Good small travel camera?

Started 4 months ago | Questions thread
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bikehorse
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Good small travel camera?
4 months ago

Hey, all,

I know similar questions abound, but I can't resist asking with my specifics, so I'll try to be brief. I'm soon to take a trip through St. Petersburg, Moscow, the Trans-Siberian Railway, Lake Baikal area, and Mongolia. Giving specifics only to give a sense of what I expect to shoot - urban street scenes, landmarks, and maybe some art in the cities, then lots of landscapes, rural life, and nature. May hike or even backpack a little, but mostly touring.

I'm trying to find my personal ideal camera for this trip for a flexible $500 max. On two big trips in the past, '06 and '10, I bought the "best" point-and-shoot-sized camera at the time and was very happy with it. In '10 that was the Canon S90, which I thought about taking this time but (a) it's effed (thinks every shot is macro) and (b) lots of progress since then. I got somewhat into its controls, but mostly shot on auto. Would like to learn more, but good auto is still a requirement. No at-home editing yet, but might do some if I had great shots and thought to take in RAW. Same with making real-life prints. I love getting decent low-light photos and don't like flash. I like taking "candids," but flip-up viewfinder isn't a must because I tend to look away to be less conspicuous.

Main concerns:

  • Price: I could afford to go a bit above $500, but I'd start to really worry about something more expensive than $500 getting broken or jacked, which would stress me out. I don't want something that says, "I have an expensive camera; rob me." (I know not expensive at all by DPReview standards.)
  • Size: I want to take this around easily. Not considering anything larger than about a Sony a5000. Pocketability of RX100 is really appealing, of course. But I never actually put the S90 in my pocket (little too bulky and humidity concern), always in a zip case. Buying mostly for this trip, but ideally for future trips as well, including backpacking.
  • IQ, esp low-light: 1"-type sensor will blow me away compared to S90, I'm sure, but MFT or APS-C (or whatever the letters are) are far bigger still. 
  • Misc: Focus speed - S90 started feeling slow. Time between shots - same. Some zoom is nice but I've never had more than 3x and don't use it much (maybe that's why, though). Video is nice, but don't use it much. Shots per charge is rather important, since I'd like to only take one spare battery and will likely have gaps between when I can charge.

What I've been looking at hardest:

Sony rx100 ($500 new $420 refurb $515 whole pkge) (1st gen of 3)
4 x 1.4 x 2.3 inches ; 8.5 ounces
1"-type sensor (116mm2)
330 shots/charge
gizmodo loves this

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 ($620 refurb / $750 new)
3.9 x 1.2 x 2.2 inches ; 7.2 ounces <- this must be w/o lens!
MFT sensor (225mm2)
230 shots/charge
12-32mm lens

Sony alpha a5000 ($420ish refurb/newused; $500 new) (this year's)
4.3 x 1.4 x 2.5 inches ; 9.4 ounces
APS-C sensor (368mm2)
420 shots/charge! (forbes says 200 really) (have to buy sep charger for spare)
16-50mm lens
gizmodo loves but says go with rx100 instead if not getting into lenses

Sony NEX-6L/B (i.e., old a6000) (last year's) ($500 new)
4.7 x 1.7 x 2.6 inches ; 12.2 ounces
APS-C sensor (368mm2)
xxx shots/charge

16-50mm lens

I've read the reviews on these here as well, of course. I keep seeing that the Sony NEX-5T is better than a5000, but can't figure out why. Not necessarily planning to buy on Amazon, was just using it to get specs, prices, etc.

Many thanks!

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