One of the main reasons why I started moving in 2010 to the micro four-thirds system was the general sizing of the camera bodies and lenses. Basically, the removal of the reflex mirror found in traditional (D)SLRs meant that camera bodies could be made smaller, and the smaller imaging sensor also meant that lenses didn’t need to be quite so big to cover a larger sensor. Things have changed quite a bit since then, since we now have full-frame mirrorless camera systems, and debate continues to rage among enthusiasts and loyalists of different camera systems on the merits and disadvantages of different systems. For the moment though, the truisms that still apply are, that generally micro four-third systems compared to full-frame systems…
Occupy less mass/weight
Lenses cost slightly less than the full-frame equivalents (thought not always)
Handle low light images less well
What has also changed is the emergence of larger sensor compact cameras too. The initial wave of models weren’t very good – they tended to be bulky, slow, and using batteries that didn’t give quite the same life as micro four-third systems. That has also been changing too, which brings me to this post: that I’ve been revisiting the most recent and upcoming range of large sensor compact cameras and exploring if this is the right time now to get one. I still have the almost two year old Panasonic LX7 which I bought for cheap during a crazy discounted offer on Amazon, and several of those wide-perspective shots of The Minton development in progress were taken on that little compact. But the camera has never been a low-light wonder. Heck; there’s a perceptible loss of detail even at the lower ISO settings already.
The bunch of models I’ve been keeping my eye on include:
Sony RX100 III
This compact features a 1″ sensor that reviewers have raved about, is in its third iteration already, and Sony managed to squeeze in a small viewfinder to it even. I’ve been playing with a demo set at the Sony showroom @ Nex. The compact feels solidly made, and the rear LCD screen is sharp, bright and colorful. The viewfinder though is a little clunky in actual operation (one has to first pop it up, then pull it towards oneself for it to work). The camera is available now but also dreadfully expensive at USD899. Ouch.
Canon G7 X
This yet-to-be released compact looks like Canon’s answer to Sony’s RX100 above. The upcoming compact uses a 1″ sensor, shoots as wide as the Sony but also offers a slightly further zoom at 100mm compared to Sony’s 70mm. Interesting. The CIPA rated battery life is worrying though at just 210 shots, compared to the 300+ shots that the Sony can muster. The expected retail price is substantially lower than Sony’s too at USD699.
Of the bunch of large sensor compact cameras, this is the one I’m most interested in. Unlike the Canon and Sony models above, this fellow uses a nearly m4/3-sized sensor, a max aperture range of f1.7 to f2.8, built-in electronic viewfinder, and a reasonable battery life rated at 330 shots by CIPA at the moment. And as a bonus, it offers 4K video recording too. The general feeling among enthusiasts is that this is the one compact that could give the equivalent large aperture and pricey lenses in the m4/3s system a good run for the money, since the sensor is almost to m4/3s and max aperture is right there too at f1.7 to f2.8. Ticks all the boxes, excepting size – it’s larger than the above two models, which significantly reduces the space advantage in comparison to my E-PL6. This forthcoming compact is priced similarly to the Sony at USD899.
This one isn’t a large sensor compact, but an interchangeable lens camera of the same breed as the line of m4/3 cameras from Olympus and Panasonic. I included this forthcoming model here only because it’s a baby-sized camera that allows you to leverage on the full range of m4/3 lenses. The second iteration of this camera also improves on a bunch of things off the first generation: including a viewfinder and a hot-shoe! Size-wise, it’s about the same as the already diminutive RX100, and is expected to be pegged at the same asking price as the LX100 – USD899.
All very tempting. Gonna be hard to decide which of these four if I eventually find myself deciding to pick up one of these at the end of this year!