« Open Mike: Stakistics | Main | Random Excellence: Matthew Girard »

Sunday, 12 August 2012


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Mike, you are forgetting the amazing Sony RX-100, the best pocket camera at the moment.


Oh dear. First my optician tells me my failing short distance vision is due to my age. Then, Mike tells me my GH2 is no longer cool :(

Seriously, though, the GH2 is the best camera I have ever owned, and it produces some excellent pictures, now it is paired with the wonderful 12-35mm f/2.8. But roll on the GH3 at Photokina.

The Pentax Q? Truly small, well built, unique... some love it, others shake their heads.

One of the NEXes ought to make it, too, if only because the series changed the "EVIL" market.

The X100 is an incredibly rewarding device. Great, even uniquely great images, sure. But there is more to it. Because it is not point-and-shoot easy and requires some effort to master, it makes you feel good about all the years you've spent learning about/messing with cameras. Perfect? Not quite. Lovable? Absolutely.

Are the X100, X-Pro1 "small" cameras?

I think the Sony RX100 should be on the list...

Early in love with Lumix, the LX7 might take me back there. Odd choice though, putting manual f stops on the lense ring, I'd have jumped for a Fuji X10-like manual zoom ring. Just hate the motor assisted zoom concept, especially when the zoom lense is (was? In the LX1) expressed as pointless single-digit 1x 2x 3x factors! I'd take fixed zoom stops at 24-28-35-50-75-90....
Handled the Fuji X100, must say felt like a 'real' camera.
Your Sonythoughts next?

You're forgetting the Sony RX100, the Sigma DP2 Merrill, the Sony NEX-7 and the Leica M Monochrom.

I don't find the tiny-sensor X10 or LX7 worthy of interest, and have been bitten twice by underwhelming m43 bodies (the GF1 and G3) that I have a hard time paying attention to m43 at all. The Canon M is an entry-level body with little to stir enthusiasm, but a pro-level Canon mirrorless would be a contender, certainly besting anything m43 has to offer but the OM-D, and competing against the NEX and Samsung NX.

"I think the Sony RX100 should be on the list..."

Guys, please! Read the post. We'll get around to all the other brands in due time. I just didn't want to throw everything into a single post is all.


Well, I suppose including an Olympus E-P3 would be good, even though it is last year's model with a 2008 era sensor. In spite of being at one time said to have "the world's fastest S-AF*" with all sort of asterisks and caveats attached, it is a unique little camera that works well with a excellent EVF and a decent fast lens. So if we can include a retro-look Fuji with slow AF, or a somewhat retro-look Oly OM-D, why not an E-P3. It looks really cute all dressed up, and after one gets used to its idiosyncrasies and develops work-arounds and the patience of Job, it is a very nice camera.

Or we could wait for the E-P4 which may inherit some of the OM-D stuff without screwing up the good points of the E-P3. Hurry, Oly may not have much time! http://bit.ly/MJUo9Q

*Each new small camera introduced nowadays seems to have the "World's Fastest (S)-AF*"

Canon S100 is my entry. Nothing odd, just a highly competent camera in a tiny, high quality body.

Although deeply involved in the major process of learning an E-M5, four lenses, etc., after not suing Oly since my OM decades, I still have been using the S100 for casual shots and to carry when I would not otherwise have a camera.

I caught some nice still and video stuff just tonight, in a place I didn't know I would be, that I wouldn't otherwise have captured.

In it's nice little leather belt pouch (inherited from an F30), it's always ready to go in a moment.

As always, it delivers. IQ is solid, including excellent high ISO for such a small camera/sensor.

But at ISO 80, Raw files with a touch of NeatImage and FocusMagic at 2 pixels are just stunning. You'd think they came out of an APS-C or 4/3 sensor.


For Pentax? K-1000, Auto 110 and Pentax Q, definitely. K-1000 has defined the world of SLR, totally. Auto 110 has defined the world of small cameras, and Q has has challenged our tunnel vision when thinking that 'bigger' always means better in digital photography.

Canon S100 as a truly pocketable camera, decent enough within its limitations.

Harking back to a recent post of Mike's I'd also add the iPhone 4s - it's the one camera I'm most likely to have with me, more so even than the Canon.

The GH2 is a bit long in the tooth, but I'm still very fond of mine even a year on - I'd say that matches the criteria in the question.

Drop the Leicas (M is not small enough, X not special enough). Okay some will have strong opinions about this. :-)

GXR has got my vote. Very capable and compact camera.

OMD, GX1 all okay. LX7 still needs to prove itself I would say.

OK I'll restrain talking about the new Pocket Wonder (RX100) because it's not on the list.

I like the Fuji X10 mechanical zoom concept, the motorized zooms are just no good for stills IMHO. They're most of the time too slow or imprecise.

I like my GH2 but it cannot hold a candle to my Pentaxes regarding ergonomics. Except for the concept of touch screen focusing and shooting, it's just not easy to change exposure settings quickly and efficiently. But it's much smaller and lighter than a DSLR and still has a (very good) EVF.

The LX7 is the one I should have wanted. I always wanted a LX since the first incarnation. But somehow I never managed to buy one. Or the camera was too expensive at the time, or not available or not pocketable enough or another maker just made a better camera.

Canon s95 /s100?

I recently compared ISO 200, 800, and 3200 performance of the OM-D E-M5 and the E-P3 using the super-sharp Olympus 50mm f/2 macro as the reference. To my surprise, the E-P3 looked nearly as good as the OM-D when used with really high quality glass.

I also compared the two M43 cameras with a Pentax K-5 using Pentax's excellent 100mm 2.8 WR macro lens? The OM-D image quality was as good or better at all ISO speeds and the camera is a lot smaller and lighter.

On the other hand, I have regularly shot really nice images with a Canon G9 so long as I shot at base ISO 80.

Should have titles the post "Quite small cameras". ;->

Canon S100

Now if Canon come out with an S105 with a basic phone built in I'll be in heaven.

I think any of those you've named are worthy, and it really depends on which aspects of performance you place emphasis. I found my GF1 was often replacing my 1Ds2 (too heavy), so I upgraded to an OMD rather than a 5D3. But the GX1 was available in NZ for 1/3 the OMD price. For me the IBIS, viewfinder, and 9fps gave it the edge over the GX1.

"Read the post before commenting"? You're new at this, aren't you?

If you include the XPro1 you may as well include the M9 as they're all but identical in size. In time I think the M9 will be one of those legendary cameras.

I'll also put in a vote for tha Nex7.


I'm planning an early morning rendezvous with Jupiter, the Pleiades, the Moon, and Venus in 10 hours from now in Australia. (0430 hrs 13 8 12} Planning the shoot, I realised that my usual 7d with 10-22, or 17-85 will be OK, but I suddenly realised that my Olympus XZ-1 with its 24mm equivalent f1.8 at ISO 400 for 20 seconds might be just perfect to cover the area of the sky I want.I've only just realised the night potential of this gem, but I may have to apply a bit of noise reduction. Will let you know!!!!

As someone who doesn't use Leica, I can see 3 reasons for using digital M Leica's now. Either

1. One really likes Leica ergonomics,
2. One clearly prefers Leica lenses over others, or
3. one has more money than sense.

The point here is that the technology in the bodies is not really cutting edge. I would point out that by modern standards, Leica M's are not that small cameras, although the lenses are.

The Ricoh GRD iv is really pushing the edges of what can be considered "serious" in 2012 terms, due to it's small sensor. What they might do with a MK V version will be interesting.
But as a previous M3/4rds user, both Olympus and Panasonic, and a current Samsung APS-C system owner and user, what did I decide to buy recently when I really needed a true "pocket" camera? Yup, a Ricoh GRD. And to use one is to love one, as the cliche goes. Punches above it's weight, and as iconic as anything on the market. +1 vote. :)

Regarding Olympus: yes we definitly love the E-P3. Even the smaller ones too. Look at the colors. They give all other competitors very long run in this regard. Best out of cam jpegs too. The others might have more resolution, but when I can have such a delicacy and subtelty in colors I don't care.
Ad Xz1: still a pretty good compact. And a viewfinder is available too! i doubt that Olympus will make the new one excesivly better. Pana didn'twith the Lx7 either. And I hate taking pictures in stinky diaper style, so yes we do like this cutie too :-)

If you're considering the S2 and 645D how about the Pentax K5? Smallest upper-mid range DSLR. With a DA40 LTD lens it's similar in size to the GH2.

I haven't used the other Fujis but I am enjoying the x100 more than I've enjoyed a camera for a long while. It's not perfect of course and the choices can be overwhelming (for me). As has been discussed here before, pretending that features don't exist is not the same as them actually not existing! Nevertheless it seems to be a camera that has caught a lot of people's imagination and would merit inclusion in the list I would have thought. It's also very coat-pocketable sans lens-hood.

Plus one also for the GRD. I've owned GRs since the original GR1 which was absolute dynamite. GRs just make so much sense in use and they are really small and inconspicuous. Sadly my GRDII just died at the hands of my kids who decided that it could be turned off by forcing the lens back into the body. My fault probably for seting a bad example by pushing the DVD tray in and not using the button!

My Olympus EP1 I never really got on with and sold it off a while back. If I was going to replace it, it would be with the OM-D, I wouldn't buy an interchangeable lens camera without a viewfinder, preferably built in.

While I like my Sigma DP1 for that Foveon look it's not the camera I'd carry around routinely. If I'm going out to shoot scenery on a nice day, then it's fantastic!. For other situations it's the wrong camera. I'd still consider the latest Merrill version, though.

My Ricoh GRD is the camera that lives in my bag or coat pocket. It slips into a trouser pocket with ease. The battery doesn't lose charge when not in use, and if you do run out of battery just nip into a shop and buy a pack of AAAs, then you're up and running again.

I bought mine in 2006 and it is my favourite digital camera of the ones I've ever used. I think the only camera that could replace it for me would be the current version.

I think the only way Ricoh could possibly improve on that is if they could up the sensor size while maintaining the small body size.

I think the Fuji f31fd would still hold up well. Too bad I dropped mine and killed it.

As a fellow non-Leica user, While I broadly agree with Oskar's points about Leica M, I feel that whereas in absolute terms it is not small by modern standards, it still remains the only full 35mm equivalent sensor to be found in anything other than pro-sized DSLR and in that context is certainly worthy of consideration as a 'small' camera.
My personal vote goes to Ricoh GXR-M.
Steve P.

Dear Michael!

Don't forget that older models of current cameras are still available on the market - for a reasonable price. Therefore, I would drop the E-P3 from the Olympus list and add the E-P2 instead (one may also add the E-PL1, but the real "classic" ist the E-P2 to me). A camera that all-in-all is "good" - even by todays standards. It not exceptional in one particular field anymore (except handling, one might argue) - but the advantages of the E-P3 are very minor, while the price is much higher. I always recommend my friends to go for the E-P2, and invest the money spared into the 20mm Panasonic lens.

Best regards,

When you open the next round, Mike, please include Apple as a choice. I use my iPhone all the time. It does a damn fine job for many tasks.

GRD for sure on the list. I love the concept of the Leica X2 and the Fuji X100, but I do not love the implementations. That's where we're still not quite there yet on a lot of these releases. Some great ideas, but not yet do we have a K1000 or FM3 or OM1 or CL. We're getting close!

What's with not being able to read these days? Mike didn't say the camera had to be "serious." The criteria is " small" and "love."

Yeah, they're all good although I don't see myself EVER paying a Leica price.

But even though the Fuji X-S1 (actually, its predecessor, the S100fs) is not small, it's still a camera I love. An S100fs went with me to Europe in '08 for 8 weeks and I have about 1,000 raws to work with, which I get better and better at processing. This is the ideal travel camera. Size? I don't care. Capability is what matters.

If only, if only! Fuji, what are you doing??? The X-S1 is on my list but until you declare your fix for the blob issue, and mark the fixed cameras accordingly, I will stay away.

Meanwhile, I'm pretty happy with my choice of 4/3rds and the E-PL2. That is a small but tremendously capable camera to love.

Ooooh! I've just noticed Bruce's comment about The Pleiades at 0430 here in Oz tomorrow (Monday) morning. Since I'll be up at 0300 for the Olympics closing, what an opportunity!

I think my full sized K-5 will do the job, along with the Sigma 120-400mm and a Pentax 16-45mm.

Wow, I may not have bothered with the Olympics, but now I'll get up. Pity it's such a rotten stormy night.

Love is irrational so no answer can be more right or more wrong than another.

Coming up -- Women/Men/Cars/Movies/Books we've loved and why.

Follow-up 2130 Australian Eastern time with my Oly XZ-1 ... Just WOW!! shot the Southern cross on the first night we've had clear conditions for a fortnight.. 20 sec @ 24mm f1.8 400ISO Manual focus.... I can see the Coalsack next to the Cross beautifully, and the noise is there, but not over the top! Excuse pun. Looking forward to tomorrow morning. Off to bed! This camera is sensational!! After a year, I'm only just discovering the potential. .LOVE the art filters - shoot RAW+ jpeg and you get the best of both worlds. Opens up a whole new way of taking photos.

"... after not suing Oly since my OM decades,"

Yeah, as an OM owner (still!) I feel like suing 'em anyway, Moose.

+1 for Fuji X10.
I considered the X100 and X10 and chose the X10 for the versatility of the zoom.
On a recent vacation, I took the X10 as my only camera (I was flying and didn't want the weight of a dSLR or even an m4/3 kit) and never regretted the choice. I also had a Sony NEX with me, but it never made it out of the luggage.
It produces pleasing images. There are enough manual overrides that once you learn the camera, small changes can easily be made with ease.
I have not had the dreaded "white orbs" spoil a shot yet. I can create them, but one can do that with just about any digital camera.
There are better cameras, but I've found it easy to carry and a joy to use.

Hi Mike,

Just hoping we'd be including sigma in the next post :) really love the dp series... Though they definitely don't really reach the mainstream.

I still use my Canon G9 even though I have the Sony NEX-7. I think it is a superb camera for its production time and the files print up very well.

Moose made this remark:
" after not suing Oly since my OM decades, "

I think a provocative set of posts might be derived from readers reporting which camera companies they are not presently suing.

Or, even better, which companies they are suing and the reasons: poor autofocus? high ISO that makes Tr-X pushed to 6400 look clean? Lugs that fell off? The corporate software blew up the PC? The manuals written with gay abandon in Chinglish?

I'm 63 and retired. I've owned 2 digital cameras; Olympus E-300 and E-410.
The E-300 was the better camera but none has engendered the feeling, "...I love this camera!"

I don't get to handle any of the modern cameras you mention. Most are simply not available, even to look at, within a 100 mile radius. Some, like the OM-D don't seem be available hardly at all.

(Seriously now, does Olympus only make 10 of these per month?)

I 'love' my 38 year old OM-1 and my 47 year old Pen F. I don't think I could 'love' a digital of any stripe but I might be able to tolerate one more than the other.

If this all sounds like the ranting of a bitter old fart, well 63 doesn't seem all that old, not anymore at least.

I'll take a film Ricoh GR-1 over any small camera from the five manufacturers that is currently in production.

I can only speak to the Olympi, but the E-PL3 (with VF2) is gathering dust since I nabbed the OM-D.

Off topic, but I shot with the OM-D+45 and the Canon 5D3+85L at equivalent apertures for DOF (f/2 and f/4 resp.) during a portrait shoot the other day.
The OM-D has *more accurate focus* in < ISO 400 light. Pin sharp at the edges of the frame.

I actually maintain a list of compact cameras I'm interested in - it's cheaper than buying all of them. Here's what I have from your five brands.
Fuji - I think you're on the money here, although the X10 doesn't seem to get as much love online as the other two.
Panasonic - the GX1 is the only current Panasonic on my list.
Leica - I think the X2 deserves a spot. If you're worried the M9 and M Monochrom are too large for this list, take a look at this http://j.mp/NXYR2S.
Olympus - I would still snap up an E-P3 if the right deal came along, but it has been in the market quite a while.
Ricoh - my GR II just died and I've already ordered a GR IV. I think the GR series is still the king in the "truly pocketable" category. I feel naked walking around without my GR in my front pants pocket. I find the GXR interesting as well, but I'm not sure I would love it.

Re the GH2: you have this wrong. Two years old or not, the new G5 has the GH2's sensor with limited video functionality, less multi-aspect options and a nerfed control layout, and it is regarded as a clear upgrade from the very good G3. The GH2 easily competes with the best sensors in the 'small camera' world. In fact people who are not me have reported that Lightroom 4 has some mystical juju that lets you pull as much dynamic range from it as from an OM-D. On top of the geekery you have the undeniable fact that it has one of the most useful control layouts of any digitial camera. I don't mean cool and nostalgic like the Fujis, but modify-almost-anything-fast-without-taking-your-eye-off-the-viewfinder useful for getting a difficult shot. Little things like the implementation of manual lens focus zoom keep me stuck with a GH2 when my heart (and my long manual lenses, which require IBIS) wants me to go with an OMD.

In fact the GH2 might be the ultimate head-versus-heart camera. Panasonic did not even try to make their camera distinctive. Every Panasonic is an anonymous black brick that looks like any of three dozen small DSLRs and superzooms. IAnna's the same personality as the TVs and laptops in an Ikea display. My EP-1, on the other hand, still has a hold on my heart even though it has zero functionality advantages other than IBIS. I just felt cool using it. Strangers don't stop me and ask to hold my GH2.

Re EP3: skip it. That model line has been mooted by the OMD and Olympus knows it. However, IMO your list most definitely should include the EPM1. It is hands down the most desirable option in the small-and-affordable end of the small camera market. That and a Panasonic 20mm lens make a potent and (large) pocketable combo.

I have -- and continue to love -- a GF-1. I very nearly upgraded to the GX-1 when it was the deal of the day, so I guess I'd throw my vote behind that.

Haven't really used any of the other models you mention, except for a coworker's X-10 briefly, so I can't really join the discussion much.

Another vote here for the GH2. Once you've got a handle on the menus and buttons, it's really a photographer's power tool. Great image quality combined with a variable aspect ratio sensor and fully articulating screen can't be beat. There's some real quality lenses in the m4/3 lineup, too.

My D700 and bag o' Nikon glass? Paperweights.

BAh on Leica - the X100 is what they should have made, but Fuji did. And the X100, warts and all, is a sublimely wonderful camera. Light, small, fantastic images. Love Love Love it:) My other fav small camera is one not mentioned, the Panasonic TS3. Super-small sensor, yes. Not the greatest image quality when compared to anything else mentioned above, but those cameras can't be thrown to the bottom of a pool, or slide down a water slide unattended, or survive a week on the beach. And for what it is, the pics are pretty darn good. And it has a video mode that makes sense but doesn't get in your way - video being one things that small take-everywhere cameras should do well, at least if you've children.

Well Mike,

I once owned an LX3 and while IQ was very good, the interface drove me nuts. I sold it after a couple months. I am continually both impressed and frustrated with my Fuji x10 and both for the same reason. The "auto" functions and Jpegs are just too damn good. It makes me crazy that the camera out thinks me so often! Fortunately I have my D700 and 30lbs of lenses to satisfy my need for control.

I just received my Sigma DP2 Merrill, and I love it. It is slower than you can imagine, literally writing files to the card for over ten seconds and taking a full second to focus, and ISO above 400 is almost unusable by today's standards. But boy, do I love those files. It is like shooting medium format slide film. Slow and meticulous, but when you get it right, the detail and color are breathtaking.

And I happen to love the minimalist design. It sits well in my hands and is easy to use.

Fujifilm; my X10 gets more use than my X100. Once you figure out how to get EXR mode 6MP RAW files with expanded DR you have a fine picture taking tool.

Olympus: OM-D E-M5 gets more use than any other camera I own. A true winner. For those who don't "get" the menus: use it more.

Its not hard to buy a better camera for 2k so isn't the fact that people are buying x1/x2s the definition of love? Love is not rational.

On the digital Ms, I think the M9 Mono would be a better choice on the list. I am sure some photographers love/would love it and its not getting replaced in a month.

Although I've never so much as held a digital Leica, I would vote that the digital Leica rangefinders count as ‘small for full frame’ to the point where they meet the size criterion of inclusion. Note also that the M Monochrom is more recent than the M9, and seems like an especially natural target for quirky cult adoration.

As far as my own experience goes, right now I'm alternately loving and hating a new Olympus E-M5, but that's already on your list.

Does this mean when you say "geeks" you mean people who endlessly replace their cameras as new ones come out?

"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, any idiot can do better with two grand)."

Well, see, that's where I feel you're wrong. The X1 was ground breaking when it arrived and the X1/X2 are still some of the few cameras from the list of manufacturers above that can reasonably imitate an image from a full frame camera.

You can use it a full aperture in broad daylight and get classic looking "street" style images. The RAW files are easy to work with and they don't "pebble up" when pushed. The Leica M-whatever is not a small camera in the modern sense.

It's also actually "Small"....unlike the Fuji X100 or Xpro or any NEX or RIcoh APS alternatives once you actually attach a lens. (The one small nex lens is practically a bottle bottom).

I have an X100 and RX100 along with the X1 and to force rank them:
1. RX100 for it's ground breaking...uh...everything.
2. The Leica X1 for its great ergonomics and file quality.
3. Fuji X100...great files but not small and not as predictable results...especially regarding auto focus.

Best wishes

I'm afraid when I reached the section about Leica and encountered a mention of the S2 you lost me: in both senses. "Small cameras"? This inclusion makes nonsense of the survey's intent.

As someone who actually uses both an Xpro1 and X100 I keep wondering who these people are that keep missing shots?

I am not going to vote against any camera I have not actually got first hand experience of because, basically, what do I know?

I vote for the X100 and Xpro1 as well as the GRD, GX1 and the OMD. All offer something unique and deliver on IQ, and that is good enough for me.

I actually own a Fuji X100, and an M9. The X100 is not that much smaller than the M9. It's also often not any faster. While it's good and light it's not hugely easier. (However, it's bang for the buck is great, M9 has a real cost issue.)

Also, it's worth thinking/talking about the small cameras with speical features - waterproof, shockproof, etc. I have little panasonic waterproof camera, and that can be LOTS of fun.

I still like my Olympus RC.

I would certainly include the Leica M9 because it is so small for it's full frame sensor size and has small lenses. It is the choice of anyone who wants a full frame camera in the smallest of size, with small lenses. I have used the M9 and a 28mm lens as a pocket camera. Yes, a jacket pocket not a jeans pocket.
Glad you did not put on a "size of wallet" restriction.

While I do consider the Leica S2 small for it's sensor size, the lenses are built for center shutters, and far different from M lenses, so the S lenses are not small. While it is a very handy camera to use, it will not fit in any pocket I have.

I wish Leica would use their link up with Minox to produce a truly tiny camera, say half the size of an iPhone.

Owning a Pentax RZ10 1/2.33’’ CCD now I can comment it makes fantastic pictures,... as long you're having plenty of light.
So here's my view: for my future D cam it must be something much better for darkness/night shots (yes , maybe the "little" DSLR D3200 is the one and only), and for compact travel I must stay with the current compact 1/2.3" or 1/1.7" and stay in the light.
But, changing the little Pentax to a Nikon 1 V1 seems logic and it will be likely that within the next months (please, any V2 upgrade nikon?). The V1 has a HUGE bonus: EVF, lacking that on a compact is plain suicide... :-)
Alternatively if Pentax/Ricoh could offer me the same and I would take it! e.g. APS-C K-30 and ?.1".? (not a Q which is just a high priced RZ10 with some gimmicks).
Thank you for putting this up Mike. Great topic.

i'm sure there are people who love any camera, though some cameras have a special place in history. they're usually not even the newest models because it depends on what else was available at the time.

fuji: the x100, x100, x-pro1 are certainly loved and hated. they go on the list.

panasonic: none at the moment, though that will probably change when the gh3 is announced. the gh2 lost it's shine when it's replacement date came within reach. the gf1 was loved, but the gx1 was tainted by the redirection of the gf-series. it doesn't stand out among its peers, and people look back at the good old days of the damn sexy L1 and LC-1. likewise, the lx5 and 3 were loved, but the lx7 is less attractive now that everyone expects 1" sensors in pocketable premium point & shoots.

leica: m9-p and monochrom are loved by anyone who loves photography. that's the idea, anyway. the s2 could become loved 2x as much if it's price is halved upon its replacement. yeah, nobody loves the x2 because it doesn't have the right viewfinder.

olympus: people love the om-d, obviously, but not really anything else right now. the xz-1 had a fast zoom that stayed fast, but it never really caught on due to its design, fit, and finish. olympus has a tendancy toward a feeling of cheapness in its consumer grade products that is unappealing. the fuji x10 hit the spot the xz-1 was aimed at.

ricoh: the grd3 was loved, but the grd4 is in the same boat as the panasonic lx7. the sony rx100 has raised our expectations. the gxr has become more loved over time as the lensor controversy died down and it became clearer that ricoh is rather unique in making products that work like they should. they need to flesh out the system with an evf equipped body (sony nex-7 style), and lensor units. one way to cause an uproar? 24mm-e f2.8 tilt shift lensor for travel architecture.

Still enjoying my XZ-1 a lot. Unlike most of the "compacts" with interchangeable lenses, it's truly compact enough to carry in a pocket when I'm travelling light. But I can attach a lens hood and VF-2 when I carry it in a small case. The add-on accessory grip is mandatory. Delivers very nice images and can zoom when shooting video (unlike some other compacts).

The Fuji x10, which I have and used, is problematic. Build quality is great, and accessing exp compensation, exposure mode, focus and iso settings is very easy using dials and buttons. But, and it is a big but, image quality is not up there with the pen-s/g-s/nex-s and like. Also optical-finder is almost unusable due to not knowing where it focused. And lastly, there are so much options and menues that you never now really where you are and what are your current settings. To finish off with some good again - the lens is great, and you never hesitate to take it with you, so it makes the shot ... if the slow focus gets it ;-) As I said - P R O B L E M A T I C

Yoram N.

Well, there is "Love and Use" and there is "Love Unrequietedly." Under the first category the M9 is the largest small camera I use and love. Next is the XP1, which excels where the M9 is weakest (very low light). The E-P2 also never fails to please. I have a Panasonic G2 and my reaction has been "meh" - Olympus does m4/3 better (in-body IS, better buffer and frames-per-second). And I have a Panasonic LX3 that I never got along with - its size was its only advantage (better than no camera at all).

Under "Love Unrequietedly" I have to put the OM-D, Ricoh GRD and the NEX-7. I will be picking those up used in about three years when the product cycle, um, cycles.

Ben Marks

Suspect the term small applies to the latest rendition of digital devices. For me and currently
only digital at hand is the lowest priced Canon
point and shoot with Image Stablization and operates on AA cells.
Now as for film. an Olympus Pen F, or was it marked T?
In any event....
dead simple, set it to automatic and push the shutter activatating a 1/50th shutter. It would take a Bulb flash forr which you set the aperture on the lens.

Sad these devices didn't migrate to the digital age. But then I am having difficulty doing so
in this new age of more cameras released it seems daily, than rabbits producing their young.

The OMD has left all of my other cameras (including an X100 and my "serious" dslrs) gathering dust, and gets my vote for camera of the year.

When the Canon list comes up (I did read the post) I'll vote for the S95/S100 series, in the really-small-camera category.

The S2 and 645D are very cool, but they're only "small" compared to, say, a house.

Maybe it's my engineering background, but I think it would help if you really defined what you mean by "small caemra". That will help you to clarify whether something like the Leica S2 -- not my idea of a "small camera" by any means -- qualifies.

Personally, I don't love the Ricoh GXR at all. The idea of packaging a sensor and a lens into a single unit has one small advantage, that you will never get dust on the sensor. On the other hand, it means when the sensor is obsolete (three to five years at most), the lens is effectively obsolete too. Good thing Nikon didn't think up a scheme like this back in 1959 or I might not still be able to use my old Nikkors! So I actively despise the GXR because I think it basically represents the solution to a long-standing problem for camera manufacturers, which is, how to get people to buy a whole new set of lenses every few years. From the photographer's point of view, this is a disaster.

I think the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS15 should be included in any list of the best small (pocketable) cameras. Picture quality has two main aspects: image quality (noise, color rendition, etc.) and framing. The image quality of the ZS15 measures up to the Canon S-90/95/100, despite their larger sensors, under most conditions. And the framing - compositional flexibility - with a 24-384 mm equivalent lens, is vastly superior. Handling speed, controls, etc. have improved greatly in recent iterations of this "pocketable superzoom" line, so it's quite adequately responsive - faster than the Canon S95. I recently took the ZS15 along with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 on a trip to Mongolia and Beijing. The Oly (which should certainly be included in your list) got about 70% of the use, the ZS15 about 30%. For most daylight shots, it's hard to tell which camera took the picture.

A couple of years ago I took just the ZS7 (a two-generations earlier version of the ZS15) on a trip to the Baltics, and had an exhibit, back in Minnesota, of 12x16 prints that got very good reactions and sold several prints. At that size (and how often do you print larger?) there was no obvious pixellation or other defects. The ZS15 is even better.

Love for what reason?

There are almost no cameras on your list that are loved for their all-around capability (the OM-D would probably head that list). Most of your cameras make the "love" list for one of two reason:

1. All around compromise. They have compromises partly due to their smallness, and we're willing to live with those for the smallness. The Canon S100 falls into this category.

2. They excel at something specific. You don't list it, but the V1 falls clearly into this category, as no other small camera can focus like it can, let alone with handheld lenses out to 840mm equivalent.

But even using these criteria things are getting muddy. For example, take the S100, LX-7, XZ-1, and RX-100 (and maybe the larger G1x). The RX-100 clearly changed the evaluation of the S100/LX-7/XZ-1, as the primary compromise (sensor size) is gone.

But more to the point, very few people have actually TRIED all these cameras (I have, though I'm a little behind on a couple of recent ones). Thus, they tend to form their "Love" or "Dislike" stance by echoing what they've read or a specific need/desire they see in the marketing/reviews of the cameras.

I'll give you one specific set to contemplate: S100, G12, or G1x? People pick the S100 over the others because "the compromise in performance doesn't equal the gain in small size." With the S100 versus G12 that was pretty clear. Now we have the G1x, which is nearly identical in size to the G12 but has clearly better sensor performance. Obviously, G1x > G12 (there's really no way you can favor the G12 over the G1x unless price is primary consideration).

The corollary to this argument is very different: have we exceeded an image quality bar above which all these cameras can get? To use a current metaphor: do all these cameras meet the Olympic A qualifying standard? If so, then the "love" aspect becomes very personal and I can find something to love about virtually any camera you propose. I suspect that this is actually the case. Dial back to 1995 and film and we had an absolute bar that was at ISO 400 or 800 (depending upon who you asked), and "small" cameras with very few features and few with great lenses. We're obviously better off than that now.

As to whether the qualifying bar should be raised, the answer is likely no, it should be lowered. Other than a few of us still exploring large format output, the common denominator has gone down from 4x6 prints to essentially 1920x1080 max for most output (the image used to illustrate this article is 798 x 496 ;~).

Fuji F30, definitely
Panasonic LX3

If by "small" you mean "light weight(ish)" then yes, the X Pro-1 fits the bill. Physically it's not nearly as small as the other cameras you list. It fits my hands nicely compared to my Canon S95 or Oly EPL-2.

My experience with the Fuji indicates it's a camera you have to learn how to use. Much as I'd like features like focus peaking I'm finding that I actually can focus a MF lens if I practice at it. Sort of like back when men were men and cameras didn't have AF, light meters, etc.

Here's a site with examples of all the things the X Pro-1 can't do...

My G3 is a small camera I love. It has most of the controls where I want them (though I miss some from the G1) and regularly delivers photographs I am thrilled with and which thrill those around me in sizes to 13X19. Most importantly, it has an EVF - one of the reasons it comes out to play rather than my D7000 most of the time.

Are there better cameras? Undoubtedly ... but this camera feels right in my hands, allows my shooting to flow, and takes lenses that fit with my vision. What more could a person ask?

Mike has asked about small cameras that we love. LOVE. Cameras to which we have some emotional attachment -- something which goes beyond high ISO, low noise or a sharp lens. My love is not one of the brands under discussion today and very likely will fall under the category "other" at the end of the series.

We don't love our husbands/wives because they are great bread bakers or bread winners. We don't love our dogs because they are great retrievers. And we shouldn't love a camera because of great specs. Rather it should be for what we experienced while owning and using it; memorable pictures it allowed us to make and sometimes the people we shared it with.

I love my X-Pro1, but it does not cross the threshold for "small camera." The X-100, or the EM5 without grip and with a small lens (e.g., 20/1.7), do qualify.

Is there room in the recommendations for slightly older but much cheaper cameras for folks like me without the budget to consider, for example, a new OM-D?

My E-PL1, while hardly cutting edge, is an exquisite camera for the price it commands these days. Goodness knows I'd still be film only without how far the price had dropped as I wasn't interested in the usual inexpensive P&S stuff. The little Olympus, OTOH, gave me a quality camera at a price I could actually afford and gave me a platform that I could use my Pre-AI Nikkors, Leica LTM & even Canon FD lenses on easily. As a result it became the first brand new camera I bought since a Canon Rebel in the early 90's.

Um. Can I put in a vote for something which takes film? Otherwise, it's all a bit digital. I've got a digital camera, but it's hardly what I like to use. In fact, this last year, I took 9 films and about 100 digital shots, and the only ones I want to print are from film.

So I propose for your voting "Generic metal bodied 35 mm manual SLR, easily available used". I'd have a Nikon FM2 or Spotmatic F.

The Lumix LX-3 and all of its relatives, especially for food photography of all things.

I think I'd love a Panasonic GF-1 if I had bought one, but I never did.

First, count me in with others here on the Ricoh GR cameras. Impossible not to love unless you judge your cameras by the number of pixels involved.

Regarding the Olympus EP cameras: I had the EP3 briefly, but couldn't stop myself from judging it by its so-so dxomark scores. So sold it and picked up one of those Amazon deal-of-the-day E-P2 bodies. Attached a Holga 25mm lens and LOVE IT!! Great little kit for shaking up the brain cells from time to time.

Regarding the X-Pro1: Its a quizzical beast that I plan to keep for a long time... it'll take that long for me to really figure it out. But image quality is so good that I'm pretty confident I won't regret keeping it for the long-run.

I will put in my vote for the Fuji X-100. For more than three decades I used a Nikon FM-2, and I have found this camera to be the closest thing in digital to that camera. Real dials for aperture, shutter and exposure compensation make it the closest thing available to a fully manual camera. I've shot about 3500 pictures, and my fingers can find those dials and make the camera do exactly what I want it to do, and I have yet to experience any of the frustrations so many have mentioned. I will also put in a speculative vote for the Olympus EM-5; it does rain occasionally here in Victoria, BC, and it's weather resistance would be useful.

As a Leica user, I would exclude Leica from the list. The "real" Leicas aren't cheap, and they aren't so compact. Okay, the X2 is compact without the EVF, but it ain't cheap by any stretch of the imagination. And the M9, while it produces the finest images I've ever deen from a digital camera, it's not what I think of when I hear "compact camera".

As a Ricoh user as well, the GRD4 IMHO is the ULTIMATE compact. Its user interface is second to NONE, and it is truly pocketable. If the GRD5 uses Sony's RX100 sensor (fingers crossed), I could see myself selling every other piece of photographic gear I own. The GR Digital series really is that good.

I like the fact that the innaugural brands you (Mike) are including are decidedly not the mainstream marques. Cameras for those who tilt at windmills, and using the popular gear be damned. A bit of the willful iconoclast, if you will.

The only thing I'd add to the cameras already mentioned is to incoude a category of 'any cheap m43' camera. E-PL1s go for under $200 from Cameta now, and its hard to find fault, price considered. The same principle applies to other m43s.

Now of the brands you list, I have a dream accessory. I wish Ricoh would license the autofocus technology Kyocera developed for the Contax AX wherin the film plane was moved. It seems it would be easier to do moving a sensor than a full size film transport. Make a module with that contrast/phase detect sensor technology from the 1" Sony and put an M mount up front and you'd see a huge rush from Leica. Of course, even if the technical/legal hurdles were surmountable (I suspect they'd be fairly straightforward) it isn't clear Ricoh would want to make a module that would preclude purchase of more modules (i.e. customers would be giving money to Leica/Voigtlander etc instead of buying several Ricoh modules). But I think at $1000 they'd do a bang up business. Heck, they could have multiple versions for CX/APS-C, or Full Frame. And even better would be the same type mount for K-Mount with auto-aperture capability. I bet they could get a deal on licensing the mount patents (g).


Really like the X10. Good size, features, and image quality. Just wish the viewfinder was accurate. I've been shooting with some rather limited film cameras recently and it's proved to me that the most cutting-edge technology is less important than something that simply lets you fire a shutter when you want to and gives you a clear, crisp view when you raise the camera to your eye.

+1 for Ricoh GRDiv. Superior ergonomics and handling, in a market dominated by cramp-inducing iphone-alikes. Try one to feel the difference. Also sports a sharp lens and a gabillion nerdy features.

Someone says the GR-D can't possibly be a "serious" camera because it has a small sensor. That's just nonsense. A serious camera is a camera with which one can reliably do serious work. Period.

My X100 makes beautiful pictures, but the little one I really love is my old black Fuji Finepix Z1. Built as a tank and nearly invisible. It's in my right pocket all the time.

As a Leicauser/Lover, I'd say keep them out. As far as the Pens go, I'd say put in the EP-M1(which may be getting replaced soon with the EP-M2, but at the same time the OMD EM-5 is possibly about to get usurped also.) as it is the small pen, with all the pen positives.

Back to my first point however, if the Fuji XPro1 is on the list, then the M9 really shouldn't be kept off.

Some other additions would be the Pentax Q, which seems like a wonderful little system(I do wish more manufactures would have went with a Micro 4/3s mount rather than coming up with their own "type" along the same lines)

The ZX-1's 1.8 lens brings everyday, incredibly useful low light photography to a price that's largely missing elsewhere at its price. The freedoms from not needing flash for snapshots is something most non-pros don't even know exists. I don't see how that could be underestimated here.

Huh, the latest camera I have anywhere near this class is TWO major versions out of date (LX3), and I have replaced it with an M43 you aren't pushing (EPL-2).

I'll say I loved the LX3 a lot, the IBIS was excellent, the performance in good light was spectacular. The two drawbacks were the performance in low light (where 90+% of my small-camera pictures are shot) and the short zoom range (somewhat improved in the LX5 and LX7 I believe). So it seems likely that the LX7 does deserve a place on this list, though I can't quite testify directly.

You forgot to include the SOny NEX series or did I miss that

I bought the first E-PL1 as a double zoom kit for my wife for around 550€. Then last November, I've bought one for myself (single kit zoom set) for under 240€. Body only was around 150€ during the last months. If you consider the quality it can give at ISO 100 or 200, these are by far the best buy ever. And now we enjoy all those fantastic primes - Panny 14 and 20mm, Oly 45mm. Can't be beaten for their prices as well, and all in all these make a nice upgrade path to the OM-D...

Fuji: I'd vote for the trifeca, here - the X10, X100 and XPro 1 - because, despite being polarizing cameras for many, they are loved dearly by those who own them and may have triggered a return to manual, exterior controls in smaller cameras aimed at enthusiasts. I'm not saying they're perfect - far from it - but they are loved. And the XPro only qualifies as small compared with a Nikon D800 and above.

Panasonic: If we're only talking about cameras currently in production, then both the GX1 and the GH2 must be included for general excellence, user friendliness and (in the case of the GH2) EVF and video ability. Their successors will likely be even better. If we can include recent cameras, one would have to include the GF1, which still has a cult-like following. And the LX3, which broke ground in the truly compact/larger sensor (for the time) class. But with the GX1, I'm not sure the LX5 and LX7 mean as much today.

Leica: I'm not sure the M-series cameras qualify as small. But, more importantly, I'm not sure Leica is even relevent anymore. If we were talking cars, it would be like saying I love Aston Martins or TVRs - vehicles that still carry strong DNA from the days of the classics, are reasonably updated (but far from cutting edge), can give great pleasure under very specific circumstances and are priced well beyond what most people can afford. I believe most photographers love the idea of Leicas more than the cameras themselves. But I know there are people who feel otherwise. The X1 and X2? Please. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Olympus: The E-M5 is a no-brainer. It has taken micro four thirds to the next technical level and most owners love them. The E-P3? Many owners love this camera. It leaves me lukewarm. If the next iteration has a built-in viewfinder within the range finder form factor, things might be a lot different. Instead, I call everyone's attention to the humble E-M1, which is an absolute steal and offers the same image quality as the E-P3. The E-M1 is a major nail in the coffin of the traditional 3-4x zoom compact digicam. People not interested in better image quality have cellphones. If this was 18 months ago, I would have included the XZ-1 on the list for its important role in moving the conversation along. It probably still deseves an honorable mention.

Ricoh: While I'm not necessarily moved by the camera, the GRD is loved by virtually everyone who has ever owned one. Meanwhile, I handled a GXR for the very first time at a Pentax event in New York this week. This camera is definitely more than the sum of its parts. I say the camera/system deserves to be on the list based on build quality, form factor and handling, and the M, A12 and A16 modules.

I own a ZX-1 and it goes with me almost everywhere. It's very capable, easy to use and to be honest I like playing with the art filters at times. My daughter has the GRD IV I bought her for Christmas and it is awesome I want one but am holding out for a Black and White sensor version.

Thanks for all the great comments and, I suppose, temptations. Having owned and enjoyed Canon 10, 20, 40, and 50Ds, I was pleased by the E-P1 as an alternative and currently own two bodies but have probably gotten more use and better pictures from my Panasonic models, beginning with the GF1 and G1 and now the G2, GX1, and two G3s. I'd would second the G3, featuring a great sensor and creditable viewfinder. I appreciate the design and the size
of the camera, its portability and hand-feel, as well as the image quality, particularly in prints ranging from 9X6 to 13X19, as well as the recent competitive pricing, typically in the four to four-fifty range and sometimes including the 14-42 kit lens for brand new models, making the G3 a worthy alternative to the GX1 and OMD EM5.

The new Sigma DP2S Merrill shohld be there too

It would've been nice of people had been asked to preface their comments with something indicating their opinion is based on first hand knowledge or a re-statement of what they've read on the Internet.
Based upon first hand knowledge, the x100 is a great camera + lens with the latest firmware: small, light, good viewfinder and quick with a bit of practice.
I'll have to jump off your topic restrictions because I doubt any of your follow up editorials will include film cameras, and even less likely Minolta, but the absolute best small camera would have to be the Minolta TC-1 (again, opinion based upon first hand knowledge -- ownership for years and comparing to a lot of posh film cameras and current digitals).

Another +1 for the Ricoh GRD iv. As others have already pointed out the ergonomics and handling are first rate and, unlike most of the compacts out there, the lens is sharp to the edges.

I'm so tired of the noiseless, perfect plastic images coming out of todays digital cameras. Having grown up with film I like the how the grain develops on the GRD as you ramp up the ISO.

For modest print sizes (11"14" or less) it's the perfect pocket companion.

For Canon S100 users,hyperfocal distance for streetphotography: manual focus 20 inches.

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007