« 10/11/14 The Morning Coffee: Vacation Snaps | Main | 10/13/14 The Morning Coffee: Pine Lake »

Sunday, 12 October 2014


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

Well, owning the EM1 I'll exclude that one. It's good but I'll just list three small cameras I'd like to try...

Sony RX1
Leica M 240 (and suitable lens, probably 35mm)
Nikon D750 (large, but smaller than the D800. Does that count?).

Notice they are all full frame. Perhaps I should just rent a full frame camera to check it out, then go back to m43...

Olympus E-PL5. Stabilization, access to all M4/3 lenses (i.e. a system camera). Really very small, still has a moving lcd and takes great view finders or flash. Fits in a small jacket pocket without view finder and with a small compact zoom or prime. Can serve as a "serious" camera together view a view finder an any of the excellent M4/3 lenses

I think it should be on the list if you LOVED using them ;-) So, for me the Panasonic GF1 is on top of the list. It's been my companion for close to five years. It has a simple user interface. I can change all the important settings very easily, and without losing my concentration on the subject. The companion 1.7/20mm lens is a fantastic fit for it. I've tried to upgrade the GF1 a few times, without success (GF3, GX1, E-P2, EM5, PM2). GF1's interface trumped them all.

My other LOVED camera was the Pentax DS *ist. I had that one for a couple of years. Although I upgraded to better spec'ed Pentax bodies, it is the only body I kept after moving to m4/3 format, primarily to use with my Pentax 50/1.2 lens.

1. Panasonic GF1 @ 1.7/20mm
2. Pentax DS *ist

Ricoh GRD is the one i love, Sony RX100 is the one that brings the most keepers, although I don't enjoy shooting with it.

Sony a7s - 12mP, so not ridiculous. sees in the dark. takes every kind of lens possible.

I live in California, and I listen to Bonobo. How about that! Bonobo is a British musician/DJ. One of his recent tracks, Cirrus, has a photographically interesting video to go along with it, that takes 50's home movies and advertisements and treats them in a trippy/disturbing/kaleidescopic way https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WF34N4gJAKE

Canon G16 is both favourite and workhorse. The Canon SX700 sits near the deck door in case I need that 30X telephoto.

I'd vote for the Panasonic GX7 (get it while you can). Pop a 20mm (40mm equiv) 1.7 on the front and you're golden. A while back I bought an X100 because I wanted a small camera capable of producing good results. Whilst that camera can produce beautiful pictures (better than the GX7 if the wind is in the right direction), it's too slow and the focus is horribly unreliable / inaccurate. The GX7 though - easy to figure out despite the fact that it does a bazillion things; nice ergonomics (not quite as nice as the X100, but in the same ballpark); good high ISO; small with the aforementioned 20mm on; reliable autofocus; a tilty touchy screen; and configurable to hell and back. Battery life is, of course, pants, but then it has an EVF so that's par for the course - bring along a spare and your good for a few hundred shots. Oh, and silent mode, silly high FPS if the settings are right, and it shoots square if you want it.... :) All in all a thing of great beauty.

Sony RX100 - small enough to fit in pocket. Decent size sensor. Shots raw. Fun to use :-)

1) Cameraphone - any decent smartphone. Immediate sharing of fotos to Facebook has killed the compact camera for all but enthusiasts.
2) Fuji X100T - just because it's so pretty, and it's a modern Leica M.
3) Sigma DP2M - astonishing quality, easily matching my 5D3 and 35/1.4L.

For a small camera, I love the Rollei 35S. Precision made with a satisfying snap and click to everything. Sharp collapsible lens with a 40mm focal length, which to me is the perfect normal (I'm a 40/28 guy, as opposed to a 50/35 guy). Fits inconspicuously in the palm of the hand, secured by its built-in wrist strap.

1) The SONY RX100 III. The pocketable high quality solution. Once the RX100 had an EVF it was usable (I bought the first version, and rarely use it because of the lacking viewfinder). Image quality is amazing though. Lack of zoom kept me from upgrading though, and instead I bought this:

2) Based on the same 1" sensor found in the Sony RX100, is the Panasonic FZ1000. It is the first bridge camera with serious image quality. Just bought it and I now rarely use anything else. A light, relatively small, 25-400mm lens, makes it very useful for a generalist/everythingist or photo journalist like myself. The 8MP images you can extract from the 4K video aren't bad either, and makes shooting some kinds of action a tad easier.

3) Couldn't really tell, but if I were in the market I'd probably get a Leica or Fuji.

It sounds like you're requesting a "List of Lists" !
That's OK, just wanted to point it out.

The best camera is the Panasonic GF1. I have many iterations since then but none compare. I remember holding it and comparing it to the Nikon D90, a contemporary at the time. The D90 is/was a nice camera but I just loved the GF1. It felt sturdy, well built, fairly heavy for its size and just well put together. I continue to use this camera today. There are micros now with better high ISO performance but that's about it. I don't like tons of push button menus and dials and I really don't like touch screen menus. I have owned and handled the GX1 and GX7 but still like the GF1 for some reason. I think it really just comes down to heft and build quality. I have also owned and played with the Olympus team of cameras and the Fuji X-e1. The Olympus group is too burdened with push button menus and most of these cameras just don't fit the hand that well (with the exception of the latest Oly). The Fuji (body and lenses)felt to me like a cheap Chinese camera. Everyone seems to fawn over this camera. To me it felt like a toy camera; very unimpressive. The GF1 has a crummy add on viewfinder but all digital viewfinders (even today) are crummy. I did like the optical viewfinder on my previously owned X100. That was an exception. Which brings me to the X100, my second favourite small camera. Great viewfinder and some pictures that I have printed with this jewel were the finest prints I have ever seen. The reproduction of colours and reality can be stunning, beyond anything I have ever seen in digital or even in film; beyond my old Leicas and Contaxes. Not always, but sometimes. For future batches of small cameras I request the following:

1. A really good viewfinder - model it after a Nikon F or a Leica 3.

2. Simplify the menus to bring back the basics. Shutter/aperture, ISO, white balance. Thats enough.

3. Build quality. Build these things like a good mechanical camera, a Contax G2 or a Contax Aria. Is this asking for too much?

Eric, what does "small" mean in this context? Pocketable? Smaller than the average DSLR? Some guidance needed, please!

I think it might be this Bonobo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonobo_(musician)

I would say as of now and in no particular order:

1. Sony A7R + FE 35mm f2.8 (or is that too big already?)
2. Sony RX100 III (totally amazing tiny camera - just displaced my Mk I version)
3. Fuji X100s

I like the look of the new Panasonic LX100 although some published sample shots seem underwhelming - to be seen.

Off the top of my head, as smallish all-rounders...

Panasonic LX100
Sony RX100 Mark III
Canon G7X
Ricoh GR

But I could also include the Fuji X100 family and the Fuji X-E2 if one doesn't need really small, and doesn't mind spending a bit more or getting into a system.

For those who have less money to spend...

Fuji X-M1 or X-A1
Fuji X20 or X30
Fuji XF1 or XQ1 if you want really pocketable
Olympus Stylus 1 for convenient, light travel

1. Fuji X100S (X100T now). The only camera I currently own, apart from an 'old' Leica Digilux 2 which doesn't qualify for your list but I probably use more than the Fuji. Both are great cameras (for me), in different ways.

Sony RX1
Olympus E-M1
Sony A7r

Ricoh GR

My list would be topped by the Olympus E-M1, which is just astonishingly good in so many ways. For all the reasons one might want a bigger sensor, the Sony A7-series is very nice, though flawed in some fairly significant ways (as seems to be the norm now for first-gen anything in the camera biz.) I'd include a "large sensor compact" on the list too. The Panasonic LX100 looks to hit the sweet spot in that genre pretty convincingly.

I'm sure I'm not alone in favouring the Olympus E-M1. I've enjoyed many predecessors to this camera from film through several digital versions. What I like is a) the 75 mm on it; b) that I can use my 12-60 and 50-200 with adaptors and c) the ability to customize, assign the pre-sets to spots on the mode dial for rapid switching between shooting parameters. It is a keeper and so is the glass.

Nikon Coolpix A. A tactile joy to use. Image output that I can’t exceed without going to the Sigma Merrills. True genius level auto white balance. And small enough that to be any smaller would reduce its utility. Honourable mention goes to Sigma Merrill DP3. With the caveat that you’ll have to use Iridient Developer to listen to all of its notes. Both my picks were made in Japan. And disappear in your hands, in use. I say, that’s good enough. Coincidentally, yesterday I just bought a spare Coolpix A to put in the cupboard. Because I expect to wear out the first one… and I have a suspicion that Nikon won’t release a follow up model.

Thanks for asking. Be well, Kye.

I have a list of 1: the Ricoh GR. The holster should be considered a mandatory accessory.

Its picture quality is tops: the lens is well-matched to its APS-C-sized sensor, and you don't really exceed it until you get to a good full-frame sensor and lens in low light.

It's a pleasure to use. The camera is responsive, predictable, and configurable. It's like a photographer designed its user interface. Imagine that.

And it has the best feature ever: in manual mode, one press of the +/- lever will set the exposure to what the camera would have used in program mode. No more endless scrolling from one end of the shutter speed dial to the other when you're in varying lighting conditions.

It's tiny, so you can carry it with you everywhere.

If you like B&W, its files convert to B&W beautifully:


It has no viewfinder, which some may carp on, but think of the LCD screen as the world's most inclusive rangefinder view.

If Ricoh made versions with a normal and short tele FOV in addition to the current 28mm equivalent FOV, I'd probably give up the rest of my system and just carry the three of them.

I sent a reply, then had a thought. I think you are going to have to define the category a bit more. Smallish? How small? Interchangeable lens?


Fuji X20
Panasonic LX7
Olympus Stylus 1

Are these in the category you were thinking about when you used the "ish"?

Well, I imagine a list full of M4/3s, but let me throw in what I feel is the best compact camera ever made - the Sony RX100III. Simply stunning IQ from its 1" sensor and with a very nice popup EVF. I have had to look at the EXIF data in Lightroom to work out whether I took the shot on my 5DIII or the RX100III. And it shoots great B&W, too. I like to set the camera into manual mode and shoot B&W direct to JPEG - I see B&W in the EVF and compose accordingly.

North Dakota: Favorite Son from Fargo, Jonny Lang.

Lawrence Welk: From Strasburg is still a big deal in the OldFart areas.

Lynn Anderson: Grand Forks gal is still popular among older Country music listeners.

My Top 3 (Wish) List:

1. Ricoh GR
2. LX100
3. a7s

A Bonobo is a biped chimpanzee endemic to the Congo. They practice free love so they're less aggressive than the common chimp. They haven't been known to take selfies.

It depends on what you mean by the term small camera. I define "small" as something that fits in my pocket. My criteria are (a) fits in my pocket, (b) RAW capture, (c) viewfinder, (d) manual exposure control available, (e) reasonable close-focus capability, (f) reasonable zoom range. If any of those are missing, I probably won't even consider the camera. I thought about this a lot last Spring, just before embarking on a trip to the Galapagos. I planned to take non-pocketable cameras, of course, but I wanted something that fit the criteria above. I wound up settling on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LF1. It's not too expensive (a little over $300), has a zoom range equivalent to 28-200mm, focuses down to 3 cm, and has an adequate EVF. The pixel count isn't up in the stratosphere, but it's adequate for a pocketable camera. Because I had this in my pocket, I have some photos of a Galapagos bee that landed near me on the rail of our boat, good enough for the biologist/guide to identify it as a juvenile male. Interestingly, if you compare the specs of this camera to the Leica C, you'll find that they are twins, except for pricing. There were only three drawbacks to this camera. First, the power switch is located where it's easy to press by mistake. I kept hitting it at the wrong time. Second, the diopter adjustment on the EVF is extremely easy to move, but only when you don't want to. Finally, after several months, the camera wound up with quite a lot of internal dust, likely the result of turning on and off (hence extending and retracting the lens) while sitting in my pocket. Cleaning the insides of one of these is not a do-it-yourself job. It would probably have maee sense to get a pocketable case rather than keeping it loose in my pocket. I wound up replacing it with a Sony RX100iii, which has a much better EVF, a better-placed power switch, poorer zoom range and less ability to focus close. It's too new yet for me to have a definite opinion, but so far I'm happy. For what it's worth, I'd buy another DMC-LF1, except that my wife already has one, working fine (not kept in a pocket) and I can borrow it whenever I like.

My favorite small camera is the same as my favorite camera of any size: the Sony RX1. Whatever camera I am carrying with me, I wish that I had the Sony because of its outstanding picture quality.

My second small camera is the Olympus OM-D E-M1. I carry that more often because I can change lenses and achieve a wide range of focal lengths. With expensive lenses, the image quality is adequate but I find the controls somewhat confusing. Just because you can program a small computer to do everything you could possibly think of does not mean that you should.

I love my Canon S95 so much that the S120 can only be better so it makes my list. The only thing about the S95 I don't love is it's high ISO performance.

From what I've read the Sony RX100 is also a safe if more expensive bet.

Finally if it qualifies as smallish a Fuji X100T seems like a no brainer.

I picked the Panasonic GM1 as my top small camera last Christmas. It's still available, but has already been superseded by the GM5, which fixes the two key missing features of the GM1 for me -- no flash mount to hold an optical viewfinder, and no eye-level viewfinder.

So I guess I would have to go with the GM5 now--I've got a serious jones for one, even though I have a fully operational GM1 ...

As I was born in Texas, and have lived here my entire life, and further grew up in the country I can definitely state that George Strait is NOT the most listened to musical artist in Texas.

Oh and George Strait, despite the phonetics of his name is not straight country.

"What do you think are the top three most generally recommendable small(ish) cameras, circa October 2014?"

Criteria: cameras that fit in a jacket pocket.
- Sony RX100 III (The king.)
- Fujifilm X30 (I love this camera! Wow.)
- Panasonic GX7 (Very versatile.)

1. Ricoh GR (pocketable DX sensor, well thought out controls, fantastic for B&W conversion, sharp lens, etc.)
2. iPhone 5S running Hueless app w/yellow filter engaged.
3. Sony AS15 action cam for time lapse and sharp video footage

I think you should put an upper bound on the price of the camera (or camera and lens in an interchangeable system) for meaningful comparisons.

On the assumption that you’ll be harvesting/counting nominations from the comments, I’ll offer Olympus Om-d E-M1 and Fujifilm X-T1 which I guess would represent conventional wisdom. I suppose one of the Sonys gets on there too, but man, the ergonomics are painful.

I vote for the Olympus EM-5

Mike, you will never get an unbiased list of cameras. For some people, anything below medium format is a small camera. That will not do. Most people have never seen all the small cameras, leave alone using them. Without actually using one for some long of time, one can never judge a camera. The tastes of people change over time and the liking for a camera changes too. Still, it would be fun reading it when the list comes out. But I would never give any weight to that when it comes to buying one for myself.

I do not trade up as quick as a lot of my photographer friends do, and I was not as excited over the results from the Fuji X-T1 like some, although I did like the ergonomics, menu setup and dials. And, I am a bit of an odd ball when it comes to favorite small cameras -- the Sigma DP Merrills. I do not think my list will even make your chart, but here goes:

1. Sigma DP2M
2. Sigma DP3M
3. Sony Nex-7 + Zeiss 16-70mm lens

Cheers, Mike.

I'll cheat, if you don't mind--just to make it easier on myself, I'll narrow the criteria to: small enough to live in a pocket and recommendable to those who aren't camera or photo geeks, and something I've had hands on and used (even for a minute).

1. Apple iPhone 4s/5(any)/6(non-plus) -- not the best IQ, but not horrible, either; among the most pocketable useful cameras available, and one of the most versatile and convenient by far, thanks to the supporting hardware and software (including apps).

2. Sony RX100/Canon S100, S110 or S120. I know there are differences, but to me not significant ones on balance, and especially for this purpose.

That's it, really At least among pocket cameras that I know enough about to say anything about. That was maybe too easy, but go even a tad larger than what I'd consider practically pocketable (e.g. the Sony but with snaggy protrusions, or a smidge bigger in any direction) and things get very interesting, and the game a lot harder!

I wish I had a more affordable pick, but on the other hand, these aren't difficult to find used, especially the older models.

Like you, Mike, I am growing tired of endless lists: Ten Worst States to Live In, Five Foods to Loose Weight, etc. Yet, I click merrily away. To the question at hand, "smallish" implies size is not the sole criterium, so the LUMIX GM-1 doesn't win by default. Still, defensible. None of us have had any extended time with the LUMIX LX100, so, an unknown. Personally, my experience has convinced me APS-C sized sensors generally provide enough improvement over the competition to constitute a sweet spot - improvement in size over most "full frame" sensors, and image quality over smaller ones. Thence, my three interchangeable lens smallish cameras, at the moment: Fuji X-E2, Fuji X-T1, Sony A7, in that order. Runner up, the Olympus EP-5.

What's small? to judge from replies so far, it includes cameras I would call gargantuan.

Then, I pulled out an Oly OM-1 with 50/1.4 the other day, and the immediate thought that ran through my mind was how big and heavy it is.

I think of them as my big cameras now, but apparently they aren't ... I use an E-M5 and GX7, usually as a two camera kit, Oly 12-50 on one and 75-300 on the other, when in the field. Other lenses in the bag, but those do most of the work.

If I HAD to pick one, it would probably be the Panny, for the EFC silence and lack of shutter shock.

For what I consider small, I love the Panny GM1. Same image quality as in the 'big' ones with few compromises.

I have a long history of trying to find the perfect compact camera. With the advent of the GM1, I found my S100 and others went unused. And yet ... I want a compact with good zoom range in one lens. The GM1 with 12-32 is a lovely thing, but I do like tele and macro. Add the Panny 45-150 and an extension tube, and the kit is no longer really small and simple, although usable for many times and places.

So now I'm trying out a Panny ZS40. 24-720 is a heckuva zoom range, twice as long as the 24-360 of the Samsung WB650. Same small sensor, but better IQ in JPEGs and, wonder of wonders, Raw output.

Don't believe the reviews that say it doesn't much matter.. The pixel level difference in IQ with proper processing is great and, small sensor or not, there's a little headroom for recovering highlights, at least at low ISO.

If it only had closer focus at the long end, sigh. Will propinquity grow into love? Only time will tell.

I presently own and use: Sony RX-1, RX 100 (II). I would love to swap the former to an RX-1R but can't justify the changeover cost for an improvement that would rarely and barely be seen in my prints. I don't think the latter will be upgraded to the latest (III) because I interchange Sony's excellent external EVF between the two, which I couldn't do with the III.

I also own and use a Sigma DP1 and DP2 (the first version). Which makes four, but they do not meet your circa Oct 2014 requirement anyway. They are capable of producing stunning results up-ressed well beyond their native limits. I recommend them to anyone wanting a digital Rollei 35 - I zone/estimate focus them and frame through OVF's, all rough and ready. I had hoped for more of the same with the later DP Merrills and DP Quattro's but it was not to be.

1. Ricoh GR
2. Ricoh GR + 28mm optical viewfinder
3. Ricoh GR in 50mm crop with 50mm Leica 1:1 viewfinder

Well, if people are suggesting the EM1, I will suggest the Nikon FM2/3 series, after all, it is about the same size...

The Panasonic GX1 is currently a great deal, just got one recently. Pair it with the small 12-32 zoom, and you are good to go.

Well, I just switched from Nikon big bodies to Sony A7s (after a lifetime of Nikondom) and i am feeling overwhelmed by the little Sony. It feels to me like I was thirty years back shooting with my Canon AE-1: small, lightweight, very functional, solid.
So for me:
1.Sony A7s
2.Sony A7r
3.Sony A7

1) Panasonic GM-1. A mirrorfree ILC in a P&S body.
2) Sigma DP1M. Fabulous amount of detail in it's images.
3) Sony RX100. High quality P&S that fits just in my pants pocket.

Thank you Mike for keeping up the Blog and for your very informative articles.

So, without a definition, I take it you mean small as smaller than the average DSLR....
My list then:
Fuji X-T1, Fuji X-Pro1 and Olympus E-M1, in that order. I own all and have shot with all three extensively. I've ranked them based on order of 1) image quality and 2) design.
1) Image Quality: All are capable of truly excellent image quality, but for me, the Fujis have a magical "something" that is hard to put one's finger on, but is very special. Plus the lenses are amazing, but so are the Olympus and Panny lenses, for that matter.

2) Design: Some may conclude the design of the E-M1 is better than the Fujis, and I could completely understand that point of view, but it's the fact the Fujis are designed like cameras of old with actual physical control dials and rings, plus their ingenious and wonderful Kaoru Mokunaka-inspired mode selection (using combinations of the shutter speed dial and aperture ring) that I prefer them over the E-M1, which is much more designed like a small contemporary DSLR, a user experience I find less involving than Fuji's.

Well, there's only one small camera I know so there's only one small camera I can recommend - the Canon 100D (SL1). If you're already invested in Canon lenses, or if (like me) you prefer optical viewfinders, this is a good choice. IQ is very good and it works pretty much like any other Canon DSLR so that's helpful.

Ricoh GR, not only for street but great all around.

Olympus Stylus 1.

1. Ricoh GRD III, small, my everyday diary digicam. Best user interface I have ever encountered in digicams.
2. Olympus mju II/Stylus Epic, very small, my previous everyday diary cam.
3. Pentax K-01 paired with the fine 31/1.8 Ltd, quite small, my portrait digicam.

Favourite semi-small: Konica Hexar AF
Honourable mention: Canon GIII QL17

Slightly surprised to be the second person to mention the Nikon Coolpix A. I've never seen another one in the wild (I work in London and see plenty of people with cameras). A highly capable and much underrated device, I've just returned from a vacation in Italy where it was my only camera. Didn't miss my big Nikon or m43 cameras at all. Sometimes smaller and simpler is better.

The top three compacts circa 2014 was the brief, so here goes:

1. Mid-size sensor compact winner - Sony RX-100 Mk III: Wins on engineering, miniaturization, performance, and size overs its peers (such as Canon's G series, Nikon Coolpix, Ricoh GR, etc.). It does everything in a way that's more than good enough and covers more than 90% of what a photographer will need most of the time.

2. Small-size sensor compact winner - Canon S120: Still the smallest prosumer compact with great lens, good enough sensor (up to ISO 800), and ergonomics that work well in a small body. This also represents one of the last of its kind of product as it will be eventually replaced by a smartphone.

3. Large-size sensor compact winner - Sony A7s: The smallest full-frame camera (excluding with lenses, that goes to Leica). It sees in the dark. Was it Steve McCurry who said that one day low-light technology would enable us to take photos we couldn't before? The A7s does everything its 2014 contemporaries can already do and takes not just a step, but a leap into the future by not giving us more pixels but better ones. In doing so, spiritually it embodies the current state of the art and enables a new kind of the possible.

In my comparison, Fuji and Olympus lose out because even though they make wonderful cameras, they aren't really representing true innovation. Leica and other non-mainstream camera types gets excluded, because I don't consider them really compact, nor designed as accessible -- you choose to use a rangefinder, it is hence a personal choice, not the other way around (where an engineer has to make the camera for the greatest possible audience: the buyers). Compact camera meant for me: a dedicated camera (i.e. not a smartphone) and compact (i.e. smaller than an SLR).


"I live in California, and I listen to Bonobo. How about that! Bonobo is a British musician/DJ."

He's great. I'm going to see him in concert next month, in north London, where I will be comfortably one of the oldest people attending :(

My vote for best small camera: Bessa III. Admittedly not that small but a neat folder with a quality lens giving you a gorgeous a 6x7 neg. Yum.

Sigma DP2M. Just astonishing when used for what its good at. But it would be hard to live with as your only camera.

I have high hopes for Panasonic's LX100. I think this combo would complement each other well.

And the mighty Holga - the 120GN is my favourite. When the stars align, the glass lensed Holga can produce some really smooth, beautiful negs. Its small enough to squeeze into a coat pocket and light enough to go unnoticed.

Since nobody else will... The Panasonic LX-3
What a great little camera, of the 'less megapixel = more" brigade.
For its time, great in low light, killer lens, fantastic close focus ability, manually controllable, and the multi-aspect sensor. Taught me a lot about photography, and has been sadly missed since its untimely drowning death.
Now the E-M1 fills the void, though I suspect I could have been happy with the LX100 if it was available when I needed it...

1) Panasonic GX7
2) Olympus EP-3
3) Well, because its the only other small camera I own: Fuji 100x

I'd pick a Panasonic GX7 'cause although it ain't perfect and I ain't got one yet, it seems to have all I need. Tiltable viewfinder, EVF (although inexplicably handicapped with a graph---histogram---instead of blinkies) M4/3 and works well with all the excellent lenses I have. If all my good lenses blew up, I could even put the 20mm on as a body cap until I got another of proper focal length---25mm 1.4.

Since I have a very well-used Olympus EP-3, I'd have to include it. Small, light, handicapped with a 2008 sensor in a 2011 body, but has a tiltable EVF with blinkies so I can quickly get the exact exposure I need. Can even do ETTR when I want without blowing highlights, which is, of course, the point of ETTR. The menu is a mess, especially when you have it set the way you want and rarely change it, but decide you need to change something just once. I tried to use the panorama setting once, and could not for the life of me figure out why it would not work. Mechanically, the little twirly circular dial is fragile and the first thing to go making something like manual exposure tough. But all-in-all, it has served well for the last 3 years.

When I tire of thinking about photographs and photography, I pick up the old Fuji x100 so that I may focus on the camera. I love to raise it to my eye like grandpa did, wait for it to wake up and then wait for it to focus while whispering "sweet" nothings at it and its designers. It can entertain me at times too, as it did last winter on a dark snowy night in Jiyugaoka, Tokyo when I somehow hit one of the controls and had it in movie mode with no clue on how to get it out. I guess I should have memorized the movie mode escape plan. But in spite of all of that, I carry it daily to work and around town when I am not seriously photographing. It is light, easy to carry (no after-thought stick on EVF like Olympus EP-3) and a still decent sensor.

Gee, Mike, I love this kind of thing!
Photography is my hobby, but I accidentally gained the pastime of the mental game of matching cameras to users. The only problem with your question, is that I've been using the same camera, with the same lens (almost exclusively for the past two years. It's an E-PL1, with the Panasonic 20mm, and it's outdated by four years! So, I suppose you must take my opinions with a metric ton of sodium chloride.

This is not, of course, going to stop me from listing what I consider to be the top three "generally recommendable", smallish cameras. With lenses, of course. And, from my own particular idiomatic perspective.*

1. The Sony (NEX) a6000. With the 20/2.8, the 35/1.8, and the 50/1.8. Expensive, but for many people, the good quality tracking AF is just the ticket for the small number of occasions that it really matters. This is a great do-everything camera. The tiny 20/2.8 makes it mostly-pocketable, and is the right angle of view for most social situations. The modern sensor is good enough that the slow kit zoom, and inexpensive tele zoom should be just fine for most "get a decent (not excellent) picture of the kid playing sports." If the 35 is as good as the Alpha mount version, it's a gem, and it's close focus abilities are significant. Both the 35 and the 50 have image stabilization. If AF is not of interest, then the NEX 6, and if the EVF isn't either, than 5N, are better picks.

2. The Panasonic GX7. Paired with the 14/2.5, 20/1.7, and one of the collapsible kit zooms. (Olympus 14-42 IIR is very nice.) All the wonderful Panasonic ergonomics, pretty retro-ness, and the laundry list of nearly mandatory features: IBIS, EVF, and a tilt screen. Even on closeout, I think its a trifle expensive, given that every m43 camera since 2011 should have met that laundry list.

3. The Olympus E-PL5, with the 17/1.8, the 45/1.8, and the IIR version of the kit zoom. One of the least expensive ways to buy the best sensor Olympus uses, outside of the PM2, except this model has a nice flip-screen. Sadly, no EVF, but compromises have to come somewhere. I'm considering getting this one to replace the PL1, and tacking on camera leather to make it more, ah, retro-y. (From Aki-Asahi.com) Note that some people have claimed a maximum flash sync of 1/400 when using manual flashes.

I think all of these cameras can do, or at least can be made to do, most things well, for most users, most of the time. They can be bent to specialized uses fairly easily by experienced users, particularly the Sony. And, they all are portable enough that I'd be willing to take them with me daily.


*I've had to learn over and over again that I just plain look at the world differently than other people. I miss things in plain sight, and I see subtleties that are invisible to other people. I've pretty much given up trying to say that my advice is from anything other than my own peculiar viewpoint.

Not just the best small camera, for me the best camera *ever* is the Olympus EM-1. A close second is the EM-5 and third the Panasonic GH-2.

The EM-1 gives me everything I want in image quality with great ergonomics and versatility due to the wide range of available lenses.

The EM-5 is only second because the EM-1's ergonomics are better but the EM-5 is the camera that lives most of the time in the back seat of my car with the 25mm f/1.4 attached.

With the GH-2 rounding out the top 3 it's obvious that I'm a Micro-4/3 fan. But these are all cameras that I have used extensively while my full-frame Nikon sits on the shelf.

Lists are a useful technology. I don't think we should lose the useful ones because some people do use them in cynically manipulative ways.

I find I'm still pretty committed to interchangeable lenses (having moved from an LX3 to an EPL-2 for my "compact" camera some years ago). I'm now carrying my EM-5 in the same little bag I got for the EPL-2, with 14, 20, and 45mm lenses when I use it as my "compact". The bag is really quite small, a "4 million dollar home" bag. I haven't spent time with the latest generation of bridge cameras, but last I checked I'm still getting vastly more responsive interaction with the camera than those provide, and that's important for a very wide range of pictures.

I know its been updated but I still love my Cannon S100. Fits in any pocket, shoots RAW and I find I use it as much as mt DSLR for general walking around stuff. I tend only to turn to the DSLR for my wildlife work.

My choice, Fuji x100.
Best fun camera that takes seriously good photographs and looks cool.
With the latest firmware its a camera reborn, my go to camera for recording the kids or looking for more serious images. When used in manual and with the right set up it never fails to deliver beautiful photographs, reminiscent of film days.

Set to manual and b&w only it's a modern day marvel...


Sony RX100 I to III (I use the first one)
Sony nex-5 and iterations till A6000
I need a grip, so I actually prefer the nex.

Sony RX-1. The lens is wonderful. I just love it. The camera is OK but could be better. I've used other small cameras, some of which I feel are better cameras than the RX-1, but none of the results appeal to me as much as those from the Sony.

Kind of interested in the list myself. This puts the lie to my recent statement here that "I am done (with new cameras), 'till something dies." More on this below.

It seems like most of the current offerings are really more iterations of models that came out two or three years ago than really new ideas. I am trying to articulate why this has caused me to hang back from the current offerings. Perhaps it is because the cameras that I own (compact or not) all represented leaps in image quality at the time I bought them from what I had before (e.g. Canon digi-Rebel to Nikon D3. . . wow). Leica M8 to M9/Fuji X-1 Pro. . . again, wow. Now, I dunno. I guess I have a vision of a compact camera kind of like the idealized 35/2 compact camera that our host has hoped for, but I don't really see it anywhere.

The idea is not for more complexity of the interface. I guess, the thing I wonder is with all the ability to configure these cameras electronically why no camera maker has come out with a "Leica Interface" option. The idea here would be to have one menu selection that would actually disable most functions of the camera and leave you with exposure compensation, shutter speed, aperture and film speed. Boom. We have used software to reduce the decisional paralysis that comes from the endless variety of choices with which the current marketplace supplies.

Maybe another source of my discomfort with the current offerings is that there is no sense that the cameras are designed with a particular kind of output in mind. What I mean by this is that the wild number of possible configurations do not actually help with printed output, which used to be my measure for when a negative/image was worth sticking with. There used to be between four and six inputs to the process: camera, lens, film, developer, paper, paper developer. Maybe the camera wasn't even really an input. Maybe it was just a lens holder. You could add "toner" to the above list, if you want to.

So do we have more freedom now or a number of variables that actually preclude creativity? There isn't a standard monitor or printer or ink or paper. In that sense, we are experiencing a technology which, if it isn't in its infancy is at least in its early days (adolescence?). For me, the answer is in eliminating as many variables as possible and getting to know one set of equipment well.

So to get back to Mike's original question, then, I also have to acknowledge that I am susceptible to the claim that a new piece of gear is going to be "it" in terms of my process and my output. The common thread running through my prior successful camera choices, with respect to the gear that winds up in my bag is the ease with which the camera can be made to get out of the way. The Leica M9 is a perfect example of this. The Nikon D3 is not bad either, although it has a certain "menu depth" along with settings that I have never actually explored in the five or so years I have owned the camera. But the buttons and settings seem to be multiplying among camera manufacturers who are not, like Leica, philosophically committed to a certain simplicity(although there is creep there too). My sense is that sensors are actually still more limited than film in terms of dynamic range and that a lot of the technology in them is there to allow us to duck and weave around that constraint. (I'm sure someone will jump in if I have this wrong).

Ben Marks

1/ Nikon v3: handy, efficient, discreet, in tune with the eye.
2/ Sigma DP2 Merrill: just the opposite (saddled with the Carry Speed ​​hood as it should be)

But I never lug around these two cameras together. Never!

The Fuji X100s, the Lumix GM1, and although many might disagree, the Canon EOS-M with a 22mm lens. These are only cameras that I've personally owned so there are many more out there, I'm sure. Any of these replace the point and shoot with ease and deliver great, clean files. And they all have character quirks which makes me like them all the more.

Off Topic - except that you were the one who brought up the subject . . .

Regarding your remark about "To Kill A Mockingbird", I agree that a relatively high percentage of the US population has probably read it. Thanks to the school system, even those who would not have read it as adults have probably been brought in contact with the book.

However, I disagree with your premise that this means it should be excluded from a list of books that people should read. Your audience here is clearly international, and many of your readers may not have heard of "Mockingbird" - even if they are from a country where the first language is English.

- Tom the Nitpicker -

1. Ricoh GR
2. Harinazumi

Another vote for the RX100III. Alternatively, Ricoh GRD for folks that don't mind the fixed wide lens and lack of viewfinder.

The only small camera for me is the Fuji X100S.
- Fixed Lens
-Fast Lens
-Great High ISO
-Electronic viewfinder
-and it takes great photos for me.

a) iPhone/Xperia - Smartphone to have a sharing camera.

b) GoPro Hero - for take *literally* everywhere camera

c) Panasonic LX100 - for all-round high quality photography.

Teagan and Sara in Idaho? ....please...

I split things pretty evenly between a Canon G15 and Fuji X-T1.

Small is relative. For 6x7 film, a Mamiya 7II is a small system camera. The current Fuji 6x6 and 6x7 dual-format rangefinders are also small. For APS-C digital, a Ricoh GR. And there is always the iPhone if you can live with a tiny sensor.

An interesting question.

In the 1970's my equipment was based on the Nikon F2 which I downsized to a pair of Nikon FEs with a small complement of lenses: 24, 50, 75-150mm.

Later, since I was traversing an Ocean once every two weeks I replaced that by a Minolta CLE with Rokkor 28, 40 and 90mm lenses. This was my perfect film traveling companion.

Small was good.

Today the world has gone digital and I have been a slow adopter. I have tried to replace the Minolta CLE system and have come up with two choices:

Olympus OMD EM5 with Zuiko 12-50mm and the Panasonic GX7 with 14, 20mm Lumix lenses and a 45mm Zuiko. The Panasonic matches the focal lengths exactly but the Olympus is more convenient.

Chamonix Saber w/120mm apo symmar
Cambo wide w/47XL
Mamiya 7

All easily handholdable, and provide better images than anything else on this list.

Fuji X100s/t
Ricoh GR/Nikon Coolpix A
Hasselblad SWC

Once you get into interchangeable lenses, small is only relative - and you think about the camera differently. The Ricoh and Nikon are so similar in specs(differing in practice, but even there, close enough) to count as a single choice in this kind of list. The Fuji makes me smile. The hassy isn't a joke - I think of it as a small camera, and really, if it's not going to fit in a pocket it just needs to be small enough. It is. I dropped my iPhone from this list as it's not even a choice - it's always there, so there's no thinking about whether to bring it or not - which is a statement in and of itself, i guess.

Recommendable to who? Most people won't spend $200 for a camera these days unless it's an SLR. Nevertheless, here goes:

For the technologically incompetent: The least expensive Olympus Pen currently available + 15mm body cap lens. No required half-press/autofocus ensures success, provided they have the lens switch in the right position and it's not night time.

For the budding enthusiast: Nikon D3300 with kit lens. I very nearly recommended the Olympus OM-D E-M10, then remembered how many budding enthusiasts are really just parents who want better quality pictures of their kids and dogs running around.

For the "artiste": Fujifilm X100T. "T" because of the new Eggleston-like Classic Chrome simulation that the earlier variants lack. With this simulation (which is really nice, actually) maybe these artistes can stop using Hipstamatic and VSCO.

1) Lumix LX7. Very portable but with less of the diffraction problem of many little cameras. This is due to the larger apertures of the lens, the Program MTF setting, and the built-in, automatic ND filter. Truly small, fun, and easy to use, with quite nice results. It's an older model now (but still current) so it is available for a fairly reasonable price--about U.S. $350.

2) Olympus XZ-2. Seems very appealing and is down to U.S. $300.

3) Canon S110. It is quite nice and is down to U.S. $250, now that the S120 exists.

Bigger than these is no longer small to me.

The Canon G11, the last great Canon G series. After that they began removing things that are my reasons for buying it. In the G12 they added a 2nd control wheel (nice) but removed exposure bracketing (stupid). Next they removed the fully articulated screen (dumb, dumb, dumb!). Deal killer for me. Canon has lost another customer.

Since "large-sensor compacts" seem to be favored here, I think we can all agree that a key criterion with regard to size is the ratio of the image-capture area to the overall size of the camera.

In that light, it's pretty hard to fault the Ebony SLW810, which has an image area (8x10") that is almost 50% as large as the outer dimensions of the camera! To those who say "But it's not really pocketable," I say "OK, I also get to choose the pants."

David, I almost put the LX-3 - bought one a year back for my son to use, and I love it. Really a great little camera, if I didn't have an x100 i'd be looking at the LX-100 very seriously.

Because I favor ergonomics & shooting experience over sensor specifications & image quality, and because I like small cameras, I insist to take a close look at the Fuji X30.
I know bigger sensors are nowadays gathering momentum, but still - FujiX30 is a real camera, that handles like a camera, not like a gimmick.
So, the Fuji X30 should definitely be on the list!

Fuji XE2.

A rare choice it seems, but it just works with incredible consistency, which makes my life so much easier. The images also have a certain magic sauce that I cannot replicate with my D800.

Best travel camera out there? It is for me. Excellent lens range as well.

Indeed I'm selling all my other crap for 1 LX100.....all the camera I really need.

Greets, Ed.

Totally in love with Fuji x10. Visiting Arizona a couple of years ago it was my sole camera ..... astonished at the exposure range. Dramatic skies and sunburned road, properly exposed in the same shot, with no help from me. When touristing I rarely take the time to adjust anything except for exposure compensation, which on most Fujis can be done instinctively. For some reason the X20 is not quite as ???.... I'd lose it before the 10. Both feel like mini Leica with great IQ and top notch glass in a fast manual zoom.

Olympus EPL5 ... a pocketable EM 5 at half the price. Carry the fine EVF in the other pocket, a couple of Panny pancakes, the 45 Oly and "Bob's your Uncle".

A year ago family amazed me with the birthday gift of the Sony RX100MII. Astonishing picture quality for the size ... desperately needs overpriced / oversized EVF. A fantastic achievement with a few truly dumb features, just not as much fun to use, but I wouldn't want to be without it.


My Top 3 small cameras (emphasis on the my)

0) sadly it doesn't exist yet Sony A5s FE in the original nex-5 form-factor.*

back to actual (small) cameras that I've owned:
1) Olympus e420+25mm [This was the first cargo pants camera for me and it was my main camera for the first 5mo. I lived in China. It documented and made lots of fun art with a tiny 6" tripod]
2) Nex 7 with 40mm voigtlander 1.4 [bigger than the nex 3 but with a tiny lens and meaty files it was an especially nice camera]
3) A7r with an old 50mm summicron [way too big to be small but then again I carried an A900 in the breast pocket of my motorcycle jacket for a year]

*The A7 exists now but its shocking how big it is compared to the old nex 5. The A7's viewfinder hump stabs you in your coat pocket and forces one to wear the mortal sin of white shirts if used at waist level. If an A5 came out I could go back to tossing the camera in my cargo pocket. I'd almost prefer if it only came with an e-shutter if that means saving some money. This camera would be a tool for enabling my lens addiction.

For me, a small camera is one that I can take along without a bag. This generally means in my pants pocket.

So right now, I only have one small camera: iPhone.

I've considered picking up a GR, or RX100, or whatever the new Panasonic LX is, but it's just not clear to me that the value is there. Most pocket cameras work best in a 28mm sort of snapshot mode, and the phone in general works just as well this way and has some flexibility that other cameras do not have.

My only real wish is for an iPhone with a 85/2 equivalent lens option.

I guess if an E-M5 is a small camera that's my second small camera.

But that's all I use these days. So I'm stuck trying to get to three.

I think I was 19 when I first heard George Strait sing: You Look So Good In Love. I fell in love with that man instantly and to this day when I hear him sing it, it brings me back to that moment.

PS: I am not Texan, and I am not a fan of country music.

I've been thinking a lot about small cameras lately. Dragging out my aging SLR is starting to feel like a bit of a chore. My big hangup is whether I should be considering a small camera that does one (or maybe just a few) things remarkably well.

Ricoh GR
Sigma DP series
Sony RX1(R)
Fuji X100T

Or a small camera that does most everything but doesn't really best my dSlr at any of them.

Micro four thirds
Sony RX100 series
Fuji XPro1
Panasonic LX100

For me, the top two small cameras are:
1 Panasonic GF1, with 20/1.7
2 Fuji X100s (in black finish)

I have both of them, and really love them. GF1 is a very good balance of size, weight, responsiveness, and image quality. It focuses fast enough, small enough, with a pleasant heft.

X100s is also beautiful, with a very good balance of size, weight, and image quality as well. Though it focuses a lit bit slower than GF1, it has a hybird view finder which is a plus.

I enjoy that both of them have LCD finders which could make me looks naive and lay-man like. You konw, it helps in some circumstances. ^_^

- Frank

Keeping with "The best camera is the one you have with you", my favorites are in order (1) the Olympus OMD EM1, (2) Fuji x100s, and the Panasonic GX-7. I bring my EM1 on shoots most of the time, the x100s when I want to go small and light, and the GX 7 when I occasionally want to use my MF Zeiss or Leica lenses. If I need to get rid of one, it would be the GX 7 since zi can use the MF lenses on the EM 1.

I look with envy at the Fuji XT-1 for both the camera and the lens line. But I know that for my odd way of working my Sony a7 with adapted Leica and Nikon lenses is much better.

I keep thinking about buying some native lens or lenses for it and then realize I will be happier using my D600 with it's lenses for those purposes.

E-M1 and E-M10. I left 20 years with Nikon, and switched to Olympus/43. Dabbled a bit with Nikon 1, which has a lot of strengths, but too many weaknesses to be a serious system. The introduction of the 12-40 f2.8, combined with E-M1 is what took me away from Nikon. M1 is a serious piece of equipment, but much smaller than DSLR. EM1 and 12-40 is barely more than half the weight of D7000 and 17-55 2.8. And way better files than the Nikon equivalent. I also got M10, and use both together for event work with 12-40 on EM1, 75 1.8 on EM10. 75mm is without a doubt the best telephoto I have ever used. E-M10 is barely larger than Nikon 1, but is a decent production camera. With the 12-32 Panasonic, really light. I'm looking forward to using it for personal work in the desert. Imagine. A quality camera system I can carry for a whole day without pain.

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007