Yet another "first camera" thread

Started May 10, 2013 | Discussions thread
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MisterV
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Yet another "first camera" thread
May 10, 2013

I apologize in advance for making people probably answer the same thing for the hundredth time this year; however, the choice of cameras is very broad, and my in-depth review research was not very conclusive. Also, this post seems to be kind of long... sorry.

So basically I've never had a real camera - only smartphones and old 90s film point-and-shoot disposable quality cameras. I barely know what exposure means, though learning is not a problem, when I buy something I usually end up getting  learning at least basics like that and get something that is priced somewhat above average and delivers good quality (the equivalent of getting an Asus Xonar Essence STX and a pair of Sennheiser HD595s, for anybody familiar with sound equipment). I am loathe to end up being one of those people who buy something expensive for whatever reason and don't use it to a reasonable degree. If I end up being drawn into it and get something more advanced later, that's fine, but as a baseline, I have to definitely consider the possibility that I will end up using it as a good point-and-shoot with minimal manual adjustment.

My requirements would be the following:

- low-light quality - it's basically the reason why I'm bothering to get a camera. Basically every time I go travelling (which I do quite a lot), I end up being frustrated by the inability to capture night shots of city streets, but even more so building interiors (especially Gothic cathedrals and the like). Basically I am mostly interested in taking pictures of architecture (inside and out, including fine details like bas-reliefs), occasionally flowers and military hardware (yeah, it's a bit of a spread). I can't stress enough how important it is for me to be finally able to get low-light shots right.

- portability - This is also important. I'm looking at something that will fit into a relatively small messenger bag/satchel, since my main reason for not getting a separate camera so far was because I really don't like to have lots of stuff with me, not to mention I'd be afraid of losing it. So, no intention of lugging around anything on my neck or in a separate bag.

- optical stabilisation - would be a pretty good idea as far as I understand?..

- price - not too high as I said. More on that when I come to the cameras.

I don't do prints or anything, just save the pictures on my PC and sometimes share them with friends/family. I also don't do hundreds of pictures a day, so battery life is not that much of an issue. I don't usually do shots in motion (unless you count shots from a train or plane), and video for me is a nice gimmick to have just in case. It's basically for my own personal satisfaction. As it stands I don't really get any enjoyment from browsing my old galleries because half of them are grainy interior shots, which look especially poor on the 27-inch IPS screen I was lucky to get.

After extensive review research I've come up with the following options (divided them by price that I can get here in Japan):

- Canon G15 or Nikon P7700 - seem to be recommended by most sites, can't decide which really, image quality opinions contradict each other. Same price of 280 Euro. Seem to produce good images, but supposedly ILCs have way better quality, so... I don't know.

- Sony NEX-C3, double lens kit for 250 Euro. Seems nice according to a lot of reviews. The sensor is supposed to be very good, and as with all ILCs I got quite a bit of room to grow and learn to work a camera.

- NEX-5N, with 16-55 lens only, can get used for 260 Euro. With two lenses, 350.

- Sony RX-100 (that one yeah). Seems to be an expensive but attractive all-rounder point-and-shoot package, but the reviews point out that you can get much more quality out of NEXes for the same price or less - 380 Euro.

- NEX-5N body with the sony E PZ 16-50mm pancake lens. Attractive, but the costliest option at 260 + 205 Euro. Not sure if this wouldn't be an over-expensive toy.

The list is not exhaustive. For example I looked at other options like the multiple iterations of NEXes (F3, 5R), but it's impossible to judge which ones are actually worth the little extra money since I have no experience and online reviews contradict each other. Then like the Olympus XZ-2 at 350 euro, and it seems to be not so good as those above...

Anyway, my head is turning already from having spent several nights on review sites. I would very much appreciate any advice. Even if you throw a spanner in the works by suggesting some other option I've never heard of, or if in your opinion I'd better stick to simple point-and-shoot like the Canon SX260 or something. Anything is welcome to get me on track to a good low-light camera that I can learn a bit, but that wouldn't be overpriced or unnecessarily complicated for a complete novice.

(this did not seem to post correctly the first time...)

Canon PowerShot G15 Nikon Coolpix P7700 Sony Alpha NEX-5N Sony Alpha NEX-C3
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