Travel Light – Pocket Cameras

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Planning a Short Holiday? Don’t carry a heavy DSLR with you, instead consider carrying one of  these compact cameras as an alternative to heavier, bulkier, interchangeable lens camera systems.

Raw capture, full manual control, low-light performance are some of the distinctive features of the enthusiast compact camera category. Image quality of these models is as good as their mirrorless and DSLR counterparts. We have rounded up the 3 most interesting models currently available.

NIKON P7800:

The Nikon Coolpix P7800 is a full-featured, premium compact clearly intended to complete with Canon’s popular G-series cameras. The P7800 appears to offer a compelling spec, including a 1/1.7″ BSI CMOS sensor, 28-200mm F2-4 lens, a fully articulating LCD and an electronic viewfinder.

digital compact camera nikon coolpix p7800

12MP 1/1.7″ BSI-CMOS sensor | 28-200mm F2.0-4.0 lens | electronic viewfinder

Pros:

  • Very long, reasonably bright lens
  • Good JPEG output
  • Articulated rear LCD

Cons:

  • Sluggish user interface
  • Disappointing electronic viewfinder
  • Slow card write time

A good sensor, high-quality lens and good JPEG engine translates into it delivering an impressive image quality. Images are very sharp and noise-free at low sensitivities and the well-controlled noise reduction means there is less to be gained at high ISO by shooting Raw.

Sadly, the P7800 inherits some of the flaws of its predecessors, including a sluggish user interface and slow write times that can leave the camera locked-up between shots, even with a fast card. Buying a UHS-I card improves matters, but still leaves the Nikon feeling distinctly off-the-pace. It is unusual in offering a fully articulating LCD and adds an electronic viewfinder. Unfortunately, the VGA display used in the EVF is rather small and feels washed out, and there’s no eye sensor to automatically turn it on. One nice (and rarely seen) feature that you will find on the P7800 is the ability to control Nikon flashes wirelessly.

The Coolpix P7800 is a pretty capable enthusiast compact, offering a superb lens, good photo quality, manual controls, and an electronic viewfinder.

Bottomline: Impressive Image Quality

SONY RX10

The Sony Cybershot DSC-RX10 takes the 1″ sensor from the RX100 II and puts it into a somewhat bulky camera with a very impressive 24-200mm equiv lens with constant F2.8 maximum aperture. The combination of the larger-than-average sensor and this fast lens allows for shallow depth-of-field and low light performance which eclipses that of other super zoom cameras.

SONY RX10

20MP 1″ BSI CMOS sensor | Full sensor movie output | 24-200mm equiv. F2.8 zoom

Pros:

  • Fast, long zoom lens
  • Very good image quality, especially with Raw
  • Top-notch video quality and features

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Disappointing JPEGs
  • Manual zoom/focus ring can frustrate

The RX10’s image quality is significantly better than other superzoom cameras. As with the other Sony cameras, the JPEG engine isn’t the best-in-class, so you may want to shoot Raw for best results. Video quality is the real star, because the RX10 samples the entire sensor, instead of line-skipping – giving some of the highest resolution we’ve seen – though the codec isn’t as good as it could be.

The RX10 is a large camera, yet it still fits comfortably in your hand. While there’s only one custom button, functions can be assigned to numerous other buttons, as well. The RX10 has a ring around the lens that can handle both zoom and focus, though the variable speed can be frustrating when focusing manually. Photos can be composed on a tilting LCD or the very nice electronic viewfinder. While it is a capable still shooter, the RX10’s most noticeable feature is video. Sony has provided plenty of tools for recording, including focus peaking, zebra, silent aperture/focus control and manual audio level control.

Overall, the Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 fills a unique niche, for people who want a camera which can take quality stills and even better video – and are willing to pay a premium for it.

Bottomline: Superb low light performance, which outshines other super zoom cameras.

2. CANON G1X II

The PowerShot G1 X Mark II is Canon’s flagship enthusiast compact. It offers a large 1.5″ CMOS sensor and fast lens making it an excellent ‘second camera’ to an ILC. Extensive manual controls, 14-bit Raw, an articulating touchscreen, dual control dials and both Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity make the G1 X Mark II a strong choice for anyone in the compact market.

canon g1x mark II

12.8MP 1.5″ CMOS sensor | 24-120mm equivalent F2.0-3.9 zoom | Built-in Wi-Fi w/NFC

Pros:

  • Large 1.5″-type sensor
  • Fast lens
  • Three dial operation

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Backgrounds can be unintentionally blurred in Program mode
  • Clips highlights abruptly

While the G1 X II has one of the largest sensors in pocket category, the sensor itself is not new but borrowed from its predecessor. The image processor is new. JPEG results are impressive, with very good performance up to ISO 8000. The Mark II always uses a crop of its sensor, allowing you to maintain the same angle of view of 3:4 and 4:3. Unfortunately, the dated sensor means the Raw files aren’t quite as flexible as those coming from competitor cameras.

With a few exceptions, the G1 X II is a drastic improvement over the original model. It is more compact, has a faster lens (24-120mm F2.0-3.9), a real macro mode, faster burst shooting and Wi-Fi with NFC. Two things lost are though, an optical viewfinder (EVF is optional) and a fully articulating LCD (the Mark II’s tilts up to 180° instead). The autofocus system is vastly superior, with speed nearly twice as fast as the original G1 X (in good light). The camera features twin dials around the lens, making it easy to adjust exposure settings (there is also a slightly clumsy third dial on the back plate). Despite the size of the camera, the rear controls are cluttered.

 Bottomline: The image quality, features and performance are impressive.

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