The missing compacts

I am positively impressed by the quality and the numbers of new products released in 2012, and the compact cameras are becoming even much better. However, I am still missing a few ones:

The wide-angle compact

There are not really any small compact 16-35 mm (Eq. Full-frame), which is very sad because that would be a great zoom for a tiny and fully manual camera. A small sensor – I mean smaller than mirrorless or DSLR, would mean a bigger depth of field which is often even something you may look for such a length. Of course, it should be fast enough to let you both shooting action / low light pictures and play – at least a little bit – with the depth of field. It should be in the range 200 g / Canon S100 size and weight.

Why it is still missing: building a compact wide-angle and retractable zoom is not trivial. And it is not flexible enough for the mainstream. Too bad, this one would rock. I would have it always with me…

The RAW/manual underwater camera

Whereas you will find over half a dozen of outdoors cameras, none can shoot RAW – so far – and their controls are really those of basic point and shoot. If you want those features, you have to buy an expensive high end compact camera, and an underwater case also very expensive, which makes you camera not compact any longer by the way!

Why it is still missing: I see no reason. Just a missed opportunity which should end soon, hopefully.

Hybrid VF for a small compact

Whereas you may find terrific view finders (VF) on mirrorless / big compact cameras (Fuji X100, Fuji X-Pro 1, Sony NEX-7), there are no small compact with VF and the big compacts which have some (Fuji X-10, G-1X) have very basic ones. We need a small compact with a great VF!

Why it is still missing: it is obviously a technical challenge but I mean, what Sony did with the NEX-7 proves it is not infeasible… At this time, it looked impossible to have such a big sensor and a VF into such a small body. The other reason: cameras manufacturers have obviously a stupid problem with VF and try to avoid them as soon as possible. They may add a lot to the total costs whereas many photographers can’t care less about them. But we need this model…

Conclusion

The market looks still very conservative. There is room for niche markets. The manufacturer able to make money on them, would proves its dedication to photography and will make his brand much stronger.

And you, what kind of compact cameras do you miss?

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Do you really need a better camera? Episode 3: macro

So I am continuing my genuine tests between the best pockable compact (Canon S100) and a good DX DSLR (Nikon D7000). Basically, the idea is to understand much better when to use the tiny camera and when the big guy is really demanded:

During the last two episodes, here and here, I have been quite naughty with the great D7000. But as a matter of fact, for still daylight pictures, the small S100 is just a match whatever you are using with the DSLR.

So to go a little bit further, this time I tried to compare macro’s performance of the two beasts. I am using the Nikkor 105mm VR f/2.8 + D7000 versus the small S100.

This time, the clear winner (Yeah, good to spend so much money and carry such an heavy camera) is the DSLR! I took pictures with the S100 at 24 mm equivalent and 120 mm equivalent at the closest range possible.

Apart from a much longer distance to the subject, the macro lens of the DSLR can provide a 1:1 picture, which really makes a difference.

On a side note, the DOF is really bigger with the small sensor of the S100. Both an advantage (Easier to focuse well a picture) and a constraint (some, like me, are enjoying a reduced DOF).

So, to summarize, a compact camera can make some decent close range shots, but cannot compete anywhere with a DSLR… If you know compact cameras which can, please let me know!

Do you really need a better camera? – Episode 1: landscapes

The cameras’ manufacturers like when we spend money on their new jewels. Of course we can satisfy our desire for consuming and we can just waste our money. It has the reputation to help against being depressive! Fair enough, but I have always been wondering whether technical improvements were so useful and conversely, I am always wondering which camera do I really need for a shooting?

I am genuinely testing very different cameras : a smartphone, a compact camera and a great DSLR with its sharpest ultra-wide zoon :

Samsung Galaxy 2 (cost and weight virtually nothing as embedded into a phone)
Canon S100 (370 €, 200 g)
Nikon D7000 + Tokina 11-16 f/2.8 (1’700 €, 1’300 g)

The idea is to illustrate thanks to different tests which advantage has each camera based on real life pictures. I don’t intend to make any scientific tests there, just to ponder the necessity of bringing with me a heavy camera (The D7000), or even the necessity to buy or not a compact given the improvements of smartphones’ cameras.

The first test will be very trivial : a landscape, on daylight, still subjects. So I could compare sharpness, contrast, colours, … but I decided to just focus at sharpness on this first test.

Similarly, I compare on purpose JPG and not RAW as I would expect the best camera to provide better JPG too. I have worked with A mode (Aperture priority), and wanted to keep the cameras at f/2,8. That’s indeed the fastest possibility of my Tokina 11-16 and again I would expect given the price, weight and size better results at full aperture with the best camera.

So to make a long story short, I was assuming that at this aperture, the Tokina 11-16 and the D7000 altogether – given the reputation they both have, should be much better than the Canon S100 (and of course of the cheap camera of a one-year-old smartphone!).

First the three pictures :




You may not see it on the web, but you can click on each picture to see them as full scale and on my screen (1900×1200), the Galaxy 2 picture has some visible noise, without making any crop. Given the easy shooting condition, I am disappointed. I am sure newest cameras’ smartphones may be better, but I am sticking to my conclusion : you can shoot with smartphone, but the gap is still immense compare with more serious cameras. Looks trivial, but I am now sure !

Then I cropped at 100 % the D7000 and the S100 :

S100 crop at 100%

D7000 crop at 100%

The D7000 and the Tokina are far from showing more details than the tiny S100, that’s more the other way around ! That was a surprise for me. I don’t want to say the D7000 don’t overcome the S100 in many ways but as a matter a fact, for landscapes done at daylight, I may challenge the reason to carry a so heavy camera ! Nowadays, high end compact cameras have really become extremely capable… OK I need more similar tests with landscapes, but again, on these shots, that’s definitively a real surprise.

Conclusion:

I know I cannot come to a conclusion with just one shot, I will do more tests of course, but so far I have to come the following conclusion: a modern compact camera is just great for taking daylight and still subjects, and DSLR are not always so useful then, at least DX DSLR. Last and not least, smartphones don’t seem to be able to challenge high end compact cameras so far.

If you have made similar tests, please let me know.