Light rugged camera with more to offer than an iPhone
August 21, 2017 4:52 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a new camera which suits my specific needs. My last two cameras have both been Lumix point and click cameras (my last was a LX100). I'm very happy with the series in general but I find the mechanism in the lens/body doesn't last well (I give them very heavy use) and I need to replace more frequently than I like. Should I stick with Panasonic, or is there something better for me out there?

Here are my criteria:

1) I am a frequent and avid hiker, and I use my camera to journal my trips. There are often dirty, dusty or wet conditions.

2) I do not want a heavy camera. I like and want high quality pictures, but I wear the camera around my neck nearly constantly and can't do that if it's too heavy. I do want a quality level higher than I can get with my phone. Otherwise, what's the point?

3) I think I still want a point and click. I know how to use a proper camera, but for my purposes, I mostly want to be able to capture the sudden shot.

What would you buy if you had this list of criteria? Is the new Lumix still my best bet? (Both of my Lumix cameras have died in the same way-- the mechanism which pushes the lens in and out when you turn the camera on gets dust/dirt in the gears and breaks. Too expensive to fix. I use my cameras *very* heavily, so it may not be a Lumix issue.)
posted by frumiousb to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total)
Can you be specific about which shortcomings of the iPhone camera you are looking to overcome? Zoom? Resolution? Low light performance? Something else?
posted by primethyme at 5:12 PM on August 21, 2017

You're describing exactly the type of camera that I've been furiously researching for months now, and I've come to the conclusion that the best option is either the Panasonic DMC-LX200 or the Sony RX100 VI, neither of which exist yet but either one of which could be announced any day now.

The DMC-LX100 was phenomenal when it came out and is still a solid choice, but it was brand new in 2014 and is looking a little long in the tooth these days. A replacement is expected later this year.

The RX100 V came out a year or so ago and is technologically a generation ahead of the competition, but is hamstrung by a shit interface. However Sony's very newest offerings have married that world-beating technology to a much-improved UI, and I expect their future cameras will follow suit. Again, the next generation should be along in the next six months or so.

So basically, my advice is to try and wait it out if you possibly can.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:12 PM on August 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh and hey, you are aware that all cameras come with an "auto" mode, right? So any camera can function as a point-and-shoot, if you don't feel inclined to mess with the settings yourself for whatever reason. Even Canon and Nikon's flagship pro cameras have a setting where you can just point them at stuff and press a button.

What it sounds like you're looking for is maximum image quality in a pocketable form factor. Something like one of the cameras in DPReview's 2017 Compact Enthusiast Camera Roundup, in fact. Which, as you'll note, is dominated by the DMC-LX100, RX100 V, and their siblings—plus the Canon Powershot G series. They all have sizable sensors, good optics, a decent zoom range, and are pocketable.

Unfortunately, I've no reason to believe that any of them are better than any others in terms of durability and dirt-and-water resistance. You typically don't get extensive weathersealing in a camera until you're looking at semi-pro interchangeable lens jobbies. There are the so-called "adventure" cameras of course which are waterproof and shock-resistant and fit in a pocket, but they tend to be pretty mediocre in every other area.

My advice to you is to get something similar to what you have now and just try to be a little nicer to it when you're out in the woods. A camera is a precision instrument and deserves to be treated with care. It's possible to take them hiking and not ruin them, you just have to be mindful of the fact that you have $1000 of state-of-the-art technology in your hand or pocket and that it's quite delicate. Invest in a simple cleaning kit to keep in your pack when you're hiking, and some kind of weatherproof casing to stick the camera in when you're not actually using it.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:31 PM on August 21, 2017

Former dSLR user and mirrorless camera wanter here.

The camera you want is called an iPhone. With a Moment mini-bayonrt lens mount and a removable 2x lens.
posted by zippy at 5:53 PM on August 21, 2017

The Nikon 1 AW1 is a mirrorless camera with a 1" sensor—the same size as the Sony RX100, a size below your LX100—that's ruggedized/shockproof/waterproof. With the kit lens—a ruggedized 11-27.5mm, or 30-74mm equivalent—it's a little bigger and heavier, and it probably won't take pictures as well as your LX100 since it's got a slower lens and a smaller sensor. But it's ruggedized and shockproof! (There's also a ruggedized 10mm (~28mm) prime, which puts it at a very similar depth and weight to the LX100 but with no zoom.)

The bad news: 1 is apparently a dead-end system, as Nikon plans to replace it with a new mirrorless platform that probably has a much larger sensor. The good news: I doubt they were planning to make a bunch more ruggedized lenses anyway, so the death of the system is not going to be a pressing issue for you any time soon. You can get it in a kit with both lenses, or with just the zoom.
posted by Polycarp at 9:26 PM on August 21, 2017

Invest in a simple cleaning kit to keep in your pack when you're hiking, and some kind of weatherproof casing to stick the camera in when you're not actually using it.

Hi, yes, thanks-- I do this, but I have a special fondness for semi-arid environments which always seems to be the death of them. The dust on the Baltoro glacier did this one in-- though waiting six months for a new one sounds like a good idea...

primethyme-- zoom, weight mostly. iphone I find cumbersome because I also use it as a phone.
posted by frumiousb at 1:07 AM on August 22, 2017

Olympus TG-5.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 4:28 AM on August 22, 2017

I'm guessing the failure mode of your cameras is dust getting into the zoom mechanism (external moving parts = place for dust and grit to grind up the works).

So I'd recommend either going with a prime lens that gives you the typical magnification you want, or a waterproof or weatherproof camera with zoom to minimize or eliminate dust and grit getting into the zoom mechanism.

You might look at internal zoom lenses where the outside doesn't telescope as the moving part are internal.
posted by zippy at 1:05 PM on August 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

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