Road Train !!!!!!!!!!

by Russell McMahon

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I'm looking for a every-day-carry kind of camera, that would easily fit into the pocket of my tactical pants. Right now I'm using the camera on my phone (iPhone 4), but - honestly - it lacks just 3 things:

  • I would like the camera to have better "response times" - from the times I used dSLRs (even old ones) I could just press the shutter release button and the photo would be shot. On the iPhone, depending on the light conditions, it's about a second lag.
  • Some manual setting mode - so I can play around with slow/fast shutter speed at least. To show to my kid that cool effects you can make while shooting a water stream with different times.
  • Macro. Somewhat better way of shooting the close objects would be great (I saw a wonderful ant 2 days ago and the shot made with my iPhone is, honestly, a crap - not to mention if had trouble getting focused).
  • And to show that I'm not really looking for another dSLR - I would love to be able to have it with me almost all the time, without having to grab a "camera bag" with me...

I saw those hybrid cameras on the market, like Nikon 1, that are (I think) to bring the exchangeable lens to the masses, but haven't used them yet - so maybe someone experienced with them could tell if they would meet my criteria.

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"Getting some recommendations" isn't a question that fits the format of the site. A general "could a compact system camera like the Nikon 1 series meet these criteria" might be. –  mattdm Oct 12 '13 at 13:57
    
thanks - rephrased the question :) –  kender Oct 12 '13 at 14:50
    
Whoa, tactical pants! –  Dmitri Nesteruk Oct 12 '13 at 19:57
2  
I have a feeling asking for recommendations is frowned on on this site but that said, get the Sony RX-100 (or mark 2). It's pretty much the best every-day-carry fit in your pocket camera there is at this point. Google it. –  gman Oct 12 '13 at 21:10

3 Answers 3

Pretty much any camera will be faster than a phone. Generally speaking though, compact cameras are not very fast and do experience some lag. More advanced models can be equally slow, so if shutter-lag is your main criteria you should pay attention to that number in reviews.

Most modern mirrorless cameras are fast and indeed the Nikon 1 system ones are excellent in terms of speed. Even autofocus speed is top-notch which contribute greatly to the time it takes to take a photo. In order to fit in your cargo pants, you would have to get a small body with a rather small lens like the Nikon 1 10mm F/2.8 which measures 22mm in length. The J3 or S1 measure around 30mm in depth, so together with the lens you have 52mm in the shortest dimension, 101 and 61mm for the other two. This is probably tight for most cargo pants.

For something smaller, you should be looking a premium compact. The Fuji XF1 and Panasonic LX7 are among the fastest in terms of shutter-lag and AF speed while still being smaller than the mirrorless. These give good image quality for their size but nowhere near that of a mirrorless like those mentioned above.

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Response times

Response time will be heavily influenced by the autofocus mechanism.

  • If you pre-focus, the response time will be much faster. On most cameras, including compact cameras, you can do this with a half-press of the shutter button. On some smartphones you can do this by tapping on what you want to focus on on the screen, prior to pressing the shutter button.

  • Compact cameras usually won't be as fast as DSLRs.

    This is partially because DSLRs use phase-detect focus sensors and many (non-kit) lenses use ultrasonic motors for focusing, and partially just because they are more optimised for faster focusing.

    Compact cameras may be faster than some smartphones. Some compact cameras can be faster than others.

Some manual setting mode

Lots of compact cameras have manual settings, so this shouldn't impede your selection much.

What differentiates them will be how many dedicated buttons they have for setting things vs how many things will have to be set via the menus. The more "prosumer" compact cameras like the Canon G16 will have almost as many dedicated buttons as a DSLR.

Macro

Most compact cameras have pretty decent macro (at least in 35mm equivalent terms), focusing down to a couple of inches.

Pocketability

I've found the Canon IXUS (known as Powershot ELPH in the United States) are great for being able to take them absolutely everywhere without noticing them in your pocket, as they are very thin. However, they have almost no dedicated settings buttons and rely on menus for pretty much all manual settings.

The larger Powershots (of which the Canon G16 is the extreme example) have more dedicated buttons but also a larger form, with less pocketability.

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I was looking at the Canon SX280. For a regular point and shoot, it is really good. You can find it on ebay new for $227 or slightly more on amazon. I decided to go with a Panasonic FZ200 myself, since I wanted to have more control over the pictures and be able to shoot RAW format and high speed video, but the SX280 can shoot 1080p video at 60 fps and it is small enough to fit in your pocket unlike the one went with. And it's half the price. Out of all of the point and shoots, the SX280 is very nice and a step above all the other ones for 100-150. This camera also has GPS in it to tag your photos with latitude and longitude in the metadata of the picture so you can sort them in the future by location, and also has built in wifi to transfer the pictures wirelessly to your computer without having to hook up the usb cable to the computer. Remember, you get what you pay for.

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