Looking for a great travel camera.
February 28, 2013 11:10 PM   Subscribe

Looking for a compacter-than-DSLR camera to take traveling for a couple of months. I really like my Nikon D90 for its low-light and manual capabilities, but I don't think I'll enjoy bringing it around with me the whole time. I really want a camera that can handle low light and takes good video, without being as bulky as an SLR. I think the NEX-6 satisfies these requirements pretty well. Do I want a NEX-6? Or something else?

I like the idea of a NEX-6 with the pancake 16mm prime; it would almost be pocketable. I've been shooting on my D90 with a 35mm prime and love it- but I have a feeling it would get to feel like a yoke around my neck after a while. I want to sacrifice at little as I can while still having something light enough to tote around at all times.

Should I sacrifice sensor space and get an RX100, instead? Or do something else entirely?
posted by BungaDunga to Technology (9 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
I recently sold my D7000 for an Olympus OM-D and the low light performance isn't quite as good but it's not far off either. Same goes for manual control. I'm definitely never going back. And the lenses are so leeetle.
posted by MillMan at 11:48 PM on February 28, 2013

I have been shooting with the RX100 since July. It's fantastic. Five stars. But honestly, based on what you're saying—loving a 35mm prime, wanting smaller and lightweight, wanting "to sacrifice as little as [you] can"—if you can afford it at all then I'd take a long, hard look at the RX1.

DPReview just posted their full review, here's another, and another, and another, and David Pogue. There was one pixel-peeping review even making the case, with measurements of course, that it pulls better dynamic range than the Canon 5D Mark III. Like you, I wanted small and lightweight, plus manual, and low-light capability was important to me, and I didn't want to sacrifice image quality...so I bought the RX100. But the RX1 wasn't available (or announced) and I didn't have three grand anyway. If it had been, and if I did, that's the camera I'd own.

The RX100 is great. If you're curious, there's a Tumblr link in my profile where I've been posting photos shot with my RX100. (I don't claim they're excellent photos, merely that I shot them with the RX100.) I almost never use its zoom, generally preferring instead to crop with Lightroom. I wish its timer were more customizable, but that's about the only complaint that comes to mind. I love it, it was a good purchase, and if it were stolen tomorrow I'd buy another. Unless I could afford an RX1.

That said, the Fuji X100S is due in March. It has a smaller sensor but a built-in viewfinder, which is important to some people, and it should have excellent autofocus capability. It will be 35mm-equivalent, also at f/2, and about $1,500 cheaper than the RX1. Its predecessor, the X100, got just as many stellar reviews as the RX1 is getting now, so I'd expect Fuji's update will be a great camera.

Those are the three cameras—RX1, RX100, and X100S—that I would look at in your shoes. Your priorities are pretty close to my own, which is the only reason I know those cameras so well. I know less about some of the other options (eg, Sony NEX) because I ruled them out. I decided that after those usage priorities what I cared about most was sensor size and lens quality, and that made it easy to narrow the field.
posted by cribcage at 11:51 PM on February 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

Om-d is on the way for me. Selling all my canon stuff.
posted by mockpuppet at 2:57 AM on March 1, 2013

I don't have a camera recommendation, but consider Adobe Lightroom to be a great accessory for low-light shooting. Its noise-reduction capability is fantastic.

Also: I've been shooting on my D90 with a 35mm prime and love it- but I have a feeling it would get to feel like a yoke around my neck after a while.

Not to talk you out of swapping cameras, but for the sake of anyone struggling with carrying their DSLR: A few years ago, I bought a long camera strap with a heavily cushioned shoulder pad, and wear it across my chest, so the camera hangs at, and slightly behind, my right hip. I hardly notice it's there, but it's easy to grab and swing into shooting position as needed. I shoot with a Nikon D5000, and either the 35mm prime (very light) or my 18-200 zoom (much heavier).
posted by The Deej at 5:36 AM on March 1, 2013

Check out the Panasonic lumix gx-1 or olympus e-pl1. Both are great micro four thirds systems that give you dslr-like control and quality in a smaller mirrorless package.
posted by PSB at 6:04 AM on March 1, 2013

I have a Nikon S8200, bought specifically for it's low light and video capabilities, and I tell you that tiny thing has been a joy. It's part of the CoolPix line which initially turned me off but it's compact (and yet heavy enough that it actually feels like a camera) and it's responsive. I do have a couple issues with it -- shooting sports photos has been a bear but I've taken amazing videos/photos in near complete darkness and even my two pro photographer friends have marveled at the job it's done.

I imagine the S8200 is quite cheap by now.
posted by youandiandaflame at 6:06 AM on March 1, 2013

I bought my daughter an NEX-5N and am very impressed with it's low light abilities and overall quality and ease of use. I imagine the 6 would be even nicer.
posted by doctord at 6:54 AM on March 1, 2013

I bought a Canon powershot g15 two months ago because my Nikon D5100 with 18-55mm kit lens was KILLING my neck (actually caused a pinched nerve).

My powershot takes - to my mind - exceptional low light pics. It is also barely bigger than an ipod touch ( but as thick as three ipods stacked I guess), and is light enough for me to wear around my neck all day and not notice the weight.

No removable lens, but that wasn't a killer feature for me, plus it has a wide range of f stops.

So far I haven't found anything I could use my D5100 for that my G 15 cannot also cope with. And in the case of low light pics I think it performs better. DPreview details here

Good luck. Choosing a small dslr capable camera in the current market is hard- soooooooooo many choices.
posted by Faintdreams at 10:21 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I recently replaced my large Canon APS-C kit (a couple bodies and about a dozen lenses) with an OM-D. I started with the 20mm f1.7, 45mm f1.8, 9-18mm, rokinon 7.5mm fisheye (which I de-fisheye in software and use much more than the 9-18) and a 40 year old 135m f2.8. It all fits in a fanny pack, along with my Nexus 7, an external flash and two wireless triggers.

Best photographic decision I've made. It's fantastically well built and it does all sorts of neat tricks. The low-light performance is better than all but the most recent APS-C DSLRs (very usable up to ISO 12,800 since most of the noise is film-ish luminance noise rather than digital-ish chroma). The body has great image stabilization built in.

The M43 glass is lovely (easily on par with dslr lenses). But even better, you can use vintage manual focus lenses pretty well (electronic viewfinder allows you to zoom in 14x to a small spot to focus) and there are adapters to use almost any vintage lens. Oh, and because the IS is built into the body, that $30 135mm f2.8 is image stabilized.

I went with the OM-D over other micro 4/3 stuff because of the viewfinder. I needed a viewfinder rather than just a screen. It's an electronic viewfinder, obviously, but it's very usable. What the EVF lacks in clarity it more than makes up for in abilities (highlight and shadow warning overlay, etc). During long exposures it continually updates the screen to show you how the photo is 'developing'. It can crop the image in the viewfinder to show you whatever aspect ratio you like.

It's super customizable and the controls are great. It took a while to get used to the more compact layout, but between the slew of physical buttons and the great overview touch screen that gives you about 20 options on one screen, you rarely have to dive into the menu system to find a feature.

The main thing I don't love is the autofocus, which is extremely fast and accurate, but I don't find it quite as intuitive as the phase-detect system on an SLR. The video isn't amazing (there's a bit of shutter roll and the focus is a little trick) but it's sharp and pretty.

In all, it's a damn nice package and it weighs half what my old kit does, while offering better overall image quality and more fancy tricks. It definitely makes an SLR feel like old technology.
posted by pjaust at 12:27 PM on March 1, 2013

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