Saturday, December 21, 2013

Small cameras for the field

High-end compacts

I've been working with a high-end compact digital camera since 2001. 
It was a Canon Powershot G-1.
The pocket camera worked for me and was also one of the very few cameras in its class to offer RAW capture.
Today, I lug the Canon Powershot G1X around my neck.
Wherever I go, I use it to capture snapshots of my travels and its been a faithful bicycling companion.
The G1X yields some really amazing captures.
And it has features that allows you to post-process in-camera.
This is a far cry from the G1 that came out 13 years ago.
Paving the way, is the smaller Powershot G16 which was announced sometime in August this year.
It has Wi-Fi image transfer capabilities.
This means that when you go touring, all you need, is a smartphone or a tablet or a phablet (big-assed smartphones).
I don't think any high-end compact cameras from other manufacturers would come close to Canon's Powershot G-series cameras in terms of image quality, features and value for money.
Compared to camera makers like Panasonic, Nikon and Olympus, I prefer the Canon compacts for its ease of use and user-interface.
On a Canon, there's very few steps to access the features and menu pages.
And as a result-orientated person, I am very pleased with the image quality of my Powershot G1X.

Powershot G1

Powershot G1X
Powershot G16
Moisture: your compact's enemy

I've cycled through three Powershots with issues on moisture.
When I go cycling, sweat from my face trickle down onto the camera's body.
It seeps onto the circuit board and corrodes the internal wiring which is pretty sensitive.
So, given that issue, the average lifespan of a compact camera that gets physically-abused in the field is about one and a-half years.
Even my Powershot G1X is now showing signs of degrading.
More than often, I get the "Memory Card Error" warning and after rebooting it a few times, it was back to normal.
I've considered waterproof cameras like the Olympus TG-2, but it's image quality was aweful.

Micro Four-Thirds and Mirrorless cameras..

Some say compact camera with interchangeable lenses like the Olympus Pen, Panasonic G-series Lumix cameras, Sony Alphas and Nikon 1s are worth a look.
And certain gurus even claim that it can replace the D-SLR.
I don't agree with their views although a compact camera with interchangeable lenses can be very convenient to lug around.
I won't bother with the Panasonic cameras as they are really expensive. Even the lenses are exorbitantly priced.
The only good ones are from Olympus. Their Pen-series are worth looking at.
But, again, only the high-end lenses from the Zuiko Digital series can yield some really good images.
I left out the Sonys because to me, they are really awful.
Recently, Nikon had introduced the Nikon AW-1, an all-weather waterproof camera.
It has all the bells and whistles for you to bring it into places even I won't go.
But for Nikon, the apparent dislike I had is the user-interface. It simply sucks.
And the AW-1 is not cheap either. It comes with a hefty pricetag of RM3K for a body and kit lens.
At the end of the spectrum, was the Canon EOS-M.
Which turned out to be a major disappointment.
Its Auto-Focusing sucks.
And if you shoot a lot, power management is an issue with Micro Four-Thirds and Mirrorless cameras.
They drain your battery like a thirsty camel..
Well, the EOS-M may be a turkey, Canon had introduced an upgraded version of the camera called the EOS-M2.
Said to be faster in terms of focussing, much is left to be desired.
This camera is also not available for the North American market and is sold exclusively in Asia..

Canon EOS M-2

Nikon AW-1
Choices, choices, choices..

Well, I didn't mention the Fuji mirrorless cameras and Leicas because they are ridiculously expensive.
From the image quality output perspective, it yields some really good shots. But you won't be mad enough to lug it around on your bicycle.
Speaking of producing some kickass shots, I think the Micro Four Thirds and Mirroless cameras deserve a chance, its the optical elements on the lenses that are going to give some really good shots. But the letdown is pricing, battery life and weight.
Nothing can beat a compact camera with a built-in zoom lens. 
And if you are willing to pay, there are a few models that comes with a fast lens that allows excellent low-light captures. 
But again, the saying always goes: "Cheap thing no good, good thing no cheap.."

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