During the past couple of weeks, I’ve veered away from DLSR land and explored a few compact cameras with my full review of the Fiji X10, my writeup of 4 rugged adventure point and shoots and my look at the new Nikon 1 and it’s lighting fast AF system.
This new generation of compact cameras has indeed captured our fascination; they shoot great imagery, shutter lag is a thing of the past, and they’re packed with creative technology, presets and sometimes even Instagram-type filters. After all, manufacturers know that they have to compete with the most popular point and shoot camera in world, the iPhone.
However, when shopping for any camera, don’t get a case of Sensor Envy.
While its true that larger sensors produce better quality, sharper, higher resolution imagery, sensor size is NOT always the most important thing to consider.
The reality is that in most shooting applications, sensor size is NOT the limiting factor as to whether you’ll get a great shot, or even if you’ll get the shot at all. More important concerns are usability, functionality, and compatibility with your photography style. Here’s a list of things you should consider before you buy a cool new “little camera.”
1. Is it comfortable to hold and carry?
If a camera is just not convenient to carry with you, whether it’s stuffed into your pocket or clipped to your backpack or climbing harness, then it won’t do you much good. Hold the thing in your hands. Get a really good feel for what it’s actually like to use and carry. How does it feel? Will it fit into your pocket? Does it have a viewfinder? Do you have to/want to deal with extra lenses? Are those things even a concern? Think about this stuff before dropping cash.
2. Are the controls easy to navigate?
This a big one; it’s the deal breaker for many cameras. Are the buttons too small or too close together to press without accidentally hitting the wrong one? Is the touch screen interface usable with gloves? Is the LCD viewable in the bright sunshine? All very important factors.
3. How easy is it to change functions?
Another huge concern. No matter what you shoot, life moves pretty damn fast, and if you can’t set the camera controls as you need them, then you’ll miss the shot every time. Are functions easily changeable by dials and buttons, or do you have to dig inside the menus to set the parameters you need. Even just changing exposure settings on some cameras is quite an ordeal. Sensor size don’t mean sh*t if your exposures are all wrong of if they’re blurry because you couldn’t remember how to change the AF mode.
4. How fast is the autofocus and/or FPS rate?
Again, life doesn’t wait. It goes by in the blink of an eye and if you’re waiting for your camera to find and track the subject, then you’ve already lost it. Also, with some cameras rivaling and even surpassing DLSR fps speed, those little cameras are quite capable of capturing action and fast breaking scenes.
5. Will you actually take it with you?
Yea, that new super X Pro E1000S Micro Super HD camera has an APS-C sensor that’s even bigger than Macro Four Thirds and CX format, and it’s got a great lens, but is it too nice? Will you actually take it with you out into the world where it might get dinged and knocked around? Then you’d better get one of those rugged, indestructible models. Sure the sensor is not nearly as big, but again, if you don’t have your camera with you…
Lastly, find out what other people think- Check out reviews on a wide variety of compact camera systems over at Photographyreview.com.