktop computer.

Current Topics:

Canon ELPH 300 HS

I bought a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 camera a little more than a year and a half ago. This camera was supposed to be a backup to my Canon EOS T2i DSLR, and to let my sons use while I was using my DSLR. I chose the Lumix for a number of reasons.

1) It has a 12x optical zoom in a fairly compact body.
2) It has manual controls, which was very rare for such a compact camera (when I bought it).
3) I read enough reviews to know it was a very good camera for the money.

Alas... it is a piece of crap now. I do not blame this on Panasonic. My oldest son started using it in July of 2010. I asked for it back and got the response, "oh no, it is my camera now." I was in no big need for a compact camera, as I preferred my T2i. But then my son had the camera with him when he came over to my place. I snagged it to use on a drive with a group of Minis from Houston. The camera worked OK, but not good. The lens was slow to open and close... and required some tapping to get the lens cover to move out of the way. Something was gumming it up.

The next time I took it out to use it it would not zoom. Trying to zoom it past 2X would confuse the camera and the camera would display a message to turn it off and back on. I did this a number of time before giving up.

When I told my son I was upset at him for treating my camera this way he told me it was not his fault. His mother was using it. Great... my ex-wife was using my camera. And over a year later when I see it is does not work.

I tried to get it working... and it would work sometimes while testing it... but if it was anything resembling cool outside it would freeze up and be no good.

I wanted a better camera... one that I could rely on. Time to get a replacement.

This time I decided to go in the other direction. Instead of getting a camera with all the bells and whistles... only to be used as a camera to quickly shuve into a pocket... I decided to get the most compact camera I could find... that still gets the best picture quality.

This time I decided to stick to my favorite brand... Canon.

I narrowed it down to these:

Canon ELPH 310 HS
12 MP, 8x, 4.9 oz, $212

Canon ELPH 300 HS
12 MP, 5x, 4.3 oz, $179

Canon ELPH 510 HS
12 MP, 12x, 7.3 oz, $260

Canon Powershot S100
12 MP, 5X, 7.0 oz., $404

These prices were all accurate in the beginning of March on Amazon. The Powershot S100 has a sensor that is large than the others (7.6 x 5.7 vs. 6.2 x 4.6 for the ELPHs, sized in mm). I tend to think the bigger the sensor the better. However, I did not want to spend $400 for a camera... and one with only a 5X zoom lens. So I dropped the S100 from consideration.

That left the 3 ELPHs. I liked the ideal of the 510 HS because of its 12X lens (since that was what the Panasonic had). But I have to wonder how much you sacrifice in picture quality with a single lens with that much zoom. After all... all lenses are a compromise. You don't see any 12X zoom lenses for DSLR Cameras.

In the end I went with the smallest camera. I bought the Canon ELPH 300 HS. It also was the least expensive. But since all three ELPHs use the same sensor, I assume they will all provide similar picture quality. I decided 5X would be enough since the camera was so compact.

I almost got the 310 HS. I wanted the larger 3.0" screen on the back (the 300 HS has a 2.7" screen). But... alas... I could not find a 310 HS in stock when I went shopping. Once I made up my mind I did not want to wait for delivery from Amazon, I bought the 300 HS from Best Buy.

The 300 HS is very small. It is smaller in width and height than my phone... and just a little thicker. It fits in my pocket with my phone. Because of this it will be carried much more than the Panasonic was (though I had limited time to prove that theory).

I have been pleasantly surprised at the picture quality. It is not up to my Canon EOS T2i, but it is much better than a phone's camera... and it is very fast to turn on and shoot.

I like it. Recommended.

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Dell UltraSharp U3011

I could not afford a new Dell UltraSharp U3011 Monitor, so I went on Craigslist. I was actually looking for the Dell UltraSharp U2711 Monitor.

The U2711 is... as its designation implies... a 27" monitor. It has a resolution of 2560 x 1440. The same and the latest iMacs from Apple. New these monitors are around $1,100. I checked Dell's web site and saw a refurbished U2711 for $719. I decided I would cap myself at $800.

I found very few U2711 monitors on Craiglist or eBay. Then I stumbled across a person with a refurbished U3011 monitor for $1200. The U3011 is not just 3" larger... it fills that with extra pixels. The U3011 has a resolution of 2560 x 1600... an extra 160 pixel of height.

I offered him $600... yea, I know... a real low ball offer. He countered that he was getting a brand new U3011 monitor in for $900. I asked about $750 for the refurb. He never replied. I then replied saying I was temped... and could we meet to see them. Again.. ro reply.

I later saw another person with two U3011 monitors for $1050 each. I decided to go to my top offer... and asked if he would take $800 for one of them. He said yes... and I bought it.

When I first plugged the monitor in the text was crappy, and in at least half the places it was completely unreadable. I did a little digging and saw a guy had a similar problem. I do not know how he solved it. He claimed that when he connected another computer to the monitor through the DVI-2 it gave crappy text. That's was when I remembered... I was using a KVM switch.

Oops! Few KVM switches can handle the resolution of the Dell (2560 x 1600). So I pulled the DVI cable out of the KVM and attached it directly from my video card to the Dell. Same problem. So... I thought... maybe that big fat DVI cable the monitor came with was necessary. I plugged that in and the gloriousness that is the Dell UltraSharp came to life.

Now I have to figure out how to use my Guinea Pig PC... with the Dell... or do I leave my old monitor sharing desk space with the Dell.

I'll figure that out later.

Right now I want to enjoy looking at this amazing monitor. Time to find a really good HD movie to watch.

And speaking of that... speakers... that is... my old monitor had built-in speakers. The Dell does not. So I picked up a pair of Pioneer USB speakers. They work well enough, but I will probably look into a non-USB solution in the future (My KVM works with standard audio).

The monitor is a joy to use. No more overlapping applications. I can spread everything around.

A friend of mine has been pushing me to try Lightroom 4.0. I will have to download that and see if it is worth using.... especially with this monitor.

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Conclusion

I have been very busy at work... and looking for cars online. We'll see where that takes me next month.

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