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I plan to buy a secondary camera thats easier to carry around. I plan to spend around $350 to $400 on it. I am unable to decide if I should go for a low price Mirrorless camera like Olympus E-PM1 or a point and shoot camera which gives me a better optical zoom for the same price. I am looking for following in the camera

  • Good image quality is my primary concern. I suppose Mirrorless wins here
  • Ease of use, so that my wife can use it as well.
  • Small and handy. I suppose P&S compact wins here
  • Zooming. I am not sure on this point as you can buy a higher MM lens at later point of time. While a P&S can deliver 10x Optical zoom in the price range.
  • Low light shooting.

I considered few Mirrorless models like

  • Olympus E-PM1 - I think this looks good when compared to following models.
  • Olympus E-PL2 - Is this an older model? E-PM1 looks like a better in terms of spec and performance
  • Nikon 1 J1 - Pricer. E-PM1 performs better
  • Camera Nikon 1 V1 - Almost same as 1 J1 with minor difference

In P&S the list is really long but more or less most of them have higher Megapixels and zoom. Is my assumption correct? And they are way economical than Mirrorless

  • Sony CyberShot DSC-WX150 - 10x Optical zoom
  • Nikon Coolpix S9100 Point & Shoot - 18x Optical zoom

Are there any existing thread which discuss on similar lines, which I can refer to? I could not search anything relevant. Most of the existing threads were not based on any research.

I understand this question is very subjective, so I have tried to include as many parameters as I could. For now I feel like going with Olympus E-PM1. At this point is there any P&S camera in the same price range which would perform better(or value for money) than Olympus E-PM1 in order of image quality, compactness and zoom.

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The details make the question less subjective in many ways, but also much more specific to you and to this moment in time. It sounds like you've done a lot of research, which is good, but what exactly is the remaining question? Just the last bit? –  mattdm Nov 21 '12 at 21:46
    
Yes just the last bit. Mainly, will P&S in same price match image quality of a Mirrorless? Secondly,I suppose Zooming capability of P&S would be far greater than Mirrorless. –  Ck- Nov 21 '12 at 21:53
    
This blog post may help shape this question into something that will help you and not get closed: blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/11/qa-is-hard-lets-go-shopping –  mattdm Nov 21 '12 at 22:04
    
@mattdm thanks. Yes I understand, I have tried not to make it localized. I do understand that question trivial but I have tried my best to include points so that its not redundant. Let me see if I can add points or remove some to make it better. –  Ck- Nov 21 '12 at 22:11
1  
Hopefully my answer gives some of what you want. For the specifics, the best bet is to go to some of the big camera review sites and see what's at the top of the list right now. (DPReview usually comes out with several Christmas shopping guides in various categories around this time of year.) –  mattdm Nov 21 '12 at 22:15

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

You ask:

At this point is there any P&S camera in the same price range which would perform better (or value for money) than Olympus E-PM1 in order of image quality, compactness and zoom.

I'm going to ignore "value for money", because that's absolutely subjective. Of the rest:

  • Image quality: No. There are other mirrorless cameras in the same ballpark, but fundamentally, no small-sensor P&S will rival the image quality of a micro-four-thirds sensor, especially when paired with nice lenses. (But see the note below.)
  • Compactness: Of course. There are many P&S cameras more compact than the E-PM1, and many of them are good quality.
  • Zoom: Yes and no. While there are superzoom lenses you can mount on micro-four-thirds, there are P&S cameras that go far beyond that in sheer zoom range. But, overall, interchangeable lenses give you more versatility than one superzoom, no matter how many Xs it has.

As always, "image quality" is a tricky term. Today's advanced P&S cameras — and camera phones, for that matter — can produce stunning results. Even if the image quality (by whatever technical or subjective measure you choose) is not up to that of the larger-sensor mirrorless, it very well may be perfect for your needs, especially as you weigh the other concerns like size, convenience, and cost. But only you can decide that.

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image quality point makes sense. While pairing with another lens leads to shoot up in price, sometimes even more than the cost of the camera body itself. Zoom same goes for the zoom as well. –  Ck- Nov 21 '12 at 22:13
    
I have to still decide which model to go with, but I think I would agree with your statement about "image quality". ATM it looks like fresher breed of Mirrorless is bit out of my limit. I will update the question, what I went with finally. Thanks everyone. –  Ck- Nov 22 '12 at 7:18

Mirrorless cameras currently have an advantage in image quality relative to their price. The Olympus E-PM2 for example delivers excellent image quality and is available for $549 USD or $599 with lens.

In the compact category, the closest you can have in terms of image quality is the Sony Cybershot RX100 which goes for $649 USD and still lags behind. It is a good compromise if you prefer an all-in-one solution but it does not give you much of a zoom (3.6X). All cheaper cameras deliver considerably lower image quality.

The thing about zoom is that you need a lens to match the sensor-size. So, when you get a big zoom, you get a small-sensor. Here are these cameras plus the S9100 and WX150 side-by-side so that you can compare sensor-sizes.

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thanks for the side by side comparison. I would have not imagined the sensor size difference is so huge physically! After doing a lot of exhaustive reading, I was getting inclined towards Point and Shoot camera, but your point throws some more light on issue. I am not willing to throw in more than $400. So at this point of time, a decent Mirrorless is out of scope. –  Ck- Nov 22 '12 at 7:02
    
Just at your asking price I would go for a Canon S110 or older S100 which delivers slightly higher image quality. They both offer an advance over typical compacts by using a much brighter lens, so you get away with shooting at a lower ISO under the same conditions. In case that matters to you, the former has WiFi and the latter GPS. –  Itai Nov 22 '12 at 14:58
    
As @Peng Tuck Kwok mentioned, I took a look at Olympus EP-L1. I think it suits my need. On Amazon it costs $272 and Review looks fair. I looked at the sample images and I have decided to go for it. They look better than average P&S camera. Do you think otherwise? –  Ck- Nov 23 '12 at 6:30
    
@Ck Yes, indeed it will beat any P&S. This is a model 2 generations ago, so in terms of image quality, the E-PM1 is better and the E-PM2 even better. Most crucially, the later generations are faster, so if you can, try to go for an E-PL3 or E-PM1 at least. –  Itai Nov 23 '12 at 14:06

I was in the same dilemma as you. Have a 5D MKII and needed something smaller, didn't cost too much, have full range of controls, good IQ and a decent lens.

I picked the Olympus EP-L1 because it fit all the criteria above and I got a good deal at the airport (duty free and clearance sale).

Have a sample shot here that you can have a look at. Took that using bounce flash and white backdrop.

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