Making decisions

By on December 23rd, 2013 in Photography

Earlier this year I decided that I wanted a more compact camera. I was tired of lugging around my Nikon when on vacation with the family and extended family. Quite often I became the designated photographer and I was expected to snap photos of all the precious moments. That I meant I was behind the camera most of the vacation and there are few photos of me in any of our family vacations. If I tried handing my Nikon over to someone so that I could be included in group photos I got a blank stare and a shake of the head. The Nikon was either too intimidating[^1] or too heavy for people used to small point-n-shoot cameras.

While we own a Sony point-n-shoot camera, I wanted something that allowed me more manual control over the camera settings and most point-n-shoot camera lenses don't have a wide enough zoom for landscape photography and the tiny sensors do poorly in low light. It seemed that a compact systems camera (CSC) was what I wanted. As usual I got distracted by shiny new things and quickly found myself looking at the high-end of this camera segment and forgot my original intent. Once I realized that what I was really doing is re-evaluating my current camera choice, I decided to see what I would do if I had to start all over and buy a new camera system.

There were a lot of options from Sony, Fuji, Olympus and Panasonic. But which was right for me needs (my expanded needs)? How do I compare between cameras for such variables as sensor size (micro 43 vs APS-C vs full-frame), sensor resolution, styling etc. I need to take a more scientific approach.

Making decisions requires comparing alternatives with respect to a set of criteria. If there are more than two criteria, determining which criteria are more important can itself be a serious problem. One would like to be able to rank the criteria in order of importance, and to assign to the criteria some relative ranking indicating the degree of importance of each criterion with respect to the other criteria.CISSP Online

This is a technique I've used in the past for making decisions about large purchases where there are many variables to consider. I used a criteria decision matrix to buy my current car and when I purchased my HDTV. It a technique I learned in a total quality management class in graduate school. But it's been a while since I had to do one -- my car was purchased in 2006 and the TV a year before that -- so I did some research on Google to find a method I could use.

CameraSensor sizePriceLens choiceErgonomicsPixelRetro Style
Sony a7551551
Sony a7R551551
Fuji X-E2333135
Olympus OM-D E-M1133333
Nikon Df555555
Criterion weight192113192115

For this decision matrix I used a pairwise comparison matrix. My criteria are lens choice, sensor size, image resolution, ergonomic feel, styling and cost. I ranked each of the criteria according to how important they were to each other. It seems that, for me, lens availability -- how may lenses are available for that camera from the manufacturer or third parties -- and cost are the two most important factors. They are equal in importance to me. I limited my options to cameras that came out during PhotoPlus Expo in New York.

Each criteria was weighted and the weighting used in the decision matrix. I ranked each of the options according to how good I think they are at meeting the criteria when compared against my current camera, the Nikon D5100. Based on that it seems the Nikon Df is the camera I would buy when I'm ready to buy a replacement for my Nikon D5100.

CameraSensor sizePriceLens selectionErgonomicsPixelRetro StyleTotal Benefit
Sony a795105139510515428
Sony a7R95105139510515428
Fuji X-E2576339196375316
Olympus OM-D E-M1196339576345286
Nikon Df95105659510575540
Criterion weight192113192115108

But my original wish for a compact but capable camera for travel and vacations with the family was still unfulfilled. I have a few ideas on where I should look but no firm plans as yet.