I'm looking for a camera that I think might not exist, but if one does I hope someone here knows about it.

I get great shots with an SLR with a prime lens. I regularly take out my GF1 micro 4/3 and that's a lot more portable.

However it's still a bit big to have with me all the time.

When I look into compact cameras they appear to be universally obsessed with two stats where bigger is definitely not better:

  • They always have zoom, as if higher the better.
  • They always have high megapixels, as if higher the better.

I think these are misconceptions. I've never seen a compact zoom lens that didn't sacrifice a whole lot of image quality for the zoom functionality. More megapixels in a small sensor just means poorer quality pictures.

What I'd really want is:

  • Small size (small enough to carry most of the time, smaller than a m4/3).
  • Prime lens, no zoom, not less than f/2 at max aperture.
  • No more than 10MP, unless also with a large sensor.
  • Decent high ISO for low light use would be a big plus.

Such a camera doesn't seem like it would be hard to build, but the closest I can find are m4/3rds (which I already use) or APS-C fixed lens cameras (which are a similar size).

Does anyone know why camera companies don't build anything like this? I get that the majority of the market reads numbers and picks the biggest, but surely this isn't that niche a market?

Can anyone recommend how to find a good compromise camera (or range of cameras) here? Is there a way to get a super-portable camera that doesn't sacrifice image quality chasing times-zoom and MP?

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    There are certainly a few answers to this question (a Nikon 1 camera with a fast prime or if you can be persuaded off a prime, the Sony RX100) but I'm struggling to write an answer to this question which will still be useful to readers of the site in a few years time when all those models are off the market. Could you try and rephrase your question to make it more focused on the problem you're trying to solve rather than just a "what should I buy today" question, which are generally discouraged here. – Philip Kendall Nov 5 '13 at 13:33
  • @PhilipKendall cheers, I've tried to do that. I checked out the Nikon 1 but they're about the same size factor as the m4/3. I'm hoping to find something I can get in a jeans pocket. – Keith Nov 5 '13 at 13:52
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    In dpreview.com bring your mouse on the top menu bar over "Buying Guide" which then opens a pull down menu, where you should choose "Camera feature search". Using that, you'll find what you are looking for. (Open also the "advanced search filters") and you'll find for example Ricoh GR which has APS-C size sensor and no zoom lens. – Esa Paulasto Nov 5 '13 at 13:53
  • THe RX100 does fit in a jeans pocket. Ignore the fact it has zoom, it is a very good camera. – Paul Cezanne Nov 5 '13 at 23:58
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    Keith, two sites have good search engines over a wide range of camera makes and models - dpreview.com and neocamera.com – Esa Paulasto Nov 6 '13 at 16:18

The Panasonic GF1 with a 20mm f/1.7 lens is not by any means large. If you want seriously smaller size you might be stuck with your smartphone and not carry an additional camera. The GF1 is showing its age though, it is 4 years old and technology has certainly improved. Here are some recent models that will outperform the GF1 in many ways but still fit your requirements:

  • Fujifilm X100S
  • Fujifilm X100
  • Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1R
  • Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1
  • Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II(Not prime lens but it does not matter)
  • Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100(Not prime lens but it does not matter)

I didn't go into each spec sheet, but I believe the DSC-RX100 is the smallest of the group above. I can easily fit it into my pocket. I would look at this one first if you really care about size. It is also a fantastic performing camera.

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    +1 for "just use your smartphone". Perhaps the closest to what the OP wants is the Lumia 1020. – Philip Kendall Nov 5 '13 at 14:17
  • Sony RX100 is 36 mm thick. Canon Powershot S100 is 28 mm thick. Otherwise similar but Sony has 1" sensor while Canon has 1/1.7" sensor. When talking about jeans pockets I'd take the Canon. – Esa Paulasto Nov 6 '13 at 16:36
  • @EsaPaulasto - OPINION - The Canon S100 is a toy(due to tiny sensor), the Sony RX100 is a tool that can be used for real photography(due to sensor). I own a Canon S series as well, it is junk. Great 4 years ago, in today's market it is a joke. – dpollitt Nov 6 '13 at 17:18
  • Aye, I agree with that. I have an interest in this question because of my friend who has tasked me to find him a good camera that fits in his pocket, and his top requirement is the size of the camera. Kinda sad, from our point of view. – Esa Paulasto Nov 6 '13 at 18:50

I think the closest you're going to get if you want something that's going to fit into a pocket is one of the "advanced compact" cameras - while I don't know of any that have a prime lens, they typically have relatively small zoom ranges, relatively low megapixel counts and a relatively large sensor. To give you a flavour of the market, DPReview have a group review of these from December 2012, but you'll need to be looking at what's available today rather than those specific models.

If none of those fit your use case and you don't want to go to one of the large sensor cameras which do actually have a prime lens, then I think the answer to your question is a simple "no, nothing like what you want exists".

  • The conclusion of that dpreview roundup was essentially to buy the Sony RX100 if you want something that fits in your pocket. The Sony RX100 II is out now and is only slightly larger but the one I would recommend today. – dpollitt Nov 5 '13 at 14:59
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    Whoever decided the RX100 fits in a pocket has bigger pockets than mine :-) – Philip Kendall Nov 5 '13 at 15:03

The Fuji X100 is a 12.3MP APS-C F2 prime lens in a compact package. (2in by 3in by 5in)

The Fuji X100s is a 16MP APS-C with a 23mm f/2 prime in a similarly compact package.

Both appear to meet your criteria quite well. If you are looking for smaller, a smartphone is probably the best bet, though I'd challenge that anything with that small of a sensor is giving up a lot in terms of quality, even if it isn't that high of megapixel count.

Higher megapixel count can always be averaged down to a lower resolution to regain the lost light and reduce noise levels, but when you are shooting in good light you will have more image data. Sure there is a limit to how much detailed information you can get at small size sensors, but the additional megapixels shouldn't hurt you, they just don't help as much.

  • The X100(s) sounds like a seriously attractive camera. If only I had the money... – JohannesD Nov 6 '13 at 8:32
  • Those are nice cameras, but when talking about jeans pockets it kinda suggests a 2" thick camera is too big, isn't it? – Esa Paulasto Nov 6 '13 at 16:38
  • @EsaPaulasto - depends on your pockets I guess. I like my cargo pants. :) – AJ Henderson Nov 6 '13 at 18:16

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