Shopping for a pocket sized digital camera

Discussion in 'Technical Corner' started by Albany Tom, Sep 5, 2021.

  1. Albany Tom

    Albany Tom Line Up and Wait PoA Supporter

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    I'm looking for a pocket sized digital camera as a gift for a friend. In rough terms, something with better ease of use and better image quality than a cell phone, but much smaller than a DSLR.

    Asking here because to me the important parts are mostly subjective. I shoot with an old Fuji S3, only about 12 MP, just because I love the colors and dynamic range of the sensor, and that it lets me use my old film lenses. Pilots know tech, understand human interface issues, and most appreciate good pics.

    For the gift, I'm looking at the Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS70, in part because of the compact size and the optical zoom range...but I'm far from sold on that model. My friend loves taking pictures, but is currently just using a cell phone. Subjects are nature/scenic and small groups of people, and the purpose is to capture the beauty or emotion of the moment and share with friends. So along those lines, I'm thinking something light and easy to carry, that will go from maybe 24-28mm eq to maybe 200-300mm, more or less.

    Price? I'm frugal, looking for good value, but I also want something that will have more capability than the little fixed focus, fixed zoom Apple lens.

    Thanks in advance for any ideas!
     
  2. asicer

    asicer Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Do they still make those? I'm not even sure they're still selling the ZS200.
    Minor point of order: iPhone has been using auto-focus lenses for quite a while and the current ones aren't exactly fixed zoom either. But yeah, a phone can't beat the 1" sensor or zoom range of the ZS200.
     
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  3. MountainDude

    MountainDude Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    The only small P&S I would consider better than an iPhone 12 Pro Max would be the Sony RX100. They sell multiple models with different lenses on them.
     
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  4. Piperonca

    Piperonca Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    My recommendation is the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II. I’ve owned a couple of the Sonys and like the color and usability of Canon better. Can’t go wrong with either brand.
     
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  5. Pilawt

    Pilawt Final Approach

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    Agreed. You can get a great deal on an older version at a great price. I have the first version (RX100 without the Roman numeral suffix) and it does a remarkable job.
     
  6. tawood

    tawood En-Route

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    I second the G7 (although I have the latest/greatest Mark III, which only adds direct streaming to the internet for bloggers). My work just bought me the G7, and its a very nice little camera...small enough to put in a pocket, yet still has a very good mechanical zoom instead of just a digital zoom like many pocket similar sized cameras.
     
  7. skier

    skier Line Up and Wait

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    I think you’re hard pressed to find something better than the latest generation of phone. The computational algorithms that use are pretty amazing and way ahead of what’s in point and shoots. I know people using phones regularly for commercial photos published in magazines.

    What do you see as the limitation of a phone?

    I’ve got 3 lenses in mine with different focal lengths. I have an external flash connected via Bluetooth for when I want studio style lighting.

    I rarely pull out my DSLR anymore. Phones are really that good. And they win as well because most folks always have their phone on them.
     
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  8. Piperonca

    Piperonca Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    Optical zoom if you need it, is lacking. Some of the Android models are working on this. The other is handling, if you're doing a lot of vacation photography for example. That moose or bear (or airplane) looks more interesting close up in high detail. It's useful to have a pop-up viewfinder, as the RX and G7 cameras do. Moving photos from a SD card can have advantages and disadvantages.

    I also use my phone for 98% of my picture taking. What is helpful is the iPhone 11 smart battery case that has a camera button on the side. Makes it easy to grab and shoot.
     
  9. Cap'n Jack

    Cap'n Jack Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    The major limitation of a phone might be zoom. It's difficult to keep the optics small and have a wide range of optical zoom. Some point & shoot have 40x or higher optical zoom. I think current phones have 10x optical zoom?
    Phones also have smaller sensors, hence smaller pixels to keep the megapixel counts; this affects low-light images given the same sensor technology.
    Those two observations are on the edge of the envelope for the way most people use their phones, and phones create great images, on a par with other cameras.
     
  10. wanttaja

    wanttaja En-Route

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    Physical handling and sensitive touch-screens are the major issues I have with using phones as a camera. They're much harder to hang on to; an issue when taking pictures from an open-cockpit airplane. Plus, as I manipulate the phone to point it, there's a chance my fingers will brush the screen and change a setting. It's also impossible to use while wearing gloves. I use a ~7 year old Samsung point and shoot for most of my photography when I leave the house with the intent to shoot pictures. Optical zoom, automatic download of pictures to my PC via wifi.

    With that said, I'm using my phone more and more often for casual photography. It produces quite nice results, but if I need to play games with zoom or exposure settings, I'll bring the point and shoot.

    Like Skier, I rarely pull out my DSLR anymore, generally, only when I need extreme zoom and/or image stabilization.

    Ron Wanttaja
     
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  11. Piperonca

    Piperonca Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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  12. Cap'n Jack

    Cap'n Jack Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    An iPhone might survive the fall :)
    Yet another phone-out-the-plane video:
    https://9to5mac.com/2020/12/14/ipho...ne-and-survives-with-all-the-action-recorded/
    The video during the fall isn't that great
    (2 commercials, scroll to 2:07 minutes, in Portuguese) :
    https://g1.globo.com/rj/regiao-dos-...recuperado-em-praia-de-cabo-frio-videos.ghtml

    As @Piperonca mentioned, a strap is a nice thing to have.
     
  13. skier

    skier Line Up and Wait

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    The OP mentions potraits/group shots and landscapes. Landscapes are typically taken on wide angle lenses. Portraits/group shots are typically taken between 50 and 135mm (35 mm equivalent). The iPhone has a 65mm equivalent, which puts it right in this range. And it does a fantastic job with portraits.

    If the OP said they were looking to shoot sports, wildlife, air-to-air, etc. I might agree that the optical zoom impacts the capability. But for the noted areas? It isn't really something to worry about.

    Smaller sensors, true, but they are getting bigger. This is also where the computational algorithms and blending of multiple exposures (done in phone) really shines.

    See reviews of the iPhone 12 Pro Max here: http://austinmann.com/trek/iphone-12-pro-camera-max-review-zion

    and here: https://petapixel.com/2020/11/19/the-iphone-12-pro-max-real-pro-photography/

    And the iPhone isn't typically thought of as the best when it comes to phone cameras.

    _____________________________________________

    They say the best camera is the one you have with you and that's almost always a phone.

    Personally, IMHO either go with a phone or a DSLR or similar sized mirrorless with interchangeable lenses.
     
  14. Cap'n Jack

    Cap'n Jack Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    You still can't get around physics. Again, that's one of the "edge of the envelope" uses of the camera; and you get some odd artifacts from moving objects when combining multiple exposures. Binning the pixels usually yields a better result despite the loss of resolution. There's also a limit to sensor size while keeping a phone small.

    I've done any number of landscapes at 400+ mm. Phones have long done a great job at stitching images for wider angles for landscapes. I'm not disagreeing modern phones can't be used for many, probably most, shots, and work well for professional uses at times. Modern point-and-shoots have many of those same algorithms, too.
     
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  15. Albany Tom

    Albany Tom Line Up and Wait PoA Supporter

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    Thanks everybody! Appreciate all the info and feedback. I do see the lack of zoom as probably the most significant thing. Stock phone focal length is OK, but kinda plain to me. Having something around 24 for landscape is nice. And maybe less of a big deal is portrait, where you can just crop a bit, but having something in the 100-150mm range is nicer. Less work to do outside the camera.

    Hadn't considered different lenses for the phone, or a phone change. I think they're using a relatively low end iphone.

    Maybe going up a little bit in size to get a slightly better sensor isn't a bad idea...going to think about that, too. More later...dinner calling.
     
  16. JOhnH

    JOhnH Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Before you buy, make sure the recipient really wants a second device to carry around. My wife bought me really nice pocket sized Canon with all the bells and whistles. But I still use my Iphone 99% of the time.
    Perhaps buy her a better phone/camera.
     
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  17. Albany Tom

    Albany Tom Line Up and Wait PoA Supporter

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    Yeah, that's a good point. I'm trying to not project what I want on her. On the one hand, though, she's more of a geek than me...once rented a car just to play with parking assist.
     
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  18. Piperonca

    Piperonca Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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  19. cessna182b

    cessna182b Line Up and Wait

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    Good advice. It happens that I have one of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS50 cameras similar to what the OP mentions. Great camera, and when I need the abilities of that zoom lens I make sure to have it with me.
    OTOH, it takes an intentional photographic expedition to bring that about. As other have said, my cell phone is good enough for 99% of my picture taking - and I don't want another lump on my waist in most cases.

    Dave
     
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  20. Everskyward

    Everskyward Experimenter PoA Supporter

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    I have the FZ80 which is similar. I took it to Africa, and have used it at Fleet Week, but it's definitely not pocket-sized. I use my iPhone for most photography.
     
  21. chemgeek

    chemgeek Pattern Altitude

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    For pocket-size, I have a Nikon A900 (the current version, A1000 is nicer, and has a mini-EVF) that has a pretty nice 35X optical zoom lens. The sensor size of these type cams (and phones) limits image dynamic range, but I have lots of nice letter size prints made from this size sensor. For higher quality images in a small camera format, I use a Nikon Z50 with its ultracompact 16-50 mm pancake lens. Image quality is actually better than my heavier and larger Nikon D7100, my former workhorse cam, even at high ISO settings. This is an APS-C size sensor, which is head and shoulders above pocket cams or phones. There is an 18-140 mm lens coming soon for the Z50, and that would make a fairly lightweight one-lens cam solution, but not exactly pocket size.
     
  22. kshaw

    kshaw Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I bought one of the Nikon Weatherproof Coolpix Camera a few years ago. I do volunteer work for a conservation group that manages about 100 nesting boxes for Wood Ducks. This camera was safe to use in the swamps and would record GPS coordinates on each picture. This is a nice feature for GIS postings. It has worked well for that as well as kayaking.
     
  23. chartbundle

    chartbundle Pattern Altitude

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    Or you can go retro and get basically the same camera in the Z fc which is likely to be my next new camera after I finish this round of selling junk online.
     
  24. Albany Tom

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    :) I consulted one of the GF's daughters, read reviews on all of the cameras mentioned above, and made a purchase through B&H. I may regret going w/ a camera vs a phone, but I have too many biases against the phone people to have gone that way. I'll discover how this goes over in about 3 weeks and will advise accordingly. I don't want to jinx anything by announcing the choice yet.
     
  25. FastEddieB

    FastEddieB Touchdown! Greaser!

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    One very cool and underused feature if you have an Apple Watch/iPhone combination is the Camera app on the watch. It lets you see what the iPhone’s camera sees at a distance and then take the photo, great for nature shots:

    https://support.apple.com/guide/watch/camera-remote-apda6e61c287/watchos

    I can see how it might be useful for getting shots of hard-to-reach areas when doing maintenance.

    I have a Canon SuperZoom but it rarely gets used - the user interface is truly horrible, but the optical zoom is great when needed. One example:

    [​IMG]
     
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  26. Checkout_my_Six

    Checkout_my_Six Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I have an old iPhone 6 that could work.....lol o_O