Opinion: Enthusiast compacts have finally come of age
Last December I was looking to buy a camera for my mom to replace her aging Panasonic travel zoom. It didn't take very good photos but, to be fair, you can't expect miracles from a 30x zoom camera with a 1/2.3" sensor. She listed a couple of must-haves: it should fit in a purse, have a decent amount of zoom and have photo quality that was better than what she had now. She didn't want to deal with changing lenses and my dad wanted it to have a viewfinder, if possible.
Being somewhat knowledgeable in the digital camera field I knew that I needed to look at the 1"-type camera market first. Back in mid-December I had just a few options: the Canon PowerShot G3 X / G5 X / G7 X / G9 X, the Panasonic FZ1000 and the Sony RX100 and RX10 series. While quite a few of those cameras passed the 'purse test', none had focal lengths longer than 100mm equiv. For real zoom power there was only the Canon G3 X, Panasonic FZ1000 and Sony RX10, all of which were far, far too large.
|The RX100 III and IV meet the size and EVF requirements but are just too limited in terms of zoom.||The Panasonic FZ1000 is my favorite enthusiast superzoom but is way too large for a purse.|
Plan B was to find something in the middle: a slightly smaller sensor that had decent zoom, and my choice was Olympus' Stylus 1s. It has solid image quality, well-designed controls, and a 10X zoom, making me think that I found just what I'd been looking for. Shortly after it arrived I did a quick FaceTime chat with the future recipient who thought it was too large for a purse, and I agreed, so back it went.
At this point I felt as if I'd struck out. Anything with a decent zoom was just too darn big, and pocket cameras just wouldn't cut it.
|The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX90V ticked all of the boxes on my shopping list, except for one: image quality.|
Not knowing what was coming out next (really!), I bit my tongue and bought a Sony Cyber-shot HX90V. It's small, has a 30X zoom, a pop-up EVF (a la RX100 III/IV), flip-up LCD, and Wi-Fi. Sounds like the perfect gift, except for two rather important things. First, the sensor size is 1/2.3", which is exactly what I was trying to avoid. Second, the lens is quite slow, with a maximum aperture range of F3.5-6.4. Thus, in low light, the camera will need to crank up the ISO, resulting in a big drop in image quality.
The hole in the market
What was missing in the 1" sensor market was pretty obvious: something in-between the compact, short zooms and the giant superzooms. As anyone who has ever bought a piece of consumer electronics knows, your purchase is outdated as soon as it leaves the store. As luck would have it, the camera I'd been waiting for showed up on January 5th: the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100.
|The Panasonic ZS100/TZ100 finds a middle ground between small/short zoom and huge/long zoom.|
The ZS100 (known as the TZ100 in most countries) ticked nearly every box on my list. It's compact, has a reasonable amount of zoom (10X, 25-250mm equiv.), and an EVF (though it's not a great one). Seeing how it uses the same sensor as the FZ1000, photo quality and 4K video should both be very good. The only downside I can find is that the lens, with a maximum aperture range of F2.8-5.9, is pretty slow. At least image quality should hold up when it has to increase the ISO sensitivity in low light.
Unfortunately, the ZS100 wasn't set to ship until mid-March, so my mom was out of luck.
Where's my wide-angle?
Still, there was one area of the 1" camera market in which there was a void, and that was at the wide end.
|The Nikon DL18-50 filled in the last gap in the 1" enthusiast compact market with its 18-50mm equivalent lens.|
Then, lo and behold, Nikon came running into the market with three new 1" cameras (known as the DLs), which finally filled in that last gap. The camera that did so is the DL18-50 which, as its name implies, has an 18-50mm equivalent lens - easily the widest in this class. And it's a fast one, with a maximum aperture range of F1.8-2.8. There are many other things going for it spec-wise; it has a 20.8MP sensor (likely from Nikon's 1 J5 mirrorless camera), Hybrid AF system (the DL cameras are the only cameras in the 1" category with this), tilting LCD, 4K video and a 'SnapBridge' Wi-Fi system that uses Bluetooth to maintain a constant connection with your phone. We haven't tested it yet, but we're really looking forward to it.
The two other DLs have the same guts, but have focal lengths that fit in with the competition. The DL24-85 slots in-between the Sony RX100 III/IV and Canon PowerShot G7 X I/II, while the DL24-500 is similar to the Canon G3 X and Panasonic FZ1000.
When I started my search for that Christmas gift, the enthusiast compact market was so limited that I ended up purchasing the very type of camera that I was trying to avoid in the first place. Had Christmas been postponed about four months, the ZS100 would've been in a box with "To Mom" on it.
In the end, this year's rapid growth in the enthusiast compact market didn't help me personally. But there are now cameras for every situation, from wide-angle to super-telephoto. The enthusiast compact market has finally come of age, to the benefit of everyone.
* The G7 X has since been replaced by a Mark II model which offers a faster processor, improved Raw shooting and battery life, and refined ergonomics.
|Cerulean Sukhoi by cjf2|
|Diver's Watch-2757 by vbuhay|
|Cheetah in the wild by cmgpereira|
|Kilchurn Castle, Scotland by johanmieke|
from Ancient Castles, Forts, and Defensive Structures - EXTERIOR
The Axibo slider can detect and keep focused on faces and most objects thanks to an integrated 6 + 1 AI core CPU
Fujifilm has announced that it is developing a 50mm F1.0 lens for its X-series, instead of the promised 33mm F1.0, as part of its X Summit event in Tokyo.
Fujifilm has revealed extensive detail about its forthcoming X-Pro3 model in a development announcement at its Fujifilm X Summit in Tokyo, Japan.
Ricoh has stated that it's developing a new flagship APS-C DSLR that it'll preview later this month and expects to bring to market in 2020.
Apple says the iPhone XR isn't going anywhere – even now that the iPhone 11 is on sale. The two devices are priced $100 apart – so what does that extra cash get you?
Something about these seems a little familiar, but we can't quite put our finger on it.
ON1 Photo RAW 2020 is now available as a public beta, bringing with it new and improved features across the board, including more AI-powered tools, improved performance and multiple integrations for a more streamlined workflow.
Huawei has announced the details of its new flagship smartphone, the Mate 30 Pro.
Sebastiaan de With, co-founder of the iOS camera app Halide, has used his app's technical readout feature to obtain very detailed camera specifications for the iPhone 11 Pro.
Our guide to the best cameras over $2000 has been updated to include overviews of some of the latest contenders.
Apple joked about the new 120 fps recording mode on its latest smartphone with 'slofies,' a made-up word that combines slo-mo and selfies, but it turns out it might've not been quite as tongue-in-cheek as we initially thought.
The C1 and C1 Plus aspire to bring studio-style lights to the world of smartphone photography for $299 and 499, respectively.
In a press release on its website, Photokina has confirmed that Leica, Nikon and Olympus have canceled their reservations for Photokina 2020.
Readers were quick to point out that Robert Frank wasn't the only iconic artist the photography community lost recently. Peter Lindbergh, Charlie Cole and Fred Herzog have also passed away.
Back in the film days Canon had 'eye-controlled' focus that let you set an AF point just by looking at it, and a recent patent suggests Canon is still interested in this technology. Chris and Jordan consider what a modern eye-controlled AF system might mean to photographers.
CyberLink has revealed the latest updates to its suite of creative production apps, including PhotoDirector 11, PowerDirector 18 and more.
Aputure's impending LED light has 600W raw output in a size not much larger than your standard cinema light.
Apple's iPhone 11 camera updates will inevitably be seen as attempts to catch up to Android. But, taken together, we think they stack up to meaningful upgrades that might make an already very capable camera one of the most compelling options on the market.
Monogram, a company formerly known as Palette Gear, has a new crowdfunded campaign up for its next-generation modular control panel, the Creative Console.
Rumors have been heating up regarding Canon's potential IBIS system and this new patent application gives us the best look yet at what Canon is up to.
The new filters use artificial intelligence to automatize and simplify a range of portrait retouching tasks.
The Laowa 100mm F2.8 2X Ultra Macro APO is unusual among macro optics for offering a maximum reproduction ratio of 2:1. Check out our gallery to see how it performs.
A group of friends traversed around California in an attempt to recreate the stock wallpapers Apple has included with macOS.
With iOS 13 the iPhones XS and XR as well as the latest iPad Pro models will be capable of simultaneously recording video streams from multiple cameras.
The paid firmware update doubles the range for remote cameras/flash units and brings a number of additional features.
The two ‘MicroPrime’ lenses add additional options to SLR Magic's current MFT cine lens lineup, which includes the 12mm T2.8 and 18mm T2.8.
It's not every day that we get to shoot with a system like the medium-format IQ4. We took it into the studio for some portraiture as well as a more casual spin around the block because, well, why not?
Our friends over at Cinema5D have gone hands-on with Sony's new full-frame cinema camera, the FX9, and shared their thoughts on what the camera has to offer.
The Google Pixel 4 will likely launch with an astrophotography feature, HDR in the preview image and a range of other new imaging functions.