Pro-sumer overload - help me choose.
April 25, 2010 12:39 PM   Subscribe

What's the best compact "pro-sumer" camera out now... at a reasonable price?

I already have a Nikon D300 and am looking for something smaller that will still turn out great photo quality. I am seriously considering the Canon G11 because I can get a great deal on it ($249+tax+S&H+trading in broken Canon P&S), and the articulated screen/physical knobs are way cool, but it's kinda big and it's missing HD video... which I suppose I don't need, but then again, I could see myself using it from time to time.

There's also the Canon S90, but that's kinda out for now because it produces essentially the same pictures as the G11 for $100 more, even though it is a bit smaller... and still no HD. The other cameras I'm considering are the venerable Panasonic LX3 (which is awesome but it also getting a bit long in the tooth to buy new), the Panasonic ZS series superzooms with AVC HD capability and nearly LX3 quality IQ, the gimmick-overload Sony HV5 (I think that's the right model)... and the Canon SX210 as a darkhorse that doesn't seem to be reviewed many places yet.

I'm also considering an Olympus E-P1 because they're downright sexy and have dropped in price a lot recently... but if I'm schlepping around an E-P1, I might as well carry a D300, right?

Has anyone owned these cameras (especially more than one of the ones I'm looking at) and can offer any opinions? I've checked all the review sites and they are all highly rated, so how do I choose? Plus, fewer dollars = better. Obviously, it all boils down to which features I value most... but since none of the cameras are cheap, with a great zoom AND HD...
posted by speedgraphic to Technology (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
A lot of the Canons can be hacked to shoot raw. That, along with the zoom length in that size package is why I'm going to buy an SX210. I don't really worry about the Canons, I've owned a lot of the little digital ones & the only problems I've had are with batteries, which are cheap to replace.

The E-P1 is a freaking awesome camera though, and the original Pen F is one of my favorite all time cameras. Talk about bang in a small package! I disagree about the 'might as well carry a D300' line though, but it depends on how you shoot. Personally I think these are fantastic prices & if I had the money right now I'd have already ordered one.

Olympus makes some really nice glass too, highly under appreciated in my opinion.
posted by spaghetti at 1:17 PM on April 25, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice, spaghetti... and renewing my interest in the E-P1. A lot of these decisions are so difficult because seemingly small evolutions in models can yield unexpected results (The Panasonic ZS3 is widely considered to have better IQ than the newer ZS7 that replaced it).
posted by speedgraphic at 2:01 PM on April 25, 2010

How to choose a Digital Camera

You'll be paying a lot for HD video. Consider getting a G11 and a separate Flip video camera.
posted by Mwongozi at 2:11 PM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I just got a Panasonic GF1 courtesy of my fiancée and with the 20mm f1.7 pancake lens on, I've not had to touch my 50D. If you're considering the E-P1, definitely have a look at the GF1. Much smaller than your D300 and does 720p video. Plus you can get an adapter and use some of your Nikon lenses (although at that point, you may as well bring your D300 along).
posted by reformedjerk at 2:24 PM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

It depends what you mean by "compact". The form-factor IS significant -- "minor" physical differences have a big impact on portability, if you don't want to sling your camera or have a dedicated bag.

For shirt or trouser pockets, the S90 is pretty much the only serious contender. I love mine to bits -- it's one of those "you won't regret having it always with you" cameras.

For purse, courier bag (i.e. man-purse) etc. it depends on your budget. For $500-ish, it's between the G11 and LX3. For $1000 excluding lenses, it's between the EP-1 and the GF1.
posted by randomstriker at 4:18 PM on April 25, 2010

Response by poster: I just found out that the E-P1 (and I assume other micro 4/3rds cameras) can have a ton of different lens types adapted to it with glassless adapters, including Nikon and Minolta. I have about ten old lenses that I could use with this thing... with 720P HD video through them too! Wow. I think I may have been sold...
posted by speedgraphic at 5:39 PM on April 25, 2010

I'm also considering an Olympus E-P1 because they're downright sexy and have dropped in price a lot recently... but if I'm schlepping around an E-P1, I might as well carry a D300, right?

I think those are wise words, and if you want to use your old lenses you should really consider a DSLR. An EP-1 with a Pancake lens is a very large point and shoot, and not small enough to not need a seperate bag. With any other lens it is functionally the same size as a DSLR. Since you already have a very good DSLR, and your main issue with it is size, go with the S90.

If size isn't a huge issue and HD video is more important (and money isn't an issue), I would suggest the Canon EOS 550D. Its video capabilities are on par with high end camcorders and blow any other still camera away, plus for everything you are getting the price is not that high.
posted by afu at 9:50 PM on April 25, 2010

I have the G11 and really love it. I was an art photographer and taught college level photography for years (now a new media producer). I got it because of the size (after carrying around my old but beautiful Pentax 6x7 film camera for years I just wanted something decent and light).

It's good to have the RAW mode but I have to tell you the JPEGs that come out of it automatically are pretty decent.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 9:42 AM on April 26, 2010

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