« @#$% eBay! (and Pennie Smith) | Main | Open Mike: Casual Old-Timey Cam »

Monday, 16 December 2019


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

I've happily used a.Canon M5 for a couple of years - and found only one problem:
Also the averaging exposure metering is biased towards the focusing point. So shifting the focus point can drastically change the exposure whatever metering mode one chooses.
So I limit myself to manual mode and rely on the histogram.

( And I miss the articulating screen of the M50, but that one has too few dials for my taste - and its silent shutter is only accessible in one of the special modes.)

The tiny Sony RX100 series is the camera that most often ends up in my bag for non-photo trips (i.e., when I'm not working.) I own four of them. OK, so it's often packed next to a Leica Q2, but still.... The latest versions 6 and 7 have a sweet 24-200mm equivalent zoom, and a one inch sensor, and the whole thing is about the size of a pack of cigarettes. Image quality is outstanding even at high ISOs. It's kind of fiddly to operate, as it's so small, but set it up as a p&s and it's a great travel camera. (If you prefer a faster lens, the v5 has a 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8.)

I shoot all Fuji at work, so I should love the X100 series. Really, I should. I've owned two of them. Both saw a lot of use initially, then sat in the gear locker for a while, then got sold. It turns out I'd rather carry an X Pro 2 with the excellent 23mm f/2 "fujicron" lens. That, or the aforementioned Q2.

Have a great holiday season, Mike.

My complaint about the 100F is that it tries to do too much. My hands are large and there are too many touchy buttons. I don't want video in my "casual camera". I wish it could be as simple as an M10.

That's not to say that good photos can't be made with it. This camera just seems to make that more difficult.

Hi Mike,

I would say two great casual cameras I think should be considered are:

The Panasonic GX-85, A.K.A the GX-7 Mark II. Small, good viewfinder, nice sensor, good IBIS, spinny dials, and you can use all of those delicious small m43 primes. A polished version of the GX-7. (Outstanding video for those who like that.) A really good all purpose camera to take everywhere. Now available in a two kit-zoom set (nice zooms too, nothing to complain about with image quality) for REALLY CHEAP.

The Olympus E-PL5. Used only? Yes, but it's sooooo cute! Again, decent sensor, good IBIS, viewfinder is optional (and the port is absent on later models). This is a fine camera to have live in your jacket, or to give to a kid in the 8-14 year old range. (Both of which I do.) It feels really good in the hands too.
The modern version? The E-PL9 or 10? Still a really good camera! Did I mention that Olympus is really good about backwards compatibility with batteries for the E-PL models? Why are you not buying one for your younger family members to take on vacation??? It's not like they aren't going to take pictures, maybe with one of these they'll learn to love cameras, and turn in some RAW files that you can show them how to make sing!

Also recommended: Olympus Tough Series TG-6, an indestructible point and shoot for beach vacations, that has a good lens! It even starts at f/2! Fortunately it only has 12 megapixels, so it's not too excessive. It also has a whole kitchen sink's worth of features, ranging from good video specs, to an onboard GPS, temp sensor, and compass. (And you can embed that data in your EXIF.) This is a really great vacation camera. Also, you can hand it to your kid.

To me, a great casual camera is one that can do most things well, at least one thing really well, and is both small and comfortable enough to carry anywhere, and cheap enough to not be a disaster if it is lost or broken. They aren't perfect cameras, but they are one that are easy to do good work with. Easy enough, in fact, that they make good gifts for people who might like cameras, but can't or won't buy them for themselves. Fun, comfortable, cameras.

If you're discussing the best casual camera don't forget to mention the Ricoh GR series. Last month TOP reader, Ned Bunnell, loaned me his Ricoh GR. Within a week of its arrival I was sold. I ordered the GR3 and am smitten.

For a photography enthusiast the GR is the ultimate casual camera. It's tiny. The GR is smaller than my Samsung Note phone. It fits in my jeans pocket. I take it everywhere. The image quality is nothing short of amazing. The pictures look as good as anything that comes out of my FF canon, as good as photos taken with my best primes and L glass.

The GR is the thinking photographers casual camera. It has three customizable user modes. I have created modes for indoor natural light portraits, night dog walks, and an easy mode that shoots like a cell phone. Last night, at a neighbor's party, I had a few bourbon ciders in my system but I was still able to get some great candid shots by putting the camera in my custom indoor portrait mode and relying on the image stabilization.

Some people are put off by the Ricoh's 28mm equivalent lens. Yes, 28mm can be a challenge, but if you want a do-it-all camera 28mm is probably the best choice. It's wide enough to work as a travel and landscape lens. It also works for portraits and candids in tight spaces. Once you get used to the wide, all seeing eye, you appreciate the GR's ability to create layered compositions that are rich in details. There's a reason most phones come with a lens that's 28mm equivalent.

If you're thinking of getting a GR, get the GR3. The touch screen and the image stabilization are great enhancements. You can get sharp photos at 1/5 second shutter speeds. And the touch screen makes the already great UI even more functional.

I vote for the Ricoh, even thou it isn't even up yet!

Yes, the X100-F IS the DMD. There is only one thing missing, unless I a missing the feature that I think is missing.

I'd say any of the Olympus Pen series but they seem to be abandoning it for SLR imitations instead :( Hopefully I can get a P before they are all gone.

I just upgraded my X100S for the X100F. If it had decent (read ANY) location info and better Bluetooth/WiFi it would be perfect!

"Best Casual Cameras"

I wouldn't call the EOS M5 or M6 exactly a "casual" cameras. Small, versatile, capable, reasonably priced ILCs? Certainly.

For me the "best casual camera" is my iPhone 11 Pro. Next up would be my Sony RX100 VII. I just spent a month literally on an island in the middle of the Pacific with an iPhone (XS) and a Sony RX100-VII and didn't feel I missed a thing.

Others' choices may differ. But a very current smartphone with excellent camera system like the current iPhone is an exceptionally good "casual" camera today. I realize that old purists will frown at it but theirs is the loss. An enthusiast-class compact zoomer with a good lens, like a model of Sony's RX100 or Canon's G7X, is a (large) step-up in capabilities but equally "casual" and portable.

What about the single-lens fixed focal cameras like the Fuji X100F? It's fine but it's not pocketable (i.e. not very "casual"). Plus it's nowhere near as versatile as the above choices.

The Ricoh GR III is a truly wonderful and pocketable camera that easily rivals the Leica Q/Q2 for image quality at 1/5th the price and 25% the bulk. But, again, not nearly as versatile as the iPhone or RX100. If you're confident of being able to control your distance-to-subject go for it! Otherwise...

(And yes, I'm embarassed to admit that I own and use all the cameras I mentioned except for the EOS M50/M60.)

The Fuji X100(the S version in my case) is my casual camera. And coincidentally my father in law just introduced me to the Ricoh GR III. Neat little camera me thinks.


Fuji XE3 with the 27mm pancake. In the UK, with current discounts the camera body new is 440 pounds and the 27mm lens refurbished (from Fuji Europe) is 270 pounds. I'd add a protective filter too, and a simple wrist strap. So let's make it 750 pounds in total and you are set for street, city scape, portraits, family, close-up shots of environmental detail.

Kristian Wannebo: Nikon matrix metering does the same thing, it will emphasize the focus point. Which can be good or bad depending on the circumstance.

The way I've solved this is to use "back-button" focus. Once focus is acquired, then you let go of the AF-ON button, re-compose, and take the photo. In this way, there is no locked focus point for the meter.

I can't say if it will work the same with Canon.

Nice to see some props for the X100F, Mike. It is, indeed, the DMD. To refer to it a "casual camera" though, does it a disservice, though. I see outstanding work being produced with this camera all the time. Just look at the work of street photographer Valerie Jardin, for example.

I've owned mine since approximately when they first shipped; the X100F was in such hot & heavy demand back then that you had to be ready to jump when it came in your dealers. I called Samy's in San Francisco one morning in early March 2017 to ask when they were getting more in, and to my surprise, they had a few arriving that morning. I rushed right over and bought a nice silver one.

I previously owned the X100T, and it was fine camera. But, the X100F, with its 23mm f/2 lens, 24 megapixel sensor & X-Processor Pro image processor (along with along with the X-H1) results in a synergistic interaction that produces some of the most beautiful image quality I've experienced from ANY camera this side of a GFX. And, notably, black & whites from this camera are especially beautiful.

I like it so much that when I needed a 35mm FOV, I'd would always just grab the X100F, my XF primes were always left sitting idle. So, I ended up selling my other 23mm Fuji primes, the f/1.4 and f/2.0 "Fujicron".

As such, I think the X100F fulfills its design brief better than most any camera I can think of. I use it for everything, from street to pro architectural work to landscape and even product photography. It is my "go-to" body when I head out from the media center to shoot pit, paddock, and "atmosphere" photos on race weekends for my PR Directors. Generally, no one sees you photographing with it, so its perfect for capturing candid portraits and moments. And when folks do see you with it, they are so intrigued by this cool & beautiful little camera that you strike up nice conversations. This camera brings people together rather than alienating subject and photographer, like many ILCs can.

So...I love this camera. Using it provides me with joy and the photographs it makes are gorgeous. As such, it goes out the door with me every time I leave the house, ready for that decisive moment.

"see "The Digital Camera I'd Like to Own" from 2005"

I remember that post - what is wrong with me? ;-)

Actually kinda sorta agreed at the time - with the addition of a tiny f2.8 lens (between 28mm and 56mm eq) that stuck out no farther than the grip in the off position.

I dunno, Mike. What's your definition of "casual?" And is it the camera or the shooter (or both) that's casual? Can I take formal photos (whatever that is) with a casual camera? I'm honestly not trying to be a wise guy, it's just that based solely on two very different examples, it's not entirely obvious what you mean.

The X100F is a highly refined camera, but it is due for a lens redesign, which isn't equal to the current sensor. I've tried 2 of these, and they went back because the image quality was no where near what I was getting with my X-Pro2 and 23 f/2. Looking forward to the next iteration of this camera, with, I hope, a redesigned lens.

I remember the day I read 'The Camera I want to buy'.
You were exactly Right. I'm sure that column influenced a whole wave of capable smaller serious cameras.
I remember thinking, I'd buy one in a heartbeat.
I do think the Fujifilm X100 series with it's Hybrid viewfinder is the clearest example of your concept. (There are certainly others).

But I never did buy one, and as far as I know, you didn't either.
In your case, Fujifilm should give you one, -maybe have a T.O.P. Edition
You definitely deserve one, --even if it is just to frame it along with the article.

I have never understood the disdain that the M5 received from the would-be cognoscenti on Internet. I bought one a year ago with an adapter for not a lot of money, and it's a gem. Sure, the buffer blocks the camera if you let it get full, but for the rest? I use it alongside my Fuji's and for video with the dual pixel autofocus. It's a joy. Put a big telephoto zoom on it with the adapter and it feels weirdly great. Go on, you'll love it!

The Canon PowerShot G5X Mark II looks like a fun little camera. It has a 1" sensor with a F 1.8-2.8, 24-120 mm equivalent lens. Mostly a stills camera, which is fine with me, although the auto focus is apparently a bit slow. Has a built-in ND filter and a pop-up EVF. Costs around $900, which is considerably less than Sony's RX100 cameras.

I've been wanting a Canon G5X Mark II lately as my casual camera. I like everything I know about it — except the price.

Mike, suggestion for a post-Where is the photography industry going?
I have been thinking about the whole question of photography, art, and gear lately. It seems there is a race to the bottom with gear sales, and it is anyones guess who the winners and losers will be. How does the gear effect the art of photography and so on. I certainly don't know the answer, and not really sure I know the correct question ,but it is clear to me that companies are selling the products below market. Can this last for long? Not sure. It is clearly an industry in trouble. I think it is worth a post or two and to get the discussion going. Best Regards Eric

I see a lot of comments in favour of the Ricoh GR. I recently shot with one for a couple of hours on a rainy day in London (at the Cameraworld show). I ‘d like to make the case for the Eos M6 and 22mm as a better package, as it’s almost as compact but you can add an EVF and swap out the lens. In my case the tiny, for what it is, 11-22 pretty much goes everywhere with me. The other big plus is the 22mm lens also gives me 35mm equivalent FOV which is different from the 28mm of my phone.

The original Canon EOS M with the 22mm lens was a great little camera kit. This series from Canon has been maturing slowly, and it is today a very solid choice.

But the Fuji X100 is the one that still speaks to the heart:)

Casual? Hey, any time I carry a camera I'm serious about picture-taking.

But I can't argue with the Fuji X100 or those who endorse the Ricoh GR. Both great cameras for "light duty serious" in my case.

My vote goes to the Panasonic G85 equipped with the Panni 20mm f1.7 lens. If you want to get smaller then the old Panasonic GX1, same lens.

You know … I've seen people talking to their Apple cameras and wondered what they were doing. Possibly there was a way to set it up and edit photos with voice commands which might be useful.

Then someone told me that I could talk to people using my camera. People anywhere in the world. All I needed was their secret code (a number it turns out) and by some kind of magic, we'd be talking.

Those Apple engineers are brilliant.

"In fact, the whole concept of a "casual camera" might be high status, you might say, rather than the opposite. Because to be casual means not all your work is casual. It's the one you just have fun with, and bring along for the ride when the big rig stays at home or back at the studio." -- Mike J.

A camera that says "My other camera is a Phase One", in other words. ;-)

I've never worked for a living as a photographer, but have enjoyed photography as a hobby since high school (1970's with Nikon F and FG film cameras) and started with digital photography in 2009 (Nikon D40). That's only some context, but I do currently have a rig, it's a hobbyist rig.

I have a Nikon D7500, and also a D5600 which I bought impulsively with this idea of it being a "casual" camera. But I find that if I'm going to use a camera then I end up using the D7500. Primarily because of the viewfinder, and somewhat because of the AF system. It's pretty much that if I'm going to go out with one, might as well be the D7500.

So, of course GAS is a thing in photography and I spend time "window shopping" online for a compact camera. All the usual culprits. RX100, GRIII, LX100, Fuji. But I can never pull the trigger because of my experience with the D5600. I'm pretty sure that if I carry a camera, I'll just want to carry the D7500.

So for me, casual is the camera in my pocket every day, my iPhone 8 Plus. I am currently battling a case of GAS for the iPhone 11 Pro, but I want to wait for the next iteration.

I would like to differ with you on the X100. I'm sure it's a highly capable camera, but what made them the force in cameras they are today? Was it the WA lenses for 4x5 and 8x10 view cameras I used when employed at a commercial studio in the early seventies? Close. Was it the Texas Leicas? Close but no cigar. For me it was the Hasselblad xPan, which I have used for a lot of street photos to great success. My dream has always been for them to make a digital xPan, but I don't see that a possibility financially. And yes, I know there are ways to do it with a computer, but I like the shoot it and it's done idea.

That EOS M5 is one helluva cutie- and at that price!

When I think casual, I think giving up some measure of control, for convenience... while still allowing the end results I want. That's the GR- you give up an OVF/EVF for stealth and take anywhere compactness. If you can't afford the 3 (I can't), carefully look around for the original iteration in good cond. They can be prone to dust, but as someone previously commented- that could well be due to user abuse (at least in some cases). I hesitated in buying one thinking my aging eyes would render it useless- surprise... you adapt! Best decision I ever made.

The leaf shutter on the X100* cameras has always intrigued me. If I was a flash guy I’d own one.

My first good digital camera was a D70 and if you gave it some light and kept the print size down to 16x20 or less it was fine. I tend to be wary of subjective sensor or lens voodoo but that camera made some very pretty pictures for me and it just seemed to have a certain pretty quality to it's files. White balance and exposure on the D70 was also shockingly good. You can set yourself up with one with an 18-55 for the cost of a nice dinner for two. I think that qualifies as a casual camera.
Replaced it with a D7100 which is much sharper and does video but otherwise does not feel like a big step up from old reliable.
Speaking of old cameras, my go to pocket camera is still a Canon S95.

I bought a GRII, as a “city’ camera three years ago. Not so much casual, since I have a OMD EM5 as well, but easier to carry and use. I like to shoot street, though really too timid, and the GR is more unobtrusive.
I don’t think I’d upgrade to the III, since the additional features don’t warrant the cost. For me it packs a lot into a easy to pocket and solidly built camera.
I guess you could say, all of my picture taking is casual, even if I had a heavier DSLR.
Merry Christmas to you Mike, and all in the TOP family. Wishing you all peace for the new year.

It’s the Fuji X-E3 for me, although I pair mine with the 23mm and 50mm Fujicrons. This camera flies under the radar, and is a steal at the $499 sale price. Truly a fun camera to use..

I would never buy a smartphone just for the camera, especially not in the price range of the flagship phones, but the thing is, they do so much else *as well*. The excellent camera is just the icing on the cake. Whereas a dedicated camera struggles even to communicate with a phone, already loaded with the correct software.

In fact, as I think I've mentioned before, the camera wasn't even one of the 'three devices' that Steve Jobs specified in the iPhone launch presentation. They were: a) a wide-screen iPod; b) a remarkable phone; and c) an internet communications device. The camera got a throw-away mention about 10 minutes into the presentation.

Hi Mike,

You said current cameras with 1" sensor were too expensive. While that used to be very true, there is now the DxO One, a camera equipped with the same sensor as the Sony RX100 III but much smaller than the Sony. It was designed to be used as an accessory camera mounted on an iPhone but it never caught up, as the assembly with the phone was too bulky, too impractical and too flimsy. As a consequence, the camera was discontinued and the DxO Labs company went belly up last year.

But the camera is still available new –although there is of course no more support from DxO– and the last version of the firmware brought a very interesting capacity to the camera: it can now be used in standalone mode. Of course the small black and white OLED screen is technically a poor framing device but it adds an element of randomness to the photographer's eye... It's also sufficient to level the camera and see the main compositional lines of the picture.

In fact, the Dxo One is a surprisingly good point-and-shoot camera for everyday snapshots. It's equipped with a superb 32mm eq. prime lens and delivers great pictures (JPEG, DNG raw or both) up to at least 3200ISO. The best news is that the iPhone/Lightning version is available now for a little bit more than $100 on Amazon (vs. $600 at launch), and the Android/USB C version for a bit less than $200.

In my humble opinion, it's the best stocking stuffer available for this holiday season!



Apropos the Panasonic G9. I'm sorry, Mike, but you must be living on the wrong side of the puddle in this case. In Sweden (and the rest of Europe, it seems) they will happily sell you one without a lens. I know, because I bought one a few months back. Of course now they are $US300 cheaper than when I acquired it. Already had the lovely 12-60/2.8-4 lens from my GX8 purchase a few years earlier. I never understood why they offer different bundles in different parts of the world. Marketing decision, obviously, but none that I can make much sense of.

[Different cameras! I wrote about the GX9, Hakan, you are talking about the G9. The G9 is not a casual camera by any stretch of the imagination. :-) --Mike]

Two (or three?) years ago I bought a used Fuji X30 as my casual camera. Yes its dated, yes AF is a bit sluggish, yes it "only" got 12MP. But it got a decent view finder, a "2-2.8/28-112mm" lens AND it accepts a real camera strap.

Despite its shortcomings, this little old Fuji is actually the only compact camera I ever enjoyed using. Should have bought it when it came to market.

About your one-of-a-kind lens:
Well, my old Nikkor AF 1.4/28D is not one-of-a-kind, but rare enough that I might never get a replacement in similar condition. I bought it used and with damaged rear lens ten years ago, had it completely rebuild by Nikon Germany and its my go-to wide angle lens ever since.

Digital choice would be an Olympus PL-n or even one of the E-M10s with one of the tiny 17, 25 or 45 mm lenses (f1.8s), or the Panasonic 20 mm. You'd need a big pocket for the E-M10 though.

Film choice would be Olympus Stylus Epic or a Rollei 35, mostly because they're so good looking and because I like zone focusing.

I am happy with GX9. It fits my every day backpack with Panasonic 12-35, 35-100 and 25/1.4 and I hardly notice it is there.

It wasn't available as body only, but 600€ with
a 12-32mm zoom was such a good offer that I didn't mind the lens. I might actually use it some day.

To go with my Pentax outfit, or rather to not go with it, I have a couple of casual cameras. One is a Sony a6000 with the 16-50 kit lens, the other is a Canon G9.

The Sony is slightly smaller than a small 35mm SLR, so it's little trouble to carry. It takes fine pictures, and I think the sensor is the same as the one on my Pentax K3. But the way the thing works drives me crazy; for almost every control I alter, the Pentax simply does it in a better, easier way.

The Canon goes in a belt pouch and is almost no trouble to carry. I used it a a sole camera when I went on holiday. It does like to alter the exposure according to which focus point has been used, but there are ways round that. The controls work well; not in the same way as the Pentax, but logically and conveniently enough.

Mike, I stand corrected. Reading too hastily is a bad habit of mine. However, my case in point still stands; that the camera you were talking about, the GX9 and not the G9, is indeed also available body-only all over Europe. :-)

I bought my XPro1 as a 'casual' camera about seven years ago! I was thinking X100 at the time but the XPro1 was on offer with a free additional lens and I went for it. It is till my go to camera when I just what to take pictures.

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007