So I'm compiling a list, a Buyer's Guide, for the fall, to be called "Small Cameras We Love." "We" meaning, vaguely, the TOP writers and the TOP community.
My question is, what small cameras do we love? I'd like to consider various cameras brand-by-brand—that is, look at which Fujifilm cameras should be included, then look at which Panasonic cameras should be included, and so on until we get through all the existing cameramakers. In this initial post I've only included five marques or makers, but I'll get to the others eventually too. So even though Canon and Sony, for example, are missing from this list, today, here, they'll be discussed too—but in a future post. So if we could, let's limit the discussion to the five camera companies named in this post, with the understanding that there will be a Part II to this post and the missing companies will be included at that time.
In other words, I'm asking which Fuji, Panasonic, Leica, Olympus and Ricoh cameras you think belong in a list of the best small cameras.
So let's start out with just these five brands:
Fuji: I think all three current hot Fujis—the X10, X100, and X-Pro1—have to be on the list. These are camera-lovers' cameras. Doesn't really seem very arguable to me, but you can argue if you care to.
Panasonic: The new LX7, latest in the evergreen LX[x] series, and the near-and-dear-to-me GX1 definitely belong on the list. Any others? I think the GH2 (2010) is getting just a tad long in the tooth to be cool with the kids, but I could be wrong.
Leica: Very tough call for me. Leicadom is a world unto itself. The one easy decision is that even Leicaphiles don't particularly love Leica's genuinely small camera (and few like to pay status-symbol prices for the budget option in the range, Let's face it, people who need to do so can do better with two grand). Is the M9 a "small" camera? People do love it, although time is rushing on. This is a buying guide, though, and it seems likely that Leica is gathering itself for a model change—so do I want to tell people to buy a $7,000 camera from 2009 that's probably getting close to being replaced? Next question, dare I indulge my great admiration for the S2 system by stretching the definition of "small" to include it as being small—and exceptionally ergonomic—for medium format? My instinct is that's too far a stretch, but I waffle. Even if you allow for it, I don't see how I discriminate against the 645D once the S2 is allowed a spot. And finally, should the whole list be without a Leica altogether? Seems slightly sacreligious. Discuss....
Ricoh: The GR Digital in the current flavor definitely belongs, because of the emphasis with which it is actually loved—people really do love GRDs. Moving over, here's the controversy: I actually do kinda love the GXR, too, and I think it deserves a place on the list by virtue of the M-module. Plus, doesn't any camera system this quirky deserve to be rewarded?
Again, we'll cover other brands in future posts, for sure. I'm not ignoring them. I just want to cover Fuji, Panny, Leica, Oly and Ricoh today, just to begin with.
And—thanks for your input!
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Original contents copyright 2012 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by David Mantripp: "Accepting its limitations, in my opinion the GRD4 is one of the best cameras ever made. Unlike the Fuji X series, it has no idiotic handling / usability bugs. The Fujis are all very pretty, and I have a very high regard for Fuji in general, but I don't think any of them are well finished enough to deserve a recommendation. It seems that all too often they make you lose the shot, and this is just bad, or insufficiently funded, design. Ricoh seem to make cameras purely for the pleasure of it. I guess they sell a lot of copiers!
"As for the E-P3, I have a love-hate relationship with it. Even though I have well used to Olympus controls and menus, it still sometimes manages to confuse me. But on a good day, with the 45mm ƒ/1.8 stuck on the front, it doesn't get much better...."
Featured [partial] Comment by Burt: "If you keep X-Pro1 then you have to include the M9, and vice versa."
Mike replies: Although I appreciate the size similarity, I'm not so sure that's fair, because the M9 is the smallest camera with a full-frame sensor. To me, that counts as "smaller" than a similar-sized camera with a smaller sensor...doesn't it?
Featured Comment by Kevin Purcell: "People have favorite types of film but not many favorite sensors. The Sony ICX685CQZ is a bit of classic small sensor, I think. Never heard of it? Nope, most people haven't. But its performance and the numbers of enthusiast cameras it appeared in speak for themselves: Canon S90/S95 and G11/G12, Nikon P7000/P7100, Samsung EX1, Ricoh GRD 3 and GRD 4. I don't think any other single sensor has been used in so many different cameras. What will the next GRD (GRD 5) look like? Will Sony sell its 'type 1.0 inch' RX100 sensor to Ricoh/Pentax in lieu of the (now out of production) Sony ICX685CQZ 1/1.7" CCD? A bigger sensor with a prime lens plus the GRD UI (that seems to have been designed by people who take photographs) in the same sized box would be a winner. Any chance of two models: a wide and an normal GRD5? Ricoh/Pentax may be the group to watch for 'interesting cameras.'"
Featured Comment by Andrew Johnston: "A timely and apposite story. On Saturday I was at a wedding, doing my usual bit as 'unofficial photographer' (i.e. guest with a hobby). I sat down to the wedding breakfast next to a lady who was playing with her Lumix point and shoot and who said admiringly of my GH2 'that's a big camera.' Shades of Crocodile Dundee as I reached under my chair and heaved up my Canon 7D, complete with big lens and flashgun. 'No, that's a big camera!' All things are relative. And my GH2 is cool, even if I did use it mainly for video...."