Camera Me, Please?
June 28, 2011 6:32 AM   Subscribe

Best current pocket camera?

My pocket digicam was stolen in Mexico recently, so I need a quick replacement before my next trip. Quick!

I've always been a Canon fella, so my default buy would be the newish Elph 300HS, but I can't help but see that another brand I trust has released the similar-specced Sony DSC-HX9V.

I've waffled back and forth between these for a day and a half. Both meet my minimum needs (full-size SD card, HD video, good OSX support, good optical zoom and long-life battery) but neither is standing out for me. I like fast-to-shoot, too (get that shot before the opportunity passes) and both promise that.

Can anyone with experience with either model give me a nudge, especially toward any minuses I may not be aware of? I'm not a pro by any means, just a picky wanderer who likes to kill an afternoon or two shooting architecture or drunken friends, sometimes in concert.

I'll also take guidance toward any other similar-featured tiny cams in the "high-end consumer" space. The iPhone is good enough for the cheapie shots.

Thanks to help!
posted by rokusan to Technology (20 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Snapsort is your friend.

I would choose the Canon S95 (or a used/refurbed S90) over these cameras, if only for the fact that the S95 shoots RAW. Shooting RAW is one of the very nicest things you can do to your photos.

Many people love the Lumix LX3 camera, as well.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:10 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Don't miss the current "fastest" small point-and-shoot on the market, the Olympus XZ-1. If you shoot your drunken friends in low light, you will really appreciate the F 1.8 lens. I have one, it's a great little camera, with the only major minus being that it can't seem to shoot video worth a damn. But it makes lovely stills even under tricky conditions. (P.S. I, too, am a lifelong Canon guy, but I don't love their current small cameras.)
posted by The Bellman at 7:18 AM on June 28, 2011

I don't know if it's the best but you can't go wrong with a Leica.
posted by JJ86 at 7:19 AM on June 28, 2011

Wow, the snapsort website looks really good. One for the bookmarks.

Looking at their comparison of the two models, I think that the Sony pluses for a higher resolution, larger screen and a GPS aren't (to me) that much of a big deal. The Canon display is already 2.7" (which I think is big enough) and the GPS will probably take so long to get a fix (whilst drinking your battery) that it'll be largely useless.

In other words, unless the shorter fps and longer exposure times are deal breaker for you, then the Canon seems to win on everything else.
posted by mr_silver at 7:25 AM on June 28, 2011

Leica compacts are basically rebranded Panasonics with steep markups. Avoid them.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:26 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The D-lux 4 is one of the best compact cameras I have ever used, but compared to the ones you link it doesn't really qualify as "pocket sized".

I would suggest a closer look at the S95.

Ken Rockwell can be polarizing in his writing (I happen to like him a lot), but this is a great resource regardless of what you think of his writing style:
posted by devbrain at 7:31 AM on June 28, 2011

Leica compacts are basically rebranded Panasonics with steep markups. Avoid them.

It depends. They usually put a really nice lens on them which almost justifies the cost. That said, the Panasonics are amazing machines themselves.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:44 AM on June 28, 2011

It depends. They usually put a really nice lens on them which almost justifies the cost.

For example, the lenses on the D-Lux 4 and the Panasonic Lumix LX3 are the same. There is a difference in firmware and the lens coating.

The D-Lux 5 and the LX5 are in an analogous situation. Same camera, albeit with minor differences like a grip and a red dot.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:53 AM on June 28, 2011

Best answer: I've been really pleased with my S95 over the last few months. The battery life is great - hundreds of pictures per charge; I only charge it once every week or two unless I go on a shooting spree. I like the picture and HD video quality (you can check out comparisons on the usual review sites). If you care about such things, I was really impressed with the video sound quality - it records in stereo and the little microphones don't sound tinny at all. I use the camera to document sound art and music, and I rarely bother to use a dedicated audio recorder any more. The configurable interface rings are handy too - I set the front ring to control exposure compensation, which is the setting I mess with most often. The camera is small enough to fit in a pants pocket.

On the downside, the wide angle is not very wide and the telephoto extreme is not very tele. You may be disappointed with the optical zoom (3X, I think).

Many examples from the S95 on my flickr photo stream, linked from my profile.
posted by moonmilk at 8:21 AM on June 28, 2011

Oh yeah, and the S95 video format is quicktime, which makes OSX happy. Most of the recent videos you see on my flickr were shot on the S95 and edited in iMovie.
posted by moonmilk at 8:23 AM on June 28, 2011

Best answer: I have an S95 and have used an LX3. Both are great cameras, especially if you want to have more exposure control and settings to tweak than a normal point and shoot. The S95 is amazingly pocketable. I think the Cannon is a little faster to shoot, but it's not as quick as my DSLR.

While both can be used in fully automatic mode, both are quite expensive for what you get, if that's all you want to use them for.

I find a lot of how much I like a camera depends on its physical form (where finger rests are, for example) and the control scheme. I'm quite used to the Panasonic layout, for example, and find it fairly natural, while the Nikon small camera controls I find jumbled and confusing. Cannon is pretty easy to use too.
posted by bonehead at 9:39 AM on June 28, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all the info so far, guys. I do like the S90, but I eliminated it from consideration because if I am reading the specs right, it only does 640 x 480 pixel video, not HD resolution, which was one of the "minimum requirements" for me. I'm not sure about the Leica, though I'll consider it if it does this.

I'm used to 3x (or 3.2x) zoom from other Canons, so no worries on that front. It'll do.
posted by rokusan at 10:08 AM on June 28, 2011

Just checked the camera: my S95 does 1280x720 HD video.
posted by bonehead at 10:16 AM on June 28, 2011

It's a 3.8x zoom too, btw.
posted by bonehead at 10:17 AM on June 28, 2011

Response by poster: Doh, I was reading S90 specs, not S95. 720 isn't 1080, but it;ll do I suppose.

S95 looks like the winner here, unless anyone wants to take my credit card away quick.
posted by rokusan at 11:59 AM on June 28, 2011

Don't go for Sony. They use expensive propitiatory memory cards.
On the other hand most of the Canons are pretty good
posted by WizKid at 2:16 PM on June 28, 2011

Response by poster: The Sony I was considering, Wizkid, uses regular old SD as well as the proprietary Memory Stick format. I wouldn't have considered it otherwise.

But it sounds like the S95 is the winner here. It'll be the seventh consecutive Canon for me, ha.

I've got one on order now. Thanks everyone.
posted by rokusan at 3:15 PM on June 28, 2011

Oh, nuts. That was quick.

Well, for anyone else browsing this thread, I'll throw in a vote for a tiny Sony model. Not sure the model number, unfortunately. I wouldn't have thought so if you had described this feature to me, but the "Smile Detection" mode is a heck of a lot of fun. You turn it on, wave it in the general direction of a human, and it takes a photo if it sees a "smile". Automagically. Again, as a moderately enthusiastic photographer, I would have thought that would be junk. Turns out to work pretty well. It was a friend's cam we were playing with, and I dunno how quickly the novelty would wear off, but it was kind of a blast.

It took pretty nice HD video, too. Oh, and it was submersible. And really tiny. Wallet-sized. They managed to pack quite a lot of cool junk in there.
posted by TangoCharlie at 11:22 PM on June 28, 2011

I will add that the Sony was pretty fast. The smile-feature often took photos before I expected it too, and at least half the time that turned out to be a good thing.

I guess your success with smile detection may also be determined by your willingness to edit (and the available space on your card).
posted by TangoCharlie at 11:25 PM on June 28, 2011

Response by poster: Just dropping back into my own question to report that the S95 I bought based on these recommendations has just returned from a (literal) round-the-world trip and performed fantastically in all 24 time zones.*

It does indeed have a very quick "from pocket to click" time, which is important to me, and it can riffle off a quick series of photos very well indeed. Image quality is as good as I've always expected (great) from Canon gear.

* Okay, I didn't actually test it over, like, the Indian Ocean. But I bet it would have worked there too!
posted by rokusan at 12:56 PM on September 12, 2011

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