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Day 205: Pocket Sized vs. DSLR… Or Can We Have the Best of Both Worlds?

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camera caseOn the way home from our usual weekend stop at the Little Gem Cafe in Gordon, Pat and I stopped off at Harvey Norman to pick up some ink cartridges for the printer. Inside, I got to looking at the camera section because I’ve been feeling really frustrated with my camera options — well, actually for quite some time.

In the case I came across one of those little point-and-shoot sized cameras that also offers the ability to incorporate interchangeable lenses… like big lenses or fish eye lenses or whatever lens my heart desires. Could this be the answer to my camera questions?

My Camera Dilemma

To give a brief background, I have a DSLR. I bought it before I started traveling at the end of 2007, and I love the quality of photos it takes. [Have a look at my Shedd Aquarium post.] However, I HATE carrying it with me… anywhere! Not only is it a little heavy around my neck, but it’s just so freaking big — I hate to pull it out in many travel situations, and I hate it taking up just that extra bit more of space.

Still, when I do use it, the photos are a visible notch up in quality, and that’s something I’m afraid of giving up for those special circumstances…

It’s a true dilemma!

The Pocket-Sized DSLR

Then, I saw these little hybrids (I’ve seen them before, but hadn’t researched them at all), and my brain got to thinking that this type of camera might be what I’m all about. I’m heading back to Kyrgyzstan in a few months, and a major goal is to take loads of photos this time (unlike last where I barely took any photos at all!). I need to get my camera situation straightened out once and for all.

My question is about these cameras, and whether or not we can really have the best of both worlds. I really want to give one a go, but I can’t afford to make a huge purchase, and I’m not about to sell my DSLR until I know that what I’m about to buy is comparable in both quality and versatility.

Has anyone used a hybrid camera like the Sony Nex3 and have good things to say? I’d love to hear your personal camera decisions or reviews, as well!

Photo credit: 1, 2.

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29 Responses to Day 205: Pocket Sized vs. DSLR… Or Can We Have the Best of Both Worlds?

  1. Deidre July 26, 2011 at 7:59 am #

    I’ve been considering this as well, I HATE my camera right now – it’s a nikon point and shoot and it is beyond annoying. The photo quality is horrible the settings aren’t that intuitive and the buttons are really hard to push so all the photos turn out blurry ( BAD DESIGN).

    I’ve heard that lumix has a great camera (Oneika the traveler has one and she recently wrote a post about it)…and the fuji film one looks AMAZING although SUPER expensive (eep).

    I know I wouldn’t carry around a DSLR camera – so this is seeming like a better and better option

    • Brooke July 27, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

      Hi Deidre, I feel your pain. I’ll be checking out the post by Oneika to learn more πŸ™‚

      • Deidre September 9, 2011 at 8:43 am #

        What did you decide on the camera front? I ended up getting a Cannon G12 and I LOVE it.

        • Brooke September 9, 2011 at 8:51 am #

          I ended up getting the Panasonic LX5 – it’s small and light and takes decent photos. All the photos on the recent blog posts are from that camera… it’s great and doesn’t get in the way… I think I can love it. I’m partially in the transition stage still. On my trip to Queensland, there were many instances where I was like “Oh, if I had my big camera I could have gotten that shot.”. But overall, I’m much happier with the small camera!

  2. Steve July 26, 2011 at 8:18 am #

    Yep, you also might want to consider a micro 4/3rds camera. The sensor isn’t as big as a DSLR or the Sony Nex, but they’re bigger than point and shoot cameras and take nice pictures. The product lines are much more developed, too, compared to the Sony NEX.

    • Steve July 26, 2011 at 8:20 am #

      Micro four thirds is a derivation of the four thirds system, which you should also look at.

    • Brooke July 27, 2011 at 4:25 pm #

      Cheers for the tips. I’ve been looking at various 4/3rds cameras and I will probably give one a go πŸ™‚

  3. Tony July 26, 2011 at 8:27 am #

    I’ve had a play with the Olympus four thirds system as mentioned by Steve. They take some great shots as well as HD video. They also have a good selection of lenses for you to use.

    I might be crazy but I’m a big fan of the viewfinder and these cameras don’t have them. You can get digital viewfinders but they suck IMHO.

    A mate of mine Freddy has a Sony Nex and raves about it so they’re crowd pleasers. I think end of the day, unless you’re shooting great pictures on a regular basis and showcase them somehow, a hybrid camera is far more prctical for travel and having less general bulk in your bag. But hey, you know this πŸ™‚

  4. William July 26, 2011 at 8:44 am #

    I was in the predictament as you, and just recently purchased the Sony Nex 5, and so far it is great. I also got the extra long telephoto lens for it, and all of it’s features make it great for what I need. I also love the video.

  5. Adam @ SitDownDisco July 26, 2011 at 10:03 am #

    I think the micro four thirds cameras are a good balance between size and quality. One thing that is different however is the aspect ratio of the photos. 4:3 instead of 3:2 as in a traditional SLR. that doesn’t matter so much though… I’d buy one of those things!

    • Brooke July 27, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

      Indeed… seriously thinking about the micro 4/3rds models. What do you have now?

      • Adam @ SitDownDisco July 27, 2011 at 4:52 pm #

        I use a Canon 40d which is a bit of a beast… It would be an absolute nightmare to carry about without the backpack I have. I only ever use it for scenes that look really nice and for good looking food. I use my iphone if I want to take a snapshot. I don’t want to compromise on image quality when it comes to those great shots, so I’m happy to lug around the SLR.

        A couple of things to bear in mind with cameras using small sensors such as compacts and micro 4/3s is that they perform poorer in low-light (more noise) and have a larger depth of field (harder to blur the background) compared to SLRs.

  6. Erin @ Brownie Bites July 26, 2011 at 10:05 am #

    I had the same love/hate relationship with my DSLR when carrying it around for personal use, until I bought a new bag. I’m using the Kelly Moore B-Hobo from http://kellymoorebag.com/ It doesn’t help much with the weight situation since you’re still carrying it around, but at least now I can hide it in my “purse” and know that it’s still padded and protected, and I’m not caught without it when a photo op arises. I never liked carrying around an obvious camera bag, especially in seedy areas when I’m alone.

    • Amy July 26, 2011 at 10:31 pm #

      I’m going to ditto Erin here. I got a Jo Totes bag (http://jototes.com/handbags) for my birthday this year, and will be traveling with it later this year. I’ll probably carry my DSLR and my point and shoot with me, but can put both in here.

      I’ve never tried one of the hybrids, I’d be interested to see what you thought of it should you make the purchase though!

  7. Linda ~ Journey Jottings July 26, 2011 at 11:05 am #

    It also depends on what you want to do with your photos –
    If you want to do large prints off them carting the hard core heavy gear around is the price you have to pay –
    If your images are for digital viewing pleasure some of the smaller options are fine –
    I’ve got a Lumix (as mentioned above) BUT the one with the LEICA lens –
    Was recently out with a friend who just had a Lumix/Lumix lens so we were shooting the same kind of shots and the difference between the quality of our respective results was really noticeable on a computer screen. So the lens is the critical part πŸ™‚

  8. Kelsey July 26, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

    I would go with either a Lumix or a micro 4/3rds camera. I shot my thesis on a Lumix and my committee never knew the difference!

    • Brooke July 27, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

      Great tip, I’m investigating these options as we speak. I’m not a professional, but I am now accustomed to playing with settings and the like, so I like the idea of manual settings and quality shots… If I can get that in a smaller camera, I’m happy as a clam πŸ™‚

  9. Bethany July 27, 2011 at 4:22 am #

    Ok, I have no experience with these cameras but they look good. However before you do anything I suggest you switch up your straps. Both your neck strap and your bag strap.

    I wrote about both of these items on my site and they will seriously help you! Neck straps suck – don’t use them. Buy a Op/tech strap, their made of neoprene, take weight off your camera (seriously it works) and are long enough to go across your chest – which is an unbelievable help. My camera is made of a steel body and is HEAVY. I wouldn’t go anywhere w/out this strap. I also just saw one on B&H for only $17. A steal and you won’t believe the difference it will make.

    Next step get yourself a regular bag (ditch the uncomfortable camera bag if you are using it) that allows you to switch out the strap. I saw the bags listed above and they look great but ONLY buy one that allows you to attach a different strap. I use the protech camera bag strap and it’s AMAZING. long enough to go across your chest, made of neoprene again so takes weight off, is nice and bouncy and is nice and wide. Having a wide strap seriously helps the pain factor. Another strap that only cost about $20.

    I guarantee if you switch out your straps you’ll feel like your gear just lost 10 lbs.

    Those jo totes look awesome but that strap is not wide enough. soon enough it will be digging into your shoulder and will be painful, plus it’s an expensive bag. use a regular bag, pad it yourself and switch out the strap. you’ll be very, very happy. if you get a black strap then a black bag is perfect – doesn’t looklike you have anything with you at all. Most times people have NO idea i have a camera with me and my camera is not small, plus I always carry an additional lens and flash.

    Also, what i do is keep my camera aligned w/ my bag strap and then if I feel weird I throw a scarf over the camera and it just looks like I am carrying my scarf over my bag because i don’t want to hold it in my hands.

    Try these things first. cheap fixes and if you still want to switch you can sell both straps on ebay. πŸ™‚

  10. Nomadic Samuel July 27, 2011 at 8:26 am #

    I personally shoot with a dSLR but I’ve heard positive things about this cameras from others and reviews. One site I found that offers great camera reviews is http://cameralabs.com where they are not affiliated with any particular brand. For example, they will recommend cameras other than just Canon & Nikon based on lab tests.

    • Brooke July 27, 2011 at 4:37 pm #

      Thanks for the link – I’ll be checking it out ! πŸ™‚

  11. Avis Mulhall July 28, 2011 at 8:02 am #

    Hey – I’m actually a photographer originally & my best advice is ditch the SLR and go with something like the Canon G12 or Canon S90. Very few people actually need an SLR. If you want to take awesome photos on an SLR that are the same quality as you can get on a G12 or S90 then you’d need to spend about $4k on lenses and carry around a massive bag. These cameras are awesome on picture quality – the detail you’ll get is super impressive. They’re amazing in low light which means you’ll hardly ever have to use a flash and will get much better images indoors. I wouldn’t go with the mini SLR types with interchangeable lenses, cos again they’re heavy and you don’t wanna carry something like that around. The S90 is smaller and lighter than the G12. If you’re not into Canon, the Panasonic LX5 is a good option. If you’re travelling you get the best shots when your camera is on you naturally enough….and if you’re not gonna carry an SLR then you’ll miss all the best shots! Best of luck with the decision πŸ™‚

    • Brooke July 28, 2011 at 8:17 am #

      Thank you for this πŸ˜€ I have definitely looked into the S90 and the G series from Canon, but just haven’t been able to fully make up my mind. Cheers for the luck, my head needs it πŸ˜‰

    • Anida August 1, 2011 at 5:53 pm #

      I’m facing the same problem, eager to capture beautiful shots but too lazy to carry heavy DSLR around my neck or my bag. After long conversation with Google… I agree with Avis.

      My options are narrowed down to either Canon S95 or Panasonic LX5 with Leica lens. Both has ultra wide angle which perfect for landscape photography, and both are great in low light. Although the S95 has true compact size and cheaper by $100, LX5’s battery life can go up to 400 shots, while you need to charge S95 after 200 shots.

      For me, both camera’s feature have already exceeded my old Nikon D40’s plus some heavy lenses I have. Good enough for me πŸ™‚

  12. mumun September 26, 2011 at 4:54 pm #

    The thing about it is, it is really about your orientation of traveling, is it for pictures of is the journey the main thing. I’m with camera to store memories not necessarily for drop dead quality pictures πŸ™‚
    I’m planning to buy a Canon G12. I’ve had a pocket camera before and I’ve tried the DSLR. After the DSLR, it’s hard to go back to the pocket camera, so I’m trying something a bit better.
    I personally don’t like the attention when using a DSLR. Traveling in a small town in Indonesia, people often think I’m a journalist of some sort. And they give me the attention that I don’t want. I’m the point of interested, and not them.

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