Cameras for canvas
There's a big buzz in photography right now and it's, well, small! For a very long time the only serious choice for anyone looking to get into photography at a hobbyist or professional level was to invest in a DSLR system. Large, cumbersome and very expensive once lenses and the necessary accessories have been added to the bill, but capable of providing the finest image quality, auto focusing and low light performance.
Well, now you can get very close to, or in some cases even surpass those qualities, with a camera that fits in the palm of your hand! Let's have a look at the options...
Compact Point and Shoot
Compact cameras have come a long way in the past few years. Unthinkable even five years ago, when most sensors were in the region of 1/2.3-inch, it’s now possible to buy a pocket-sized camera capable of producing images to rival those from a mid-range DSLR.
As sensor size has increased (e.g. Sony's RX100 III has a 1 inch sensor) and processing has improved to get the most from those sensors, the best compacts are now a serious alternative for the photographer who wants convenience and portability – while keeping an eye on costs. Panasonic's 18.1 megapixel Lumix DMC-TZ60 is available for around £260 and with its 30x zoom Leica lens and full HD movie mode, it's plenty of camera for the photographer on a budget.
At the other end of the spectrum, Panasonic, Sony and Fujifilm, amongst others, all produce compacts that any pro would be happy to use. The Fuji X100s is the gold standard, super cool compact with Fuji's legendary colour reproduction and a 16.3 megapixel APS-C sensor that is simply stunning. Its retro lines and ease of use make it stylistically second to none and it has become a firm favourite for the street photographer or travelling pro. It does, however, have the drawback of a fixed focal length lens - albeit an excellent 35mm equivalent f2 prime - making it less than ideal as the only camera in your toolbox. More a choice for someone who intends to get heavy use out of their investment though, as you won’t get much change out of £800.
The aforementioned Sony RX100 III may not be as jaw-achingly beautiful as the X100s, but it’s more versatile with its 24-70 f1.8/f2.8 zoom lens and 20.1 megapixel back-illuminated sensor. Equally as proficient in low light situations as the Fuji and around £100 cheaper on the high street, the RX100 III could easily be a camera you could grow into.
There is, however, a new kid on the block, and it may prove to be the best compact camera ever made. The Panasonic LX100 features the same sensational 16 megapixel sensor as the micro four thirds GX7, but tweaked to become a multi-aspect ratio sensor, capable of capturing 4:3, 3:2, 16:9, or 1:1 aspect images whilst maintaining the same focal length in each ratio.
This results in a 12.8 megapixel 4:3 image which should mean better low light performance. On top of this, the LX100 is the first compact to feature 4k video - 4 times the resolution of standard 1080p HD video. This means that this tiny, yet beautifully formed, camera will produce near TV quality film. Couple this with the wonderful 24-75mm f/1.7-2.8 Leica lens and lightning quick autofocus, and you have the perfect single solution camera for a touch under £700.
As you can see, it’s now possible to be serious about your photography without needing to carry a huge kit bag wherever you go. This opens up a world of possibilities and makes it much more likely that you will have a camera to hand for those all important moments. After all, the best camera you can have is the one you have with you!
But what if you want to explore wider or longer lens options? Look out for next week's post on M43 and CSC system cameras...