The myth of the perfect camera...

Discussion in 'Open Gear Talk' started by dixeyk, Dec 23, 2012.

  1. dixeyk

    dixeyk Guest

    You know the one...tiny, fast AF, great images, interchangeable lenses (or not depending on your preference). light, cheap, amazing JPEGs and can make 30x40 prints no problem. I can tell you after years of trying to find it that it's just not there. I am someone that carries my camera with me all the time. I take it to work, school, home, even to the movies. If I'm there so is the camera tucked in whatever stealthy messenger bag/backpack I have decided is "the perfect bag" that week. Since I have been on this quest I have gone through a LOT of cameras. Some have been great and others not so much but I have managed to take pictures the entire time so I suppose that's something. From the long list of contenders there have been four that have risen to the top. Non eof them is perfect. Cameras are by there very nature a compromise. It's up to the photographer to figure out which one is the best compromise for them...or whose faults are the easiest to ignore. For me the following cameras come to mind (all for different reasons).

    The Panasonic SZ3 (mine's blue)
    It's REALLY small, has a 25-300 stabilized zoom and produces much better images that you would think. I'll even go so far as to say it is the best ZS mega zoom camera Panasonic ever produced (still). It weighs nothing and while it may not be the fastest shooter out there (trust me it's not) it can shoot 720 HD video and like every point and shoot it does lovely macros. Before you go poo pooing it because it's an old obsolete point and shoot try checking out some of the stuff it can do in the ands of someone that knows what to do with it. Like this guy.

    Panasonic GX1 with PL45/2.8
    Fast AF, great images, easy to use controls, great UI and probably one of the best m43 lenses I have ever used. The body can be had cheaply (the lens is spend) but you really would have a tough time arguing with the results. The PL45 is sharp, renders beautifully and has a nice and close MFD. I know all the m43 press goes to the E-M5 and newly hatched E-PM2 and E-PL5 but I think usability is very important and I have always found the UI and controls of Panasonic cameras to be much more to my liking than that of Olympus cameras. So much so that I am willing to give up IBIS and superior OOC JPEGs for it. The GX1 is IMHO the best m43 body that ever came out of Panasonic. The only thing that would have made it better is if it had been equipped with an articulating LCD like the G series. THEN it would be perfect.

    Infinitum by dixeyk, on Flickr
    GX1 and PL45

    Trooper by dixeyk, on Flickr
    GX1 and PL45

    Sony NEX with Rokkor Legacy glass
    Whether buy design or dumb luck the NEX is a superb platform for manual focus glass. The UI is non standard and takes some getting used to but if what you are looking for is an experience to closely resemble shooting film on an old OM1 or Minolta SRT than the NEX is for you. The NEX was where I went after leaving m43. I love my old legacy lenses and as good as the GX1 was it didn't work for me as a digital back for my old glass. I fid that focus peaking on the NEX has really made using my old lenses a reasonable endeavor. it works well and after some practice I find I rare;y need to zoom in to double check focus. I have a NEX 5n and I like it quite a bit. I don't use an EVF so the newer NEX6 or NEX7 didn't really seem like something I needed or wanted. The 5n is fast, quiet and images will knock your socks off. The lenses all seem a bit outsized compared to the body and I find that when I use the NEX i have to adopt a different way of carrying the camera (I use the lens as a grab point). The biggest disappointment for the 5n is the AF. As far as I'm concerned the NEX doesn't actually come equipped with AF. It's slow, unpredictable and while it works well enough is good light when conditions deteriorate so does the AF. That said, I still use the 5n and for me it represents the best manual focus experience I have come across. I think of it as a digital back for my Rokkors and Hexanons. I'd think of it as a digital back for my Leicas but I can't see ever affording a Leica so I make do. The NEX/MF lens combination makes me smile when I use it.

    The Herald of the Ice Queen by dixeyk, on Flickr
    5n with MD Rokkor 35-70/3.5 macro

    Desolate by dixeyk, on Flickr
    5n with Pen-F 40/1.4

    Sheltered by dixeyk, on Flickr
    5n with MC Rokkor 50/1.4

    Fuji X10
    Last up is the newest camera in the stable. It's small, light and like the ZS3 a point and shoot...but it's not like any point and shoot I have ever used before. It has extensive manual control and all the knobs needed to get to them, a nice fast F2-2.8 zoom lens and a build quality that looks and feels like a much more expensive camera. It's also a camera that requires your full attention when using it. The X10 demands that you learn how to use it before it gives up the images it is capable if giving. I haven't had it long but it has real promise. The images are detailed, metering is accurate and AF is fast. I know that a lot folks will disagree with me but I find the IQ on the X10 to not be that far off from the IQ that you see on the older generation 12mp m43 bodies (with a kit lens).

    Egg by dixeyk, on Flickr
    Fuji X10

    So which is the best? None are the best. They're all good for different reasons and I could be fine with any of them. They all do what is asked of them and each has its advantages. If someone were to ask which I'd recommend for them (and they weren't photographers) it would be the GX1 because of all the cameras it is the easiest for anyone to step in and use with no problems and because m43 has a big selection of very good quality native lenses. I think the Fuji X10 makes an ideal travel camera (IF you take the time to learn how to use it). It's small, light and versatile.

    My personal favorite...I haven't decided yet...maybe all of them. :biggrin:
  2. Thanks for that summation, Kevin :)
  3. Lawrence A.

    Lawrence A. SC All-Pro

    Nov 8, 2012
    New Mexico
    Nice shots. You're right, of course, there is no perfect camera. That's probably why I enjoy having a stable of digital and film cameras to choose from. I have to say, though, when I want the experience of shooting an OM-1 -- I pick up and load my OM-1. I still enjoy the black and white darkroom, and I somehow think my film images are better -- no fault of digital; it's just that film slows me down, and makes me really look. I'm working on better digital work habits, however.

    The "best" camera is the one that lets you take the image you want on a given day. Some days for me that's the E-M5, a camera I absolutely love, but other days it's the Bessa R film rangefinder loaded with either acros or hp5. Still other days it's a digital point and shoot or the Olympus XA -- the tiny, pocketable coupled rangefinder from the 70's that is just a fun little thing to shoot, yielding quite reasonably good results.

    After the mail comes tomorrow my favorite will be my new X-10 for at least the next week. Like you, I always have a camera on me, so a smallish point and shoot that acts like (and looks like!) a real camera should be fun to use. I wear a vest with many pockets, some of them very large, about 9 months of the year, so lots of cameras end up "pocketable" for me that don't really fit the usual definition. But I'll still throw pounds of brick-like Hasselblad and Zeiss lenses in my Lowepro backpack, attach a tripod and go out for adventures in medium format shooting in the field. I especially like wandering the volcanic canyons on the west side of Albuquerque with the Hassy, looking for petroglyphs to photograph. It feels right to me. There is no objective correlation between petroglyphs and Hasselblads, but exploring the one with the other is something I find especially pleasing. Which is the other thing. The best camera is one you absolutely love to work with.