'm in a pickle re high end compact camera choice

Discussion in 'The Darkroom' started by scottish steve, Feb 14, 2012.

  1. As there is a lot more traffic in The Barber Shop than The Darkroom, I hope I'll be allowed to pose this question here. I'm finding myself in a quandary.
    It's a very difficult decision, not helped my www.dpreview.com scoring the Olympus XZ-1 highest in individual in-depth reviews, but almost ignoring it in the group comparative tests. My finalists are

    Canon Powershot G12 (3.2k RMB best price I can find)
    Olympus XZ-1 (3.2k)
    Canon Powershot S95 (2.8k max, probably around 2.2 with haggling)

    There is so little difference in image quality it's hard to make a decision- although the lens of the xz-1 is undoubtedly the fastest and sharpest available, the sensor is noticeably noisier than the Canons' (which are essentially the same cameras in different skins linked to different lenses), especially at ISOs 800 and above.
    So its a choice between lens & sensor, muddied further by Olympus' wonderful, yet quirky JPEG engine, which produces a strange combo of very sharp images, with less ultimate detail- very clever I feel, given most JPEG users aren't pixel-peepers.
    Either Canon has it's case- the s95 being a well-made and eminently pocketable camera, the G12 a wonderfully tactile, professional-looking hunk of metal and rubber.
    I've read every review I can find and several professional photographers have went for the S95, due entirely to it's size, while mostly user's reviews give a lot of love to Olympus' lens. There are also several threads on forums posing exactly this question, with a tad more members recommending the XZ-1. I know this might seem silly, but the sliding bay doors arrangement really appeals also, given my paranoia about lenses being tarnished and the xz-1 has a std cap.

    Any comments are welcome.
  2. Legion

    Legion Moderator Emeritus

    SWMBO has a XZ-1. It does take a nice photo, and the lens is really fast. It is a good camera.

    Having said that, we both usually end up reaching for my Panasonic LX-3 (now replaced by the LX-5) more often. I do it because I like the slightly wider lens, the custom functions that you can set up and the AEL/AFL button, which I use often. She grabs my camera because the XZ-1 charges via USB, so she never has a battery charged for hers. :sneaky2:
  3. I've handled the lx-5 and can get it for 2.5k, but I thought it was somewhat let down by low light performance? I did like the sturdy grip, good build quality and UI, but got the impression the IQ was a tad inferior at mod-hi ISOs. I don't know if I'm unusually/unreasonably concerned with noise, but I haven't regretted getting my D5100 based on noise-levels compared to the EOS range.
    Or is it a case, once again, of reviewers straining every sinew to separate such similar products?
    I also do like the idea of an adjustable flash on the xz-1.

    Am I right in thinking the xz-1 doesn't have an ea/af lock?
    This isn't something I've used yet. Would you expand on this technique please?
    I did notice a couple of shots on my trip to Beijing, which were annoyingly overexposed, particularly one of people inside a temple praying, taken from in front of them, with sunlight shining through the open doors behind them. Is this the kind of thing to use it for?
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2012
  4. I would emphatically recommend the G12. The two big rotary dials on the top which allow instantaneous adjustment of the exposure compensation and sensitivity (ISO) without taking your eye off the viewfinder are enormously helpful. I find exposure compensation to be one of the greatest benefits to my photography. Image backlit? Rather than fiddling with shutter speed and aperture and possibly missing the shot, just dial the compensation up a stop or two. Black background fooling your meter and washing out your subject? Just dial it down. Most cameras require you to find the compensation button, press it, then move a second control. Some even bury this in menus that you have to wade through.

    Similarly, instant access to sensitivity can help you when moving quickly between indoor and outdoor settings. Leave it on automatic and dial up the ISO for blur-free shots in dim light. Dial it back down when you go outside.

    The optical viewfinder, an increasingly rare thing on compacts these days, is a great benefit in bright sunlight which can make even the best viewscreen hard to see. And the tilting viewscreen can make it easy to get overhead shots to see over a crowd of people or low-angle shots for more interesting perspective on children, flowers, pets, etc.

    Yes, I agonize over the comparatively slow lens at the telephoto end, but the sensor is much larger than most point and shoot cameras so the digital noise even at high ISOs should be reduced enough to compensate for that.

    The only reason I would even contemplate going with the other two is if you really absolutely have to have a smaller camera. But think very carefully about whether your really need one. If you are going out specifically to photograph or are going on a vacation or walk for pleasure, carrying a slightly larger camera shouldn't be that big of a problem. If you want something you can carry in your pants pocket at all times for work or to take quick grab shots, then perhaps the smaller camera is worth the compromise. If that is the case however, I would recommend looking at the Samsung TL500 as well. The f1.8-2.4 lens is even more tempting than the f2.8 on the Olympus.


  5. Have you considered the s100 instead of the s95? If you want easy manual controls g12 but if you want a great point and shoot with manual capabilities the s100 is where I would put my money, but I'm also a canon guy so I haven't looked closely into the others so take that for what it is.
  6. Legion

    Legion Moderator Emeritus

    Yeah, they are both good, but the reviews have to find some points of difference. The Panasonic has a good chip and an f2 lens! not quite as good as 1.8, but hardly shabby.

    The AE/AF lock. Say your subject is indoors standing by a window. You want to expose for the person, not what's outside. You frame them so the centre or spot meter (or focus) locks onto them, then holding the button down you recompose the image. The camera should now ignore the light coming in the window, or the further distance of the objects outside. This is a very simplistic explanation of how it works, but the function can be used in many other situations where you do not have time to go fully manual and change all the settings yourself.

    I can't find the XZ-1 at the moment, but my memory is that it doesn't have a handy button for this.
  7. Thanks for the input guys. And making my choice even harder :cursing:

    Q.C. issues with the S100 mean I will not buy one. I am not spending my head-earned on a compact which has a lens with such variance. Especially in China. Did you know that The UK gets (or at least used to get ) the Aspirin which The Japanese reject on the grounds of imperfect shape? Given Chinese tolerances, I'll be staying clear of anything the least bit suspect.

    I can't understand why the lx5 is rated so poorly at low light use with such a fast lens. Has it ever been a problem for you Legion?

    I do have to say that the G12 body design and control layout is an absolute joy. I found that I was adjusting things automaticaly within seconds of picking up my first one, without even looking in one instance (the main control dial in Av mode- I raised the unit to my eye, adjusted the dial and then thought, "Wait a minute, is this right? Of course it is"). Upon first picking up the P7000 I thought I was in love....until I got a look at the G12. I've been out a couple of times, pawing different models and every time, I leave thinking "It's GOT to be a g12", but my internal Devil's Advocate thinks this might be a case of "short skirt syndrome" and in the cold light of the morning, so to speak, I wonder if I'm going all gooey over style, not substance, especially with the S95 as a more afforddable and smaller option.

    I can at least be sure that, no matter what I get, it'll be good. but I'm not quite ready to flip a coin. My sensible head tells me to get the S95, my honest head tells me I'll always pine for one of the bigger models and my heart tells me to get the G12. but then i read the spec sheet of the xz-1 and it looks so darned impressive.
  8. Legion

    Legion Moderator Emeritus

    No, but that may be to do with how different people use the camera. Personally I was trained on film, so I use a digital camera like it was a film camera, ie. I set the ISO to one number, and leave it there, unless I have a reason to change it. Lots of people these days leave the ISO on auto and have the camera choose it for them. So sometimes the camera's brain will say "I want to keep my shutter speed high here because this human seems a bit shaky, so I'll compensate by raising the ISO" then the photographer looks at the shot later and gets annoyed because it is noisy. For practical purposes I found my camera to be really good in low light because I don't need to go into those really high ISO's. It has an f2 lens 24mm wide angle equivalent, and a very effective image stabiliser. I can hand hold that thing in all sorts of lighting conditions, and even walking around at night shooting from the hip it gives me shots at 200 ISO that I could never have gotten with the same speed film.

  9. Right. Thanks. Er. God!
    I really need to hire each model for the day but that isn't an option. So you'd take the LX5 over the XZ-1 as your only compact?
  10. Legion

    Legion Moderator Emeritus

    Well, I think you would be happy with either, but yeah, if something happened to this camera I would replace it with another Panasonic. (although, and this will confuse the matter even further, the Fuji X10 is looking mighty interesting... I haven't tried one out yet, so I can't speak personally, but the specs look impressive.)
  11. I have a lower end camera with sliding doors which should help protect the lens, but that has not stopped mine from getting tarnished/spotted/scratched due to poor handling. If you give the camera rough treatment the sliding mechanism can get jammed or misaligned as well.
  12. Fair point.
    I hope the lx5 accepts filters, as having one on my 50mm prime really saved it from the dust of the old summer palace in beijing.
    I have to say, I'm being swung round to the LX5. The X10 is out of budget, thankfully. It looks gorgeous, but retails for 5,000 yuan here. I'm not paying that for a compact.
    The LX 5 does have a nice straightforwardness to it and is $50 cheaper than the best price of the G12.
  13. Legion

    Legion Moderator Emeritus

    You dont even need to be rough. One little bit of grit or fluff from your bag or pocket will jam the mechanism if you are not careful.

    Lens caps are good protection, but you have to train yourself not to lose them. Mine is attached to the camera with a cord, but that can be annoying if you are shooting something at ground level the cap could swing into the shot. You just work with these little things.
  14. I am very strict with my D5100. I keep my lens cap in a side pocket on the bag, which is never used for anything else. As soon as I've captured what I want and am on the move, I turn off, flip the screen round and put the cap back on. It's become so much of a habit in even this short time I've found myself doing it unconsciously, then only realising I've done it if I notice something nice to shoot a few seconds later. I've got a ND filter on both lenses and a monitor cover and periodically give the body a good clean.
    So, it looks like LX5 vs G12
    (I've grudgingly rejected the S95 on the grounds that it doesn't allow any adjustment of the AF, which is forever centre-weighted- very surprised at that)
  15. Legion

    Legion Moderator Emeritus

    Main difference between those two, the LX5 has a wider, faster lens and slightly faster and more intuitive interface plus a bigger chip (handy), but the G12 has an optical viewfinder and a flip out screen (also handy).

    here is a good side by side comparison. Just choose the features which are more important to you.

  16. 76 vs 74?
    I don't think I've seen a comparison so close on that site!
    It is a useful tool, though I don't agree with the weighting or logic of some of it.
    e.g. listing aperture and ISO noise separately from image quality seems silly or even misleading. If camera A is 20% better in IQ at ISO 1,000 but has half the maximum aperture, the faster lensed camera B will have better IQ.
    Anyway, you've definitely given me something to think about.
    Thanks very much Legion. I should be picking up my final choice at the end of the month and will keep you posted.
  17. professorchaos

    professorchaos Moderator Emeritus

    This doesn't answer your question, however, I am waiting for these guys to port their software to Windows. When they do, I'll get one to supplement my DLSR.
  18. Legion

    Legion Moderator Emeritus

    I'm not sure I understand what that thing is doing...
  19. professorchaos

    professorchaos Moderator Emeritus

    Why, it is a light field camera. I don't know how it works but it takes some great pictures.

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