Not every camera is right for every person. There are always tradeoffs in the balance of price, camera size and weight, image quality, video features, zoom length, ect.
Above all else in my opinion I feel that the old saying “The Best Camera Is the One You Have With You” is the most important factor.
So along that line of thinking, a big DSLR may give you incredible picture quality and an ability to use fancy high quality lenses that are super fast and can capture wonderful quality in low light but if you don’t have it with you because you (like most people) aren’t going to lug a 5 lb camera around everywhere with you then I feel like if you’re only going to have one camera it should be something you are more likely to have on your person.
Let’s face it, everyone wants to travel light and weather you are on vacation or if you are a blogger or someone taking pictures of your children at a birthday party, it is far more convenient to have something you can whip out of your pocket to take a photo.
So with that in mind, I will break down my camera recommendations and explain what type of shooter each camera is best suited for.
The Sony HX9V (my current pocket camera)
It has a tiny footprint and can easily be pocketed and taken anywhere. It has a 16 times zoom which can get me across the harbor and zoomed in on a boat from far far away. It takes great video and features a video mode which will take 60 frames per second in HD which is rare for a small camera at it’s price point. It has a killer panorama mode.
It has a smaller sensor size compared to the Canon Powershot S95/S100. Sensor sizes are one of the most important parts of taking good photos in low light. It is what sits behind the lens and collects light (photography is all about collecting light). The larger the sensor, generally the better the quality of the images in low light. There currently is no camera that has a 16 times zoom and a large sensor that you can put in your pocket.
Hence the ever present tradeoff. In my case, pocketability and a need for a long zoom trumps a larger sensor with a limited zoom or fixed pancake lens that only gets you the equivalent of a 4 to 5 times zoom. I simply need that ability and reach in my walk around camera. However if you don’t care about the zoom feature or video capabilities there are better cameras out there in the similar small pocketable package, namely The Canon Powershot S95/S100.
The Canon Powershot S95/S100
If zoom is not important to you because 95% or more of your photos are taken indoors of family members or street scenes, the Canon Powershot S95 (a great value as it is last year’s model) and this year’s updated S100 are my top picks.
They have large sensors which are fantastic for gathering light. They also have super fast lenses which freeze the action and give you super sharp images.
The tradeoff is you get that large sensor in a small pocketable package but you won’t get more than a 5 times zoom. That is one third of the zoom of the Sony HX9V. It will take a much better picture than the Sony HX9V in low light and some of my favorite photos taken in 2011 were taken with this camera during the short time I had it but the short zoom drove me nuts. that isn’t to say it would drive you nuts. Lots of folks don’t care to take pictures of objects so far away and the lack of a huge zoom wouldn’t matter at all to them, especially when you consider that you can get better pictures out of the camera.
Now if you don’t care about a little extra weight you could get yourself my second camera which is an interchangeable lens camera, this brings us to the Sony NEX-5N
The Sony NEX-5N
If you don’t mind a little extra weight, don’t want to sacrifice image quality because of a smaller sized sensor in a pocketable long zoom camera or be limited by the zoom range in a large sensor short zoom range camera then I feel the Sony NEX-5N is a little beast of a camera.
It has the same sensor as cameras that cost almost double it’s cost, has awesome video capabilities and a ton of features that many camera magazines and gadget websites rave about.
I am over the moon about mine and the possibilities I’m discovering every time I pick up the miniature tank.
Large sensor size, awesome video capabilities, smallish for a interchangeable lens camera(I can still put it in a jacket pocket), the ability to use all types of different lenses for different types of shooting.
Minuses- Too large to fit in pants pocket, lenses can be expensive.
So there you have it. I still will use my Sony HX9V when I need to be able to keep a camera with me in my pocket at all times and for more serious shooting I’ll bring out the NEX-5N. Those options work for me. They may not be your ideal camera but if you tell me what type of things are important to you you can always ask me and I’ll try to help you make a good decision for your next camera.
These are the things to think about and decide how important they are to you-
Size- do you need to carry it in a pocket, a jacket pocket, or does that not matter?
Zoom- Do you need a long zoom 9if not you can get a great pocketable camera for not a lot of dough.
Photo Quality- If the absolute best photo is what you want and you don’t care about the size of the camera or cost.
If you already have a large DSLR be it Canon or Nikon or whatever the best thing you could do to upgrade your photos is get yourself a fast prime lens. I love the 35mm range on a standard (not full frame) DSLR this will give you a classic focal length of the same perspective of whet your eyes see. the thing about a prime lens is because it is set a t a fixed focal length the quality and speed of these will give you outstanding results compared to the zoom lens you camera came with (usually the standard 15-55mm) kit lens. Kit lenses usually have slow apertures which won’t freeze the action for you in low light like a fast 35mm 1.8 lens. I got the Nikon version for The Mrs and it hasn’t left the mount of her Nikon D40 since we got it for her. be awar with the fixed lens you have no ability to zoom. You zoom with your feet by getting closer to your subject. the thing about the fast primes though are that your image are generally so sharp you can crop them right down in post very easily.
I highly recommend a 35mm prime for those with a Nikon or Canon or Pentax or olympus DSLR.
Here’s the one I got the Mrs for her Nikon-
and here is the Canon version-