Dec 6, 2009 at 9:30 pm #1243305
Ok, so I have recently decided I want to start bringing a decent camera on my backpacking trips. I don't know anything about photography beyond the obvious so I need help deciding which camera to get.
My main priority is that I want the camera that will give me the best quality for the weight. I'm not sure if I want to go with a 5 oz camera that will give me OK quality or a 10 oz camera that will give me AMAZING quality. There are so many options out there that I feel a bit overwhelmed. I don't know what most the features even mean so I don't know what to look for. I would prefer if the camera was waterproof but this isn't absolutely necessary. Price is not an issue.
The Lumix LX3 seems like a good camera but I'm wondering if I can get the same quality in a lighter package. I'd appreciate any input. Thanks.
-SidDec 6, 2009 at 9:37 pm #1550990
@umnakLocale: Southeast Alaska
the LX3 is an amazing camera and, though there are others that weigh less, I really don't think there are any that can outperform it on all the variables, including cost. BPL likes the Sigma, but I suggest you look at dpreview.com before making any purchase. They did a great review of "enthusiasts" cameras a year ago and the LX3 came out on top.Dec 6, 2009 at 10:24 pm #1551005
Canon powershot s90 recently came out and is supposed to be around the same level as the panasonic lumix lx3. weighs 6-7 ounces i think. it's a good one to check out thoughDec 6, 2009 at 11:35 pm #1551016
Assuming you are looking to do some people shots and general landscape and don't need telephoto I would recommend the Sigma DP2. It's the image quality champ for near pocketable cameras. I don't own this camera but have had a chance to use one that I borrowed. If I was purchasing a camera specifically for high quality images backpacking this is the camera I would pick up.
The Panasonic GF1 + 20/1.7 lens is a lot more versatile than the DP2 since can you use interchangeable lens. It can also shot decent quality video but this all comes at a cost compared to the DP2… it's heavier (16oz to 9oz), larger (needs jacket pocket -vs- pants cargo pocket), and more expensive ($900 to $600). This said, I have greatly enjoyed using the GF1. It's my go-to camera.
Of the small sensor cameras I found the Panasonic LX3 the best from an image quality perspective but I now carry a Canon S90 because it's almost as good and actually fits into my pocket following the philosophy that the best camera is the one you have with you.
–MarkDec 7, 2009 at 9:21 am #1551081
Ok so far I'm considering:
-Canon Powershot S90
Weight: 6.9 oz (including batteries)
Pixels: 10 million
-Panasonic Lumix LX3
Weight: 9.3 oz (including batteries)
Pixels: 10.1 million
Weight: 10 oz (including batteries)
Pixels: 14.06 million
The Panasonic GF1 is too heavy. I probably should have specified I want something 10 oz or less. The weight of the Canon S90 is very appealing to me.
To make sure I have this right… The S90 is the lightest camera that will give me that kind of image quality. The LX3 and DP2 are about the same weight, but I get better image quality with the DP2. Is this correct?
Also, will these cameras give me good zoom? By that I mean, would I be able to zoom in on an insect and have the image come out clear?
-SidDec 7, 2009 at 10:51 am #1551106
Wait a second… The DP2 actually only has 4.6 mega pixels compared to the 10.01 of the LX3. What gives? Does this mean the LX3 will give much better image quality? If that's the case, why is the DP2 so much more expensive?
Ofcourse, I suspect that the number of pixels is not the main factor in image quality. If this is the case, please enlighten me.
-SidDec 7, 2009 at 10:54 am #1551107
Megapixels don't necessarily equate to image quality anymore.Dec 7, 2009 at 11:07 am #1551113
The standard bayer sensor uses a mosaic of sensors, each one detecting only one color (red, green, or blue)
The foveon sensor that sigma uses detects red, green and blue at every site.
Sigma claims a 3 to 1 megapixel ratio when comparing to a bayer sensor, calling their camera 13.8 MP. The comparison is not that straight forward, but sigma cameras produce image quality significantly higher than the smaller (physical size) sensor in the LX3. I would say sensor size not MP count is more relevant to image quality.
Of the cameras you listed only the sigma dp2 has a sensor of comparable size to DSLRs.Dec 7, 2009 at 11:29 am #1551120
So the DP2 would give me much better image quality for the same weight as the LX3. Now it boils down to whether I want to save 3 oz and go with the Cannon S90, or sacrifice weight savings for better quality images with the DP2… decisions, decisions.
-SidDec 7, 2009 at 11:48 am #1551129
@halfturboLocale: Northernish California
The DP2 or the wide angle DP1s (better for landscapes) will give the best results (in good shooting conditions) but will also be the fussiest cameras to work with (their menu systems and poky autofocus are rather notorious). They also lack image stabilization and have the slowest lenses of the cameras you list, meaning you won't be able to hand-hold them in poor light conditions that the other two will allow. Of course, they have fixed focal length lenses, not zooms.
The DPs are niche products a bit like very compact view cameras–cameras that reward careful and contemplative shooting but not designed with capturing fleeting "decisive moments" in mind. If you go this route make very sure the tool matches your shooting style.
I don't have S90 experience but it's quickly become a very popular camera with some demanding shooters, so I'll give Canon their due (I've bailed on their G-series). It's reputed to be noticably quicker than the LX3, which can be an important consideration. The 28mm equivalent lens is not nearly as wide as the LX3's but it does zoom further–horses for courses. I prefer landscape shooting, which is further enhanced by the LX's variable aspect ratio.
That they're both f:2.0 and have good IS systems is important for maintaining low ISOs and getting the best output from their small chips (it's easy to envision a scenario where one has to shoot the DP1s at ISO 800 where they could shoot the LX3 at ISO 80).
I'd also consider the S90's lack of a hotshoe, useful not only for mounting a flash but also a viewfinder. Not a big deal to everyone but I use it for both and would miss it.
You've gotten a good response on the oddball Foveon sensor, which defies direct comparison to the common Bayer sensor. It's capable of very good output, no matter how one counts the pixels.
Final thoughts: none of these is a "beginner's" camera, but the Canon and Panny will give good results with their full automatic modes, then reward the learner who digs into the modes and menus and masters the controls. I don't think I'd recommend the Sigmas to a true beginner, as they require some mastery to give good results. You might also want to give the Ricoh lineup a look. The GX and GRD models paved the way for all of the cameras we're discussing here, and are worthy alternatives to them all.
RickDec 7, 2009 at 12:07 pm #1551137
thank you, that was very helpful. I wasn't aware the DP2 is harder to work with. Being that I am a beginner, I don't think I will consider the DP2 as one of my options any more. I will not be bringing a Tripod so I don't want a camera with a slow lens.
Right now my two choices seem to be in different "weight classes". As of now the LX3 is my top choice for cameras around 10 oz, but is the Canon S90 the best one in its weight class?
Are there any cameras around 6 or 7 oz that will outperform the Canon S90?
-SidDec 7, 2009 at 12:29 pm #1551147
IMHO the S90 is best <7oz camera on the market today.
The closest camera weight / image quality is the the Ricoh GRD III. It's a bit heavier and larger and is a fixed lens (no zoom). Advantages are a better UI (for experienced photographers), faster focus and shutter release, and a sharper lens.
–MarkDec 7, 2009 at 12:51 pm #1551159
Now what about cameras in the 5 oz range?
Which camera is on top for that weight class?
I don't want to sacrifice too much image quality for weight savings though. How much quality would I really be losing by going with a lighter camera in the 5 oz range?
-SidDec 7, 2009 at 1:39 pm #1551176
@goldenmeanieLocale: Los Angeles
As Chris points out above… megapixels don't necessarily equate to image quality. Both the LX3 and the S90 look great. Ken Rockwell fancies the S90 up and down, so you can't go wrong. My brother in-law brought some new Nikon point and shoot on a recent trip we took. 12 megapixels, all black, 200 bucks, and it felt like it weighed about 4.5 ounces or so with battery and card. Handled exposure very well, and the colors looked great. I don't recall the model. He loved it, and his pictures turned out quite nice.
I just borrowed his camera when I felt the need ;) My SUL approach.
Anywho, If this is your first camera purchase, I suggest that you start with a model that will meet your needs without breaking the bank. besides, they come out with a new model every year… things get lighter… and cheaper as time drags on. So, if you're just getting your feet wet, I see no reason to get the latest and greatest if you won't be using the features and benefits these higher end models possess. Anything decent to get you taking pictures, and your set. Then next year when you've got a handle on exposure and composition, you can spring for the latest and greatest 5 ounce camera while everyone else is still lugging their 9 ounce outdated LX3's around ;)Dec 7, 2009 at 1:55 pm #1551179
The S90 is the lightest camera that will shot in raw mode. Raw means that you have access to the sensor data. There are programs on computers that are much more effective at dealing with noise, colors correction, applying the right amount of sharpening, etc that what the camera is going to do automatically with it's tiny internal computer. You can think of shooting raw as having access to the darkroom and development process where shooting JPG basically results in your pictures being developed by a mini-lab in your local drugstore.
S90 + out of camera raw processing is significantly better than any of the 5oz P&S that do in camera JPG processing. The S90 using the in camera JPG (is still noticeably better than any of the subcompacts I have looked at. You get get a slight sense of this using the IR Comparometer.
I typically shoot Raw + in camera Large JPG. Raw gets archived and I process the specific pictures I care about. JPG gets dumped onto facebook or other websites when I am more interested in getting basic images out quickly with minimal hassle.
–MarkDec 7, 2009 at 4:34 pm #1551246
As usual it is difficult to recommend something not knowing what you expect, as in what is "acceptable quality" to you.
One that I would look at in the 50z range is the Canon SD 980. This one has a nice 24mm to 120mm lens. Or the lighter again Canon SD940IS (28mm-112mm)
Another could be the Pana FX 65, 25mm-125mm.
( I am particularly fond of the wide angle end of the zoom and Panasonic…)
Note that the lighter cameras have a smaller sensor, so image quality will suffer but again many are happy with that.
If you can go to a store you intend to buy from and take some pics with your own SD card and have them printed there or view them at home, buy a USB reader for that . (very cheap and useful later on)
FrancoDec 7, 2009 at 5:58 pm #1551280
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
> programs on computers that are much more effective at dealing with noise,
> colors correction, applying the right amount of sharpening, etc that
> what the camera is going to do automatically with it's tiny internal computer.
Not sure that 'tiny' is the word I would have used for chips such as Digic III etc. They are custom image-processing chips of huge power.
Granted that starting with RAW lets you do your own thing, but whether the end results are much better than the best JPG format is very open to debate.
CheersDec 7, 2009 at 6:51 pm #1551305
I agree with Roger.
When I was working at the photo shop most of the employees were keen amateur photographers, several worked part time doing weddings, mag work and other pro stuff. Most only used RAW when experimenting or comparing cameras not when shooting "normal" stuff.
In fact every so often we used to get customers in disappointed by their "raw" files, particularly when they found out that standard labs don't print them.
A good discussion about that here
or start here…
FrancoDec 7, 2009 at 7:35 pm #1551334
> whether the end results are much better than the best JPG format is very open to debate.
Good point. When n I step back and think, I realize that working with the raw images hasn't been that essential for most of my backpacking images. It's more an issue when doing indoors available light where I am push the sensor to it's limit and where the lighting is really funky.
–MarkDec 7, 2009 at 7:36 pm #1551336
What are the zoom capabilities of cameras like the S90 and the LX3?
I always see really cool pictures of insects or tiny flowers that people zoom in on and I think it would be cool to have that kind of zoom capability. Would I be able to get an up close shot of an insect with these cameras or are they mainly only good for landscape shots?
-SidDec 7, 2009 at 8:30 pm #1551359
@halfturboLocale: Northernish California
You might be mixing zoom with macro. Macro is the ability to capture near subjects at close to or equal their full size.
The specs are difficult to ascertain and compare in small digicams. Here's a brief macro primer:
The LX3 does well, but its highest magnification is at the zoom's wide end at 1 cm from the lens, which is quite close. It's challenging to not shadow my subject. The reproduction ratio seems to be about 1:4 or so. By comparison, I have a macro lens for my slr that reproduces a true 1:1 ratio.
Put more simply, with the LX3 a 1-inch flower will more than fill the frame from the closest focusing distance. I'm accumulated a big collection of wildflower photos with it. But it is easier to do this with a camera that has its macro designed at the tele end of the zoom.
RickDec 7, 2009 at 8:39 pm #1551364
All of these cameras have some sort of "macro" capability. Usually if you check the specs it will tell you the minimum focusing distance. Keep in mind that closer is not necessarily better as that does not tell you the image size you will cover, also to avoid problems with shadows the same magnification from a further distance can be beneficial.
You could start by taking advantage of the Image Resource Comparometer suggested by Mark
(click on the blue IR comparometer link…)
Just read Mark's comment as I was going to post this..
You could also Google "Panasonic LX3 macro" or whatever camera you are now looking at.
FrancoDec 7, 2009 at 8:48 pm #1551371
I'm a pro photographer, and it may sound like blasphemy, but most beginners and even advanced hobbiest tend to over think these camera choices. I was having one of these discussions with a fellow pro recently, and while having the right tool for the job in necessary, the most demanding use most of these cameras will get is to pull from a backpack and shoot landscapes that may be printed up to 8×10 but will normally be used on the web. For those purposes just about all of the good quality (Canon, Nikon, Sony, etc.) point & shoots made in the last 5 years will meet your needs. Here's an example of the Magazine Photographer of the Year 2005 using a P&S in Iraq to win the awards. http://www.robgalbraith.com/bins/multi_page.asp?cid=7-6468-7844 . Nearly every P&S made today will be as, if not more capable, than his Olympus 5050s. Technical image quality is the least of my concerns with modern gear.
There are certainly advantages to taking control of your own images with manual settings, raw, etc. but for many, these advantages are off set by the learning curve when CONTENT IS KING and time is of the essence. A well composed image shot on a cheap cell phone sensor trumps a poorly shot D3 image any day. My advice to beginners is to get a camera that you like the handling characteristics of and go make A LOT of images. Learn what you like and what weakness you need to over come. By then, you'll have a lot better idea of your particular needs and everyone works differently.
Good Shootin', JLeeDec 8, 2009 at 2:42 am #1551442
@dirk9827Locale: Pacific Northwest
Technique and a firm understanding of composition will take you much further than will a fancy camera. As you learn and practice your photographs will improve in terms of quality and consistency. James offers sage advice….
DirkDec 8, 2009 at 8:05 am #1551489
@backpackerchickLocale: Planet Earth
Using it for the first time on a trip. It's not really a pocket camera. I try to shove it in the pocket of my pack belt but the settings get changed and the lens cap falls off. It has a couple of big dents in the body already. My DSLR is a lot more robust than this and a lot easier to use. I love the wide angle :) I wouldn't recommend it as a first camera — too much hassle.
I have a canon powershot D10. Idiot proof, bullet proof, weather proof. Can work controls with mittens :)
As for adequate photo quality, it all depends what you intend to do with your pictures. Post them on the internet? Or blow them up into wall pictures.
Also to consider…what program you will use for editing. Will it accept RAW (if this is your intention) from the brand in question? Currently (as of a month or so ago), iPhoto and Aperture won't accept RAW from my LX3. (Just an example.)
Check out the dpreview videos. I love that guy! Watch them for a bunch of cameras…high yield.
Disclosure: I am very much a novice!
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