Top Compact Vacation Camera 2012

Discussion in 'Open Gear Talk' started by Biro, Jul 22, 2012.

  1. Biro

    Biro SC Hall of Famer

    Aug 7, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    I have a few people asking me about what might be the best compact vacation camera now (summer 2012) available in the U.S. I suppose, for the purposes of the people in mind, compact can mean pocketable or something that can be easily and comfortably carried around the neck or on a shoulder. No heavy lifting; minimal bulk.

    I'm pretty sure these people are talking about fixed-lens cameras, because convenience is high on their list of priorities. But so is versatility and general image quality, so that might be negotiable. I might also toss in the importance of operating performance as in speed of zoom and auto-focus, shutter delay, etc.

    Despite these being vacation cameras, things like GPS and wi-fi are less important. A nice, healthy zoom range would be nice, but ultra-long telephoto (600mm and beyond) is not necessary. While it may not be possible, it would be nice if the camera(s) I recommend had some kind of viewfinder - or at least a rear LCD that really and truly did well in bright sunlight.

    Most of us understand the compromises involved with cameras in the so-called travel-zoom class. There are several reasonable choces there. But perhaps I need to think a bit more out of the box before giving my friends and colleagues final recommendations.

    I could easily point them in the direction of a small micro-four thirds camera. But I'm not sure they'd be satisfied with the zoom range of the kit lens and might not want to change lenses while on a trip, or pay for something like an Oly 14-150 on top of the camera purchase. But that might still be an option. As an aside, I wonder aloud if anyone on these forums has actually used an Oly 14-150 on a Panasonic body, something like the G3, and what kind of results they got without IBIS or lens-based OIS.

    I can't help but think the answer would be quite different a year or two down the road as more cameras feature the new one-inch sensors. But what about right now? What do the Best and Brightest of Serious Compacts recommend? I'm keeping an open mind.
  2. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    there's a TON great options if a 3x-4x zoom is acceptable. Actually they're really all good. But to me, the little pocket rocket 10x zooms that travelers seem to favor I think are all pretty rubbish if you get them into anything but full sun. If people require a longer zoom range, I would talk them into buying a bigger all-in-one camera like the Fuji X-S1, and if that is too heavy, I'd recommend the Panasonic FZ200. I really think people would be better off with a shorter zoom and higher IQ.
    • Like Like x 1
  3. Julien

    Julien SC Top Veteran

    Jan 6, 2012
    Paris, France
    I'd recommend:

    RX100 (pocketability)
    G1X (sensor + lens)
    X10 (OVF)
    • Like Like x 2
  4. Peter Schwart

    Peter Schwart SC Rookie

    May 10, 2011
    I would recommend the Samsung EX1 because it has become so cheap and is among the best in the compact category. If more reach is wanted the Ricoh CX5 has awesome deals because the new model is out. (Speaking of prices in Germany, maybe it is similar in the US)
    • Like Like x 2
  5. I wouldnt recommend anything, these days, which doesn't have a viewfinder (or the option for adding one). All that VF needs to be able to do at minimum is allow framing of a shot in bright sunlight, with some kind of indication that focus has been attained. With this in mind I'd probably be going for the Canon G1X or Fuji X-10. In the case of the Canon, you'd probably use the rear screen 99% of the time, but you have the option of a really really basic VF for those hideously bright days... the Fuji, I dunno... if it were me, I'd probably use the VF most of the time.
    • Like Like x 1
  6. snkenai

    snkenai SC All-Pro

    Oct 5, 2010
    kenai, AK
    Stephen Noel
    I'm glad someone started this thread. My sister asked me to recommend a "professional" camera for family pictures. Now, she does not have the same definition of "professional" as we do. She has never had, even a "good" camera, but knows that she is not getting the results that we are with our K20s, E-620s, or even E-ps. I want to give her some direction, in a fixed lens, quality camera for family gatherings and the occasional wedding, etc. We are from a large extended family. She is hoping to get something less than $500.00.
  7. Boid

    Boid SC All-Pro

    Dec 15, 2011
    Bangalore, India
    I recommend an Olympus XZ1, a tripod and a copy of "Understanding exposure" nowadays.
    • Like Like x 3
  8. Lili

    Lili SC Hall of Famer

    Oct 17, 2010
    Dallas, TX
    I second the above with the proviso of price. In the Fuji line they might find the HS25/300EXR quite usable;manual zoom for more control, really quite excellent BSI sensor. All for under 400$.
    Kim Letkman rather liked the HS25.
    His had no lens droop at full zoom. His X-S1 did.
    Nothing Special: HS25 Review – Part 1 – The Arrival
    • Like Like x 1
  9. wt21

    wt21 SC Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 15, 2010
    Good vacation camera is the RX100 for most folks. Very small. Nicely built. Easy controls for a casual shooter. Fast AF. Much better IQ than most compacts (better than all compacts in that size range). Good zoom range. Bright lens. Lots of tricks (art filters, sweep pano).

    I don't see anything even close for casual vacation shooters.
    • Like Like x 1
  10. Isoterica

    Isoterica SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 6, 2011
    Now with a grip available in August Richard Franiec creates accessory grip for Sony RX100 : Digital Photography Review
  11. lenshoarder

    lenshoarder SC Veteran

    Mar 7, 2012
    Sony TX5.
    Sony TX10.

    Why? They are tough. They are waterproof. They are tiny. They have good IQ. They are excellent go anywhere and not worry about it cameras. What could be a better camera for a carefree vacation?
    • Like Like x 2
  12. Andrewteee

    Andrewteee SC All-Pro

    Jul 8, 2010
    What kind of vacation? Once in a lifetime trip to a unique location, just the two of you on a romantic jaunt, the family and kids at the beach...? That certainly plays into what kind of camera to bring.

    Last year on a summer vacation (beaches, family, kids) I was perfectly happy with the Olympus XZ-1. This year I may just take my Ricoh GXR/A12 50mm and GRD4. However, for a lot of people, I think something along the lines of the XZ-1 is just about perfect.

    Or an iPhone. I know more than a few people who are just using that as their travel camera.
    • Like Like x 1
  13. Biro

    Biro SC Hall of Famer

    Aug 7, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    Thanks for the responses, everyone. I have four different people asking me this question. It seems the Oly XZ-1 is our top choice. And I think it's a great option for two of them, even if a replacement is near. They can even get the VF-2 or VF-3 if an EVF is that important.

    The Sony RX100 will no doubt be a great camera... and I'll suggest it. But I don't know how $650 will go over.

    Lilli's suggestion of the Fuji HS-25/30 is very interesting. No, it's not perfect and it doesn't have the 2/3 sensor. But it's a lot less money, still has a manual zoom and a decent EVF, and still offers EXR mode if they need help. At least one person may be open to this idea. In this same category, the Panasonic FZ-200 looks good as well. But it's not in stores yet so it may be a bust for this summer.

    I will also be suggesting the Oly E-PM1 with kit 14-42 lens. It goes for $399 these days. Frankly, most vacations - urban or rural - rarely require long telephoto zooms. But wide angle is always useful. If the package is a bit too big with the lens attached, they can default to the XZ-1.

    The final camera I will suggest is the Oly TG-1 - the latest waterproof/tough camera that offers f/2.0 at 28mm.
  14. Toonman

    Toonman SC Regular

    Don't forget the superb Canon S100. Good focal range 24-120. Good low light for a compact. and above's pocketable.
  15. Nuskyn

    Nuskyn SC Veteran

    Jul 8, 2011
    @Gelderland - the Netherlands
    I still love my EX1, the oled screen is superb, even in direct sunlight, i dont miss a viewfinder (maybe because i wear glasses)
    I invested in a 8Gb fast SD card, and 5 !! original battery's... They last longer than imitations..

    I've bought a lowepro bottle pouch as a fast drawing camera holster, and i'm ready to go...

    Oh ... and a gorilla tripod, very handy !!

    I think almost every camera will do, but the most important tip i have is : get used to the camera before you go on your trip, and invest in spare memorycards and battery's...
  16. Toonman

    Toonman SC Regular

    Interesting. I was considering the EX1 as back up to my NX11. Going very cheap at the moment as well. :)

    ....and hey, just checked out your Flickr site...great images from such a small camera!
  17. Crsnydertx

    Crsnydertx SC Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Jan 21, 2011
    Houston, TX
    I'll be taking the XZ-1 and E-PM1 with me on my beach vacation next week. I tried to like the TG-1 but for $369 on sale at BB I just couldn't warm to it.

    All good suggestions, though
  18. Biro

    Biro SC Hall of Famer

    Aug 7, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    Funny you should say that. I was looking at it in Best Buy myself. As a regular, walking around camera I tend to agree with you. But if I knew I was going to use it a lot at the beach, on a boat (both around salt air), skiing, snowboarding or while hiking and camping, I think it might be my top choice.

    As an aside, is anyone else convinced that Best Buy's days are numbered? There isn't much that I'm interested in that's on display in their stores anymore. Essentially, it's TVs, cell phones and computers.
  19. Crsnydertx

    Crsnydertx SC Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Jan 21, 2011
    Houston, TX
    If I were a young person doing all those outside activities, the TG-1 would be at the top of my list. Alas, those days are behind me... :-(
  20. Lili

    Lili SC Hall of Famer

    Oct 17, 2010
    Dallas, TX
    The XZ-1 is superb IMHO. Looking at my flickr stats I have shot more with it than anything besides my Cell phones. The TG-1 does look nice too.