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Author Topic: Advice for pocketable but capable camera?  (Read 10515 times)
danmansandiego
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« on: December 04, 2011, 09:12:15 AM »
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Greetings,
I am new to this site but found a couple of great reviews by Michael on some cameras I am researching--specifically saw his reviews on the Fuji X-10 and really appreciate the perspective of this site.  Since I am new, I apologize in advance if I am posting in the wrong area or transgressing forum rules--I really would appreciate some advice from some folk who have been down this road and have suggestions.

I have a fair bit of experience with photography--used to do occasional photojournalism and wedding photography-- but sold my darkroom and packed away my previous camera tools (don't think I can sell my 80s vintage Canon A1 or Pentax 645 so I'll keep it and use occasionally). I've had some point and shoots that did OK for snapshots, but I'm getting the yen to get serious and get back into photography as an art. I especially want to do candid, unobtrusive street level type of photography. 

I always carried a travel camera in the day--a Canonet rangefinder or my favorite--the Rollei 35 mini (I rue the day I left my fanny pack unattended momentarily and lost it). I purchased a Canon 5D Mark II for my employer--and it's amazing. I will likely buy a Rebel T3i for my personal DSLR use and build up a good kit with that. However, I won't be willing to carry that gear many times and will always want something that will be pocketable and able to produce good results.  I particularly want something that excels in low light.  I thought I had decided on the new Canon S100--but then I saw the review on the Fuji X-10 and it looks good--especially with the low light capability and viewfinder--but pretty expensive. I like the Canon G12 but the lens is a bit slower and it doesn't do full HD video--which I really want for the type of shooting I plan to do.  I considered the Olympus Pen and the other 4/3rd type cameras, but they aren't pocketable so they are just smaller DSLRs from my viewpoint. 

I really want something that is fast--1.8 or 2.0 for low light shooting and shallow DOF potential, full HD and full manual controls as well as useful scene modes or low light modes.  Am I on the right track with the S100?  Will the lack of the viewfinder and pitiful battery performance make me regret it.  Have any of you been down that path and have any advice for the best capable camera when I leave the DSLRs at home?

Thanks in advance for any suggestions.
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RichDesmond
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« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2011, 11:51:05 AM »
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I'm in the market for basically the same thing (except video is not a priority), and my research is pointing me to the micro four thirds format in general and the new Panasonic GX1 in particular.
There's a thread here about it http://www.luminous-landscape.com/forum/index.php?topic=59528.0 and of course a google search will turn up tons of info
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2011, 03:35:49 PM »
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A few comments:

- Having used an S90 extensively, you can basically forget about limited DoF with these compacts, even at f2, except for macro like shots,
- You need to understand what kind of control you really need to have on your camera once you have given up on controlling DoF, my personal answer is "none - I use the camera in A mode at max possible aperture 100% of the time with Auto ISO activated",
- You need to understand whether manual focus really has value when most of the image will appear sharp anyway, my personal answer is "easily accessible manual focus has little value in a compact camera but blurred images are a no go, I want a blazzing fast AF that simply gets the shot even on moving subjects and dark places",
- You need to understand what focal range you really need, are you going to shoot widish or longish? - my personal answer is "please don't ask me to decide this in advance, I need both",
- Is jpeg an option? My personal answer is "no, I need raw".

I believe that another camera you might want to look at if your needs are similar to mine is the Nikon J1.

Cheers,
Bernard
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stever
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« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2011, 04:52:27 PM »
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i have been collecting data and reading reviews of "almost pocketable" cameras for some time and have finally ordered an X10.  it is primarily to replace an s90 which i find a) pretty useless for anything that moves, b) too noisy at high ISO, c) lcd useless as a viewfinder in bright light, d) annoyingly fiddly controls that lead to frequent incorrect settings.  i agree with Bernard's comments on depth of field and focus

dcresource.com has just put up an s100 review.  looks like the s100 has one stop better noise than the s90/95 which is still a stop short of what i think is a minimum (and the lens is pretty slow at most focal lengths)

my problem with the interchangeable lens cameras are
   - the GX1 and Olympuses with the Pany X compact zoom are the only reasonably pocketable zoom choices and don't have a built in viewfinder and come up a bit short on high ISO noise (particularly with small aperture zoom)
   - the Nikon V1 and Sony NEX 7 have viewfinders but bulky lenses, particularly the NEX 7
   - all of the interchangeable lens cameras become systems of not inconsequental cost if you take advantage of the flexibility of interchangeable lenses and have to add an accessory viewfinder

i don,t want to invest in a mirrorless interchangeable system until the combination of features - including IQ - will persuade me to leave the 5D2 behind some of the time
 
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k bennett
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« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2011, 05:19:17 PM »
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   - all of the interchangeable lens cameras become systems of not inconsequental cost if you take advantage of the flexibility of interchangeable lenses and have to add an accessory viewfinder


This is quite true. I loved my GF1 with the 20mm lens, so I added a 14mm, then a 45mm, then a GH2 and the 14-42 (said zoom has never been used -- anyone interested?), now I want the 7-14 and the 100-300. Heh, what I really loved about the GF1/20 was the simplicity - oh well.

But what I have gained is a useful little system for travel and personal work, and even some professional work when I want to travel light. My Canon 40D bodies stay in the locker all the time now, as the little Pannys are good enough for almost anything I would do with the older Canons. At work I use the EOS-1 cameras, for everything else the Panasonic. When I do want the simplicity back, there is nothing wrong with grabbing the GF1, the 20, and the 14, and going for a walk.
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feppe
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« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2011, 05:49:35 PM »
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For shallow DOF and low light performance I wouldn't consider any sensor smaller than Micro Four Thirds. That leaves out all compacts, and some interchangeable lens cameras (including Nikon J1/V1).

Your best bet is either latest top of the line MFT cameras from Panasonic, or Sony's mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. MFT cameras are smaller, have significantly smaller and lighter lenses, have a much wider and better lens selection, including fast native lenses. Sony has a larger sensor, better IQ, and better low-light performance.

Smallest MFT cameras from Panasonic and Olympus are definitely pocketable with a pancake prime lens - but requires a jacket pocket. All of them (and the Sonys) meet your list of requirements, so it's mostly a matter of lens selection, UI and size/bulk/weight preferences.

FWIW I moved from DSLRs to MFT one and a half years ago, and haven't looked back. I don't miss viewfinders, although some do. Some MFT and Sony cameras have one.
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2011, 06:23:28 PM »
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For shallow DOF and low light performance I wouldn't consider any sensor smaller than Micro Four Thirds. That leaves out all compacts, and some interchangeable lens cameras (including Nikon J1/V1).

Frankly, if shallow DoF really is important, then the NEX is the only game in town.

The 4/3 and 1 series are very close in real life shooting.

But then again, this has to be considered in the context of a full camera line up, what else do you own and what are you going to use for what purpose?

Cheers,
Bernard
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feppe
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« Reply #7 on: December 04, 2011, 07:32:16 PM »
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Quote from: BernardLanguillier lin3k=topic=59994.msg483722#msg483722 date=1323044608
Frankly, if shallow DoF really is important, then the NEX is the only game in town.

The 4/3 and 1 series are very close in real life shooting.

Below Konica Hexanon 57mm f/1.4 wide open on Olympus E-PL1 - show me a Nikon 1-series shot with similar DOF. Snapshot with manual focus which is OOF, but gives an idea of how shallow DOF it really has. If that's not enough, there's a f/1.2 Hexanon, and a few even faster lenses around similar focal length. This is as shallow DOF as I'd be comfortable going with any camera system.

« Last Edit: December 04, 2011, 07:34:29 PM by feppe » Logged

Steve Weldon
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« Reply #8 on: December 04, 2011, 09:39:38 PM »
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I'll confess, I've got a shelf of small cameras obtained during my search for the holy grail.  So far I haven't found it.

I'll break this down into my top three I already own, and the top three I'd try on todays market:

Already Own


1.  Fuji F30/F31..  Superb small pocket camera way ahead of it's time.  I still grab it from time to time, but I often put it back on the shelf as it's one of my only cameras worth more used than I paid for it new.  It's a cult camera to some.

2.   Sony NEX-5 with the 18-55 and 16mm.  This is a smart APS-C sensor camera with decent lenses (the 16mm is far better than the 18-55) and an interface more suited to those coming from a PNS than a real camera.  I do like it, image quality is very good, shallow DOF is easy to obtain, but I'm not at all fond of using a LCD as a viewfinder.  Still, you can currently find them with one or both lenses on Amazon in the $400 range and that's hard to beat.  My wife loves it.  She picked it up one day and figured it was designed just for her.

3.  Fuji x100..  in my view the best 'overall' (for my uses) coat pocket size camera on the market today.  It's a photographers camera, does better at high ISO's than my Canon 5d2, has a superb 35mm (equiv) F2 non-detachable lens which is easy enough to obtain a shallow DOF with if you get real close to your subject.  The controls are SLR old style, aperture ring on the lens, shutter and EV dial on the top.  Metal dials.  Image quality is right up there with the best APC-S DSLR's.  It has a decent optical viewfinder you can switch to a really nice EVF with a flick of a lever and it does live view on the LCD as well.  I'm told it has some quirks, but so far for my uses my only complaint is the one I have with all these cameras.. a somewhat slow AF..  Oh, it's WB sensor and metering is second to none.   Either is the price..

New Cameras I'm thinking about owning

1.  Sony NEX-7 with the new lenses.  This solves, at least on paper, most of the drawbacks of the NEX-5.. and I really like that articulating LCD for waist level shooting.  I'm really interested in this camera.

2.  Canon S100.  It's a small truly pocketable camera with a decent F2 lens, very solid construction, and decent high ISO performance. 

3.  I'm tempted by the Ricoh GXR system.. but probably not enough to ever buy one.

Good luck.
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danmansandiego
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« Reply #9 on: December 04, 2011, 09:54:51 PM »
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Thanks Bernard and all for good, practical insight. I don't think I'll enter the MFT or similar market since I will use a DSLR and don't want multiple lens systems--I want something all-in-one that doesn't make me compromise everything:

- Having used an S90 extensively, you can basically forget about limited DoF with these compacts, even at f2, except for macro like shots,
- You need to understand what kind of control you really need to have on your camera once you have given up on controlling DoF, my personal answer is "none - I use the camera in A mode at max possible aperture 100% of the time with Auto ISO activated",

I'm good with that approach, I think.  My main desire is to take images that have story value. Fast, available light shooting is priority--not DoF control.

- You need to understand whether manual focus really has value when most of the image will appear sharp anyway, my personal answer is "easily accessible manual focus has little value in a compact camera but blurred images are a no go, I want a blazzing fast AF that simply gets the shot even on moving subjects and dark places",

Yup--that works too. I haven't seen that yet in P&S--though it's rumored in Canon S100.  Would I be able to manually prefocus a zone or my intended subject where the camera doesn't have a lag and will instantly shoot? That would be my main goal with manual focus.


- You need to understand what focal range you really need, are you going to shoot widish or longish? - my personal answer is "please don't ask me to decide this in advance, I need both",
- Is jpeg an option? My personal answer is "no, I need raw".

I will likely be satisfied with JPEG for a majority of shots, but will want the backup of raw to have more control and options.

Thanks so much
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danmansandiego
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« Reply #10 on: December 04, 2011, 09:57:42 PM »
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Since price is indeed a factor in my decision (and my wife foolishly thinks we need to save for a rainy day or pay our bills on time:) would it make sense to get a good buy on a Canon S95 as a decent all-around (but with limitations) P&S?  I think I'd like the S100 based on specs, but I can get a new S95 for half the cost of the S100.
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stever
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« Reply #11 on: December 04, 2011, 10:06:25 PM »
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forget shooting available light with an s95 - unless you always have lots of light available
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #12 on: December 05, 2011, 02:19:23 AM »
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Below Konica Hexanon 57mm f/1.4 wide open on Olympus E-PL1 - show me a Nikon 1-series shot with similar DOF. Snapshot with manual focus which is OOF, but gives an idea of how shallow DOF it really has. If that's not enough, there's a f/1.2 Hexanon, and a few even faster lenses around similar focal length. This is as shallow DOF as I'd be comfortable going with any camera system.

Yes, indeed.

Similar options will be available to 1 series shooters in 10 days with the Nikkor adapter, with the 35 f1.8 or 50 f1.8 but those lenses are a bit bulkier for sure.

Nikon is also rumored to release in 2012 dedicated longer lenses with 1.4 and 1.2 apertures, but this is not factual.

Cheers,
Bernard
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Paulo Bizarro
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« Reply #13 on: December 05, 2011, 04:28:28 AM »
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Well, there are so many options these days, it gives one a headache Smiley

I currently have the Olympus XZ1 as my small go everywhere camera. The lens is top quality, and fast, so I can stay below ISO 400, which together with RAW gives me very nice files. Olympus knows a thing or two about making fine lenses and good small cameras, so I am now tempted by the EP3 with the 17mm pancake.

Other than that, I am also tempted by the NEX7, with its fine sensor, true controls for photographers, and the high quality EVF. However, what this option is missing for me is a normal pancake lens, something between 35 and 50mm (the 16 translates to 24mm, too wide for me). Granted, there is a very good 30mm macro, which translates to 45mm, but it is only f/3.5, so...

The Ricoh GXR platform, could have a fantastic potential in the future. Ricoh have one the best ergonomics and functional modes, and after acquiring Pentax, what do you think of having the GXR with a Pentax module that could use the fantastic and small Pentax pancakes and Limited lenses?
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Paul Wright
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« Reply #14 on: December 12, 2011, 01:02:36 AM »
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If it's a true pocket camera that you are after, I have to say I'm gobsmacked by the very clever Canon S100.

It's smaller than my phone, yet comfortably holdable in my large hands.
IQ is surprising for a small sensor, dynamic range is beyond what I expected and it clears RAW files off to the card at an perfectly acceptable speed.
There are plenty of sample images out there to pixel peep if that's your thing.

Paul Wright
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torger
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« Reply #15 on: December 12, 2011, 05:26:19 AM »
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A few shallow DoF examples: Say you want to make a headshot. Focal length will not affect DoF in the face, because if you have longer focal length you need to stand farther away to get the same view of the head. This means that 200/2.8 will give you the same DoF as 85/2.8, since you'll stand 2 meters away with 200mm (assuming 135 system) and 85 cm with the 85mm. The perspective will differ a bit due to the different distances, but DoF in the face is the same.

Sensor size will affect shallow DoF though. If you reduce sensor size, the angle of view is reduced and you need to stand farther away to fit the head - and DoF increases.

f/2.8 on fullframe 135 = f/2 on APS-C = f/1.4 on micro 4/3. What you do mathematically to compare is to take the log2 of the squared crop factor and change the stops with that. f/1.0 on micro 4/3 (largest aperture available) thus yields the same look as f/2.0 on fullframe, if you'd want to have same look as fullframe 1.2 (for example an 85/1.2 lens) you would need f/0.5 on micro 4/3...

Nikon's CX format (V1) is 2.7x2.7 = 2^2.85 = 2.85 stops, almost 3 stops difference from fullframe, so f/2.8 lens will provide the same DoF look as f/7.1-f/8 on fullframe.

A compact like S95/S100 with 1/1.7" sensor with crop factor 4.55 yields 4.55x4.55 = 2^4.37, about 4 1/3 stops, so it's f/2.0 gives the same DoF look as f/9 on fullframe.

The conclusion is that if you like shallow DoF photography, compacts is not the way to go. I think even fullframe has a relevant advantage over APS-C here, but it is a matter of taste how short DoF you may want. I think fullframe f/2.8 is good for headshots, and that even shorter can be preferable for upper body portraits. Medium format actually does not provide much shorter DoF than fullframe 135, since those systems typically do not provide as wide apertures. Since micro 4/3 does have f/1 (f/0.95 even) I think it is an ok shallow DoF format, but the formats smaller than those does not have lenses with wide enough aperture.
« Last Edit: December 12, 2011, 05:46:41 AM by torger » Logged
BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #16 on: December 12, 2011, 07:30:41 AM »
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Since micro 4/3 does have f/1 (f/0.95 even) I think it is an ok shallow DoF format, but the formats smaller than those does not have lenses with wide enough aperture.

I doubt anyone on LL only owns one of these small cameras, so is it really mandatory to be able to address all usage patterns with one including portrait?

What are the odds you go out without your portrait camera and have an opportunity to shoot a decent portrait image?

In many years of shooting, that hardly ever happened to me.

Cheers,
Bernard
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BJL
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« Reply #17 on: December 12, 2011, 08:12:55 AM »
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I doubt anyone on LL only owns one of these small cameras, so is it really mandatory to be able to address all usage patterns with one including portrait?

What are the odds you go out without your portrait camera and have an opportunity to shoot a decent portrait image?

In many years of shooting, that hardly ever happened to me.
Though I am almost set on a m4/3 body Like the Panasonic GX1 with collapsing 14-42 standard zoom as my "go almost everywhere, jacket pocket camera", I agree with Bernard on this one. If you have significant shallow DOF needs, get the bigger format camera with large aperture lenses for that ... and then choose something else relatively inexpensive, for your smaller, lighter option. And it seems that the high-end fixed-lens compacts with low minimum f-stops are about as expensive as some of the compact system camera kits with standard zoom, so a small cheap "mirrorless" system might not be ruled out for cost reasons.

My suggestion: test some of these options in the shop for size and weight (meaning particular body+lens combinations with mirrorless systems, not just a lens-less body!), and then amongst acceptable ones, compare performance as it relates to your wants.


P.S. contrary to common doctrine, I find that a large proportion of portraits do not need particularly shallow DOF, especially the outdoor ones likely to be taken with one's "go almost everywhere" gear: just choose a suitably distant or non-distracting background, or compose as an environmental portrait, with the background incorporated into the composition. We are not always stuck in a cramped portrait studio with nothing but artfully crumpled cloths for backgrounds!
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torger
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« Reply #18 on: December 12, 2011, 08:43:13 AM »
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I doubt anyone on LL only owns one of these small cameras, so is it really mandatory to be able to address all usage patterns with one including portrait?

What are the odds you go out without your portrait camera and have an opportunity to shoot a decent portrait image?

In many years of shooting, that hardly ever happened to me.

No, of course you don't need to address all usage patterns, and it is not possible. But it can be good to be aware of what a system can and cannot do. How short DoF you can get from different systems is one such thing that is not so often talked about. I did not mean to say that compacts are unusable because you cannot have shallow DoF, what I meant to say is that the small compacts leave out that category of photography and it is up to the user how important that is.

Concerning the usefulness of short DoF it depends on shooting style and what type of look you like on your images. So it is very much a personal choice. I rarely use sub f/2 outdoor, but f/2 - f/2.8 is quite common when I photograph people. Tele lens headshots of unaware victims is one of my favourites :-), and one reason it has become one of my favourites is simply because it is possible to do so I have been able to explore the possibilities. Outdoor it is of course common with environmental portraits though, with greater DoF.opportunities :-).
« Last Edit: December 12, 2011, 09:08:38 AM by torger » Logged
EgillBjarki
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« Reply #19 on: December 12, 2011, 10:03:44 AM »
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Not long ago I was looking for a camera I could have on me at all times. Like you, I wanted something that could offer me good output regarding DOF and ISO performance without being to big. I went with the Fuji X100.

Was considering the X10 for a while but the larger sensor, EVF and the lens on the X100 bought me over. It is not as much of a all around package, more specific tool, so it all depends on your intended usage, what would be a better fit for you, choosing from either the X10 or X100 (if price is not a big issue).

Personally I do not have experience with other current compact systems, but I know allot of people who are happy with the Canon G10/G11/G12. I recently bought a Canon Ixus 220 for my brother, does not shoot raw, but it does shoot HD video and has a 35mm equiv. 24-120mm lens in a very small body. But I think you are looking for something more than that, just thought I might as well mention this small camera considering your need for HD video.

 
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