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Author Topic: Pocket Camera Recommendations  (Read 43564 times)
Jonathan Wienke
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« on: March 18, 2006, 11:35:04 AM »
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As many of you know, I joined the US Army back in January, and while I love my 1Ds and 1D-MkII DSLRs and the accompanying collection of L glass, there are times when they are simply too much to carry with regard to weight or bulk. So I'm looking for a compact camera with the following characteristics:

Must Have:
Size small enought to fit in a pocket without making a prominent bulge or lump. This disqualifies most of the SLR-styled fixed-lens cameras.

Manual, aperture priority, and shutter priority modes.

5-8 decent quality megapixels.

Sturdy build.

Highly Desirable:
RAW capture. This obviates most color and white balance problems, as they can be handled by the RAW converter and not the camera.

Compact Flash or SD/MMC memory card.

Wide zoom range lens with minimal aberrations.

Compatibility with accessories I already own (flashes, batteries, etc), mostly Canon stuff.

Responsive autofocus and handling (minimal shutter lag, fast shooting rate, etc).

Decent high-ISO capability. Yeah, I know a pocket camera isn't going to be in the same league as the 1D-MkII at ISO 800, but I'd like something at least near the top of the market segment.

Decent dynamic range capability.


I intend to use it to shoot a variety of subject matter (action and low-light stuff especially) when I'm out in the field or in circumstances where carrying a full DSLR kit is impractical or inadvisable or forbidden. I know I can't have 1D-MkII + L glass collection capability in a pocket sized package, but I'd like to get as much as possible. Any suggestions?
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bob mccarthy
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« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2006, 01:54:50 PM »
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Sounds like your doing well in your new profession. Congrat's.

I have gone through the same exercise. All the P&S have small noisy chips, better ones are the Oly, which I ended buying for my wife. 6070 (or something like that). For all its faults, DP Review does a good job of testing cameras, I'd look around there.

For me, I ended up using a film camera. Old M-2 taken out of mothballs. At the 5-6 mpxl range film and digital are close enough. Down side is time and processing.

Costly side is the Epson rangefinder. Lots of new and used lenses to play with. If they ever get a higher density chip, Id be tempted to reretire the M-2.

I really don't think there is a perfect solution yet.

Bob
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61Dynamic
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« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2006, 01:58:47 PM »
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Talk about timing. I'm on the hunt for the same thing and my requirements are in line with yours.

I'm still in the middle of my research but I am leaning toward the Panasonic LX1. The one thing that is a drawback on that camera though is the lens ring. It adds almost a half-inch to the thickness which would create a bulge (I will be making a trip to LA to play with the cameras in person soon). I'd prefer a camera that is completely flat (such as the Nikon S5) but have not been impressed with what is available and Sony is definitely out of the question for me.
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DarkPenguin
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« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2006, 02:08:11 PM »
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Take a look at the Fuji F30.  I think it has more of the F11's manual controls and it is supposed to be better at high ISO than the F10/F11.
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framah
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« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2006, 04:18:58 PM »
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I got a Canon G6 Power shot for just what you mentioned. It is a 7.1 mp and raw and most of what I am used to on my bigger Canons. Takes the same battery as my 10D,  uses CF card. Not sure what is Canons next generation of this camera but you might actually find it still being sold.
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Pelao
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« Reply #5 on: March 19, 2006, 08:43:09 AM »
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I too am on this search. The only camera that meets most of the criteria is the Panasonic LX 1.

In some reviews it receives a hammering for high noise, but I will shoot RAW and can take care of that in processing. I seem to remember there was a LL article about this camera somewhere.

The lens does bulge a bit, but overly much and the camera is remarkably small and controls seem easy to use, requiring minimal menu scrolling etc. I feel this latter is important because if you do most of your shootong with an SLR you will be used to swift changes to settings. Having to run through several slow steps to make changes will alter your shooting style.

The Canon S70 is another contender. It has been replaced by the S80, but the new one does not shoot RAW!!! The S70 reviews are all great, and it's a really solid camera. There are still S70's available.
« Last Edit: March 19, 2006, 08:43:36 AM by Pelao » Logged
DaveLon
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« Reply #6 on: March 19, 2006, 09:13:09 AM »
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Quote
The Canon S70 is another contender. It has been replaced by the S80, but the new one does not shoot RAW!!! The S70 reviews are all great, and it's a really solid camera. There are still S70's available.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=60616\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I managed to find a new S70 some months ago (On sale at Henry's in Toronto, Canada) and it does more than a good enough job, shoots RAW and uses CF cards and the 350D battery so works for me.

Dave S
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John Camp
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« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2006, 12:30:07 PM »
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The camera you're looking for has been widely discussed on a lot of forums, but does not yet exist AFIK.

The problems are several: you can get most of it, if you accept bulk -- especially a protruding lens. If you can't have bulk, then you can't have some of the other stuff. Somebody mentioned the Epson R-D1, which I have, and it's too big; bigger, with lens attached, than a digital Rebel. So here are three suggestions:

1. Carry a digital Rebel with a body cap, and one of your zooms separately. That'll give you everything you need, if you can find a place to stash the lens.

2. A Pentax Optio 750z. A terrific little camera with a optical view finder, a live twistable LCD (which could be handy in the Army) a 5x zoom and a 7mp chip. The lens retracts, so it's got a flat form, but it is a couple of inches thick. Downside: doesn't do RAW. Does TIFF and a variety of .jpgs.

3. Do what somebody else suggested, and get a 35mm film camera and print out a bunch of order forms from Dwayne's. Shoot it, drop it in the mail, order the Photo CDs with it. You can still push color film to 3200 with less grain than you'll get from small chips at anything close to that speed; and at the other end, a good Canon point'n'shoot film camera loaded with Kodachrome will will match your small-chip slow-speed stuff. And 35mm Canon p&s's are cheap and reliable. Downside: film and x-ray machines if you're going to be traveling a lot.
 
Bottom line: If I were you, I'd look at the Pentax

JC
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John Camp
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« Reply #8 on: March 19, 2006, 12:34:52 PM »
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Here's a follow-up comment. Do you expect to go to Iraq? If you do, I've shot quite a bit in the deserts of Israel and Jordan (and a bit in Egypt) and there are some things that you *don't* want to do there -- like rely too much on a Pentax-style retracting lens. Too much blowing dust and sand. You need a kit that you can thoroughly clean. In that case, a fixed, sealed, unmoving lens would be a benefit.

JC
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61Dynamic
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« Reply #9 on: March 19, 2006, 02:48:04 PM »
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Quote
I got a Canon G6 Power shot for just what you mentioned. It is a 7.1 mp and raw and most of what I am used to on my bigger Canons. Takes the same battery as my 10D,  uses CF card. Not sure what is Canons next generation of this camera but you might actually find it still being sold.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=60598\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
The G6 is the last in the series and no more G cameras will be made.
Quote
The Canon S70 is another contender. It has been replaced by the S80, but the new one does not shoot RAW!!! The S70 reviews are all great, and it's a really solid camera. There are still S70's available.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=60616\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
For me, the S70 is too thick. When I say pocket camera, it really needs to fit in a pocket without causing a bulge. Otherwise I will never take it anywhere and the whole point in the camera will be defeated. 1" thick or less. I have a cell phone that is 1" thick and it is enough of a PITA to carry around with me. I don't need a camera that will be thicker than that is.

The problem is that no such camera matches that requirement and provides a decent image that I've seen so far. Either the image quality is poor, performance is lackluster or it lacks manual control or (more often than not) it's too pricey for what it is. Shooting raw is not a concern in this case, just a bonus. The LX1 seems to be the best compromise all around but I'd prefer one completely flat.
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #10 on: March 19, 2006, 04:28:56 PM »
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Hi Jonathan,

You might want to check the Rob Galbraith forum dedicated to compact cameras used by pros. You'll find a lot of insighful info there.

My view is also that your perfect camera is still being designed...  Among the existing offering, some potential contenders are:

- the Fuji F30 when it is released, if high ISO is a priority for you,
- the Fuji E900, unfortunately unavailable in Japan, but highly appreciate by those who have one,
- the Canon Ixus 800 IS (it was due out on March 16th but has been delayed one month). The first compact supposed to offer both optical IS and a reasonable quality at ISO 800 (although probably still far behind Fuji),
- the Ricohs, but high iso is also a dream here,
- the Panasonic LX1, although the amount of noise would probably be too high for you,
- if it were acceptable for you, then I would also consider the NikonP3/P4 that also have image stabilisation.

Shooting RAW with those that allow it appear to be a nightmare though, the save times are very long...

Regards,
Bernard
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A few images online here!
Lisa Nikodym
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« Reply #11 on: March 20, 2006, 01:04:55 AM »
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I went through this same thought process several months ago (with pretty much the same requirements), did my research, and decided that the best one would be the Fujifilm F30 coming out in May.  Check out its review on DPReview.  Its predecessor, the F10, has considerably less noise than anything else so small.

Lisa

P.S.  I'm on vacation in Japan right now, and checked out the Akihabara electronics stores in Tokyo to see if the F30 is out here yet.  Not yet.  Just the F11.
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HiltonP
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« Reply #12 on: March 20, 2006, 09:48:47 AM »
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Dare I suggest the SONY V3 . . . it has a slight software qwirk, but Jonathan's got the savvy to handle that easily enough. The pluses are its quality of lens, durability of construction, manual control features, speed of focus, and compact design.

Alternatively I'd be looking for a CANON S70 . . . I've only heard good reports about it, and Canon's newer, replacement models don't appear to offer the same level of performance (and lack RAW support).

Seen some pretty amazing pics coming from the CANON A620 as well . . .
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Regards, HILTON
Paulo Bizarro
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« Reply #13 on: March 22, 2006, 12:51:57 AM »
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I have settled on the LX1 for now. Michael's experience with it convinced me that this was a camera that would fit my needs. Which are mostly for taking pictures of travel and landscapes.

I am impressed by the control offered by the camera, it reminds me of the Leica CM, lots of ueful and intuitive options. With the OIS, I have never felt the need to go above ISO 200, and the noise is there, but cleans up nicely, if you shoot RAW. The lens is nice too.

One other option I did consider was the Ricoh GRD, but the Panasonic, with the good zoom lens, and the OIS, was better for me.

Today, I would give a new Fuji F30 a try, but it still does not have image stabilization, and it does not record RAW files, so...
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Steve West
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« Reply #14 on: March 22, 2006, 08:09:57 PM »
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I'll second the Fuji recommendation.  I have an F10 (no manual controls though), and its ISO 400/800 are quite excellent.  The F11 would have manual controls, and I believe that the F30 will have them too.  I'm not sure you can get an F11 with a US warranty, so you might have to wait for an F30.  

Anyway, the F10 has excellent build quality, and a really nice [metal] built-in shutter for protecting the glass that automatically closes and works perfectly (unlike the Canon A series shutter protectors which are intermittent).

The Fuji E900 would have manual controls and would be well worth a look though it might be a shade too large.

Of course, for your situation, you might want to consider some of the weather resistant cameras like the Oly Stylus cameras.  Don;t know about their high ISO performance though.

JMHO,

Steve W
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Lin Evans
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« Reply #15 on: March 23, 2006, 11:54:38 PM »
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If you give up the CF/SD media, you might want to have a look at the Sony DSC-T9.

Tiny shirt pocket size, huge LCD, optical image stabilization, six megapixels, 3x optical zoom, excellent movie mode limited only by storage, excellent higher ISO to ISO 640 (even ISO 640 images are quite usable), 58 meg internal memory plus uses Memory Stick to 2 gigabytes, excellent images....  Very nice package...

Downside: doesn't use CF or SD, flash is fairly weak as with most tiny digicams.

Here's a link to review:

http://www.steves-digicams.com/2005_reviews/t9.html

Lin
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #16 on: March 25, 2006, 10:36:54 AM »
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I'd like to thank everyone for their suggestions; I'll start looking into the suggestions mentioned here. Yes there is a definite possibility I may go to Iraq or Afghanistan, so ruggedness and the ability to thrive in hot and dusty conditions is a definite plus.

Update: The Olympus SP-310 and SP-320 appear to be serious contenders as well, with good build quality, RAW capture, surprisingly good ISO 400 performance (for a digicam at least), a decent lens, manual, aperture priority, and shutter priority modes, and a price around $300. The main downside appears to be that the camera locks up for about 9 seconds after shooting a RAW frame due to the puny buffer size.
« Last Edit: March 25, 2006, 11:45:43 AM by Jonathan Wienke » Logged

jd1566
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« Reply #17 on: March 29, 2006, 07:43:38 AM »
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Compact high performance camera.  It seems that camera manufacturers have overlooked this niche market.. and are only now really coming out with semi-decent models.  However I think to have something that is close to perfect will require a wait.. Photokina perhaps?

Too many cameras that pretend to be part of this segment have one or other item missing, like real wide angle 28mm (without an add-on lens), Raw capture, a rechargeable battery etc.  Canon even went backwards with their S80 upgrade, taking out a few things that were in the S70.  The G series (which offered everything except a small size) is dead.  What's left?  I think this niche will be filled by the likes of Panasonic, Sony and Casio which all have reasonable pocketable cameras, that just need to become faster or have Raw capture incorporated.

Another thing... while I was searching for a similar type camera I noticed something.. that Raw file sizes vary greatly between manufacturers, going from Canon with the smallest Raw size to the likes of Fuji with the largest.  Not all Raw files are the same...
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B&W photographer - Still lifes, Portraits, Urban scenes, Landscapes, Abstract images.
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« Reply #18 on: March 29, 2006, 10:43:09 AM »
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I use a Leica D-LUX 2 for a my pocket camera, thin, small, and light but also has an excellent build and feel, plus the image quality packs a punch with 8.4 MP and optical image stabilizer with a 2.5 inch LCD screen. My favorite part of this camera is that I can choose different ratio formats 16:9; 3:2; 4:3

The downside is the cost of the Leica name but for a pocket camera the build quality is top notch which is a large advantage for what you are doing
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rethmeier
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« Reply #19 on: March 29, 2006, 06:33:20 PM »
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The LX-1 and the Leica are identical!
Same factory,you only pay another $400 for the Leica badge!
I've just received a black LX-1 and I love it.
Cheers,
Willem.
N.B I find it almost to small!
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Willem Rethmeier
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Sydney Australia
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