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Which compact camera with viewfinder?

Discussion in 'General Equipment Chat & Advice' started by ChrisNewman, Aug 24, 2012.

  1. ChrisNewman

    ChrisNewman Well-Known Member


    I want to buy a compact camera for use when it is not practical to carry my DSLR outfit. But I’m finding it difficult to put together a short list of cameras I should consider. In common, I guess, with most other “baby boomers” who are not short-sighted, without reading glasses my eyes can no longer focus on fine detail like that shown on a camera monitor. (I can read the large print “Information” screen on my Nikon D90 without glasses, but I would hate to try to compose a photo from such a blurry view.) It would be very inconvenient to need to carry and use glasses to take photos, and so I want a camera I can use primarily through its viewfinder. But most reviews of groups of compact cameras scarcely mention whether the cameras have viewfinders, never mind how effective they are.

    I need a camera small enough to put in my pocket. I want a zoom lens that will go at least as wide as 28mm equivalent on full frame, but I don’t need “superzoom” telephoto performance. Naturally, I would like the best IQ and low light performance I can get for the size and price. I want a display of what settings the camera will use, and I want to be able to set exposure compensation and take control of the ISO, shutter and aperture settings when appropriate. The camera must also have a built-in flash.

    I usually set my D90 to bracket exposures and save images as both RAW and JPEG files. I would prefer my compact to be able to do the same, but it is not essential.

    My wife has a Canon A1200. It is beautifully small, but it is only a point-and-shoot camera, and although good value for £50, I would like better IQ. I am aware of the Canon G12, Nikon P7100 and FujiFilm X10. I assume any of these cameras would do most of what I want very well, except that they show no information in the viewfinder. But they are bigger and heavier than I would prefer for carrying in my pocket.

    Are there any other compact cameras with viewfinders that I should consider? I would also be interested to hear opinions about using the cameras I have named, through their viewfinders.

    If my only choices are Canon G12, Nikon P7100 and FujiFilm X10, the X10 has several advantages. It has the largest sensor and the fastest lens, it is the lightest, and it has the advantage of a manual zoom control. It is also reputed to have the best viewfinder, and has been awarded Amateur Photographer’s “Enthusiast compact camera of 2012”. This suggests that if I like its handling, it would probably be the best of the bunch. But I do have a couple of concerns about it.

    Problems with bright pinpoints forming “orbs” were reported with early models. Changes to the sensor are said to have fixed this. But is it possible to check, for instance by serial number, whether a camera on sale has the later sensor type?

    Also, DPReview (http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/fujifilm-x10/8) reported that current software packages do not process RAW files from the EXR sensor well, and for best results you should convert them in-camera. Is it possible to copy raw image files from computer back into the camera for later editing? (Although I don’t relish editing them without a keyboard and large monitor!)

    With thanks in advance,
    Chris Newman
  2. jchrisc

    jchrisc Well-Known Member

    I have used the X10 a little. Never had any problem with the so called "orbs". Nice clear viewfinder (much better than the Canon G12) but it doesn't frame particularly accurately and the screen is better in that respect. The latest version of Adobe Camera RAW, as in Lightroom 4 and CS6, processes its RAW files without difficulty and there are other solutions.
  3. ChrisNewman

    ChrisNewman Well-Known Member

    Thanks for your comments, Chris - much appreciated.

    The DPReview test, and various threads I found, agree that most packages are able to process the X10’s RAW files, but claim that all give results with worse IQ than JPEGs or RAW files processed in camera. I like to be able to fall back on RAW files if I have not got the exposure or colour right in a JPEG, but expect to get results that are better in all respects for my efforts!
  4. rjbell

    rjbell Well-Known Member

    Another option is the oylmpus xz-1 with the detachable EVF.
  5. ChrisNewman

    ChrisNewman Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the suggestion. I would consider a built-in EVF, but the Olympus XZ-1 looks really knobbly and pocket-unfriendly with the EVF attached (and it wouldn’t be much use to me without it).
  6. rjbell

    rjbell Well-Known Member

    It slides on and off the the hot shoe it a second. You take it off when you put it in your pocket.
  7. ChrisNewman

    ChrisNewman Well-Known Member

    I realize you could take it off, but then I would have 2 pieces to carry and look after - I want the convenience of a one-piece camera I can just fish out of my pocket and use if I see something interesting.
  8. bonynge5

    bonynge5 Active Member

    I bought the X10 to replace my G9, nice camera. I found the X10 in John Lewis. You can play with them there without some sales assistant wrestling you to the ground and trying to extract the credit card from ones wallet. To the point, I'm really pleased with it. Picture quality is superb. I've started doing some street photography and it's just the job. The G9 would have been ok, but to be honest I had to have the X10, cos it was there. The view finder as has been said isn't super accurate but you get used to it and it adds to the fun. I bought a lens hood and spare battery through Amazon. A leather look case off eBay for £13.00, does the job. The Fuji one is silly money. One more thing, I would have liked a flip out screen, but it's not madly important. Great value for money. I think they are going for about £350 ish.
  9. 0lybacker

    0lybacker In the Stop Bath

    Have somewhat similar dilemma. Due to lengthening eyesight, continuing use of M6 requires an extra £100 investment for a viewfinder lens. My film SLRs, soon, ditto. DSLR is big'n'heavy but delight to use, digi-compact (LX2) also delightful but unusable in some situations. If it HAD a hot shoe I would be happy to pop in a finder & take my chances.

    But it gets worse: Don't like later Pannies: the GF1 is great but long discontinued and again requires expensive additional EVF. Ditto later Pens and ZX-1*. Have tried Pen 1 w/17mm OVF supplement but focus uncertainties make me uncomfortable about serious use.

    So, likely candidates are G12, P7100 and Fuji's X10 or X-Pro1 - getting expensive on the latter but the final alternative is worse: Leica M8 or M9! There is also the t.o.t.r. Sony Nex, it has had some lukewarm reviews like everything mentioned here (with the exception of the M9 - again! < Can't get away from it! :rolleyes: Help!!) but it's not my cup of tea and does cause computer clutter - like Canon - with new software.

    I have handled a G12 on several occasions but not used one for proper picture taking. I like it.

    So, my options seem to be:
    1. P7100 bigger, bulkier than P7000 but improved on that camera's focus/start-up failings and price now coming down, viewfinder still said by some to be less than adequate. {As you use a D90, Chris, you may also want to stick with Nikon.}
    2. Canon G12.
    3a. Fuji X-Pro1. Not that compact, feels good to me and unlike some other Phogs, I quite like the hybrid viewfinder. Cheaper than a s/h M9 and will accept my M lenses w/adapr but will offer more software clutter & learning.
    3b. M9. Aauuuggh! But, in old age I may have to accept becoming a rangefinder only photographer - it does happen.
    4. Do body-building course & carry the DSLR more outdoors - viewfinder is superb and the rest of the camera is probably the most all-round competent bit of kit I have ever owned. Lots of people only have and use one camera.
    5. Accept a two pocket solution {* which you do not want, Chris} and try a D3200 w/fixed focal length lens - a 28mm, perhaps. <There are problems in that the Nikon range has a bit of a hole at that focal length.
    6a. Finally, the easy {cheaper?} wild card situation: procrastinate. Hope against hope that Olympus improve on the E-M5 and, more importantly, the lenses, so that an E-M6 with a very compact 28-100 (35mm equiv) comes along soon. I have a foot already in Olympus digital camp so my software objection doesn't come into play. As it is, an E-M5 with a pancake fxd.f/length lens should be pocketable but it's still quite pricey for what you get.
    6b. Another procrastinate option: I suspect camera manufacturing will become more specialised as 'phones'n'tablets take over basic imaging. So, another option is to get by with a 'phone (currently quite expensive but something likely to be always carried) or wait for Nikon or Olympus (or any other manufact.) to make the perfect camera to fill the gap. I suspect it may just dawn on camera design depts. in near future that most camera users are ageing 'MaMs' < middle-aged-males!!;):eek:

    Hope my rambling thoughts 'on paper' help your considerations.

    PS: I have one more 'nuclear' option. Give up digital. Only use film!:) {While it lasts. :(}
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2012
  10. 0lybacker

    0lybacker In the Stop Bath

    Thought occurs more specifically to your situation: have you thought about borrowing the A1200 and a memory card and going to a dealer to look at the A1300 to see what has changed, take some test shots and compare IQ w/A1200?

    Secondly, with Nikon and Canon in the household that opens the G12 option. I realise it is bigger than you want but there are no other options for you apart from the Fujis ...

    ... except a Panasonic (or OM-D) reflex.

    No-one makes a very compact digi-compact with a viewfinder. Perhaps we need to start lobbying camera makers? :rolleyes:;)
  11. bonynge5

    bonynge5 Active Member

    Hold your horses everyone. Take a look at the Samsung, (does everything but cook dinner) camera. See What digital camera out now.
  12. ChrisNewman

    ChrisNewman Well-Known Member

    Thanks bonynge5 for your recommendation for the X10. We found John Lewis (Watford) far more helpful than Dixons or Comet earlier this year buying a digital telly. But I’m not sure they will have all 3 cameras, and I have found our local dealer SRS, and also Park Cameras, very good.

    I value the lens hoods I use with my D90. I’ve seen a picture of the Fujifilm lens hood, but it looks very pocket-unfriendly, so I would need to pass on that. Unfortunately I read that finding a protective filter too fit it is a real pain.

    I was uneasy that I might be missing something useful with my D90 not having its screen articulated, but I have found that I scarcely ever use the screen except for checking what I have just taken, so it shouldn’t matter much to me. But the G12 does look very well protected with its lens withdrawn and screen folded in!
  13. 0lybacker

    0lybacker In the Stop Bath

    I don't have large hands, but not very small ones either. The G12 is an almost palm-sized camera to me.

    Agree with your view that that is not truly pocketable, except in generously cut trousers, definitely not in shirts, but for summer months have you thought about a pouch style belt or waistband bag? Winter generally offers bigger pockets in all sorts of coats & jackets!

    My trial run with the Pen1 (April thru' August) has been mostly conducted with it around my neck on a short strap, metal lens hood in place, for street/outdoor photography.
  14. rjbell

    rjbell Well-Known Member

    I think it will probably depend on how old they are. I wouldn't be seen dead with a pouch style belt or waistband bag aka 'bum bag'!:)
  15. ChrisNewman

    ChrisNewman Well-Known Member

    Thanks 0lybacker for lots of food for thought. It would be convenient for software to stick to Nikon, but I already have Canon software on the PC for my wife’s A1200. And I get the impression that the G12 is a better camera than the P7100 in most respects other than its zoom range.

    My first “competent” camera was an Olympus 35RC rangefinder (which I think is a close match in size and weight to the “enthusiast” digital compacts I am looking at). I was quite at home with the rangefinder, but wanted the flexibility of zoom and macro lenses. (I think I wouldn’t be too worried about returning to manual focus with a rangefinder or other focusing aid, but my D90 gives no assistance, so I don’t use manual focusing on it.) When I bought a Pentax Super A SLR, the 35RC became my wife’s camera, and my "large pocket" travel camera, until she dropped it. I went looking for a more streamlined compact (the Olympus XA looked very attractive), but at that time none seemed to allow the photographer to control shutter speed and aperture independently, and so I bought a 2nd hand 35RC for about the same price I had paid for my new one! I don’t know whether recent film compacts were point-and-shoot only, or allowed the photographer to take control.

    All-film wouldn’t be too bad, in my opinion, except that I love the freedom of not worrying about “wasting” film that digital gives me. But once most of my photos were digital, I found it a nuisance to have a few coming in from our film compact!
  16. ChrisNewman

    ChrisNewman Well-Known Member

    I’d be very surprised if the IQ of the A1300 is better than the A1200. I think the sensor is equally small. The lens has a wider zoom range, which probably reduces its optical quality. Both claim “Digital image stabilisation”, which I believe is a euphemism for increasing the ISO and the shutter speed. (I miss image stabilization when using my D90 with its 17-55mm in poor light, and feel somewhat aggrieved that Canon users get it built-in to their 17-55mm, whilst all other crop frame DSLR manufacturers offer sensor-based stabilization. But the much bigger sensor on my D90 suffers much less from increasing the ISO than a tiny sensor.)

    But my other big dislike with the A1200 (or, I assume, the A1300) is the lack of control. The A1200 won’t allow me to balance aperture against shutter speed (although with such a tiny sensor, DOF is almost inevitably large). You can apply exposure compensation, but taking a bracketed set of 3, as I usually set my D90, would be tedious, and there are no RAW files for making corrections afterwards. I think the “enthusiast” compacts I listed will auto-bracket and add RAWs much like my D90.

    Thanks for the reassurance that I haven’t overlooked any models.
  17. ChrisNewman

    ChrisNewman Well-Known Member

    I definitely want a more capable camera than the A1200, and so it looks as though I will need to get a G12-sized one. I have fairly large hands (I’m over 6’ tall), and better handling is generally a bonus with larger cameras. I will put it in my pocket if I have one large enough. I sometimes wear a “bum bag” with a waterproof if the weather is warm but uncertain, and I don’t have my camera bag, and a compact could go in there. I might need to continue borrowing the A1200 sometimes! If I wear a neck strap, I might as well have my DSLR on it!
  18. ChrisNewman

    ChrisNewman Well-Known Member

    Perceptive about age! I’ve never been one for following fashion, and now I’ve reached an age where convenience nearly always trumps looks. But there are some posh occasions, such as weddings, where I wouldn’t want to wear my camera bag or a bum bag.
  19. ChrisNewman

    ChrisNewman Well-Known Member

    Please can you tell me what model this wonder camera is? I had a quick look at the Samsung UK website, but none of the compacts pictured seemed to have viewfinders.
  20. spinno

    spinno Well-Known Member

    that's correct they don't.
    think the poster was suggesting the new announcement from Samsung may be of interest to you...but as you say it ain't got what you want.
    I like Samsung compacts apart from the fact they have no viewfinders.
    I am on record on here as saying I love a camera next to my eye rather than at arms length.....

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