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A new whack at getting a new camera - May, 2012 edition

Bert Bates
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Joined: Oct 14, 2002
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    5
I'm looking for the "best" camera that'll fit in a cargo pants pocket. Probably under a pound.

Some candidates I'm considering:

Olympus XZ-1
Fuji X10
Canon G12 or G1 X (over a pound)
Nikon P7100

Recently, these small cameras have improved to the degree that they're saying you can get shallow depth of field "bokeh" effects - which is WAY cool.

I pretty sure I want at least a 4x optical zoom - 6x would be awesomer. I'd like to be able to shoot RAW but it's potentially optional.

Any thoughts about my list or others I might want to consider?

My old camera is 6 years old, so while I wouldn't say "cost is no object", budget constraints are not at the top of my list.


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Maneesh Godbole
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    8

Bert Bates wrote:I'm looking for the "best" camera that'll fit in a cargo pants pocket. Probably under a pound.

Pound sterling, or imperial?


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Anayonkar Shivalkar
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Joined: Dec 08, 2010
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    5

Bert Bates wrote:I'm looking for the "best" camera that'll fit in a cargo pants pocket. Probably under a pound.

I assume that you are saying pound as in weight (not as in price).

Well, if you want the 'best' camera, then look no further than Leica. I would've suggested Hassleblad, but those are quite heavy.

I'm suggesting Leica because budget is not your problem, and you want the best. You would get a descent camera at around 3500$.

I hope this helps.


Regards,
Anayonkar Shivalkar (SCJP, SCWCD, OCMJD, OCEEJBD)
Sumit Patil
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Joined: May 25, 2009
Posts: 296

Hey, why don't you go for Lytro
Future of cameras...


Thanks & Regards, Sumeet
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Tim Moores
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Joined: Sep 21, 2011
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I've always liked Canons Powershots; the G12 is a good camera, although it's heavier than what I personally would choose. But since you're considering even heavier alternatives, I guess you'd be fine with that.

I'm suggesting Leica because budget is not your problem

Bert said specifically that cost *is* an objective, just not the top one. Given the price range of the cameras mentioned, I think it's clear that a $3500 camera does not fit the objectives.

Anayonkar Shivalkar
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Joined: Dec 08, 2010
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    5

Well, in that case, I would highly recommend Fuji X10.

Olympus PEN series is also worth taking a look at - approx 700-900$.
Jesper de Jong
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  18

One good site with info about many different cameras is http://www.dpreview.com/
For many cameras they have very detailed reviews.

I have a Sony NEX-5N which is very nice, but the image quality of my old Canon EOS 5D is clearly better - but that's a big DSLR camera. I'd really like to upgrade my old 5D to the 5D Mark III but it's so expensive... (US$3500).


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Anayonkar Shivalkar
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    5

A little off topic, but IMHO, comparing Sony NEX-5N with Canon EOS 5D is not fair. Both are very nice cameras at their own places. NEX-5N is a very nice compact and mirror-less interchangeable lens camera (is that SLT?) - which is targeted at amateurs and (a little serious) hobbyists, however, 5D is a full-frame DSLR - which is targeted at very serious hobbyists(who can afford expensive gears and who know how to use them) and professionals.

Also, I would suggest to wait till prices drop, but even at current price, 5D Mark III seems to be worth every penny. It is really nice camera - if you are interested in video stuff. Even for still photography, it now boasts of Digic image processor (5th generation) - which guarantees very low noise even at ISO 12800. Digic 5 processor also successfully breaks the conventional 'smaller the pixel on sensor, more the noise at high ISO' theory. Frankly speaking, I've not heard anybody saying that 5D Mark III is expensive, given its performance to price ratio.

@Jesper de Jong, if I were you, I would've waited for a couple of months for prices to fall and then would've bought 5D Mark III (not to mention along with the beautiful 24-120mm lens).

@Bert Bates, I forgot to mention Fuji X100 - which is also really beautiful camera. It has got capacity of a DSLR, and size of a Leica, and price of a Fuji - 1200$
Only problem with this camera is - it has got fixed focal length lens of 23mm - which is quite wide, and is not very useful for portraits (definitely not for birds etc.). So, unless you are a dedicated landscape or street shooter, I would (again) suggest Fuji X10. Its 28-120mm range is quite versatile. Not to mention it is half the price of X100, it has got almost 10 times smaller sensor than X100, and quite noisy images starting from ISO 1200. So, its your call

I hope this helps.
Jesper de Jong
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  18

Yes, I know, the Sony NEX-5N and Canon EOS 5D are totally different cameras. I'm still amazed at the fantastic quality of the photos that I get from my 5D, even though it's already more than 6 years old. I don't have the 5D Mark III yet (shops don't even have it in stock yet here in the Netherlands).
Sumit Patil
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Joined: May 25, 2009
Posts: 296

I hope no one is interested in the Lytro, which i mentioned earlier.
It has changed the way we capture images i.e capture now focus later and still it is cheap at 499$ for 16 GB model and 399$ for 8 GB.
Sounds amazing to me.
dennis deems
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Joined: Mar 12, 2011
Posts: 808
Sumit Patil wrote:I hope no one is interested in the Lytro, which i mentioned earlier.
It has changed the way we capture images i.e capture now focus later and still it is cheap at 499$ for 16 GB model and 399$ for 8 GB.
Sounds amazing to me.

Wow! that looks very cool! I wonder how long it will be before they have the windows version available.
Peter Rooke
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Joined: Oct 21, 2004
Posts: 803

Hi, I just bought the Olympus XZ-1.

I was going to buy a Cannon as I view them as market leaders (ok with Nikon). However I'm wanting to take some wide angle landscape shots and the lens on the Olympus has a good range for its small size. I need a camera that is quite compact, so that ruled out the others that I looked at (Cannon). Camera has some nice features, you can take some pretty impressive pictures using the pre-programmed settings.


Regards Pete
Pat Farrell
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Joined: Aug 11, 2007
Posts: 4657
    
    5

Bert Bates wrote:Any thoughts about my list or others I might want to consider?


It really depends on your budget and projected needs/wants.

The new Micro 4/3 cameras look very interesting, small, interchangeable lenses available so you have options.

I'm a SLR shooter, been so since I was young. Currently shooting a Canon 50D, which is an older model, but good for me.

While cameras like the Canon G12 get high reviews, the un-changable lens is a non-starter for me. YMMV. I'd much rather have a Canon T3i as a starter.

One thing that is key if you go into the interchangeable lens world: selection. I'm not a fan of the brands that have only a small number of lenses. This means Sony is out, but either Nikon or Canon is fine. The body on cameras is essentially a box with a computer in it. And anyone who is on the Ranch knows, there is nothing more obsolete than a six year old computer. In the interchangeable world, you can buy a good lens and expect to use it for a decade or two. You will replace the body a few times along the way.

Warning: personal opinion: I think smartphones are going to destroy the casual camera market. No one will bother buying something like a Canon S95, which is a very good camera and cheap. They will use their phones. This will put serious pressure on the superzooms like the G12, and I don't think they will stay viable.

I think there will always be a market for the low-end DSLR cameras, like the Canon T3i and its Nikon equivalent, but I'm not sure that intermediate cameras like my Canon 50D or its replacement the 60D are long for this world. There will always be a high end market for things like the Canon 5Dm3, and Nikon D800 but I haven't got that kind of money to spend on this hobby.
Pat Farrell
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Joined: Aug 11, 2007
Posts: 4657
    
    5

i found this posting by a professional photographer and blogger to be worth reading:

http://photofocus.com/2012/05/21/what-camera-should-i-buy-updated-version-may-2012/#more-21577
Bert Bates
author
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Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8815
    
    5
Hi Pat, et. al.,

Let me clarify some more...

I'm a reasonably experienced photographer. I've had my share of SLRs and DSLRs. Kathy has a very DSLR outfit and she'll be making it nicer fairly soon. In fact, she's going the route of using her Canon DSLR for video - it's pretty cool.

So, my recent experience is that I'm squarely in the camp of the guy who said: "the best camera is the one you have with you". I WILL carry a camera that will fit in a cargo pants pocket, i.e. it can be a bit bigger than what would fit in a jeans pocket. And the reality is that typically I WON'T carry a DSLR, and even the 4/3s are a bit too big.

So, I want the best camera I can find (again, within reason) that'll fit in my pocket. Pat, I understand the limitations that you described.

What's interesting to me is this new-ish category of compact cameras that I think are often dubbed "enthusiast's" compacts. The cameras I mentioned earlier, XZ-1, X100, G12, G1 X, all fall into this "enthusiast's" category. So for instance, the XZ-1 has a slightly larger than average sensor for its body size, but it has an incredibly fast lens, so you can get some shallow depth of field pictures - that's cool. On the other hand the G1 X has a positively ENORMOUS sensor for its sized body, but it's lens isn't as fast as the XZ-1 lens so when all is said and done, even given the bigger sensor, it's shallow depth of field capabilities aren't significantly better... sigh.

Now the X10 has a fast lens, AND an optical viewfinder (which seems to be the XZ-1's shortcoming), but apparently it has an intermittent "bug" that Fuji hasn't quite got under control.

So I think that as far as size goes the G1 X is pushing the outer limits of what I'll consider. The 4/3s cameras are smaller without a lens attached, but in practice that doesn't mean anything to me because of course I need the whole kit and caboodle in my pocket

Pat, I do agree that phone cameras are getting better, and I think they'll grab a big chunk of the market. But I think I also understand that niches like the one I'm interested in, the "enthusiast's" niche, will be safe from phones for a while.

So in a nutshell, I'm hoping to keep the "size" constraint as a tight filter on this thread. Each of the cameras I've listed have some shortcoming... I'm wondering if there's a competitor out there that I haven't heard of?
Pat Farrell
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Joined: Aug 11, 2007
Posts: 4657
    
    5

A Leica?
Pat Farrell
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If the Leica is too expensive (and I think its too expensive for anyone not named Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg) given your pocket requirements, I'd just get a Canon S100. They are tiny and have a real lens and take very good photos for those times when you don't have your wife's DSLR.

Note: the S100 will shoot RAW
Anayonkar Shivalkar
Bartender

Joined: Dec 08, 2010
Posts: 1506
    
    5

Bert Bates wrote:So for instance, the XZ-1 has a slightly larger than average sensor for its body size, but it has an incredibly fast lens, so you can get some shallow depth of field pictures - that's cool. On the other hand the G1 X has a positively ENORMOUS sensor for its sized body, but it's lens isn't as fast as the XZ-1 lens so when all is said and done, even given the bigger sensor, it's shallow depth of field capabilities aren't significantly better... sigh.

If shallow DOF (depth of field) is your priority, then just make sure that you've manually checked the results of both cameras you've mentioned. I'm saying this because, sensor size plays a very major role in deciding depth of field. Big sensor always give shallow depth of field. So, if a camera with fast lens and (relatively) small sensor gives you a particular DOF, then chances are you'll get same (or even better) DOF with other camera with slower lens, but larger sensor.

However, story ends here only. I mean, its just DOF. A slow lens will always be slow - no matter what is sensor size. It'll simply produce better DOF on large sensor - that's it.

If money permits, then I would suggest to get a camera with big sensor (unless its lens is unreasonably bad - which I don't think would be case with someone like Canon). Even if lens is slow, big sensor gives you more control - good low light performance. So, even if lens is slow, you can always safely bump up ISO with large sensor.

Just my two cents.
Joe Harry
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Joined: Sep 26, 2006
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    2

Pat Farrell wrote:A Leica?


Arent't the Leicas big as well? Do they also make compact cameras?


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Pat Farrell
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Joined: Aug 11, 2007
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    5

Joe Harry wrote:Arent't the Leicas big as well? Do they also make compact cameras?


While Leica does make a DSLR, its the same size as all the rest of the DSLRs.

I was thinking of the Leica M9, which is the same basic size as the classic Leica rangefinders of the 50s and 60s. Mostly because it is a rangefinder and takes the same lenses as the Leica rangefinders of the 50s and 60s.

They are, of course, expensive, starting at about $9000 US and going up from there.
Bert Bates
author
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Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8815
    
    5
I found an "actual camera store" with actual, physical cameras in stock

I got to hold and use 4 of the 5 cameras I listed above, the XZ-1, the X10, and the G12 / G1X. Didn't see a p7100.

It seems like:

- The G1 X is a great idea, and version 2 should be awesome, but version doesn't quite seem to come together.
- The G12 is not bad, but also not great.

Most everyone I talked to, and my own gut reactions, were that the XZ-1 and the X10 should be the top contenders.

I asked both factory reps to take portrait-like shots, with a subject about 4-5 feet away and a background about 10 feet away, and further, to create the shallowest DOF and best bokeh they could. The Oly rep, using his XZ-1 blew me away. I couldn't believe a pocket camera could make such an impressive, shallow DOF and really nice bokeh. The Fuji rep didn't do so well, but it could have been the rep and not the camera. So, we're going back to the store in a week or so to pick up Kathy's new DSLR and I'll take another whack at the DOF experiment.

One consistent "wow" factor for me was how far the back-of-camera displays have come since I got my current camera about 6 years ago - total "wow!" I LOVE the live histogram!

So, it seems that if the X10 can indeed create a nice shallow DOF, the biggest difference between the two cameras is that the Fuji has an optical viewfinder and the Oly doesn't. But the Fuji costs $200 more... Again, cost isn't the "only" factor, but paying $200 for an optical viewfinder is a bit hard to swallow - just on principle
Pat Farrell
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    5

Bert Bates wrote:I found an "actual camera store" with actual, physical cameras in stock

paying $200 for an optical viewfinder is a bit hard to swallow


Did you go to NYC and visit B+H? Its well worth the trip.

Its more than just that you are spending an extra $200, its $200 on top of a $300 camera, that's a 66% premium. I expect that if you were talking Nikon D4 prices, you would not worry about an extra $200.

For me, I can't stand using the LCD screen on the back to compose and focus. I have to hold the camera to my head and look through something. It can be optical, or an "EV" electronic viewfinder, but it has to be on the camera and something I look through. Could be that I'm just old.

Did you look at the Nikon 1 mirrorless? It may fail your DOF criteria, since it has a smaller than many sensor, and sensor sized is very important to getting that tiny DOF you want.
Bert Bates
author
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8815
    
    5
I like the nikon 1, but it fails the "fits in my pocket" test with any but the shortest lenses
Pat Farrell
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    5

I love lensrental.com, they have great service and a good selection of gear to rent. I love renting before I buy so I can be sure that it really works for me.

Plus, they have a very interesting, well written and informative blog.

New entry on exactly this topic: which small camera:
http://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2012/06/the-rashomon-effect-and-my-small-camera-choice
Bert Bates
author
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Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8815
    
    5
Pat,

Thanks for the link - interesting article.

When I picked up the Nikon 1 two weird things jumped out at me:
1 - no dial for aperture / shutter / manual priority - all of those are buried in menus... didn't like that
2 - the 28-80mm equiv zoom lens wasn't marked that way - instead it was something like 6-18mm - accurate but cumbersome -argh!

Really Nikon, why would you buck conventions that have been so universal for so long?

In the end I did side by side tests with the XZ-1 and the X10 - I found them to create very similar pix and the XZ-1 is smaller and $200 cheaper - so I got the XZ-1 and I'm having a great time with it.

BTW, now everyone can bet the the XZ-2 will be announced shortly.

I also studied the new Sony compact - bigger sensor but 20meg-pixels... really Sony?
Pat Farrell
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    5

Bert Bates wrote:I also studied the new Sony compact - bigger sensor but 20meg-pixels... really Sony?


Great to hear you found a camera to love.

I think Sony has completely lost it. 20m-pixels will probably exceed the resolving power of the lens. Clearly its pure marketing "mine is bigger" for folks
that don't understand tradeoffs. We want better pixels not more of them.
Bert Bates
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    5
Agreed Pat, and to add to that - EVERYONE else, Canon, Nikon, Oly, Fuji, Panasonic, and so on, have tacitly agreed that 10-12meg of GOOD pixels is the way to go for smaller sensors.
Anayonkar Shivalkar
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Bert Bates wrote:Agreed Pat, and to add to that - EVERYONE else, Canon, Nikon, Oly, Fuji, Panasonic, and so on, have tacitly agreed that 10-12meg of GOOD pixels is the way to go for smaller sensors.

Agreed 100%. I would say that even for large sensors, 14-16MP is more than enough. I'm not much aware of Canon lineup, but Nikon has some amazing models withing that range - D700, D3, D3S (all 12MP), even the latest flagship - D4(16MP).
Even I myself shoot within 6-8MP range most of the time, and generally I get descent results.
Lot of people don't understand real meaning of MP - a slightly blurry image at 6MP would be extremely blurry at 20MP (or in other words, more the MP you have, more steady your hands should be), and secondly, shutter speed - and not MP (or IS, or VR) freezes the motion.
dennis deems
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Posts: 808
Bert Bates wrote:I got the XZ-1 and I'm having a great time with it.

I have very little experience taking photographs, but I kind of need a camera. Would this be a good choice for a newbie? Or is there a model with training wheels that I ought to try?
Jesper de Jong
Java Cowboy
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  18

Have fun with the new camera Bert! Here's dpreview's review of the Olympus XZ-1. Looks like a very good compact camera, with an especially nice lens.
Bert Bates
author
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Joined: Oct 14, 2002
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    5
Thanks Jesper,

Dennis,

Of course since I bought one I think it's a great camera! But it's not cheap, so I'd say it depends on what you want to use your camera for? If you primarily want to do stuff like take snapshots at birthday parties, this is probably overkill. This camera is primarily aimed at somewhat serious photographers who want control over how their pictures are composed. If this is something that you're interested in learning it could be good. This kind of camera gives you the same kind of manual overrides that the big DSLRs give you.

For example, we've been talking about "shallow depth of field". You've seen these kinds of photos, often portraits, in which the subject is in focus in the foreground and the background is blurred in a nice creamy way. This kind of picture isn't really possible with a less expensive point and shoot camera.

hth,

Bert
Anayonkar Shivalkar
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Dennis Deems wrote:I have very little experience taking photographs, but I kind of need a camera. Would this be a good choice for a newbie? Or is there a model with training wheels that I ought to try?

Well, I don't know if you already have any camera, but if you are going for the first camera, I would suggest not to go for any expensive model. Rather I would highly recommend to buy anything below $200.

That way, you'll come to know what kind of photographs you like to take, what is the real necessity of manual control you require and so on - e.g. do you need a camera which performs good in low light, or camera which is good and lightweight, or simply superb controls and image quality - no matter what is the size or weight etc.

Once you understand your requirements properly(e.g. Bert Bates clearly stated that main requirement is 'pocket-size'), and you feel that you really want that control, and are ready to go to next level, then you can either upgrade to a nice camera like Bert Bates just bought, or a descent DSLR. Also, the most important thing in cameras is - 'do not buy today what you'll need tomorrow'. That is - if you believe that you can(and want) to handle a DSLR within few years down the line, don't buy it today. Buy it only when you'll need it - because at that time, either there will be a better model for same price, or your favorite model will be cheaper.

I hope this helps.

Bert Bates wrote:I got the XZ-1 and I'm having a great time with it.

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