2013 - the best cameras for travel and all around

Started Oct 22, 2013 | Discussions thread
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peevee1
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2013 - the best cameras for travel and all around
Oct 22, 2013

A lot of people (not hobbyists or photo professionals) use their cameras mostly when traveling, and to a lesser degrees in other situations when the camera is with them.

Important factors for that kind of buyers are:

a) Portability - I set the limit (for both camera and lens) to 2lb (I know, quite arbitrary, set your own) based on what can be carried around my neck whole day while touring a foreign city, a mountain park etc (2 lb is quite taxing though already after a few hours)

b) Image quality - buying expensive tours, does not make sense to bring junky photos from a cheap camera

c) Ease of use and control - you cannot expect image quality you want unless you can easily tell camera what you want

d) Reasonable range or focal lengths with a single (built-in or changeable) lens - if you cannot fit what you want to shoot, or have to often crop to 1 megapixel killing image quality and wasting your precious time, or have to try to change lenses while on a tour wasting time and missing explanations of a guide and letting dirt in - it is not a good travel camera.

e) Protection from rain and dust (or at least ability to keep camera in the pocket protected from rain) without extra camera bag (some can be 2lb alone) and other equipment

f) Overall high-quality build and feel, not thin dinky plastic etc.

g) Good performance (including fast autofocus and sequential shooting for capturing interesting fast-moving objects)

Thinking about what high-quality cameras exist today for that category of buyers, here is the list I ended up with (from cheapest to the most expensive):

http://camerasize.com/compact/#332,467,289.332,489,487.396,482.336,487.393,ha,t

1) High-quality smartphone - yes, image quality is only OK and limited to 28-35mm range (much worse with digital zoom), but it is only $100-200 higher than a bad smartphone, camera in it weighs almost nothing and adds almost nothing to the size of a smartphone - hard to beat size and weight. Nokia 1020 is a king of the hill, but most top smartphones are not bad in good light for that single focal length.

2) Sony RX100 - can be found for about $500 now, 240g, 28-100 (equivalent) zoom, pant-pocketable (barely), at wide end of the zoom very good even in low light, but no viewfinder or weather-sealing.

3) Sony RX100 II - $750, 281g, 28-100 zoom, easily fits into a jacket pocket or a purse (hot shoe might catch in a tighter pocket plus a little thicker than RX100), tilting screen, wifi...

4) Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Olympus 12-50 lens - $1179 on Amazon (can be found a little cheaper elsewhere), about 620g (with that lens), 24-100, adds EVF, weather-sealing, wider zoom range, great stabilization for stills and video, very fast and quiet focusing and of course ability to change lenses when needed (for example, 40-150 for $99 more is a no-brainer). The lens is somewhat long but never extends any further when zooming and has useful features like macro mode and smooth variable-speed powerzoom for video...

5) Sony RX10 - $1,300, 813g, 24-200 f/2.8 lens pretty decent (although not great) in low light at any focal length and wide aperture at long end plus relatively large and high-res sensor allows digital zoom (cropping) for another 2x easily.

6) Sony A7+28-70/3.5-5.6 lens - $2,000, about 800g, 28-70 - very limited range, but hard to pass the value and image quality - king at short end in low light. AF should be decent, but no good reviews yet

7) Olympus OM-D E-M1+12-40/2.8 - $2,200 (after rebate for the lens with camera), about 850g, 24-80 - better build and weather-sealing and wider range than #6, lighting-fast focus and great stabilization, probably the only one in the group able to shoot sports (with a right lens) with tracking at decent if not spectacular 6.5 fps. I used Pana 12-35/2.8 in the camerasize comparison instead - they do not have 12-40 yet.

8) Sony A7+24-70/4 - about $3,000, just above 900g (right at the limit), 24-70 - the best overall image quality, but limited range at the long end (if digital zoom is supported, might not be a big problem to another 2x or even more).

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