Saturday, 10 September 2011

Choices in compact cameras

I currently own the Ricoh GR Digital III as my sole compact camera. I have watched with interest the developments in compact cameras, including the so called mirrorless system cameras. No single brand or camera fulfills all that I want from a compact camera yet.

In the first category we have enthusiast compact cameras such as the Ricoh GR Digital III, the Lumix LX-5, the Canon G12 and the Nikon P7100. While all of these cameras are capable, the image quality offered by the small sensor is a limiting factor. In my experience, decent quality images are rarely possible above ISO 200.  The advantage of these cameras is that they are the only ones that are truly compact - I carry my GR Digital III with me all the time.

The next category is the micro-four-third. This category doesn't excite me very much due to several reasons. Firstly it seems that there is not much of a size advantage between this and the larger APS C sensor models. Secondly, the image quality isn't on the same level as of the APS C models.  The only model that is interesting is the Panasonic GH2 because of its video capabilities - however, the pricing of the GH2, and in general the micro-four-third models, is the third issue. There is no cost advantage to buying a micro-four-third as compared to the APS C models. 

The third category is the APS C sensor compact cameras such as the Sony NEX and Ricoh GXR M Mount. Between this category and the micro-four-thirds, I prefer this as it has the advantage of a larger sensor, better image quality, and also smaller magnification factor when using full frame lenses. A similar camera with a full frame sensor would have been even more interesting.

In the end though, if you are choosing between a DSLR and a compact system camera, you have to consider what it is that you are looking for. From a price performance ratio, DSLRs still have a big advantage. Just compare the price of a 50mm F1.4 lens and equivalent lens for micro-four-thirds or the APS C compact cameras - the DSLR world has higher quality lenses at cheaper prices. The compact system cameras have two advantages over DSLRs. The size advantage is there if you choose the right lens. The ability to use lenses from other mount systems - for instance Leica M - is an important feature for anyone who already owns these lenses.

Personally, I have decided to try the Sony NEX 5N model. I chose this over the Ricoh GXR model due to its better video capability and lower price. I think Ricoh could have just made a custom model with M-mount rather than their fancy interchangeable mount system - the cost might have been lower.

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