Traveling Cross Country - Which Camera To Get?

Started May 9, 2013 | Discussions thread
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Mirado
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Traveling Cross Country - Which Camera To Get?
May 9, 2013

So, I'm getting ready to move across the US, something like 3000 miles. I've only ever used PoS style cameras and my iPhone, and frankly I don't want to rely on that to capture as much as I plan to. Even though I'm moving, I plan to take my time as I go, so there will be ample opportunity for both stills and video.

So, I think it's time to get a proper camera.

However, I don't like the idea of just jumping to a big DSLR. When you are used to just pulling out your wafer thin phone to capture something, even if the quality would be leagues above, I just can't see myself lugging a large DSLR (at the moment, unless convinced otherwise). As such, I've been looking into a lot of these MILC style cameras, and cannot decide (or rather, refuse to decide before consulting some experts) which once to get. For the moment, I seem to have boiled it down to either the NEX-6 or the E-M5 from Olympus. As asking "which one is better" is both subjective and futile, I'll do my best to explain what I'm looking for, and what I plan to do.

  1. A noticeable bump from the still quality of your cheaper PoS or iPhone. I assume this will be easily met, but if you can tell me that I honestly won't notice the difference, I may need to think twice. Don't worry about user error; I assume they're be a fairly significant learning curve, so just operate on the idea that if you were to have the two of them side by side. This is more a confirmation than anything.
  2. Room to grow. I will probably just stick to the kit lens right out of the gate; no reason to buy a pile of them before I know what I am doing. That being said, the camera body itself needs to satisfy a budding enthusiast; I don't need it to hold my hand, and I'd rather get lost in histograms, exposure settings, and f-stops rather than not having those tools.
  3. Decent compactness. I obviously don't expect to slip these things into my pocket, but I cannot yet bring myself to lug a heavy DSLR and a bag, unless there are so many more advantages that I'm not seeing. Remember, I'm not a professional (far from it!) but would like to eventually get to the point that I can take semi-pro looking photos thanks to a combination of my gear and newly developed skill. (Assuming I'm not inherently garbage, haha!)
  4. Great video shooting tools and quality. I'm going to be splitting 50/50 on video vs stills, and I need a camera that can keep up. It needs to do 1920x1080 (I would prefer 60p but the framerate is more flexible as long as I'm getting full resolution out of this), and without overheating (part of the reason why I'm avoiding the cheaper NEX models) and it needs to have the potential to look good. I cannot overstate this; if it's a great stills camera but the video side is iffy, it's not for me.
  5. Good low light performance. It doesn't have to be top of the line DSLR stuff (you can only stretch your money so far, and I don't have the $$$ to really get the best stuff), but I would really like the potential to do some low light/night shots. As it stands, I cannot get anything close to that with a small sensor in a PoS or a phone, and while a master photographer may be able to pull it off, I need something that won't look like a complete torrent of noise no matter what I do.

Now, that's what I'm looking for, but here's my shooting plans.

  1. Street work, both stills and video. Going to be in and about a bunch of cities, so this is probably priority one.
  2. Landscapes, possibly panoramas of them. Lots of variation in the layout of the US as you cross it.
  3. Some nature shots, trees and plants and the like. I'm not going to be trekking through the words looking for foxes, but I'd like the ability to shoot some interesting outdoors stuff.
  4. Indoors, low light or otherwise. I may fall into the dreading "Oh hey look at these pictures of food!" mode, so I'm sorry about that, but I've never really been able to have satisfying quality with any indoors shots, so it'd be nice to have a camera with me when I go to some new places.

So, nothing really fast moving - no sports or birds or anything like that, and nothing really in the professional territory like weddings. Mainly street shots, some nature/landscapes, and a bit of indoors, lower light or otherwise. Reading that back it sounds like I'm asking for a lot, but keep in mind where I am coming from; as long as whatever is recommended does at least average (to you) in those categories, it probably is miles past what I am used to.

My budget is about $1200.

To sum it up: a camera that I can carry around with me all day, shot a combination of video and stills, usually of city streets or indoors with a bit of landscapes, and without it feeling like I'm carrying a millstone around my neck.

Is that something possible? As it stands I'm torn between the NEX 6 or the E-M5, but I'm open to any suggestions. And like I said, don't worry about me being a novice; I won't come complaining back here if most of my stuff turns out like junk because I didn't know what I was doing. I have time to learn, and my phone is always in my pocket if I get really desperate. I'd rather plunk down the cash for something that will give me the potential of great photos one day, rather than outgrowing something that's $300 and needing to step up afterward.

Thanks for the help in advance, and if you have any tips about shooting cross country (such as gear to have or things to be aware of), please let me know!

 Mirado's gear list:Mirado's gear list
Canon EOS 6D
Sony Alpha NEX-6
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