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Old Sep 18, 2012, 10:57 AM   #1
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Default Best camera for under 500

Okay real question. It's a friend's birthday soon, he'd like a good camera.

He is an architect, has an excellent eye, takes some very good pictures with his iPhone. His wife is going to buy him a "real camera" for his birthday.

He is a keen sailor, they have two children aged 8 and 6. They want a camera for everyday stuff, family pics mostly. They live in London, but spend a lot of time on the boat in summer. No sports except for the schools sportsdays a couple of times a year. No wildlife.

They are a fashionable London couple with two good looking kids, so style is not irrelevant, ugly is out, but of course the main criteria is that it should be a good camera.

Note that it's a UK purchase and US prices are sometimes very different. Max budget is 500, but it would be nice to spend less. It has to be a new camera and a new model as it's a birthday present. I am going to strongly recommend ~100 for Lightroom or CaptureOne or even Corel Paintshop Pro v5.

I've made a longlist in 3 categories:

Fixed lens:
1. Fuji X10 (330 - good value, stylish, lovely camera.)
2. Nikon P7700 (500 - great zoom range.)
3. Canon S110 (430)
4. Sony RX100 (500 - a bit expensive though.)
5. Olympus XZ2 (480)
6. Panasonic LX7 (450)

Mirrorless:
1. Sony NEX-5N + 18-55 (430)
2. Panasonic GX1 + 14-42 (460)
3. Olympus E-PL3/5 ?

DSLR:
1. Sony A37 + 18-55. (380)
2. Nikon D3200 + 18-55 VR. (480)
3. Canon/Pentax/etc have nothing worthwhile in this price bracket!

Much to TCav's forthcoming amusement (I expect) I admit I don't like any of the mirrorless choices at this price level, and I don't like #3 or #4 or #5 or #6 on the fixed lens list as an only camera.

So to the shortlist in my order of current preference:

1. Sony A37 + 18-55. (380) - great tech, great value.
2. Fuji X10 (330) - great value, lens, optical viewfinder, v.good IQ, great style.
3. Nikon D3200 + 18-55 VR (480) - pushing the budget, but a cracking little camera.
4. Nikon P7700 (500) - good zoom range, but it doesn't seem like terribly good value.

I'm sure I have forgotten or overlooked something. Your assistance solicited.
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Old Sep 18, 2012, 3:38 PM   #2
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Hmm... interesting options.
I think my first port (lol..) of call would be to find out if size is an issue- which would rule out the DSLR's immediately,thus making the choices easier.
My guess is (and only a guess) that a small pocketable camera would be ideal on board his boat, rather than a clunky DSLR and any other additional kit bouncing around in the wheelhouse..!
This then pushes me straight to your compact (ish) list- which is a rather nice list.

If image quality was the No 1 priority, then the Sony would appear to be the leader of the pack- though if you add Canon's G1X to the list.....?
Of course the G1X's lens is a fair bit slower than the Sony and the G1X's AF speed and macro mode is inferior also.
I personally find it hard to overlook a tilt/swivel LCD- they're so useful for awkward angles or "over the crowd" shooting- and very useful if you shoot video.
This then brings the Nikon P7700 into the race- and the Olympus XZ-2.
The Nikon's zoom range is certainly a bonus- and I wouldn't discount the P7100,though you friend want's a "new" model.... fair enough.
The XZ-2 looks a compelling little fella- I own the XZ-1 and the "straight out of the camera" jpeg's are fabulous- as good as a DSLR at lower iso's (I kid you not).
If the XZ-2 improves upon the XZ-1, especially in higher iso performance (and it has a new sensor) it might be worth looking into.
Surely Canon's G15 has to be looked into also- sporting it's new fast lens and a CMOS sensor for the first time in a "G" (possibly the same as the S100..?)- oh what a pity they've ditched the tilt/swivel lcd...!!!
The LX-7 continues the seemingly desirable line of the "LX" brand- though maybe some may find the zoom range a touch limiting..?
Whilst the Fuji X10 is a great little cam.... has it not been on the market too long to be considered for a "latest" model.... which might bring the cute XF-1 in for consideration...?
The Canon S100 offered good all round IQ in a very small package- and I'm sure the S110 will do much the same... a great little all rounder.

This is a tough call... and although it might be at the top end of the budget,I do quite like the P7700- it simply ticks all of the boxes for me.
A pretty fast lens,RAW capture,tilting LCD,useful zoom,useful burst mode,the ability to use filters DIRECTLY onto the lens,full HD video with manual manipulation,wireless off camera flash control,built in ND filter,1/4000th sec max shutter speed...etc... and it looks good also...!
The Sony RX100 would also be considered- though the advantages of the BIG sensor might be compromised slightly by the f/4.9 aperture in low light/zoom situations.
I still have yet to find out if the Sony has an ND filter built in- and this coupled with a top shutter speed of 1/2000th sec might prove tricky for shallow DOF in good lighting.

If larger cameras are in the fight- the Sony A37 has a super spec' for the price and would be my choice for a DSLR in that price bracket.

I'm with you on the mirrorless camera's....
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Old Sep 18, 2012, 4:57 PM   #3
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I haven't used one yet. But, Michael over at Luminous Landscape seemed very impressed with the Sony RX100 and the design compromises they made to keep it small and light from what I can tell from this article there about it (and the 100% crops he posted at higher ISO speeds are quite impressive to my eyes for a camera that small). But, it does look like you'd want to shoot RAW to get the best out of it (of course, the print/viewing sizes you need would influence if you need to do that or not when using the higher ISO speed settings available, as you would have 20MP to work with).

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/re...ny_rx100.shtml

The zoom range could be limiting to some. Personally, that kind of range would be fine for my style of shooting and I'd prefer the better IQ you'd get from the Sony's 1" Sensor (versus a typical point and shoot camera of that size if I wanted a smaller model), with a brighter f/1.8 aperture available at a 28mm equivalent focal length on it's wider end for use in lower light. But, others may want more optical zoom.

There are pros and cons to any camera design. But, for someone using a phone for a camera right now, something like the RX100 looks like it would be a huge step up in IQ, without the size and weight associated with a larger dSLR (meaning he'd be more likely to use it versus leaving it on a shelf), and much better IQ than you'd get from a typical point and shoot model with a smaller sensor; in a pocketable camera design (since the RX100 lens fully retracts into the camera body from what I see in articles about it like the one at luminous-landscape.com).

Quote:
Originally Posted by SIMON40 View Post
I still have yet to find out if the Sony has an ND filter built in- and this coupled with a top shutter speed of 1/2000th sec might prove tricky for shallow DOF in good lighting.
Nope... from what I understand from reviews I've seen so far, there's no built in ND filter, and there's no option for filters of any kind, unless some third parties come out with some type of stick on filter attachment.
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Old Sep 19, 2012, 2:57 AM   #4
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this depends on what they want to carry around sa a really good groupon deal on a 600d for under 500. but this maybe too big
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Old Sep 20, 2012, 2:19 AM   #5
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Thanks guys,

G1X and G15 are both too expensive, 550-600 ish.

Curiously I think the desire for a "proper camera" actually will make them lean towards something bigger. They haven't got to the "this gear is all to big and heavy, I need something smaller" phase.

Even though the compacts are "premium models" I think they are mostly aimed at people who already have thousands invested in bigger systems and are looking for great quality in a small package.
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Old Sep 20, 2012, 3:52 AM   #6
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may be its time to take them out and put a camera round there necks and see how they get on.
I know so many people who say to me you take nice pictures and when they see the DSLR they then say I couldnt carry that around
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Old Sep 20, 2012, 10:15 AM   #7
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Curiously- the G1X can be had online now for low 400's- and the G15 will be priced higher...!?
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