Best Camera For Frequent Traveler?

Back in early 2011 I asked you guys for suggestions on which camera I should get. After taking into account the useful feedback and doing some further research, I decided to get the Canon S95.

It has served me brilliantly for over three years, and all things considered I couldn’t be happier with it. It’s compact, takes great pictures in low light conditions, etc.

But at the same time technology is improving at such a fast pace that I think it’s time to upgrade, assuming there’s something better out there. For example, I see there’s now a Canon S120, which I assume is the updated version of my previous camera. But I’m not sure if it’s actually better.

Canon-S120

With the blog redesign, pictures are displaying even bigger than before (700 pixels width vs. 580 pixels width), so I want to be sure I’m taking the best pictures possible for you guys.

I’m not much of a “specs” guy — if you rattled off the different features of a camera to me I probably wouldn’t have a clue what you’re talking about.

In non-technical language, here’s what’s important to me:

The ability to take crisp pictures without much effort

I know that sounds obvious and it’s something everyone wants, but when I’m boarding a plane I often only have a few seconds to snap pictures before the cabin fills up, so being able to just “point and shoot” and have the pictures turn out okay is the top priority.

Picture-2

The ability to photograph moving objects well

I take tons of pictures of airplanes, and they’re constantly moving, so a camera that can capture things moving at a couple of hundred miles per hour is ideal.

Picture-3

The ability to capture pictures with limited light

This is possibly the most important. I don’t want to disrupt other passengers when flying, so don’t use flash. Light is often limited, so a camera that performs well with limited light is key.

Picture-4

Have pictures not come out over exposed

This is my one major gripe with the Canon S95. When you point it towards anything that’s bright the pictures seem to get really white and over exposed.

Picture-1

Anyone have any suggestions? Should I stick with the Canon S95, “upgrade” to the Canon S120 (is there even a difference?), or go with a different camera altogether?

Thanks so much! Hopefully this can be a useful resource for others in the market for a camera as well.

Comments

  1. I LOVE my NEX3N. It has a light weight, great sensor, small lens (16-50 – electronic), great battery. Just everything you’d ever want in a camera.

    In the mean time, they upgraded the camera’s, so I’d suggest to go with the Sony Alpha a5000. It’s great 🙂

  2. The Canon S120 is indeed the upgraded version of the S95 you have, and is indeed better, not just newer. While that’s a great camera and I have personally owned the S95, currently, the best pocketable camera on the market is the Sony RX100 III. It’s a bit pricier but well worth it. You won’t be disappointed. If you don’t want to spend quite as much, the original Sony RX100 is just as capable in pic quality. Just missing a few features like wifi and pop up viewfinder.

  3. Sony’s RX 100 is my answer, but if you’re satisfied with the Canon and are just looking for an upgrade, then the S120 should do just fine and it’ll save you a few hundred dollars over the RX 100.

  4. What Tummy and Luis said: Sony RX100 MKII or MKIII

    Terrific camera, with a GREAT low light capability and a GREAT lens. Ticks all 4 of your requirements easily. I’m eyeing a MkII (as they should be on clearance soon) to replace my Olympus XZ-1.

  5. “This is my one major gripe with the Canon S95. When you point it towards anything that’s bright the pictures seem to get really white and over exposed.”

    That’s why nobody gets married with the sun behind them [at least not during the middle of the day]… And those photographers are using $5000 cameras .

  6. Think Different – go with Nokia 1020 – http://www.cnet.com/news/nokia-lumia-1020-unlocked-edition-now-available-via-microsoft/

    Get the US version (RM-877).I can vouch for it. To see pictures taken with it, including several low light shots check out this album by a friend of a friend – https://www.flickr.com/photos/kris_kumar/tags/nokialumia1020/

    Or if you are adamant about wanting to follow others, consider Sony Xperia Z2. http://www.sonymobile.com/us/products/phones/xperia-z2/

  7. Yep. Sony RX100M3 hands down.

    @Diondi I wouldn’t count on too many RX100 M2 discounts as they will continue to keep it in the line up.

  8. @RakSiam, really? They’re keeping the M2 and the M3 both? That sounds odd, as the M2/M3 don’t have that many differences – mainly being the pop-up EVF, the flip screen and the lens aperture/zoom range. The sensor and physical body is mainly the same.

  9. You’re probably due for a camera upgrade now (no pun intended 🙂 ) And from my experience of taking photos of planes at high speed, a SLR is the way to go, as they have virtually no shutter lag. For Someone like you, a canon T5i seems like the best value, the 70D if you want a fancier one, or the SL1 if you’re looking for a compact size. I have some experience with the T5i and 70D, but I don’t know much about the SL1’s quality. GhettoIFE has a SL1, so he might be the person to ask. (He also has a 6D, which is fancier than a 70D)

  10. try the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS5 Digital Camera it has Leica optics and takes great pictures, it is shock proof from a drop of 2 meters and it is water proof to upto 40 feet, it takes great pics in all types of weather and you don’t have to worry about rain.

  11. I have the Canon S110 and I LOVE it. It is like a mini-DSLR without interchangeable lenses. While the Sony may be better, I am a Canon fan with a full DSLR at home, and like that I can take this on the road with me without having to shift gears too much.

    I did buy a polarizing filter that can connect to it. It brightens up landscape photos really nicely (think of what polarizing sunglasses do for your eyes and you get the picture). This is what I got, but there are others out there too: http://www.amazon.com/MagFilter-Photography-Cinema-Circular-Polarizer/dp/B0093YC6ME

  12. I am convinced the S120 is the way to go, and with wifi upload and gps via phone, it has great features. You may however wait for the next rev (generally announced in august, and released in october) I suspect it will be the S130.

  13. Spend $20 and buy a book on the basics of photography. Learn what all those knobs and buttons do on the camera you own and your photos will improve. It’s really does not take more time to set up the camera with aperture priority mode or shutter priority mode (Av and Tv mode). Learn how to bracket your shots. You will be amazed at how nice your shots will be pre photoshop or lightroom. The blown out example you posted could have been dealt with on Av or Tv with one quick adjustment while looking at the viewfinder and rotating the knurled wheel at the base of the lens. Trust me it’s really not that complicated.

    I bought the wife a S-120 last Christmas and although it’s not as capable as my 5DmkIII I managed to take some crazy good shots in London, Dublin and Gothenburg on our last trip. In fact is was so capable we only took that camera. I was 40 pounds lighter not lugging lenses, flashes and camera body and never missed it (that much). So if you want a new camera (why not) and you have used Canon cameras enough to become familiar with the simple features stick with Canon.

    Another thought would be to purchase the camera at a brick and mortar store (gasp – no Amazon Prime) and ask the salesperson to demonstrate the various modes. Chances are they can teach you how to adjust for low light and too much light blowout in about 10 minutes in the store. For free.

  14. Definitely the Sony Rx100 III. Canon has kind of lost it IMHO – if you want a small, pocketable powerhouse the Sony it is. And since you always travel with carry-on I would stay away from anything bigger like a full DSLR or even a mirror less (although the Sony a6000 is a fantastic camera…).

  15. Yep, Sony RX100 III is the best premium compact camera out there. The sensor is about 3x larger than the Canon S120 and it has a wide, clear Carl Zeiss lens with excellent optics. You can easily get pictures with nice depth-of-field and natural bokeh effect (that’s the blurring of the background when taking a portrait, for example). The RX100 III can take some amazing low-light shots because it captures more light. The Sony has less zoom (2.9x) than the Canon (5x), but you can effectively crop extra fine JPG pictures with good quality thanks to the lens clarity and additional resolution (20mp vs. the S120’s 13mp). I have had the Canon S95 for a while and in March I upgraded to the RX100 III’s super-zoom brother, the RX10. Very happy with it, but as a frequent traveler you would not want the super-zoom model because it is a bit bulky/heavy. One travel feature that I really like on the Sony is the panorama mode. You simply sweep the camera across the scene to take the panorama – no clicking each picture individually and you can immediately see the result. The downside of the Sony RX100 III is price (almost double the S120), but you may be able to find the older RX100 II model on clearance soon – which is also an excellent camera. I don’t think you can go wrong with the Sony or the Canon, both have their merits.

  16. The Canon S95 should still be excellent for your purposes (I’m using the S100, which is roughly the same thing). The S series cameras, along with the G series, have larger sensors than most point-and-shoot cameras, which make them great for low light. For your other points, the S95 is a very powerful and flexible camera if you dig into the user’s manual a bit. There are pre-programmed and user programmable settings–there should be one that adjusts for very bright light. (My solution for bright-light blow-out is to adjust the exposure in iPhoto, an extremely simple process. This should tell you that I’m not a camera geek) For capturing fast-moving objects, try burst mode, which takes multiple images in quick succession–at least one of them should come out.

    The S95 can probably give you everything you want if you study the manual. The one thing the S110 and newer models have is built in wifi, which means you could post your photos directly from your camera (though does anyone actually do that?).

    I’m talking about Canons because I’ve been very happy with the pictures I’ve gotten over several model generations. I’ve been borrowing a 3-year-old Lumix, which also takes nice pictures, but I know I’d get better results if I learned its feature set.

    That said, a new toy is always fun…

  17. I use my iPhone 5S for quick pictures on the go and have a Canon DSLR for more serious photography. However, in your case you need something in between. Since I love photography I am always reading about what is new and from all reviews I read hands down the Sony RX100 III is the way to go. Whatever option you decide I think you should look for one camera that offers wifi capability so no need to download the photos in a computer and you can send it from the camera itself.

  18. Please post and let us know what you end up deciding. I’m in the market for a similar small camera to use instead of my DSLR when I’m really on the go and I’m looking for the same specs you are.

  19. The Sony RX100 III will be perfect for you. The large sensor, wide aperture lens and pop-up electronic viewfinder is what makes this camera ideal for low light shots. The electronic viewfinder is the icing on the cake allowing you to hold the camera steady against your face, rather than having to hold the camera at arms length to frame the shot. This allows the use of slower shutter speeds. Note that the older RX-100 II does NOT have the electronic viewfinder.

  20. The Sony RX100 III will be perfect for you. The large sensor, wide aperture lens and pop-up electronic viewfinder is what makes this camera ideal for low light shots. The electronic viewfinder is the icing on the cake allowing you to hold the camera steady against your face, rather than having to hold the camera at arms length to frame the shot. This allows the use of slower shutter speeds. Note that the older RX-100 II does NOT have the electronic viewfinder.

  21. Here’s another vote for the Sony RX100. The RX100 is a higher-end compact camera, so it’s still small enough to fit in a pocket. I bought it for my trip to Asia last month, and it took some fantastic photos, both day and night. (Daytime photos are pretty easy — your smartphone can take great daytime photos. Nighttime or low-light photos are a lot tougher for cameras to do well. This is where a good camera can really excel.) It’s really easy to use and takes excellent shots in automatic mode, but also gives you a lot of manual control when you want it.

    You should be able to find a good price on the original RX100 (new or used). The newer model is kinda expensive and frankly doesn’t add much.

  22. The Sony RX100 is great, but it is much bigger than what you are used to carrying. I bought one based on comments similar to those above and never carry it with me. My old Canon slipped into my shirt pocket and every other pocket and weighed almost nothing. The Sony is not huge, but it’s no shirt-pocket camera.

  23. I can vouch for a Nokia 1020. I used to carry a DSLR (Nikon D7000) with me while travelling with roughly four different lenses and just hated the weight.

    While not as perfect, it does a great job once you learn how to use the Nokia Pro app. They are rumored to announce a replacement for the 1020 soon, so that might be the one that you want to go for.

  24. Definitely another vote for the Sony RX100 (or whatever variant is now current). Small and super high quality. Worth the money.

  25. Sensor size is the most important factor for high quality pictures in low light, and I agree with the Sony RX100 recommendation.

    If you’re concerned about size, there’s a very useful size comparison site here:

    http://camerasize.com/

    I just compared the Canon S95 to the Sony RX-100 III, and it’s only slightly larger.

  26. There’s no need to go for the RX100 MIII unless you ABSOLUTELY need a viewfinder to compose the shot (instead of just using the regular LCD). The MII is really just as good, and the original is considerably cheaper for not much difference.

  27. I’ve been very happy with my Panasonic DMC-ZS19 though there is probably an updated version now.

  28. @diondi – Yep. Actually all three are still in the line up (RX100, RX100 II and RX100 III) for sale and still being produced. Frankly I think the naming convention is kind of dumb as it just invites confusion. I would expect the current $650 price for the RX100 II to be the going price for a while. Maybe once the RX100 M4 comes out it will drop more. The original RX100 is now $500.

  29. I really dig my AW100 when I just want a point & shoot. The favorite feature is the geotagging but being waterproof is also nice. Sure, geotagging can be done after the fact with one of the many apps that will merge a GPX file from whatever device and the pictures but why do that step if you don’t have to.

    Sure, it’s not as good as my Canon T4i but I drag both around because it’s nice to have portability & it fits nicely in the camera bag!

  30. Timely post as I have just upgraded my S95 that I’ve been using for the past three years as well. I looked at couple different options and I ended up replacing it with S120. Since I just got it last week I haven’t had the time to put it though the paces, but I’m looking forward to some of the new features like WiFi and touch display.

  31. I think your pictures are quite fine as they are! For web publishing purposes, I think the camera you already have works perfectly for you … so unless you have some cash burning a hole in your pockets, I’d stick with what you have 🙂

  32. For most travelers the cameras you mention are fine. But lucky does this for a living. Therefore what he needs is the smallest body to sensor ratio. And that folks is the Panasonic GM1. It looks like a point-and-shoot but it packs a significantly larger sensor than any of the cameras you mention. I’ve been quietly been building a site about semi-/professional shooters and travel and just posted this blog posting about the GM1. It may interest some of you: http://portabilityshooter.com/gear/the-panasonic-gm1-marvel/

    Lucky, just like you opted to once get a more expensive but perfect laptop for travel you should make the same decision here. Get the GM1 with the kit lens for your general purpose photography and one low light lens like the 20mm 1.7. This combination will beat the pants off any of the cameras mentioned here. This combination is of course more expensive but these are tools of your trade and higher quality means you need to spend a bit more money.

    Also you should shoot RAW and learn the basics of Lightroom if you have some time. As someone mentioned here you would also need to learn one basic setting in the camera which is to toggle the different kind of metering modes (there are generally only three). If you select “point metering” you can tell the camera by clicking on the part of the image you want it to meter to and therefore control the exposure and ensure that parts that are important to you are exposed correctly. Feel free to contact me via email if you have questions.

    Take these basic steps and your photography will look like it was shot for a magazine!

  33. I would definitely say a FUJI XE-2 or XT-1. These compact cameras have APS-C sized sensors, and do away with anti-aliasing filters which means you get a super high performance camera that produces a lot of detail and performs spectacularly in low light situations. This is my camera of choice when traveling.

  34. I have had an S95. I currently have a S120. I also have an iPhone 5. To be honest, iPhone cameras are really really good. Especially if you take the time to get to know how to use them well. HDR is your best friend in many difficult lighting situations. There are some scenarios where my S120 is still better, but those situations are few and far between. Unless I’m buying a DSLR with a super fancy lens, I don’t think I’ll ever buy another camera other than the one that comes with my iPhone.

  35. Lucky,

    Chris P and others mentioned Panasonic Lumix cameras. We have had 3 in my household and not because of problems. We upgraded cameras as the megapixels and features were getting better and so were the prices. Many of the Lumix cameras have Leica lens. Which are very hard to beat! Lumix small cameras are loaded with features and do things so automatically, that you can set them up with presets for each of your picture taking situations. My current pocket camera is a Lumix DMC-ZS9. It is truly a pocket camera, but the newer models are much better, as this model is 4 years old. The camera Chris P mentioned, the Lumix DMS-TS5 is a great traveller’s camera. With Lumix, you get Leica lenses at a third of the cost of a Leica camera. Panasonic has specials on their site and Amazon has very good prices as well.

  36. Another vote for the Sony RX100 series. I love mine so much it hurts. Go with the M2 or M3 so that you get wifi with it.

  37. As a professional photographer (that’s how I manage to pay for my travel BTW) I am not here to tell you Ben the latest, greatest camera and give a Porsche 956 to a guy who really just NEEDS a Toyota Camry.

    I am positive that learning a little more about your camera will help you immensely…learning the different settings, the modes and what the different selections do for an image. But, as you said, you often are in a hurry and just need a quick, focused image with good light balance, accurate exposure and color depth.

    I would recommend the Canon S120 is for you. It’s simple to operate and you can SAVE TIME by using the Wi-Fi features to help you upload quicker to your tablet, camera, Cloud, laptop, even your blog, etc…

    Plus the GPS feature (v smartphone) can help you organize your images into geographic-specific folders. As I may see three locations, sometimes even cities in the same day…and many over the course of a travel assignment…this is a Godsend for organization and back-referencing! As perhaps a little bit of an OCD guy (you might have to be, just because travelling requires some specificity in your routines to keep up with your stuff) you will treasure the ability to organize by folders as facilitated by the GPS tags you can enable on your images.

    It also has many other wonderful and useful features.

    Canon is slating a new model in the Fall, so you may decide to wait…or jump on a cheaper price for the S120 now. Lightweight and easy to keep on you and quick response time, with advanced features and even more quality images when you take the time (how about some reading on your long hauls sans Wi-Fi?) to master some additional skills.

    Ben, really….you just graduated…don’t you miss school just a bit? Well, start educating yourself now with your new camera. LOL

    Best Wishes

    John DELTA

  38. Circling back, I see lots of recommendations for newer cameras that have me drooling. And I see a few recommendations (including mine) that you spend some time learning what more your camera can do–or how your current equipment can help you–and some basic photographic skills. You can do both! But learn before you buy.

    It’s easy to buy beyond your skill level, and a waste. Your pictures are very decent now; if you take the time to learn what your S95 can do as well as some basic photographic skills your pictures will improve without further cash investment. And then when you do upgrade, they’ll be better still.

    For web publishing you really don’t need to shoot RAW. Blog readers don’t want to load two dozen or more 45MB images to read a post. And think how much more storage you’ll need, both on camera and on hard drive, for all those large images.

  39. Hey Ben:

    I think you’re probably good with what you have. In photography, in my experience, there are a series of plateaus that I hit in relation to the satisfaction with my photos. I’ve found they alternate between skills and hardware. In other words, when I thought I needed a better camera, I discovered I needed to better understand lighting and exposure. Then, having leaned that, I hit another plateau that was traversed with better lenses, etc.

    My advice? Read some photography books and learn the basics and shoot with what you’ve learned. You’ll hit a wall at some point and know what kind of hardware you’ll need to shoot even better.

    Eric

  40. Susan, you don’t shoot RAW to upload 45MB images. You shoot RAW to have more control of what to show in the image by the time you decide to export and upload a regular size image to a website. For example how much detail do you want to shoot in what is otherwise darkness? Contrast, color temperature, even the exposure mode can be changed after the image was shot. Stuff you just can’t do if you are shooting straight to jpg.

    jpgs, pngs, gifs are like an image that has been printed. There is only so much you can change.

    RAWs are digital negatives you have an incredible amount of detail that you can control. In Ben’s case that can make the difference between having a great photo or one that he at first glance might throw away.

  41. Except for the FUJI XE-2 or XT-1 (which are much bigger range finder like cameras) — none of the cameras mentioned here have a sensor the size of the Panasonic GM1.

    Your all comparing in essence regular point-and-shoot cameras/small sensor phones which is fine but when it comes to Ben’s challenge of shooting in lower light the largest sensor to camera-body is where he will have the best results shooting in low light. That’s where the GM1 currently reigns supreme.

    The Sony RX100 III while a good camera sensor is not in the same league as the GM1 in terms of (physically) being able to gather as much light to get a great shot because the sensor is around half the size. Even though the sensor is much bigger and therefore get’s better photos the GM1 is also roughly 1/3 lighter and thinner than the Sony! And the Sony also doesn’t let you swap out a lens for shooting in extremely low-light conditions.

    The same thing applies to the Canon cameras mentioned here.

    Note that the GM1 while also labeled a Panasonic Lumix is not the same thing as the Panasonic cameras mentioned here. Those other cameras are also compact cameras with small sensors.

    The GM1 is like a DSLR hiding in a compact camera body and for what Lucky says he wants to do not currently topped by anything else as it relates to low light gather ability because of the significantly larger sensor.

  42. RX100, RX100 MII, or RX100 MIII depending on your budget or needs. Incredible camera for size and cost

  43. Totally agree with Tummy on the first comment.
    Sony RX100 Mark III

    Fulfils all your needs. As long as you have the $$$ for it. But if, like me, you’re not a camera fanatic, and plan to use the same camera for a long time and for all purposes – work, travel, family gatherings, random stuff – then it is a great pick

  44. As many have recommended, any of the 3 Sony RX100 models is hands down the best bet for your needs. It trumps the Canon S95/S100/S110/S120 on low light conditions which according to you is the most important. The RX100II or Rx1002 is now just $472 at Sony store (after 10% EPP discount). But I would rather spend my money on the latest and greatest, RX100III.

  45. +1 for Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1

    Compact
    Big sensor
    Fast
    Great in low light
    Great lens selection for all subjects
    Raw mode

  46. I strongly second the Fuji X-E2 with the kit zoom lens. Huge sensor, image stabilized, fast lens with pro-level image quality, and the ability to have manual control (or full auto). Yes, it is a little bigger than most of the pocket cameras listed, but it is leaps and bounds better, and offers way more. Near-pro-DSLR grade images and the camera is rock solid.

    BTW, don’t be fooled by Sony’s “Carl Zeiss” lenses. They aren’t. Zeiss has nothing to do with the design or manufacture of the lenses, other than to license the Zeiss name to Sony for cachet.

  47. Lucky: Go with the smart folks who recommended the Sony RX100. I have the first generation, and I plan to upgrade to the III, with it’s pop-up electronic viewfinder. Best camera ever for travel, goes with me everywhere, superb definition and exposure control. Yes, it’s expensive. But you’ll be good for another 3 years….

  48. Fuji makes excellent APS-C cameras. But the model you mention the X-E2 is a range finder style model which means it’s definitely not a compact model. Panasonic also has a range finder model the GX7 which is my favorite camera currently (the GM1 and GX7 use the same sensor and I own both) but I’m not mentioning it here because it’s too big for what Lucky says he wants.

    It would be cool if Fuji manages to shrink the XE-2 into a body similar in size to the GM1 but they haven’t been able to achieve this so far.

    But the Fuji X series or Pansonic G series (GM1/GX7/GH4) are much better cameras than what Canon or Sony currently offer in terms of light gathering ability. Not to mention that it’s great to be able to go beyond a built-in lens!

  49. Another vote for the RX100. Image quality is amazing especially in low light. Just make sure to carry a spare battery as moving all the data from the big sensor sucks up a lot of juice

  50. Looks like from the comments above that you really need to get the Sony RX100 lll so you don’t get kicked out of the FCT……..What would Lufthansa do?

  51. I guess a couple of follow up questions for lucky on his camera choice.
    Are you happy with a shorter zoom, or do yo want a longer zoom, for shooting things like planes from across the Tarmac? The sony is good for image quality no disputes there, but it is more limited on its focal length.
    Also are you happy with a camera without a physical dial for setting your camera options. You mentioned speed of shooting is important. A lot of the point and shoots use a touch screen as the controls and the view finder. Sometimes these on screen controls can actually be quite slow to use, because you have to wait for the screen to respond?

  52. Another vote for RX100. Give it a try. They’re often available on displays at duty free shops.

  53. My vote is also for Sony RX100 M2 or M3. Newer model has an electronic viewfinder but also has a fully flippable LCD so that you can take selfies which all the readers here are asking for 😀

    The RX100 line has premium build quality but is also very, very pocketable. For my last vacation I snagged a Japanese version of M1 on eBay and got a great open-box deal on Sony NEX6 camera. Even though NEX-6 is a better camera and is still relatively small for an interchangeable lens camera, I never used it. RX100 is just so damn convenient — just put it in a jeans/shorts/jacket pocket and you are good to go.

    Anyhow, my JDM RX100 M1 and NEX6 are going on eBay soon and I will be buying RX100 M3 for the next trip.

  54. Definitely recommend any of the Sony RX100 line of cameras. They all take pretty much the same, awesome DSLR or mirrorless quality pictures, but the Mark 1 is the cheapest, the Mark 2 has awesome NFC and wifi sharing features, and the Mark 3 has a built in electronic viewfinder, which might come in handy. They also have big sensors, which will allow you to take really bright pictures even in low-light conditions. They’re also the same size as a point and shoot and therefore super pocketable! The only downside is that they’re quite pricy for a point and shoot, but it’s definitely worth the investment, considering how many pictures you take.They’ve been dubbed as “the perfect point and shoot”. Check out some reviews! Engadget: http://www.engadget.com/2014/07/11/sony-rx100-iii-review/ http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/sony-cybershot-dsc-rx100-m2

  55. There is a lot of room for debate but I’ve seen several people now post about the “big sensor” of the RX100s. This is completely false. None of the RX100s have big sensors. It’s true that the sensors are bigger than smart phones and that the RX100III has a slightly larger sensor than the previous models but these are definitely not large sensors by any standard.

    Photographers don’t consider the MFT or APS-C cameras mentioned here to be large sensors either.

    It’s about a compromise in largest sensor size vs. portability. So for example MFT bodies like the Panasonic GM1 have significantly larger sensors vs the Sony RX100s and allow up to 1.5 more “stops” of light. Each stop corresponds to a factor of two in light intensity. In turn the Fuji bodies mentioned previously on this thread have bigger sensors again (unfortunately the bodies are too big for the compact like size and weight comparison).

    My recommendation for anyone who wants to get better at photography is to also consider the advantages of interchangeable lens systems both for versatility (you can get shots that simply aren’t possible with a compact) and for the long term investment in camera lenses. With a compact like the Sony’s you are effectively loosing your investment in one of the most valuable parts once you get rid of it. With interchangeable lens systems like the Panasonic GM1 or Fuji’s X series you can continue to use those lenses for decades and then also save money as you can just buy new bodies without lenses. Some lenses actually become more valuable over time (I own several that are worth more now than when I bought them). Not going to happen with a fixed lens camera like the Sony RXs.

    On another note it baffles me that the Sony RX100 III doesn’t have a touch sensitive screen. It’s so much easier to set a focus point or tell the camera what area to expose by just clicking the area you want to expose too … weird.

  56. “There is a lot of room for debate but I’ve seen several people now post about the “big sensor” of the RX100s. This is completely false. None of the RX100s have big sensors. It’s true that the sensors are bigger than smart phones and that the RX100III has a slightly larger sensor than the previous models but these are definitely not large sensors by any standard.”

    That paragraph is the only thing that’s false. As you acknowledge, sensor size is very important; in fact, it’s one of the crucial specs these days. (I’m a 5D-3 user and LOVE the sensor, especially when paired with glass like the 50mm f/1.2L and 100mm f/2.8L IS macro.) And as you also obliquely acknowledge, the RX100-3 has a *relatively* larger sensor… than smart phones. What you fail to acknowledge and choose to ignore is that everyone saying big sensor is talking in relative terms (Hint: “relative terms” is a subset of “any standard”.), as we always do. You know that no one was saying it was a big sensor vis a vis a medium format Hasselblad!

    For laypeople’s sake, I’d like to lay out an objective comparison. The following seven representative cameras are listed from smallest to largest sensor. If you’re not a Camera Geek, you can pay attention to just the category at the beginning and the sq. mm listed at the end in parentheses. Those are the important bits.
    1. High-end camera phone: iPhone 5S: 4.89×3.67 mm (18 sq. mm)
    2. Typical P&S camera: Canon Powershot ELPH 340 ES: 6.2×4.6 mm (29 sq. mm)
    3. Large sensor P&S: RX100-3: 13.2×8.8 mm (116 sq. mm)
    4. Micro-4/3s ILC: Panasonic DMC-GM1: 17.3×13 mm (225 sq. mm)
    5. APS-C: Canon T5i: 22.2×14.8 mm (329 sq. mm)
    6. 35mm full-frame: 5D Mark III: 36×24 mm (864 sq. mm)
    7. Medium format: Phase One IQ180: 53.7×40.4 mm (2169 sq. mm)

    Here’s a great graphic that shows my above list more visually: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:SensorSizes.svg

    No one is suggesting the RX100-3 has a large sensor relative to a full-frame or medium format, but the numbers undeniably show that it has a massive sensor relative to a camera phone or a typical point and shoot. Its sensor is 6.4x the size of an iPhone and 4x the size of a typical point and shoot. The GM1, which you mentioned, has a sensor 2x the size of the RX100-3, a paltry boost compared to the 6.4x and 4x numbers.

    There are legitimate differences in sensor size, but don’t go knocking down strawmen with “This is completely false.” when you know no one was trying to say what you’re disproving.

    “So for example MFT bodies like the Panasonic GM1 have significantly larger sensors vs the Sony RX100s and allow up to 1.5 more ‘stops’ of light.”

    SnapSort: “The DMC-GM1 has a slight edge (0.4 f-stops) in low noise, high ISO performance [over the Sony RX100 III]”*
    http://snapsort.com/compare/Panasonic-Lumix-DMC-GM1-vs-Sony-Cyber-shot-DSC-RX100-III

    I saved the best and most delicious irony for last. According to DxO Mark, the gold standard in sensor and lens testing, the RX100-3–despite having a sensor half the size of the DMC-GM1, which you laud so highly–the RX100-3 has a slightly better image quality score overall! Read it and weep it:
    http://www.dxomark.com/Cameras/Panasonic/Lumix-DMC-GM1
    http://www.dxomark.com/Cameras/Sony/Cyber-shot-DSC-RX100-III

    * This statement is derived from the DxO Mark data and the methodology is explained here: http://www.dxomark.com/About/Sensor-scores/Use-Case-Scores

    To end on a positive note, I heartily agree with this paragraph:
    “My recommendation for anyone who wants to get better at photography is to also consider the advantages of interchangeable lens systems both for versatility (you can get shots that simply aren’t possible with a compact) and for the long term investment in camera lenses. With a compact like the Sony’s you are effectively loosing your investment in one of the most valuable parts once you get rid of it. With interchangeable lens systems like the Panasonic GM1 or Fuji’s X series you can continue to use those lenses for decades and then also save money as you can just buy new bodies without lenses. Some lenses actually become more valuable over time (I own several that are worth more now than when I bought them). Not going to happen with a fixed lens camera like the Sony RXs.”

    I would add that I think Ben’s lifestyle means that the RX100-3 is still the better option (unless he takes the time to learn photography), simply for portability reasons. However, I would strongly recommend that he consider the NEX-6 vs. the RX100-3: http://snapsort.com/compare/Sony-Alpha-NEX-6-vs-Sony-Cyber-shot-DSC-RX100-III (In this comparison, SnapSort does a great job highlighting the benefits of the NEX-6, but I don’t understand its scoring system; looking at all the specs (including size/weight), I think the NEX6 wins by a long shot.) If I didn’t have a huge collection of Canon lenses, the NEX-6 would be my business-trip travel camera instead of the APS-C Canon M2 (I bought it on an MR to NRT).

    (One more ILC option is the Samsung NX300, if you didn’t have enough options already: http://snapsort.com/compare/Samsung-NX300-vs-Sony-Alpha-NEX-6)

    Ben, at the next DO we’re at together (FTU Advanced?), I’d love to give you a crash course on photography, if you’re interested.

  57. You lost me with the SnapSort comparison. You should have followed your gut (you were right too bad you didn’t reach the right conclusion). I’ll stand by the 1.5 extra stops of light vs what SnapSort wrote.

    You stopped being objective when you wrote “The GM1, which you mentioned, has a sensor 2x the size of the RX100-3, a paltry boost compared to the 6.4x and 4x numbers.” That 2x factor is not a paltry boost. The number may look smaller but what that number represents is a league of difference. You should consider a career in politics.

    DxO … much better metric. Thanks for including the helpful link, btw. Never knew they had a … what do you call it … methodology. Did you read what they wrote at that link? One of three criteria is dynamic range. Always desirable but at a certain stage who cares about the shades of black/grey when you can’t pull a shot? Note the DxO mark ISO comparison between the two bodies …

    And thanks for sharing that you own a Canon 5d MKIII. Couldn’t agree with you more that the 50mm is a great lens (and focal range). Very helpful.

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