Brian's Photo Blog — Article 275
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In Quest of the Ideal Pocket Camera
Wednesday 28 August 2013   —   Category: Equipment
Over the past year and a half, I've been on a long, frustrating quest for the ideal pocket camera.

I started off with a Canon Powershot S100 in February 2012. Out of the many models of compact cameras available, I decided on this one because of its RAW image capability, the possibility of manual control, and the integrated GPS capability, even though its 5x zoom is not very impressive.

But as I recounted later that year in the article Canon S100 Sensor Spots and a couple of months ago in the article Canon S100: A Failed Experiment, I was having reoccurring problems with dust on the sensor which could only be removed by sending the camera in to Canon for “repair.” With obvious spots on every photo due to the sensor dust, this camera became a $420 paperweight, so I ended up doing a postmortem dissection!

Because all non-interchangeable-lens cameras could likely have a problem with unremovable dust on the sensor, in June 2013 my attention turned to the so-called “tough” pocket cameras, which are weather-sealed to keep both dust and water out of the camera and off the sensor. After comparing the available models, I settled on an Olympus Stylus TG-2 iHS. During the two months I have owned this camera, I have written eight articles about it — nine including today’s.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t taken very long for me to come to the conclusion that the Olympus TG-2 is NOT my ideal camera either. For its indended use — taking snapshots in camera-unfriendly environments — it a great little camera. And I still plan on using it in such cases. But because I’m a very serious amateur photographer, its image quality falls way short of my high expectations.

Over the past two years I have become so accustom to the many benefits of shooting RAW with my various cameras that using a JPG-only camera, like the Olympus TG-2, is a huge step backwards that requires too many compromises. I was hoping that the TG-2’s lack of RAW images would not bother me too much, but now I have found that it does bother me VERY much. So much, in fact, that I can’t imagine myself ever buying a non-RAW again!

So, the photo to the right that I took this morning on my daily neighborhood walk, of the half-moon peeking through sunrise-tinted clouds is the LAST photo I plan on taking with the TG-2 on a regular basis. As I mentioned above, I will still use the TG-2 in wet or dusty environments, but as my primary pocket camera, today is its last day on the job!
AUGUST 2015 UPDATE: Just wanted to let you know that Olympus’ new TG-4 does shoot RAW images! If I were in the market for a “tough” pocket camera, the TG-4 would be the one to get. Still, I would feel very limited by the paltry 4x zoom.
Another factor I have to consider is the ideal pocket camera’s zoom range. These past two cameras I have owned have had a 5x zoom (the S100) and a 4x zoom (the TG-2). I must confess that these paltry zoom ranges make me really jealous of my wife’s Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V with its 20x zoom! During the past eighteen months of using my pocket cameras, I have been frustrated by the limited focal-length range again and again.

Continuing my quest for the ideal pocket camera, this past weekend I headed over to Digital Photography Review’s extremely-useful interactive camera feature search page. Here’s what I did: I limited my search to ultra-compact or compact fixed-lens cameras announced in 2013 which support RAW images — that’s it. Using these few filters resulted in ten cameras which matched the criteria.

Only ONE of these ten cameras has a zoom range of more than 10x: the Fujifilm FinePix F900EXR has the same 20x range as my wife’s non-RAW Sony — with the RAW-capable Panasonic Lumix DMC-LF1 a distant second at 7x zoom.

In addition to the great features, it also has great reviews on Seeing that the F900EXR is the only camera that met my stringent criteria, I decided to give it a try. And the UPS truck just delivered it as I am writing! But to find out whether my quest for the ideal pocket camera is at an end, you and I will both have to wait until a future article.... see Pros and Cons of the Fujifilm FinePix F900EXR Camera.
APRIL 2015 UPDATE: After about a year and a half with the F900EXR, I have passed it on to my daughter Olivia, and have replaced it with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS50, mostly because of the ZS50’s viewfinder and 30x zoom.
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 275
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