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which compact system camera for under £550

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Showing 1-18 of 18 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 11 Apr 2012 16:15:08 BDT
I'm going on honeymoon shortly to mexico I want to get a camera that will allow me to capture the experience in all its glory from panaramic landscapes to action shots. I wanted something better than your average point and shoot compact without the bulk and complication of a dslr. Your suggestions would be welcome.

Posted on 11 Apr 2012 20:30:13 BDT
Last edited by the author on 12 Apr 2012 13:39:20 BDT
X says:
Daniel: Three options inside your budget. Most popular for travellers more interested in making a photo-diary of their travels than in photography for its own sake would be the Panasonic TZ8. I have not read of a single buyer who made an informed purchase and then had regrets. A long way inside your budget. Middling solution is an Advanced Compact, pretty much a Compact System Camera without the interchangeable lenses. Less zoom than the Panasonic above, but such a great Image Quality that massive enlargement ratios can be applied without ruining the shot; far from it. I had an Olympus XZ-1, but, having used it with a lot of pleasure I think I would travel with the Samsung EX1, of which I owned one briefly: wider angle, double-hinged screen, more robust feel. I have a 48x24 ins print from the centre of an EX1 shot, and it is very impressive.(The photographer just got lucky...) That comes in a long way inside your budget, but I reckon it's well worth a look.

For Compact Systems Cameras, so like Advanced Compacts with changeable lenses or like DSLRs without mirrors the first comment is that taking one with only one lens is a waste of money. Buy an Advanced Compact! The second comment is that, apart from Panasonic and Olympus who have common basics, all CSC manufacturers have invented their own basic designs. Those brands are almost impossible to compare, so the advice would just be to choose a model with which you are comfortable. If I was taking a family member to a store I would ask the employee to fetch two CSCs by Olympus and two by Panasonic, to enable the lucky family member to make a valid comparison. CSC zoom lenses generally perform less well than the equivalent Advanced Compacts on a vital point: the light, of which the Advanced Compacts capture so much more. Be careful with CSCs and your budget: a body and two lenses will just squeak in, a body with one lens is a waste of money.

Don't forget the memory card, preferably cards when travelling, will take a slice off your budget.

I have not been to Mexico in the last twenty years, but I don't think personal security has exactly improved in the interim and it's worth consideration. Most tempting for local petty criminals would be a CSC, unless you only have one lens, less tempting would be an Advanced Compact, least tempting because the least visible being the Panasonic TZ8.

Posted on 11 Apr 2012 21:10:54 BDT
Thank you for your advice. Taking a trip to john lewis tomorrow and will look at the advanced compact models you have recommended. Your advice re CSC and lenses (which I note are in some cases more expensive than the body) is something I will keep in mind when my eye is drawn by the likes of the Lumix G3.

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Apr 2012 15:18:05 BDT
Pat C says:
Dear X - how would your advice change if there is a requirement for a viewfinder? From what you say (very clear and helpful) I think I am probably looking for an Advanced Compact. I want something small and light, with scope for manual overrides, takes good closeups of eg plants and insects, plus general stuff. (My current camera, recently dropped!, was a Pentax Optio 550 (I think; haven't got it here).

Posted on 14 Apr 2012 22:11:54 BDT
X says:
Pat C: The viewfinder question is a minefield, and a jungle of contradicting ideas and designs. Canon have a viewfinder on their G12 and G1X, but the camera is irrationally expensive and the viewfinder seems to disappoint many users. If you want an optical viewfinder you have to have a DSLR, if you want to avoid a DSLR you have to rely on an electronic viewfinder. Beware: a lot of electronic viewfinders, EVFs, are quite unpleasant to use, so try before you buy. I added an electronic viewfinder to my Olympus XZ-1. Most people might find that an expensive way to go about things, but, objectively, it's a very good viewfinder indeed, and, subjectively, I wanted one.

For most people who want photography as part of their lives a good EVF is acceptable. For most people who want photography as one of the foundations of their lives only the very, very best EVF has the slightest chance of being acceptable, but it is unlikely to meet with their approval.

The situation is evolving extremely quickly. Olympus have put an evolution of the EVF I bought for my XZ-1 into their latest, very expensive, CSC, and it has been extremely well received. When Olympus can afford to put that EVF into their more affordable CSCs and the XZ-1's descendants the situation is liable to change completely; sadly Olympus are unlikely to undermine sales of a newly released expensive camera by launching a cheaper camera with that EVF. (Even though Olympus marketing strategies are frequently "unusual"...)

I believe the current solution is the Samsung EX1, with its multi-position screen allowing the photographer to see her/his subject wherever the sun may be relative to the camera and the subject. The price of the EX1 is so reasonable that the prospect of moving on after two or three years is none too painful. I should not have sold mine so quickly! In my case "do what I say, not what I do" is not hypocrisy, it's a fair warning.

Posted on 14 Apr 2012 22:34:59 BDT
Hi Ed,
You are right to warn against the G12 viewfinder. I had a G11 and when I experienced the useless viewfinder I sent it back. The viewfinder only saw 78% of what the sensor saw. Thats like cropping a 28mm lens to 35mm. It's rubbish for composition. Canon should be ashamed of their idiotic camera. I do not know if the Nikon equivalent is any better in this respect. Thats about the only other non dSLR new camera with an optical viewfinder. Otherwise you can get numerous cameras equiped with EVFs such as the Panasonic G series micro 4/3s or the Olympus with the tacked on EVF like Ed has.

Posted on 26 Apr 2012 10:11:11 BDT
Hi, my experience may prove useful to others. I've had big DSLRs for some time (Canon 5D MkII) and although it takes great photos, I wanted something more portable with "good enough" quality. I went for the Panasonic G3 as it had an EVF (which I use about 1/2 the time, mostly if it's too bright to use the LCD) and a swivel LCD, which I find excellent for creative shots, eg low to the ground for example. So I would recommend the G3 or any camera with a tilt/swivel screen - I wouldn't be without that feature now. A cheaper general purpose option would be the Panasonic TZ25 (or similar superzoom). My wife uses that model and takes great pics (in good light) - the focus speed on these latest panasonics is much faster than before and you won't be disappointed.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Apr 2012 10:21:36 BDT
Pat C says:
The Panasonic G3 looks very nice but has more features than I need, and I was hoping for something a little smaller / cheaper / lighter, but with a viewfinder. Have there been any recent developments? Unfortunately you seem to need to burrow into the small print to find if they have viewfinders, although one can usually guess from the photo.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Apr 2012 11:15:54 BDT
Hi Pat,
If you can find a camera with a decent (optical) viewfinder in your budget please let me know. I am unaware of one. The only other option would be something secondhand - but I doubt the performance would be up to modern standards.

Posted on 28 Apr 2012 09:39:23 BDT
Last edited by the author on 28 Apr 2012 09:40:02 BDT
Lilian says:
Hmmm....I have been seeking a digital compact with an optical viewfinder, and so far I have only found one! It's a really small Canon (don't know the model) and the viewfinder is so small it may as well not be there! The camera is too small for my arthritic hands, and I found the buttons panel was situated under my thumb when I held the camera in a 'point and shoot' position. I could well imagine pressing all of them without even trying! The viewfinder was not good and I found it worse than useless :-(
I know the major manufacturers are being lobbied by Which? magazine to bring back the optical viewfinder, but so far I think only Canon and possibly Nikon have responded :-(
I am now looking at the Samsung? with the fancy screen that's supposed to eliminate the need for a viewfinder as the screen can be positioned so the sunlight doesn't make your shot disappear :-)
Hey ho....that's 'progress' I step forward and two back so to speak :-)

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Apr 2012 10:03:14 BDT
I don't think Canon or Nikon has responded to Which - they always had a viewfinder camera in their ranges and just didn't omit them like all the rest. The one you found could be an Ixus 95 or Powershot a1100. The viewfinders are just as pessimistic as for the G12. They are a waste of space.

Posted on 28 Apr 2012 10:22:33 BDT
Lilian says:
You're probably right Dr. G.....I wouldn't really expect any manufacturer to respond positively to a cusomer requirements :-) They, like manufacturers of anything, are only really interested in making profit, and I don't blame them for that, but a bit of consideration would be welcome.
I think the Canon I looked at was the Powershot, but as I said, it was so tiny it practically disappeared in my hand! The viewfinder was ridiculously small, almost fitted within my eye socket so I couldn't actually see anything properly! I've pretty much given up trying to find what I really want, so now I have to look at 'screen only' models and try to find one that's at least comfortable in my hand. I am going out now....I may be some time :-)

Posted on 28 Apr 2012 11:10:29 BDT
X says:
The EVF on the Olympus OM-D is a little gem. The technology will be simplified and improved, while the factory gate cost will drop until it becomes viable to use it on all but the most rudimentary cameras. That will put paid to nearly all the disappointment at the EVFs currently used in compacts.

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Apr 2012 12:26:25 BDT
I see the Fuji X10 is about £440 and that has a viewfinder. Is that the one with the white disc problem though?
Yes it is - but Fuji are supposed to be fixing the problem
See here
I definitely wouldn't touch it before checking that the fault has been well and truly fixed.
There is the X1 - for £££s too. And the X100.

Posted on 28 Apr 2012 13:06:05 BDT
X says:
Doc: The problem with the X10 is pretty fundamental, so very, very surprising from a true photography-based manufacturer with a reputation for being thorough. So there will be a supplementary electronic tweak on at least all the X10s already manufactured, therefore on all the work which will be done with them before the Photoshop faithful unleash every tool in the box until the result has as much life in it as Tutankhamun's tomb.

Please remind me mercilessly of this post if the Olympus OM-D has a whole string of problems... The occasional deflating of one's ego is usually a good, curative, necessary experience.

Posted on 28 Apr 2012 15:52:24 BDT
Graham H says:
Any problems that the OM-D suffers from are likely to be in the boardroom rather than in the camera.

Posted on 28 Apr 2012 17:22:59 BDT
X says:
Graham: Sort of pre-emptive, pre-launch, and predictable problems? Well at least Olympus are different... So's the camera, but I only ever get my mitts on a new camera at the start of a protracted period of foul weather. Even between the showers the light is terrible, and after a while I get bored with high-contrast monochrome. As for tweaked-up, or dreamy, misty greyish polychrome... That's one of the differences between professionals and amateurs: professionals can turn in saleable work even when they don't like what they are having to do. That one only falls apart when applied to the likes of Cartier-Bresson, but the folk who claim to be professionals wouldn't pretend to the title of "genius", would they? (Erm, would they?)

Posted on 30 Apr 2012 13:38:17 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 30 Apr 2012 13:38:51 BDT]
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Participants:  8
Total posts:  18
Initial post:  11 Apr 2012
Latest post:  30 Apr 2012

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