Samantha had some really great surprises for me on Valentine’s Day. From a Valentine’s Treasure Hunt to a fantastic dinner at our favorite restaurant, Farm it was a great day! Thanks, Sam!
But one of Sam’s suggested Valentine’s activities really threw me for a loop. She asked that we head over to The Camera Store and borrow a couple of cameras to play with while we walked around downtown Calgary. Now, you gotta realize, Sam is not much of a camera gear junkie. She only cares if a camera works for her needs and is not impressed by spec listings or fancy bells and whistles. So of course I was wondering: why the heck would she want to go out and play with new gear (on a date day, of all things)? She didn’t seem feverish, so we set out; and of course I was happy to play with the goodies even if I could not figure out her newfound interest in the lastest batch of cameras.
Turns out Sam is on the hunt for a functional ‘travel’ camera that she can take with her anywhere (we are headed to Iceland in June and a pocketable camera would be great to have). So, for Sam, the perfect ‘travel’ camera would be small, light, easy to use but give quality files that are still usable for publication. The latest round of point-n-shoot and ILC (interchangeable lens compact) cameras had her thinking that there may finally be a perfect walk-about camera for her in the future. Sam was less enamored by our previous point-n-shoot digital camera, the Canon G11, than I was mostly because its back panel was polluted with buttons and dials that made holding the camera almost impossible without accidently pressing something you didn’t mean to press! Plus the files were quite decent but not overly great.
We asked the good folks at The Camera Store which cameras they would recommend as a candidate for Sam’s “Perfect Travel Camera” and they came up with two contenders, the Fuji x10 and the Panasonic GX1.
Please not that what follows is not a review but simply our first impressions of two cameras we played with for two hours. In the end, what we both were interested in was if either of these cameras was worthy of serious consideration as an ‘oopoomoo’ travel camera.
$598 at The Camera Store, 12MP digital point-n-shoot, 2/3rds inch CMOS sensor, 28-112mm f2.0/2.8 lens, manual zoom, 2.8 inch LCD, HD Video, optical Viewfinder, raw file format, extensive manual control. For a full review check out Ron Martinsen’s Photography Blog where Ron dubbed it the best point-n-shoot of 2011. Also be sure to check out the entertaining video review done by The Camera Store on this camera.
$687 at The Camera Store (lens extra), 16 MP ILC camera with micro 4/3rds size Live MOS sensor, raw capability, micro four thirds lens mount, HD video, 3.0 inch touch-enabled LCD. We used it with the 14-140mm lens. For a full review check out Photography Blog. For another thorough look, check out The Camera Store Video review of the Gx1.
Well, what did we think of each of these two possible ‘perfect’ travel cameras?
Samantha on the Fuji x10:
I found the Fuji to be a cute, retro-looking little camera (hey, fashion counts!). The camera’s styling is reminiscent of something from the early 70′s — Darwin you remember that decade well, right? The camera was small and light and quiet (cool for street shooting). It was very easy to use; much easier than our old Canon G11. But there were a couple of things I didn’t like. First, the LCD was cluttered with shooting information which makes it hard to judge your composition. Sure you could turn off the display information, but to toggle it on and off was a bit of a pain because I had to cycle through several buttons to get to a clean display — too time consuming for point-n-shoots which I hope to be quick and easy to use.
Speaking of buttons and such, most functions are quite accessible, but I found the thumb wheel placement to be awkward. In order to use the buttons on the top of the camera, like the function button, I had to shift the camera to my left hand (where there is no grip) so that I could free my right hand to work the multiple buttons and thumb wheel on the right. I always felt like the camera was going to slip out of my hands! For me, the thumb wheel was too far down from the top of camera for me to manipulate all the controls on the right-hand side without changing my grip to my left hand. Maybe it’s just my teeny thumbs. Also, while the viewfinder was very bright, it only covered about 85% of the view and of course suffers from parallax when shooting close-ups.
Finally, I found it weird that the camera only goes up to 1/1000s shutter speed when the lens is wide open (e.g. f2.0/f2.8) but will go to 1/4000s when the lens is used at apertures like f8. This little idiosyncracy caused me to overexpose some bright sunny photos when shooting with the lens wide open:
Darwin on the Fuji x10:
Well of course I liked this little camera a lot (geek likes new toys!). I loved how it had a manual zoom mechanism instead of the step power zoom that the Canon G11 had (boy, I hated that). I also liked the fast, sharp lens and fast auto-focus. However, speaking of focus, without the camera manual I was stumped on how to manually move the focus point to one of the 48 focus points available. After they showed me how at The Camera Store, moving the focus point was a little easier than on the Canon G11 (but not much). But it was not initially obvious to me how to get the focus point to move!
I found the layout of the camera to be intuitive and easy to figure out. The LCD is bright and beautiful. I did not have as much problem with the back panel as I did with the Canon G11 because there is a tad more space back there than on Canon’s G-series cameras but I still wish for more hand-holding real estate!
The raw files produced by the Fuji X10 were of similar quality IMO as the Canon G11/G12; decent but not earth-shattering (but about what I would expect from a good point-n-shoot). Overall, for handling I really do think this is a better camera than the G11/G12 but I did miss the tilt-swivel LCD that the Canon models have! In the end, if offered an x10 or a Canon G11/G12, I would probably take… hmmmm, better camera controls (x10) or LCD (G11/G12). Tough one (I want both in one camera!)
Samantha on the Panasonic GX1
Comparing these two cameras is like comparing lions with kittens: they are very different beasts. The Panasonic is like a big point-n-shot with interchangeable lenses. With the lens we had on the camera (the 14-140) it was almost as big as a dSLR (like our Canon Rebel). This is definitely not a camera I would carry in my purse (unless I had one of Panasonic’s little lenses to go on this camera (like the 14-42mm lens that often comes as a kit lens with the camera). Even then this camera would have some heft hanging around your neck. If I am going to take a bigger camera out on travels then I might as well take my Nikon dSLR and get the all benefits of my APS sized sensor and the great controls of my dSLR!
Having grumped about that, there were many things I liked about the Panasonic GX1. It focuses fast and fits well in the hand with a comfortable grip. Also, the function buttons make it easy to customize for quick use, and the files were much better than what we got from the Fuji x10 (but they are not as good as what I get from my Nikon D300s).
Darwin on the Panasonic GX1
Cool camera. Of course I like it! I like all cameras but this one felt great to handle, was super easy to figure out, had nice files and was much smaller than my big Canon EOS-1ds Mark III dSLR. Heck, for me, this is a great walk-around camera. I like the easy menu system and how it can be customized, and I love the touch screen feature especially for setting a focus point in the photo. Wow! (But it does not work great with mitts on!). I did find the focus confirmation beep to be super loud though!
For me, this is a bridge camera: better than any point-n-shoot I have tried but smaller than dSLR’s (even smaller than my Canon Rebel). If I wanted a higher end travel camera this might be it. Still… I would prefer a more pocketable camera. I want it all — bigger sensor and small camera. This one was close but not enough for me to spend money on it.
Well is Sam (or even me) going to buy one of theses cameras for travel photography? The answer is nope. And the reason why has less to do with these cameras as it has to do with us: we are really looking for that teeny camera that will be easy to use but produce high quality files. Are we too picky? Perhaps. Although the advances being made with cameras make us hopeful that our dream point-n-shoot is just around the corner! In the meantime Sam is left without her ‘perfect’ camera. I guess this means I get to play with more goodies in the future!