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My wife is starting to get in to photography more and more. She likes her point and shoot camera because it is small so it can go with her most ever where.

She is interested in some of the nicer cameras (with focus control and high zoom lenses). Is there any way to have the best of both worlds? Have a camera with the features of a higher end camera but in the size of a point and shoot camera?

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9 Answers 9

up vote 17 down vote accepted

As well as the "bridge" category, there is also the new category that has yet to settle on a name, but is variously known as

These have different lenses available, as do SLRs, but are smaller due to not having mirrors. Some examples are the Olympus PEN E-P2, Panasonic Lumix DMC GF1 and the Sony NEX-5.

These are all pretty compact, especially when used with a pancake lens. You can get big zooms for them, but the lens will be big, so the overall compactness will be lost.

One thing to note is that a large zoom built into a compact (often marketed as "Ultrazoom" or similar) tends to be combined with a very small sensor, which means that the image quality will suffer, as will low light performance. This article explains why.

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You forgot Micro 4/3? –  cadmium Mar 29 '12 at 21:34

I would also look at the Micro 4/3 cameras. They are pretty small but have a large sensor and can give DSLR-like results, and they have a variety of lenses of varying sizes.

I think in this case it is particularly important for your wife to go to a camera shop and touch & hold the various options. She should wear clothes that have typical pockets, or a typical purse or wherever she wants to carry the camera.

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It definitely depends on what she means by 'features' and by 'size'. Bridge cameras are still a bit too bulky to fit into a coat or shirt pocket (unless you have very large pockets). I have a Sigma DP2, which is much smaller than the bridge cameras such as the Olympus Pen series, Sony Nex, etc. It only fits in my jeans pockets when I don't mind looking like my thigh has an enormous goiter growing out of it, though. It's also not the easiest camera in the world to use; it's the one you want to use when image quality matters more than convenience of shooting.

The features you list - focus control and longer zoom lenses - sound like she's more interested in the Canon s90 than in an actual bridge camera. I've used this camera once, and I really like it. You can adjust the focus using the barrel, and it has a much longer zoom than the DP2 (that is just a fixed lens). It will also fit into a shirt pocket. It does not have the image quality of a bridge camera or of a Sigma camera, but it does do what it sounds like she wants to do.

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Such cameras are generally known as bridge cameras, as they bridge the gap between SLR and compact cameras. The Canon PowerShot G range and the Nikon Coolpix P range fall into this category and offer such features as RAW file shooting, manual exposure, spot metering and external flash support.

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For the braver individual, if you have a Canon compact, there is the option to install custom firmwares, such as CHDK which adds more advanced features, such as RAW file formats to existing compact cameras.

There are also more compact cameras coming to market with interchangeable lenses, such as the Olympus PEN which give the power of an SLR in the size of a compact (if the hype is to be believed)

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Not sure if this type of camera is what you want, but I discovered a lot of good info at CameraLabs. Their categories and reviews are very informative and although I'm not sure how they're biased (unbaised reviews don't exist), I've generally found their reviews to be in line with my experiences and those of my camera-using friends.

Specifically, we're quite happy as with our Panasonic Lumix ZS-3 as a PnS camera with decent AVCHD one-button movie mode. It definitely fits in my wife's purse. If your wife is willing to get a larger purse or carry the camera outside, my 2nd suggestion would be one of the many 4/3 lens cameras... I've played with one, and the (semi) manual mode pictures are almost as good as my full-size dSLR.

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There is a new entry into this category that no one has mentioned yet. The Nikon 1. I don't have any experience with it myself. It seems like a great new product with an attractive price point. The series even has two different models to choose from.

I haven't seen a lot of reviews for it, but here are a couple from well-known sites:

http://www.dpreview.com/articles/3281713418/nikon-1-system-first-impressions
http://reviews.cnet.com/digital-cameras/nikon-1-j1-with/4505-6501_7-35020091.html

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I can personally recommend the Olympus XZ-1, which I use myself. It features:

  • fully manual mode, also aperture priority and speed priority, and of course automatic modes.
  • A very fast Lens with f1.8.
  • A hotshoe that will accept many standard flashguns and also adapters to trigger external strobes.
  • RAW format capability (which is a definitive plus for a pro photographer)
  • It has very little shutter lag,
  • Integrated ND filter.
  • Manual focus capable (Even though it does not have a focus ring, it uses buttons in the rear panel)

It's very compact to the point that in weddings or the like I can put it in my Suit's pocket and it doesn't annoy me.

The camera yields pretty impressive results that usually amaze the people I photograph. The camera has.

The Downside is that it only has 4x zoom, and it has fixed lens.

Other options that I evaluated when I was shopping for the mentioned camera where:

  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5
  • Leica D-LUX5.
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Pen E-PL1 is a really fun, compact, and quality camera. I think it's definitely the best of both worlds, offering interchangeable lenses on the size of a point-and-shoot.

However, the lenses may make it difficult to fit into a small clutch (if she tends to do that), but that will be the case with mostly any camera in this class.

I also like the Sony NEX quite a bit. Lots of cool features on this camera. It's definitely a more high-tech feeling route to take (but it's a Sony). The kit 18-55mm is a little bulky though.

I personally think the Nikon 1 is a little pricy. Maybe if it was a Canon it'd be worth it:p

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