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My first camera?
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Sanad Toukhly
(Red_Fox) - MLife

Locale: South Florida
My first camera? on 12/06/2009 22:30:23 MST Print View

Ok, so I have recently decided I want to start bringing a decent camera on my backpacking trips. I don't know anything about photography beyond the obvious so I need help deciding which camera to get.

My main priority is that I want the camera that will give me the best quality for the weight. I'm not sure if I want to go with a 5 oz camera that will give me OK quality or a 10 oz camera that will give me AMAZING quality. There are so many options out there that I feel a bit overwhelmed. I don't know what most the features even mean so I don't know what to look for. I would prefer if the camera was waterproof but this isn't absolutely necessary. Price is not an issue.

The Lumix LX3 seems like a good camera but I'm wondering if I can get the same quality in a lighter package. I'd appreciate any input. Thanks.


Joseph Reeves

Locale: Southeast Alaska
LX3 on 12/06/2009 22:37:21 MST Print View

the LX3 is an amazing camera and, though there are others that weigh less, I really don't think there are any that can outperform it on all the variables, including cost. BPL likes the Sigma, but I suggest you look at before making any purchase. They did a great review of "enthusiasts" cameras a year ago and the LX3 came out on top.

Derek Cox
(derekcox) - F

Locale: Southeast
canon s90 also an option on 12/06/2009 23:24:33 MST Print View

Canon powershot s90 recently came out and is supposed to be around the same level as the panasonic lumix lx3. weighs 6-7 ounces i think. it's a good one to check out though

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: My first camera? on 12/07/2009 00:35:56 MST Print View

Assuming you are looking to do some people shots and general landscape and don't need telephoto I would recommend the Sigma DP2. It's the image quality champ for near pocketable cameras. I don't own this camera but have had a chance to use one that I borrowed. If I was purchasing a camera specifically for high quality images backpacking this is the camera I would pick up.

The Panasonic GF1 + 20/1.7 lens is a lot more versatile than the DP2 since can you use interchangeable lens. It can also shot decent quality video but this all comes at a cost compared to the DP2... it's heavier (16oz to 9oz), larger (needs jacket pocket -vs- pants cargo pocket), and more expensive ($900 to $600). This said, I have greatly enjoyed using the GF1. It's my go-to camera.

Of the small sensor cameras I found the Panasonic LX3 the best from an image quality perspective but I now carry a Canon S90 because it's almost as good and actually fits into my pocket following the philosophy that the best camera is the one you have with you.


Edited by verber on 12/07/2009 00:55:06 MST.

Sanad Toukhly
(Red_Fox) - MLife

Locale: South Florida
Comparing on 12/07/2009 10:21:14 MST Print View

Ok so far I'm considering:

-Canon Powershot S90
Weight: 6.9 oz (including batteries)
Pixels: 10 million

-Panasonic Lumix LX3
Weight: 9.3 oz (including batteries)
Pixels: 10.1 million

-Sigma DP2
Weight: 10 oz (including batteries)
Pixels: 14.06 million

The Panasonic GF1 is too heavy. I probably should have specified I want something 10 oz or less. The weight of the Canon S90 is very appealing to me.

To make sure I have this right... The S90 is the lightest camera that will give me that kind of image quality. The LX3 and DP2 are about the same weight, but I get better image quality with the DP2. Is this correct?

Also, will these cameras give me good zoom? By that I mean, would I be able to zoom in on an insect and have the image come out clear?


Sanad Toukhly
(Red_Fox) - MLife

Locale: South Florida
Sigma DP2 on 12/07/2009 11:51:17 MST Print View

Wait a second... The DP2 actually only has 4.6 mega pixels compared to the 10.01 of the LX3. What gives? Does this mean the LX3 will give much better image quality? If that's the case, why is the DP2 so much more expensive?

Ofcourse, I suspect that the number of pixels is not the main factor in image quality. If this is the case, please enlighten me.


Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Sigma DP2 on 12/07/2009 11:54:14 MST Print View

Megapixels don't necessarily equate to image quality anymore.

Nia Schmald
(nschmald) - MLife
Re: Sigma DP2 on 12/07/2009 12:07:51 MST Print View

The standard bayer sensor uses a mosaic of sensors, each one detecting only one color (red, green, or blue)

The foveon sensor that sigma uses detects red, green and blue at every site.

Sigma claims a 3 to 1 megapixel ratio when comparing to a bayer sensor, calling their camera 13.8 MP. The comparison is not that straight forward, but sigma cameras produce image quality significantly higher than the smaller (physical size) sensor in the LX3. I would say sensor size not MP count is more relevant to image quality.

Of the cameras you listed only the sigma dp2 has a sensor of comparable size to DSLRs.

Edited by nschmald on 12/07/2009 12:12:17 MST.

Sanad Toukhly
(Red_Fox) - MLife

Locale: South Florida
Re: Re: Sigma DP2 on 12/07/2009 12:29:43 MST Print View

So the DP2 would give me much better image quality for the same weight as the LX3. Now it boils down to whether I want to save 3 oz and go with the Cannon S90, or sacrifice weight savings for better quality images with the DP2... decisions, decisions.


Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Sigma DP2 on 12/07/2009 12:48:53 MST Print View

Hi Sid,

The DP2 or the wide angle DP1s (better for landscapes) will give the best results (in good shooting conditions) but will also be the fussiest cameras to work with (their menu systems and poky autofocus are rather notorious). They also lack image stabilization and have the slowest lenses of the cameras you list, meaning you won't be able to hand-hold them in poor light conditions that the other two will allow. Of course, they have fixed focal length lenses, not zooms.

The DPs are niche products a bit like very compact view cameras--cameras that reward careful and contemplative shooting but not designed with capturing fleeting "decisive moments" in mind. If you go this route make very sure the tool matches your shooting style.

I don't have S90 experience but it's quickly become a very popular camera with some demanding shooters, so I'll give Canon their due (I've bailed on their G-series). It's reputed to be noticably quicker than the LX3, which can be an important consideration. The 28mm equivalent lens is not nearly as wide as the LX3's but it does zoom further--horses for courses. I prefer landscape shooting, which is further enhanced by the LX's variable aspect ratio.

That they're both f:2.0 and have good IS systems is important for maintaining low ISOs and getting the best output from their small chips (it's easy to envision a scenario where one has to shoot the DP1s at ISO 800 where they could shoot the LX3 at ISO 80).

I'd also consider the S90's lack of a hotshoe, useful not only for mounting a flash but also a viewfinder. Not a big deal to everyone but I use it for both and would miss it.

You've gotten a good response on the oddball Foveon sensor, which defies direct comparison to the common Bayer sensor. It's capable of very good output, no matter how one counts the pixels.

Final thoughts: none of these is a "beginner's" camera, but the Canon and Panny will give good results with their full automatic modes, then reward the learner who digs into the modes and menus and masters the controls. I don't think I'd recommend the Sigmas to a true beginner, as they require some mastery to give good results. You might also want to give the Ricoh lineup a look. The GX and GRD models paved the way for all of the cameras we're discussing here, and are worthy alternatives to them all.



Edited by halfturbo on 12/07/2009 12:51:26 MST.

Sanad Toukhly
(Red_Fox) - MLife

Locale: South Florida
Re: Re: Sigma DP2 on 12/07/2009 13:07:27 MST Print View

thank you, that was very helpful. I wasn't aware the DP2 is harder to work with. Being that I am a beginner, I don't think I will consider the DP2 as one of my options any more. I will not be bringing a Tripod so I don't want a camera with a slow lens.

Right now my two choices seem to be in different "weight classes". As of now the LX3 is my top choice for cameras around 10 oz, but is the Canon S90 the best one in its weight class?

Are there any cameras around 6 or 7 oz that will outperform the Canon S90?


Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Any <7oz better than S90 today on 12/07/2009 13:29:55 MST Print View

IMHO the S90 is best <7oz camera on the market today.

The closest camera weight / image quality is the the Ricoh GRD III. It's a bit heavier and larger and is a fixed lens (no zoom). Advantages are a better UI (for experienced photographers), faster focus and shutter release, and a sharper lens.


Edited by verber on 12/07/2009 13:31:00 MST.

Sanad Toukhly
(Red_Fox) - MLife

Locale: South Florida
5 oz range? on 12/07/2009 13:51:50 MST Print View

Now what about cameras in the 5 oz range?

Which camera is on top for that weight class?

I don't want to sacrifice too much image quality for weight savings though. How much quality would I really be losing by going with a lighter camera in the 5 oz range?


Alexander Laws
(goldenmeanie) - F

Locale: Los Angeles
5 ounce on 12/07/2009 14:39:12 MST Print View

As Chris points out above... megapixels don't necessarily equate to image quality. Both the LX3 and the S90 look great. Ken Rockwell fancies the S90 up and down, so you can't go wrong. My brother in-law brought some new Nikon point and shoot on a recent trip we took. 12 megapixels, all black, 200 bucks, and it felt like it weighed about 4.5 ounces or so with battery and card. Handled exposure very well, and the colors looked great. I don't recall the model. He loved it, and his pictures turned out quite nice.

I just borrowed his camera when I felt the need ;) My SUL approach.

Anywho, If this is your first camera purchase, I suggest that you start with a model that will meet your needs without breaking the bank. besides, they come out with a new model every year... things get lighter... and cheaper as time drags on. So, if you're just getting your feet wet, I see no reason to get the latest and greatest if you won't be using the features and benefits these higher end models possess. Anything decent to get you taking pictures, and your set. Then next year when you've got a handle on exposure and composition, you can spring for the latest and greatest 5 ounce camera while everyone else is still lugging their 9 ounce outdated LX3's around ;)

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: 5 oz range? on 12/07/2009 14:55:48 MST Print View

The S90 is the lightest camera that will shot in raw mode. Raw means that you have access to the sensor data. There are programs on computers that are much more effective at dealing with noise, colors correction, applying the right amount of sharpening, etc that what the camera is going to do automatically with it's tiny internal computer. You can think of shooting raw as having access to the darkroom and development process where shooting JPG basically results in your pictures being developed by a mini-lab in your local drugstore.

S90 + out of camera raw processing is significantly better than any of the 5oz P&S that do in camera JPG processing. The S90 using the in camera JPG (is still noticeably better than any of the subcompacts I have looked at. You get get a slight sense of this using the IR Comparometer.

I typically shoot Raw + in camera Large JPG. Raw gets archived and I process the specific pictures I care about. JPG gets dumped onto facebook or other websites when I am more interested in getting basic images out quickly with minimal hassle.


Edited by verber on 12/07/2009 17:52:22 MST.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
My first camera? on 12/07/2009 17:34:53 MST Print View

As usual it is difficult to recommend something not knowing what you expect, as in what is "acceptable quality" to you.
One that I would look at in the 50z range is the Canon SD 980. This one has a nice 24mm to 120mm lens. Or the lighter again Canon SD940IS (28mm-112mm)
Another could be the Pana FX 65, 25mm-125mm.
( I am particularly fond of the wide angle end of the zoom and Panasonic...)
Note that the lighter cameras have a smaller sensor, so image quality will suffer but again many are happy with that.
If you can go to a store you intend to buy from and take some pics with your own SD card and have them printed there or view them at home, buy a USB reader for that . (very cheap and useful later on)

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: 5 oz range? on 12/07/2009 18:58:19 MST Print View

> programs on computers that are much more effective at dealing with noise,
> colors correction, applying the right amount of sharpening, etc that
> what the camera is going to do automatically with it's tiny internal computer.

Not sure that 'tiny' is the word I would have used for chips such as Digic III etc. They are custom image-processing chips of huge power.

Granted that starting with RAW lets you do your own thing, but whether the end results are much better than the best JPG format is very open to debate.


Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
My first camera? on 12/07/2009 19:51:37 MST Print View

I agree with Roger.
When I was working at the photo shop most of the employees were keen amateur photographers, several worked part time doing weddings, mag work and other pro stuff. Most only used RAW when experimenting or comparing cameras not when shooting "normal" stuff.
In fact every so often we used to get customers in disappointed by their "raw" files, particularly when they found out that standard labs don't print them.
A good discussion about that here
or start here...

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: Re: 5 oz range? on 12/07/2009 20:35:46 MST Print View

> whether the end results are much better than the best JPG format is very open to debate.

Good point. When n I step back and think, I realize that working with the raw images hasn't been that essential for most of my backpacking images. It's more an issue when doing indoors available light where I am push the sensor to it's limit and where the lighting is really funky.


Sanad Toukhly
(Red_Fox) - MLife

Locale: South Florida
Zoom on 12/07/2009 20:36:48 MST Print View

What are the zoom capabilities of cameras like the S90 and the LX3?

I always see really cool pictures of insects or tiny flowers that people zoom in on and I think it would be cool to have that kind of zoom capability. Would I be able to get an up close shot of an insect with these cameras or are they mainly only good for landscape shots?