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I've been wanting to start taking photos for a while so I am looking to get a camera. I don't want to get any kind of Point-And-Shoot. I was awaiting the coming of the Fuji X100 as I travel very very light and don't really want a full on DSLR.

The reviews seem mixed on it. Lot of good points lot of bad points.

Is there anything else like it anyone would suggest? Smaller than a full DSLR but still a more advanced camera than a run-of-the-mill point-and-shoot?

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Welcome ian! You may find photo.stackexchange.com/questions/10487/… and photo.stackexchange.com/questions/10746/… useful, if not direct answers to what you're looking for. –  mattdm Jun 7 '11 at 22:54
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This question wont get you satisfying answer until you clarify what you mean by 'real' camera. The best is to describe what you want to do with it, the type of subjects and situations you shoot in. –  Itai Jun 8 '11 at 0:01
    
continuing on from @Itai, one example distinction is a camera that allows you to manually adjust the exposure settings (ISO, shutter speed, aperture, focus, focal length) either fully manually or a semi-auto mode (Av/Tv with exposure compensation, focus-and-re-frame)... this can be good for learning the technical aspects of photography. –  drfrogsplat Jun 8 '11 at 6:47

8 Answers 8

The three general classed of camera that fit your needs are "Bridge" cameras (basically overlapping "superzoom" cameras), enthusiast compacts, and compact interchangeable lens cameras.

Examples of bridge cameras would be:

  • Panasonic FZ35
  • Nikon Coolpix P100
  • Canon SX20 IS

Examples of enthusiast compacts would be:

  • Canon S95
  • Canon G12
  • Nikon P7000
  • Fuji X100

Examples of compact interchangeable lens cameras would be:

  • Panasonic GF1
  • Olympus E-P1

At this point, your question is a little general, so I'll go ahead and generalize in my answer by pointing out that the superzoom cameras are usually favored when you're willing to give up a little bit of image quality in order to gain the great optical reach that these cameras typically offer.

The last two categories offer image quality approaching a DSLR in a smaller size that's well-suited for travel. You might be able to slot yourself into one of these categories based on how you weigh image quality vs. optical reach, and of course, the option to use interchangeable lenses.

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I like that your answer is trying to be general (thus useful in the future) by offering "types" of alternative cameras w/specific examples as a fallback. –  Shizam Apr 24 at 22:09

The Sigma DP-1 and DP-2 cameras have APS-C sized image sensors (1.7x crop), that are the same as the Sigma SD-15 DLSR image sensor. They are pretty much the most compact large sensor compacts you can buy; I can fit one in my jeans pocket (thought it's a very tight fit).

Both cameras are primes only - no zoom. Both are heavily into simple control systems without a lot of bells and whistles, and both have extremely sharp lenses.

The DP-1 offers a wide 16mm FOV (28 mm equiv), the DP-2 is a 28mm FOV (48mm equiv).

You can see a lot of full size images from each camera in these two galleries:

http://www.pbase.com/sigmadslr/users_dp1

http://www.pbase.com/sigmadslr/users_dp2

One light setup I have used in the past is to have one of each of these cameras, and a DSLR with a single long lens on it. That gives great coverage, the same effect as multiple bodies and if at times I don't want to lug around a whole DSLR it's easy to just carry the small cameras.

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I do not think "35mm equiv" means what you think it means. The DP1 has a 16mm lens, which works out to 28mm equivalent, and the DP2 has a 24mm lens (41mm equiv). –  Evan Krall Jun 8 '11 at 6:21
    
Whoops, you are right, got the terminology backwards - 35mm equiv is used to present the corrected numbers. Fixed. –  Kendall Helmstetter Gelner Jun 8 '11 at 6:37

I wouldn't say that the reviews have that many bad points. dpreview gave this camera a silver award. It certainly has better reviews then many of its competitors. Seems that most "bad" points are related to the firmware & operational oddities. When it comes to image quality and detail, the camera scores very high.

Because you did not mention the type of photography you will be shooting we can assume that you are looking for something comparable to the FinePix X100? Retro looks of the Leica M9 likes, "classic" 35mm (no zoom) equivalent, relatively fast f2 aperture? How about:

Leica X1 35mm equiv,F2.8

Panasonic DMC-GF1 40mm equiv,F1.7 (interchangeable lenses)

Sony NEX-5 24mm equiv,F2.8 (interchangeable lenses)

(personally, in this category, I would rather get the FinePix over any of the above.)

You could also look at something like:

Olympus XZ-1 28-112mm equiv, F1.8-2.5

and of course you cannot go wrong with the Canon G12

but add a 100g in weight on top of the G12 and you can have yourself a "DSLR hybrid" in the Sony SLT Alpha A55

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I'll just add to D. Lambert's great answer that I have myself a Lumix G2, and with its 14-42 lens it's my favorite camera at the moment; small but not too small, powerful but not over-the-top, and you can take pictures that are stunning without knowing the state of the universe and what aperture setting that requires, it's also very affordable for what you get, including HD video.

One of the big advantages of the four-thirds line of cameras is that you can skimp on size without sacrificing quality, and I'd look for these for sure (with lots of great lenses around, too), Panasonic, Samsung, Olympus, Leica and many more offer four-thirds, and it's - in my opinion - the absolute best place to start an amateur adventure before going DSLR and lenses the size of your arm.

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Note that most DSLRs have an Auto mode which turns them into a glorified point-and-shoot, so you don't really have to know anything about exposure to take nice pictures on a DSLR either. –  Evan Krall Jun 8 '11 at 6:18
    
Pentax doesn't produce anything for the 4/3rds format or the micro 4/3rds formad. –  CadentOrange Jun 11 '11 at 17:46
    
Ah, my mistake. They were considering micro four thirds, but nothing seems to have come of it. –  AlexanderJohannesen Jun 12 '11 at 13:08
    
Here's the current state of Pentax mirrorless rumors: k-rumors.com/first-pictures-of-the-pentax-nc-1-system –  mattdm Jun 12 '11 at 17:27

No accepted answer yet and you've modified it slight, so I'll take a stab at it, in case you were looking from more concrete advice.

Also, let me point out that you said more advanced but nothing about image quality. The good news is that there are a good number of models like that around.

The first thing you are looking for then is probably full manual controls. Those cameras are good enough to learn basic photography, be creative and perform well in good light. The also start quite cheap, under $200 for the Canon Powershot SX130 IS which also has a 12X stabilized wide-angle optical zoom.

The next step is something with manual controls but also direct controls including dual control-dials. This lets you control the camera more efficiently. As a bonus, most of these cameras have better image quality and several use bright lenses which let you shoot with less light and have more control over depth-of-field. Those cost $400-500 USD would be Canon Powershot S95, Canon Powershot S90 (same as S95 but cheaper since it does not do HD video) or Olympus XZ-1.

Higher up than that is an SLD which is a medium-sized camera with interchangeable lenses and larger (close or equal to a DSLR). You can save a lot in terms of size while getting similar image quality. You will generally lose autofocus speed except for the Sony Alpha SLT-A55 and its siblings. Like all interchangeable lens cameras, you need to invest in good lenses to get the most out of it but those perform better in low-light than the compact ones previously mentioned.

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you can think about those:

1) small DSLRs - the mirrorless ones like Sony NEX or Samsung NX series which have big CMOS chip, interchangeable lenses but are relatively smaller, quicker and do not have the strong DSLR sound while taking photos.

2) as already mentioned, there are some more advanced compact cameras like Olympus XZ-1, or Canon Powershot S95 or the Panasonic Lumix LX series. I am for example looking on the new Nikon Coolpix P300 which is small (pocket sized) but has advanced functions like the priority programs, also has BSI CMOS chip and very good bright and wide lens.

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Note that the Sony NEX (at least) uses contrast-detection AF, which puts it squarely in the point-and-shoot category in terms of responsiveness, or rather lack thereof. –  Martha Jan 3 '12 at 19:57

In the last three to five years, this answer has changed quite a bit. It used to be dLSR vs. small-sensored point-and-shoots but today, there are a number of different cameras that fill in this very large gap, and the answer for this may still be evolving, as manufacturers continue to experiment with ideal format sizes and camera feature configurations.

Currently, the main "categories" that I see of cameras that offer you more options than a 1/2.3" format pocketable P&S camera are:

Bridge Cameras

These cameras have dSLR-style bodies, but are still fixed lens, and for the most part are still 1/2.3" format (5.6x crop), but may offer a flash hotshoe, RAW capability, and full manual mode, and are nearly always going to have a superzoom lens on them. They tend to be weak for low light photography, but pretty good for daylight photography, macro, and general walkaround shooting. The Panasonic FZ, or Canon SX lines are examples of bridge cameras.

Enthusiast Compacts

These cameras typically offer a slightly larger 1/1.7"-format sensor (~4.5x crop), and make the tradeoff of reach for low light capability. They generally sport shorter and smaller zoom lenses, but with larger maximum apertures (f/1.8-f/2.8) that can let in more light. Most offer RAW capability and full manual mode, and some may sport a flash hotshoe. The Canon S and G lines, Panasonic's LX, and Olympus's XZ lines are examples of enthusiast compacts.

Large-Sensored Compacts

Possibly a sub-category of enthusiast compacts, these cameras can often be as expensive as dSLR kits. They are fixed-lens, like most compact cameras, but have much larger sensors in them. The range of sizes, however, varies from 2/3"-format (4x crop) to full frame (1x crop), and just about everything in-between, including APS-C. The features will also vary widely, but they all offer RAW capability and full Manual mode. Examples of this class of camera include the Fuji X20, Fuji X100, Sony RX100, Sony RX1, Canon G1X, Nikon Coolpix A, etc. This is where there seems to be the most experimentation going on with camera companies trying to find "the winning formula" and where the picture is still likely to change.

Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens Cameras

Also known as MILC, EVIL (Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens) and CSC (compact system camera). These cameras, like dSLRs, have interchangeable lenses and larger sensors, but work more like compact digital cameras with the light coming through the lens directly to the image sensor (no mirrorbox). The image sensor is also used for exposure evaluation and autofocusing, unlike a dSLR that uses two separate sensor arrays for those purposes. As a result, these cameras are typically smaller and lighter than dSLRs. The sensor formats, again, range across sizes from 1/1.7" (Pentax Q) to 1" (Nikon 1; 2.7x rop), 4/3" (micro four-thirds, EOS M; 2x crop), APS-C (Sony NEX, Fuji XF; 1.5x crop), to full frame (Sony A7).

Because mirrorless cameras are system cameras, they can be astronomically more expensive than the other types, since you'll typically be purchasing other bits of the system (lenses, flashes, etc.) as well as the camera body. And because these systems are so much newer than dSLRs, they can't leverage a back catalog of film-era lenses and 3rd party support, like dSLRs can. But many of the mirrorless cameras perform so well for the size/weight reduction that a number of shooters are moving to mirrorless from dSLRs. It's probably best to consider these systems as an alternative to a dSLR, rather than a bridging step to one.

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The Canon G10, G11 and G12 all have many of the same features and controls that a DSLR would have, but they're still just large point and shoots. The S95 uses pretty much the same engine, but in a smaller, more "point and shooty" format.

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