Apr 24, 2013 at 10:54 am #1302132
I posted a while back asking for recommendations for a compact camera. I got some good responses and at the time thought I was leaning towards an LX5 or S100 but have realized in the interim that I'm probably not going to be satisfied with either of those options. We have two D300's so I've decided that I'm going to sell mine to get something more compact but not give up much image quality. My budget is probably going to be $500-$600. I've waffled on where to ask the question but since this camera will be used for backpacking trips figured BPL was the place to get the most relevant answer. On the trail I mostly take pictures of the people I'm with in the context of the surroundings and details like flowers, signs, etc. I'm not much into wide vistas or wildlife. I mostly stick to the slightly wide to normal focal lengths.
My preference would be for something with a viewfinder and at least one dial and a couple of assignable function buttons. After checking used prices it looks like the X100 might be in my price range. I love the styling, controls, and it sounds like it would be a step forward in high-ISO performance from my D300. Admittedly,most of my photos are at base ISO but being able to get decent pictures around the campfire is a plus. I could get along with a 35mm-e lens and being f2 would be great as I like to be able to limit DOF. The close-focus capabilities are nice too.
Another option I've looked at is a newer Micro Four Thirds with the 20/1.7. I had a G3 previously and at base ISO it was fantastic but if I shot over ISO 400 fine details like leaves and grass looked smeary. Maybe it was the kit lens or I had some NR setting wrong but it bothered me and I sold it. I liked how it handled though and enjoyed the EVF. I never tried the 20/1.7, just the kits lens and adapter Nikkors. I see that the GX1 and G5 have essentially the same sensor as the G3 which doesn't give me much confidence but I'll admit my problems could have just been user error. The Olympus EPL5 reputedly has the same sensor as the OM-D which I like but the lack of buttons worries me. With the GX1 or EPL5 I like the idea of using a optical finder in the hotshoe for composition rather than an accessory EVF. I find quirky things like that appealing.
I've given a passing glance at the Sony RX100 but I'm not positive I'd like such a small sensor. I could maybe grow to be comfortable with the lack of external controls or VF and from what I've seen the image quality is very, very good. I'm not so sure about the limitations of the small sensor on DOF though, while I certainly don't use it for every shot I'm not sure its a tool I want to give up for the sake of less weight and bulk in my pack. Even if I'm not going out specifically to make "serious" photographs I don't want to be hobbled by the camera if something interesting presents itself.
So has anyone here moved from carrying a DSLR to a "serious compact" and what did you end up with?
AdamApr 24, 2013 at 11:04 am #1980086
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
"So has anyone here moved from carrying a DSLR to a "serious compact" and what did you end up with?"
Everybody has a different idea of what a serious compact is.
I've always used standard DSLR cameras from Canon, and I do mostly wildlife shooting, although often wildflowers and scenic panoramas get in my way during a backpack trip. Two years ago I got a Canon SX30IS. It is much smaller and lighter than anything I had been using, but it still had a zoom lens that went out past 800mm effective focal length, so it still covered wildlife. The one fault with it is that it shoots only JPEG format, and there are lots of limitations with JPEG.
I doubt that I would ever purchase another camera unless it can shoot RAW images.
–B.G.–Apr 24, 2013 at 11:42 am #1980096
–Everybody has a different idea of what a serious compact is.–
Good point. To be more specific, I'm looking for something with a 1" or larger sensor. I don't need much zoom range. Most of my shots now are with a 24mm lens or a 17-50mm. As I said in the original post, the people I'm with and the details are what I'll be taking pictures of, not animals 300 yards away. Since I'm not shooting with long lens I'd like fast glass and a larger sensor to get the subject isolation that I like. I want RAW capability but that hasn't been an issue for any of the cameras I've looked at.
AdamApr 24, 2013 at 1:50 pm #1980152
Clint NewittBPL Member
The Panny GX1 might be worth a look. It is a micro 4/3 with overall positive reviews, particularly along the lines of keeping good IQ without carrying a large DSLR. It does lack a built-in EVF but does have an accessory EVF available. It's currently available for $260 on amazon and there is a 20mm/1.7 lens for $336.Apr 24, 2013 at 3:44 pm #1980193
Nico .BPL Member
@nickbLocale: Los Padres National Forest
Not sure if its compact enough for you, but the Sony NEX series cameras are great little cameras in a relatively small package (as compared to a full size dslr). ~16MP APS-C sensor, good high iso performance, raw capabilities, hd video, etc. Some versions are available with integrated EVFs if that's important to you. You could mate it with something like the 16-50mm kit lens and/or pick up a couple of faster pancake lenses at reasonable prices (Sigma 19mm and 30mm f2.8 lenses can be had for about $150 or less ea).
I've played around briefly with a RX100 and was pretty impressed with all the capabilities and quality Sony was able to fit into such a small, compact package. If I were flush with cash, I'd consider picking up a RX100 as an everyday carry sorta' camera.
Those Fuji X100's also look like great cameras although I have yet to get my hands on one. Just seen what others have been doing with them. Their styling is pretty cool too.
I looked at some of the Panasonic and Olympus m4/3 offerings a while back. I'm not up to date on their models, etc. but they seem to also offer some nice options and have a killer selection of high quality lenses to pick from if you wanted to go that route.Apr 24, 2013 at 6:34 pm #1980244
Hmm… the NEX 5n looks to be in my price range. I think the image quality with that would be what I'm looking for and with one of the Sigma primes it should be much more compact and lighter than my D300. I think it definite warrants a little more research on my part. I like that its got two control wheels and a larger sensor but I'm not so sure about the lack of viewfinder. I know its an option but not one I'll be able to afford right away. Thanks for mentioning it Nico!
AdamApr 24, 2013 at 6:51 pm #1980248
@ken_bennettLocale: southeastern usa
I use Canon cameras at work – a mix of 5D Mark II and 1D Mark IV bodies – but I don't really want to haul those things for personal use or on the trail. So over the years I tried all sorts of "high end" compacts with mixed (but usually poor) results.
Now we're pretty invested in the Micro 4/3 system. I bought a GF1 three years ago, with the 20/1.7, and it was a revelation. We followed that with a G1 and a couple of zooms for my wife, then a GH2 for me, and recently a G5 for her, along with several good primes and now the Panasonic 12-35/2.8 zoom (which is a 24-70/2.8 equivalent with IS. Pretty sweet.) Still trying to find cash for the 7-14/4 and the Olympus 75/1.8. Also, we'll need another 12-35/2.8 since my lovely wife used it once then spot-welded it to her G5 ;-) Don't think I'm getting it back.
We use these for personal work, travel, and sometimes I use one as a carry-around camera at work.
Image quality: good, but not as good as the big Canon cameras of course. The GH2 and the G5 are very similar, with decent results at ISO 3200. I shoot a lot of indoor low-light photos of friends at local music nights, and the files are good (shooting raw and processing in Lightroom.) The Olympus OM-D is a big step up in image quality (and I'd like to find the cash for a pair of those to replace my current cameras.) See the Thom Hogan review for example. (http://www.sansmirror.com/cameras/a-note-about-camera-reviews/olympus-camera-reviews/olympus-om-d-e-m5-review.html)
Depth of field: of course the shorter focal length provides less control over shallow DOF. The fast primes help, and in some ways it works better than using a full frame camera — shooting at f/1.7 with the 20mm, or f/1.8 with the 45mm, provides just the right amount of in focus area for a portrait — more than the "one eyelash in sharp focus" that I get with the 85/1.2 on the Canon — but with the creamy smooth out of focus areas that I want behind the subject.
Lenses: the best selection for compact interchangeable lens cameras, period. Zooms ranging from kit lenses to mid-range to professional quality – that Panny 12-35 doesn't feel, handle, or shoot any worse than my new Canon 24-70/2.8, and the Panny has IS which the Canon does not. Excellent choices in primes, too, from the Sigma f/2.8 primes that run $200 each, to the mid range Panny 14/2.5 and 20/1.7 and the Olympus 45/1.8, to the excellent Oly 12/2, 17/1.8, 75/1.8, and the Pana/Leica 25/1.4. Panny has announced a 150/2.8 to arrive next year.
All of these cameras and lenses are less than half the size and weight of my Canon gear. This, to me, is the best part — I can carry a small Domke bag with 2 bodies and 4-6 lenses, and barely feel the weight on my shoulder, but still get the photos that I want.
Recommendation: the Olympus OM-D EM-5 and the Oly 17/1.8, or the Panny 20/1.7. This provides a (FF) 35mm or 40mm equivalent FOV in a very light, compact, fast package with excellent image quality.
My daydream right now is to have a pair of OM-D bodies and the appropriate lenses and use them at work — I can easily cover 80% of my assignments with that kit, and I'm getting to the point where humping big cameras all day is getting awfully old.
Oh, yeah, and to relate this to backpacking: I carry either the GF1 with the 20, or the GH2 with the 12-35 for a trail camera, depending on the situation. Light, compact, easy to carry, not UL but so what. Tried carrying the 5D Mark II and the 24-105 on a weekend hike last summer – ugh. Big difference with the small cameras.Apr 25, 2013 at 5:04 am #1980344
If only I could afford the OM-D, I played with one for a few minutes and I think it would be ideal but its just too far out of my budget.
I think I've got it narrowed down to a MFT+20mm or NEX+one of the Sigma primes. The NEX 5n/5r look to be within my price range and produce very nice results. Focus peaking would be nice if I put some of my manual focus lenses on it too. I'm still not sure about not having a viewfinder because realistically the optional EVF isn't in the budget either. On the MFT side, the lenses are definitely smaller and there's more that are appealing to me. The grip on the G5 looks like a nice addition and of course it has the VF I'm so hung up on. A guy I work with just got one so I'm hoping to get some hands-on time with it in the near future. I've pretty much ruled the X100 and RX100 out unless I find screaming deals on one of them. The X100 because long term I don't think I'll like being stuck with one focal length (and not my favorite TBH) and the RX100 because of the price.
AdamApr 25, 2013 at 6:32 am #1980363
Eric BattyBPL Member
I have had a few weeks with the fuji x100s and I am continually being amazed by the images that are coming out of that camera. I was a little afraid of dropping that amount of cash on a fixed focal length but as of right now I am truly loving it's simplicity. I am coming from a 5dmII and other bigger heavy bodies and lenses. I had the Oly OMD for a few days and personally I just couldn't get into it. I know it is a stellar little rig that many people love, it just was not for me. I wouldn't rule out the fuji, there are some excellent deals on the x100 used and in great shape. The x100s is going to be my "go to" camera for awhile.Apr 25, 2013 at 6:46 am #1980364
@ken_bennettLocale: southeastern usa
Right, sorry, I overlooked your budget.
My wife's G5 is quite good. We got it as an open box "like new" from Amazon for $400. The 20/1.7 is sometimes available used for a decent price.
My preference for the G and GH series cameras, and the OMD, is because I prefer a built in eye-level viewfinder. I don't like holding the camera at arm's length to shoot.May 31, 2013 at 8:58 am #1991739
One more you might want to check out if you have not already gotten a camera yet is the Nikon V1
It is fairly small/compact
Has a nice built in EVF
Gives good pictures as long as you are not pixel peeping
Has smaller lenses then even the M43 cameras
with an adapter you can use all of your Nikon AF-S lenses with center point focus
I have one and am very happy with the results i get with it. Also nice in that you can find some very nice deals on them
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