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.
|Antares cloud complex in Scorpius by jeffbottman|
from Best Photo of the Week...
|26415640516_0644cfa2fc_o by Frederic Kelder|
|Straumur-Aurora by arnie1|
from Tripod needed
|last flight by drnikon850|
from Specialized and Specialty Aircraft
Lenny Kravitz and Leica team up to produce perhaps the most eye-catching M camera ever, in the snakeskin Drifter kit. Limited to just 125 units, you'll need to move fast to get one.
Researchers with the Samsung AI Center in Moscow and the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology have created a system that transforms still images into talking portraits with as little as a single image.
K&R Photographics, a camera store in Crescent Springs, Kentucky, was robbed by armed men, who not only took thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment, but also injured the 70-year-old co-owner of the store.
Canon's RF lenses can now have their Control Rings de-clicked to make for silent changes when shooting video.
The new Fujifilm GFX 100 boasts some impressive specifications, including 100MP, in-body stabilization and 4K video. But what's it like to shoot with? Senior Editor Barnaby Britton found out on a recent trip to Florence, Italy.
Apple has updated its MacBook Pro with 8-core processors for the first time ever, as well as an improved keyboard that should resolve the issues of past butterfly keyboards.
Back in early March, we had the opportunity to visit Fujifilm's factory in Sendai, Japan, where assembly line staff were manually assembling the earliest pre-production samples of the GFX 100.
Chris and Jordan are at Fujifilm's GFX 100 launch event in Japan (well, in a nearby hotel room) and have some initial thoughts about using this 100MP medium format powerhouse.
It's here! The long-awaited next-generation Fujifilm GFX has been officially launched. Click through to learn more about the camera that Fujifilm is hoping will shake up the pro photography market - the GFX100.
We recently had the opportunity to shoot in Florence, Italy with a pre-production sample of the Fujifilm GFX 100. Check out our gallery of JPEG samples to get an idea of its capabilities.
We've known about the Fujifilm GFX 100 since last fall, but now it's official: this 102MP medium-format monster will be available at the end of June for $10,000. In addition to its incredible resolution, the camera also has in-body IS, a hybrid AF system, 4K video and a removable EVF.
What must be the world's most camera-friendly airport has set out locations all around its perimeter fence specifically so photographers can get all the best angles unhindered by wires.
According to DJI, any drone model weighing over 250 grams will have AirSense Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) receivers installed to help drone operators know when planes and helicopters are nearby.
Premiere Rush is targeted at Youtubers and vloggers who want to edit video on the go.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (USDHS) sent out an alert on Monday stating drones manufactured in China are a 'potential risk to an organization's information.'
The new module might be implemented in the upcoming Galaxy Note device generation.
Chris and Jordan are kicking off a new segment in which they make feature suggestions to manufacturers for the benefit of all photographer-kind. To start things off, they take a look at the humble USB-C port and everything it could be doing for us.
The Olympus TG-5 is one of our favorite waterproof cameras, and the company today introduced the TG-6, a relatively low-key update. New features include the addition of an anti-reflective coating on the sensor, a higher-res LCD, and more underwater and macro modes.
We've long held Olympus' Tough cameras in high regard and the TG-6 is no exception. It offers top notch image quality for its class and lots of useful features. It's also a blast to shoot with.
A meticulously curated video from YouTuber Guy Jones highlights the evolution of street photography from mid-19th century to present day.
A big design is in the pipeline for the popular Godox shoot-through flash trigger, with a new control layout and a collection of new features - including Bluetooth connectivity
The iconic statues of Easter Island are at risk of getting destroyed thanks to tourists climbing on them and picking their noses.
The Honor 20 Pro looks like an attractively priced alternative to some more established flagship competitors.
We've been playing around with a prototype of the new Peak Design Travel Tripod and are impressed so far: it's incredibly compact, fast to deploy and stable enough for the heaviest bodies. However, the price may turn some away.
Peak Design is back at it again, this time crowdfunding the Travel Tripod, the company's 9th Kickstarter to date.
The Camera Store has reported that on May 15, 2019 their store was robbed of a Sony lens and camera, and an employee subsequently sprayed with bear spray while attempting to apprehend the suspect.
Voigtländer's 21mm F1.4 Nokton lens for the Sony E mount has been officially announced.
Google complies with an executive order and resulting blacklists that prohibits US companies to do business with certain foreign entities.
Dutch public broadcaster VPRO has published a documentary called '#followme' that takes a behind-the-scenes look at how some Instagram influencers game the system trough shady tactics.