It is that time of year when many wonder about the camera too take on holiday. The ‘Compact’ is often decided upon. I am flattered that people ask me about this or that camera for just such an occasion. Not overlooking the fact, that something smaller, lighter and more discrete than a conventional ‘D’ SLR design for among other things, ‘street photography’ is often desirable.

While this is not a product area I constantly keep up with, I nevertheless am very aware of the extensive feature sets now available, especially on those models one step down from your traditional D SLR system. In fact, this reminds me of a few friends and enthusiasts I know who have gone down the traditional SLR route over the years, but now take their pictures on smaller cameras.

I must confess I have never really found a ‘compact’ does enough for me. So much so, that I don’t think I have used one on anything like a regular basis for about 15 years.

Image © Nikon Corporation

That can probably be put down to the following reasons which while not unique to myself, are possibly different too many.

First and foremost I have of course on many ‘working’ days other cameras with me that can probably do a better job. I also find that when I ‘see’ a picture I may not often have the time to stop, then work the image into something I want. In recent times I have resorted to the camera on my phone to grab a ‘snap’ when needed. Often just as a visual record of a place to revisit with a ‘proper’ camera with an eye maybe as a location too use.

So far I have found camera phones lacking in what I want, so with a few questions from others, have once again started to consider a more ‘compact’ solution to use on the move, let alone for those personal pictures of family and friends.

Please do not misunderstand me, I have tried or reviewed in the past such cameras on and off, but never for long enough to make a decision about which one to have. So straight to the point, which models come to mind as I write this? The first thing is that there are simply so many, possibly too many to choose from. And I suspect it will only get worse with new models and concepts planned. So unless a decision is made fairly quickly, it can become out of date quite rapidly. But as things stand what would I do?

Image © Sigma Corporation

Most obviously for me would be the choice of Nikon’s Coolpix 700 I think. I like the spec and many features, but in truth, when I first picked it up and used it briefly, it just did not sit as comfortably in my hands as I would have wished for.

That may seem a small point, but I learned years ago that if you cant hold a camera comfortably, you can say good bye to maximising all the image potential in what would most likely be a hand held product most of the time.

The fact is, I should have another look at that camera as it will allow my Nikon Speedlights to be used. And as many of you know I like to use flash a lot for he pictures you can’t do with daylight alone, or without far more time spent post capture.

Image © Canon Inc

Then we have Canon’s G12. I must confess that I have not yet had a chance to shoot anything with that camera, but if it continues where the rest of its predecessors in the Canon ‘G’ series left off, it must be a contender on many a persons short list. And if you shoot with Canon’s Speedlights, they are compatible also.

But the list grows. The Olympus Pen and ‘E’ models, Leica’s ‘V,’ ‘D’ and ‘X’ models, plus the Sony NEX cameras, Samsung NX and Panasonic Lumix models should also be given the once over. As of course should be FuiFilm’s FinePix X100 and Sigma’s DP2x or other cameras in the range. I did try the previous DP2s and was not disappointed in what I saw.

And there is one more that definitely springs to mind. When it was launched a couple of years ago, I briefly picked up Ricoh’s GX-R system. I was certainly impressed with the concept, and made a mental note to have a more in depth look. Briefly, change the lens and you change the sensor at the same time, allowing for optimised performance. That makes in theory at least the best optical sense. And a very good supporting spec also.

So what would I do? Well, if I looked at them all, I would probably find something in all to admire and desire, but spent far too much time analysing all those options. From experience I would start from the point of not expecting a perfect solution. Instead, I would work to a ‘short list’ of Key ‘JC’ features that without which, I know I would probably not use the camera after an initial surge. For the record my starting preferences would be something like this:

Image © FujiFilm

Interchangeable, fixed focal length and reasonably fast aperture lenses
A Hotshoe to use a more powerful flash than a pop up
Substantial grip
AF and manual focus
A natural colour rendition
Manual and Aperture Priority exposure modes
Raw & Jpeg simultaneous shooting
A discrete look
Variable angle rear display

Notice a few things not on that list that surprise you? Thats because I think you have to have some key targets that prioritises a few things. Otherwise, you could go round in circles. But those prioroties should be yours. And of course, you really do need to pick up a camera to see what its like. I may elaborate a bit more at a later date, but I should use a few beforehand so I may comment more decisively.

End. (28/07/11).