A selection of compact cameras

I often trash compact cameras on this blog, not because they are bad products, but mostly because I dislike the approach manufacturers are taking. Using vintage design to make you feel like you're the reporter from the 60ies and pricing it above 1000$, adding tons of useless features that sell well instead of focusing on the essential, and most of all launching systems that require tons of accessories since the margin on those is about twice than on camera bodies.

The fact is that in normal picture taking conditions - i.e. not at night with Syrian soldiers shooting at you and dust flying around - there are now compact cameras that will do just as good of a job as a DSLR.

Not everybody can afford a D700 or 5D, and not everybody want to go thru the hassle of buying, developing and scanning film. This is where compact cameras have a role to play, and thankfully there is a bunch of good ones. Also keep in mind that the best camera is the one in your and with a fresh roll / memory card and a full battery :)

Before we get to the cameras themselves, remember the rules. What matter in a camera is:
  • The lens, less zoom + wider aperture (low F numbers) is best
  • The size of the sensor, the larger the better

This being said, here are the compacts I'd pick from. Keep in mind a couple of important things: appart from the X100, all cameras mentioned here have changeable lenses. Those lenses cost a fortune. I believe they are overpriced for what they are because this is how manufacturers make most of the margin. It means that you should very much pay attention to what lens you buy in the first place.
Also if you will shoot fast moving subjects, use a lot of manual functions, you might want to look into DSLR. It is not more expensive than those cameras.

Also, I'm not doing a technical review here, they all do the same stuff. Trust me.

My personal choice: it's significantly cheaper than the others, mostly due a small sensor, but not much smaller. You will hardly see a difference on the picture and save possibly 500$.

Sensor : 4/3
Lens to go for : 20mm f/1.7

Why getting it:
  • Good choice of prime high quality & bright lenses
  • Actually compact as opposed to the other ones.

Sensor : APSC : as big as it get on a compact, same as a DX SLR such as a Canon 7D or Nikon D7000
Lens is built in camera but excellent: 35mm f2

Why getting it:
  • Great lens
  • Largest sensor you can find on a compact
  • Built quality
  • Good low light performance
  • Have to say it... looks great
  • No extra stuff to buy: one lens only

Sensor : APSC (as big as it gets on compact)
Lens : plenty to chose from, go for the 24 & 50mm

Why getting it:
  • Although very ugly, provides DSLR level performance, sensor is the same as on the Alpha Sony SLRs
  • Huge definition (24MP)

Sensor : APSC
Lens : 30mm f2

Why getting it:
  • 20MP if you need cropping a lot
  • Still good ISO performance even with the large resolution

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