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Tuesday, 14 October 2014


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If the Leica S and Chamonix 4x5 can count as small cameras, then I nominate the Mamiya 7! By similar reasoning, it is a small light-weight camera relative to its film (sensor) size. It has superb lenses, is well made and is a pleasure to use. What's not to love?


Where do we vote? I vote for the RX1(r): excellent lens, take anywhere size, pure quality throughout the build. IMO it MUST be on a list like this.

+1 on the EM1. I bought one this summer and was flabbergasted by the quality of build, coupled with those lovely lenses. Hard to beat and there's really no other option for really high-quality, durable travel work...

Few of these are "small" cameras, Mike. The list suggests the rather advanced average age of TOP readers. ;~)

Here's hoping the RX1/r is one of the candidates still in the running. A phenomenal high IQ FF camera with a stellar Zeiss lens in an unbelievably small package and my current weapon of choice.

On a completely different subject, I know you've been overwhelmed with the move and your trip but is there any update on the Keck Observatory print contest?

The Sony Rx1(r) cameras are interesting for the number of users in forums who flatly state that it is the best camera they have ever owned, an opinion I share. The price of these little gems (justified in terms of build quality and IQ) probably means not many will have had the hands on experience to vote for them.

I'd rather be reading about really interesting - truly photographic - projects like this Kickstarter:
than yet another cookie-cutter, yawn-inducing Internet list of "best digital cameras".

Just a thought: in the Fuji X interchangeable lens line, Fuji themselves regard the X Pro-1 as the flagship. Technically it has been overtaken by more recent models, such as the XT1, and it is due, perhaps overdue, for a replacement. It is still a unique camera, though, and I don't think it should be forgotten just because the current iteration is getting a bit long in the tooth.

When I think of small the Sony RX100 series, Panasonic LX 100 or the GM 1 (now GM 5) come to mind.

I think the LX 100 should be added to your list.

The others are close in size and seem logical as a group


It's a good list but it needs to include the Sigma DP Merrill series. These are small cameras with superlative lenses and an amazing sensor. They are close to the RX1/r in quality. Judging by the best photos I've taken so far with my DP2M, it's like being able to carry around my old Mamiya 6 in my jacket pocket.

Kenneth: I'm not sure you can get much smaller than the Ricoh GR and the RX100. The X100 is always smaller than I think it is, too.

The reference point for normal is a middle range DSLR. I don't think that's age dependent.

But perhaps the omission of the iPhone as a small camera is perhaps a sign of "men in sheds" thinking (as they would say in the UK).

But I agree that the Chamonix is clearly not small (unless you're a large format photographer and wonder "how anyone can live in anything that small").

I suggest the Panasonic LF1. It has an excellent lens, nice (if modest) resolution, and lots of manual controls. Other than the insane placement of the power button, this for me is a Leica killer (especially given the Leica branded lens).

On a shoulder strap running across my body, the Leica S2 (with one lens) seems no more trouble to bring along, ready for photography, than any other camera. A rather large pocket is required for the superlative lenses.

Further to R.A. Krajnyak's comment, the RX1[R], with leaf shutter lens & 135-sized sensor, has me very intrigued. If Sony had not used lossy compression on the RAW files, I would likely have a RX1[R]. See "Image Quality" here:
and the linked page here:

This posting is exactly why I read TOP every day...because of the insight and informed readership.

Re: the Fuji XF lens line: Couldn't agree more, with the comment that I would include the spectacularly beautiful XF14mm/2.8 prime as well. As one of the sales folks at my local brick and mortar camera store in Berkeley put it, "The Fuji 14mm lens is reason alone to buy into the Fuji X system."

I'm up in Jackson, Wyoming this week shooting landscapes with my Fujis, and there are images I've taken with these two primes, that even after an average year of use, have me sayin' "Dayum!" to myself during editing. Magical.

I would also echo John Lloyd's comments about the X-Pro1. I spent the afternoon walking around Jackson photographing fall color, and there is something that the X-Pro1 does with image files that is simply magical. This may be due to the fact that it actually has more dynamic range than the X-T1 in the blacks, possibly due to the fact that it does not have pixels on the sensor dedicated to phase-detection autofocus.

Leica S ? Chamonix ? Small ??? How can this be an interesting list?

There's small, then there's small. The RX100 fits even in the front pocket of my jeans (though perhaps a bit inelegantly!) and easily in my jacket pocket. Can't say the same for the A7 series, even though they are certainly very compact for full-frame cameras. I don't think the E-M1 is all that small, relative to its sensor size, whereas the Leica S Type 007, with its huge sensor, is pretty small considering it's hardly bigger than a Canon 5D.

So when I want a 'small' camera, I take the RX100. I recently shot an entire assignment for a national magazine with one. It was such a delight not to lug around heavy gear, but beyond that, it allowed me to get shots that I wouldn't have been able to get with a backpack full of DSLR equipment. I wrote about the experience here http://randolphimages.com/procameragear/

Is the very fine Olympus OM-D EM-1 "small?"

It's virtually the same size as two other cameras on this list- the Fuji X-T1 and the Sony A7, yet featuring a much smaller sensor than either.

If the Chamonix is 'small' for its format, said Olympus is decidely 'large' for its format.

The Panasonic LX-(3), 5 and 7.

I have the 5 and love it! It's portable, has a sharp Leica-lens and selectable modes on dials like the cameras I'm used too.

That being said, I went around the world numerous times. The only camera I could afford was a small, ($115) Sony W350. That camera took 90% of the pictures I wanted to take.

Something to think about...

RX1 is the only obvious choice.
Smaller sensors are a huge tradeoff, and the purpose-designed lens is lovely.

I use a Fuji X 100S and it is not a bad camera, though it is by no means as ergonomically mature as some of the Canikon products. The reticence I have about the Fuji lenses that you so warmly praise is their size - they are big for APSc lenses, indeed the 23/1.4 is the same size as the Canon 35/2 IS, which is Full Frame, yet the Fuji lens offers nothing more, it is no faster (when the sensor is considered), offers no better focus separation, has no IS, is no better optically, and is more expensive. When that is the case, there is little size advantage between Fuji and SLRs other than in the body, (which is, of course, nice).

There will be a second pass. Good. Still time to list the friendliest, most straightforward small shooter of all time: the Olympus Pen EE!

Seriously now, the list looks good. I like the variety that suits all kinds of 'small.' Only the DP2M is missing to add important info to the list as per Ian Christie's comment. I highly approve of the absence of the Canon S series, not that it was ever a contender.

@ Kevin: Indeed, there are several "small" cams on the list and, yes, that Ricoh GR is a terrific "small" camera (that I, too, enjoy).

But, whoo, ya gotta have really big pockets for an X-T1 or an A7! Or even for an RX1 ! Ouch. No, I think I'll stand, thank you. I'll just lean on my little Chamonix 45N-2.

I think the Leica M typ 240, M-E/M9, and/or M Monochrom definitely belong on this list (moreso than the S, even).

Like the digital cameras listed, this list will be soon obsolete. Now, that's a topic worth exploring...

I don't know as many people would consider anything weighing over a kilo as small in any sense, let alone 'absolute'. Whether you like it or it has wonderful image-making attributes or not, the S would still seem to fall outside the remit of a list of favourite small cameras, let alone a 5x4. My D700 is frequently up there on lists of peoples' favourite digital cameras, but no-one would have suggested it here...

In film, a Rollei 35S was my constant "small and light" favorite. It's taken years of trying different digital cameras to find the one that fits the same niche for me ... The Leica X2 and now the new Leica X typ 113 finally achieve it. They're not quite as compact as the Rollei 35S, but they have that perfect combination of excellent lens, excellent sensor, along with simplicity of options and controls that make me want to carry one of them all the time. With either I fit an optical finder, set to pattern AF, and just go out shooting.

The iPhone is the best small camera yet.

I disagree with Ken Tanaka about the Chamonix. To me large format is 8x10 and above, but my age and body don't allow me to shoot those, and my former 4x5, the Toyo 45A was not "small" enough in terms of weight. So replacing the Toyo with the Chamonix (and a carbon fibre Velbon for the lovely but oh so weighty Zone VI tripod) saved my large format life.

Strangely, as a longtime film OM user, I'm pretty sure my choice for small camera digital will be a Fuji X-Pro.

Hi Mike, That's a nice list. For full frame, Leica M series deserves a place. You have listed 3 cameras that I love - RX100, A7R and S2. Thanks & best regards,

Over time, I find it more and more surprising that on the Internet, the smallness of a camera is prized to such a degree that the 4.5 oz / 130g difference between a K-50 (WR) + 20-40/f2.8-4 (WR) and an E-M1 (WR) + 12-35/f2.8 (non-WR) may be considered the #1 deciding factor for many people. I attribute this mainly to the culture of online shopping. The funny thing is, those same people will not even look at what the weight of their empty camera bag is. And I am surprised that I have not yet seen a blog post anywhere that attempts to create an international standard for the size of jacket pockets and pants pockets so that people may agree on what cameras will reasonable fit in them.

I don't care much for the cameras on the list. My D7000+28mm voigtlander is already pretty small, and my medium-format camera really fits into almost all pockets (an Agfa Isolette III folding camera from the ´50s)

Re Thingo's comments on the RX1. Do I take it that's a vote for the rX1? The articles referred to compare the RX1 with massively bigger, more expensive pro cameras and indicate that the IQ difference is very small indeed.

Olympus OM-D E-M5
Fujifilm X30
Fujifilm X100T

Oskar Barnack's Ur-Leica from 1914 seems to me the perfect benchmark for the ideal small(ish) camera size. Not a shirt pocket.

Some think that the size of a camera is a non issue. For me it is important.
1. I like to have a camera with a serious viewfinder that fits in my nondescript handbag.
2. I am not a paparazzo and I want to walk around as discrete and as invisible as possible.
3. Certainly I do not want to frighten women or little children or raise the testosterone level of some men by pointing a big zoom at them.
4. I don't want to look like a tourist (even not in those cases I actually am one).

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