Point-and-shoot camera for sports, kids, nature?
January 7, 2015 1:30 PM   Subscribe

I have an older Lumix point-and-shoot camera, but it often gives me blurred pictures in poor light or during sports events. Will a newer model of Lumix perform better, or is it me?

I want a new P&S, not a DSLR, though I know that buying & learning to use a "real" lens and a good flash are the ideal solutions to questions like this. :7)

I have four kids, so I go to a lot of track meets (indoor & out), soccer games (rain or shine), Boy Scout events, ballet shows, concerts, and the like. I also enjoy taking pictures outdoors, and during family parties.

I have been happy with the Lumix cameras I owned in the past, though I wish they responded more quickly and took better low-light pictures. My brother-in-law has a newer Lumix ZS40, which he is happy with. (He is also a big SLR guy, so it's surprising to hear him praise a P&S.) WIll a newer camera simply work better than my old ones? Or is it my technique?

Thanks for any suggestions.
posted by wenestvedt to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'm going to give the same recommendation here that i give in every P&S camera thread.

Sony rx100, whatever the newest revision is you can afford.

It's seriously the camera all other P&S cameras look at a poster of while they lift weights. DPreview and other Serious Camera Review sites call it things like "the first compact camera for serious photographers", and everything i've seen or heard about it(and the people, online and off, and the unretouched example photos) put it closer to the category of a DSLR from a couple years ago than anything else. Hell, quite a few pro photographers carry it as a backup/lazy times camera.

Will a newer camera simply work better than my old ones? Or is it my technique?

Maybe? Blurred pictures could be several things. Camera shake, too long of exposure time driven by the cameras auto algorithms trying to pull in enough light(and possibly, probably, not being able to push the ISO high enough to let the shutter speed go higher and eliminate said blur), Slow shutter caused by the aperture not being able to open up very much, slow capture time getting the camera moving as you mash the button rather than grabbing an exposure right as you tap it...

Oh oh, are you all the way at the long end of the lens, at full tele when you get this blur? you might just need a tripod for this stuff, or at least a monopod. The shake might just be that you have a totally gonzo focal length and are trying to handhold a low light shot with what would be a giant zoom on an SLR.

I'd really have to see what ISO/shutter it was trying to shoot at for the conditions to make a for-sure diagnosis though.

That said, point and shoots have evolved a lot faster than SLRs. They're getting more and more trickle down features and cool innovative stuff in and of themselves. Upgrading from a 2008 body(canon 450d) to a 2013 body(sony NEX 6) was like upgrading from a 90s car to a current model. The thing basically had night vision you could push the ISO so high.

Looking at quality point and shoots from the same time gap, it's like looking at 80s cars vs current cars or something. Back then you had the canon G series, whatever nikon was making to compete with that...and... uh. Now there's the sony RX stuff, fuji X fixed lens stuff, and lots of other serious freaking P&S or quais-rangefinder type fixed lens cameras that people are doing Serious Photography with.

I wish they responded more quickly and took better low-light pictures.

My last comment will be, have you tried manual, or shutter priority mode? Assuming your camera has that. You could likely eliminate a lot of the blur by forcing a high shutter speed. You'll likely get noisier pictures as it jams the ISO way up to accommodate that, and probably slightly dim looking pictures... but it should get rid of the blur.

If this is a nicer lumix that supports shooting in RAW, i'd try that too, so that you can fake the exposure back up once you get home.(and apply better sharpening and noise reduction than what's likely in the camera... and). If it's a more midrange or basic lumix though, it probably doesn't have RAW.

The rx100 does though :P
posted by emptythought at 1:50 PM on January 7, 2015 [7 favorites]

I had a Lumix that I absolutely loved for its ability to take natural light photos but low light photos were terrible. I believe in recent years they have fixed the problem. You cannot beat a Zeiss lense. With cameras I think it's best to stick with companies with background in optics which is why I switched to Canon when my Lumix died. But I have always had a soft spot for Lumix and would by a new and improved version of that camera.
posted by Nevin at 2:45 PM on January 7, 2015

I'm not a camera expert by any means, but the reason I bought a DSLR instead of a P&S, in spite of the bulkiness, was precisely this: DSLRs excel in low-light situations, and I hate flash in candids. Also, most newer DSLRs will have a sports mode that actually tracks the subject in motion and keeps it in focus. And as far as learning to use a "real" lens, you can make some pretty awesome pictures without ever taking your DSLR out of Auto mode.
posted by bricoleur at 4:27 PM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: That Sony camera is almost eight hundred bucks, though: yikes!

Plus also, Sony are jerks, and I have already polished up the shoes I chose 'specially for dancing on their grave some day.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:21 PM on January 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

That's for the mkiii, the mki and mkii are both around as refurbs, and and are both great. The first gen has been like $350 before(and sold out instantly, but will show up again I bet) and the second gen can be ~$500 I think.

They are jerks though, I know. But they make great cameras.
posted by emptythought at 11:46 AM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Whoa, good point!

How much do the versions differ? Off to snapsort!
posted by wenestvedt at 12:49 PM on January 8, 2015

Best answer: FWIW, I have a Lumix LX7, and it's way better in low light than the previous Lumix I had (from a few years before that). From reviews, it sounds like the current one (LX100) is even better in low light.

(For taking pictures of kids who are running around inside, I find it's helpful to set the camera to the mode that lets you just keep taking pics by holding down the button. You get several successive frames of the action and you're more likely to catch one with everybody's eyes open, etc.)

The drawback of the little p+s is the short zoom, as compared to my previous older Lumix that had a nice long zoom for sporting events, so you might want to factor in zoom length too.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:58 PM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

It is not you. A p+s is inherently a slow auto-focuser and and not capable of taking in lots of light (meaning longer shutters speeds are necessary to get the correct exposure). The blurr is caused by the shutter speed being too low to stop the motion, or incorrect focus distance at the time of the shot, or likely a combination of both factors. With a p+s, you sacrifice capability for portability. High speed action and sports really require a DSLR/SLR to capture consistently and effectively. I am not saying there is a law that says only these types of cameras can be used for these purposes, but in my opinion, it is an uphill battle.

To illustrate with an analogy: I have an older Lumix point-and-shoot camera, but it often gives me blurred pictures in poor light or during sports events. Will a newer model of Lumix perform better... ?
Reads like "I have a Smartcar, but it often gets stuck in the snow or cannot make it up hills during blizzards. Will a new super compact car do better?"
posted by incolorinred at 1:37 PM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

any lumix in your budget should suffice- most come with Leica not Zeiss lenses and the one's with Lumix lenses are rumored to be made from Leica design. Take a look at the Lumix LF1 (not expensive- Leica lens) and it will give you fairly decent photos.
posted by prk60091 at 2:17 PM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Some decent advice here. I'd look at the Olympus Stylus 1 as well. $519 as a refurb direct from Olympus. It has a slightly smaller/weaker sensor than the Sony Rx100 (more noise in low light) but twice as much zoom and the zoom is a constant f2.8 aperture right through to the long end (so it lets in more light at the long end of the zoom) and that may even the playing field slightly.


Don't get me wrong... the Sony is an excellent camera and if I did have the budget to spend on a pocket p&s I'd get it but I'd see it as an excellent camera for the stuff that's in front of you. It would be an excellent choice for parties, people, landscapes, documentary work etc but for sports events etc the longer zoom of the Olympus could be a real benefit.

Another option would be to try your brother in laws at an actual event. The Panasonic you mention has a longer zoom than either (10x for the Sony, 20x for the Olympus and 30x for the Pansonic) so you'd be able to see if a longer zoom would be of benefit for you. If you actually like the Panasonic then maybe get that! Having a photo buddy with the same camera has lots of benefits....

Both the Olympus and Sony were originally sold as premium compacts so fit, feel and finish of both will be very pleasing indeed. BTW the Olympus is far from big but is definitely a coat pocket vs trouser pocket camera.

BTW I'd look at the Sony RX100 mkii btw ($599 new - cheaper refurb/2nd hand). It has better image quality than the mark 1 and also a flip screen which makes the lack of viewfinder much less annoying imho. The mkiii has a better but shorter lens and much better video. Only the Olympus and the Sony mkiii has a viewfinder rather than just a LCD.

some photos for you to look at:

Stylus 1 Flickr pool

RX100 i, ii, iii Flickr Pool

Bear in mind that lots of these would have had some post production.

Best of luck!

(NB. I appreciate that you don't want a DSLR but if you did the Nikon D3200 2 lens kit is under $500 and that's an aces camera for the money. I do find DSLR's a little big, bulky and old fashioned nowadays. If you fancy looking at mirrorless (DSLR sensors and interchangeable lenses in smaller bodies) the Sony NEX/A5000 and Fuji X-A1 are excellent budget places to start looking.)
posted by Mr Ed at 4:21 AM on January 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Follow up +1 Mr Ed's advice is great. I agree that mirrorless might be a good option to consider. They are much smaller than DSLRs and may give you the portability you desire. They are like slightly bulkier P+S. You get a generous size sensor, good clean ISOs, and sharp results due to the lack of internal mirror. I can vouch that the sharpness and image quality that I get with my Fujifilm X100S is second to none. It is pretty expensive still, $600-$700, but the X20 is a more or less its little brother with a lot of the same guts and only about $400. Its form factor is very much like a point and shoot. Also, I must say that the Fujifilm's X-Trans CMOS II sensors are absolutely magic! How they pulled off such low noise and good color reproduction is a mystery for the ages!
posted by incolorinred at 7:49 AM on January 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: These are all very useful data points: thanks, all!

My big criteria are portability and zoom, which is why I picked a P&S (which fits into my everyday pack) and a Lumix (that sweet 30x lens!). But my budget isn't about $400, tops.

I will ponder all of these suggestions. Thanks again!
posted by wenestvedt at 2:56 PM on January 10, 2015

Response by poster: I bought the ZS40 a week ago, and I love it!! Thank you all for your input, I am glad I made an informed choice!
posted by wenestvedt at 5:52 AM on January 26, 2015

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