Is there such a thing as a perfect anything? No, but it would sure be nice to have something awfully close, wouldn't it?
If you were paying attention to any of the new camera announcements made this past week, you probably heard an awful lot about the Olympus E-P1 (image on the right, from the Olympus website). It looks very retro and stylish, and sports a sensor larger than most point-and-shoot cameras, although a tad bit smaller than most dSLRs. (The exception would be Panasonic G1 and GH1, but neither would I classify either of those models as a true dSLR - mainly because there's no mirror in them - but enough quibbling.)
I've been looking for a compact camera to replace my aging Panasonic Lumix LZ8. It's a decent camera, but it is also a few years old now, and, to be frank, didn't take great pictures (very, very noisy). It works as a P&S, but I want something better. And so I have refrained from making any decisions until Olympus made their announcement, in the hopes that their new camera would be the one I would buy.
I was all set until I found out the following things about this beautiful camera:
- It has no flash. It has a hot-shoe, but no flash. (Granted - this is not a deal-breaker. But for the price - which you'll see in a moment - it should have flash!)
- No optical viewfinder. Yes, you can buy one that sits atop the hot-shoe, but it does not represent the true image capture. (Granted, most OVFs on compacts don't either, but they are at least a bit closer to the lens. This thing won't be.)
- No electrical viewfinder. This means the only way to frame my image would be to use the LCD - which, frankly, leads me to my next point...
- Lousy LCD. Seriously. For the price, this thing should have 930k pixels on it. Instead it has 230k. Not. Sufficient. At. This. Price. Range.
- ... which is $750 minimum. That's no lens - just the body. No extras. Huh? What? !!!!???? If you want the 3x zoom the price is $800. If you want the ultra-compact pancake 17mm lens instead, the price is $900. If you want to add a flash, add another $200. And if you want the optical viewfinder (which, btw, you can't use if you are using the flash... this should be obvious), add another $99. A fully decked-out camera is going to cost something like $1,200. Um. No.
That's not to say that this thing isn't gorgeous. It is. That's not to say that I wouldn't love to have it. I would. But can I justify laying out $1,200 on a compact camera when I could put that money towards a nice "L"-series lens, or towards a new dSLR body? No. Could I justify it at all, knowing what my compact is really intended for? (And this is the intention: a throw-in-your-purse camera you can take everywhere and anywhere but still takes great pictures...) No. Not at $1200. Not at $800. Not even at $700. $500 and you might get there. (Honestly I'd prefer $300. But that's not likely realistic. The companies do have make some money.)
I understand the sensor is expensive. But at $750+, this thing should've been decked out from the start. Glass isn't cheap either, but at least include the 3x zoom in the price, or go fixed-length only. Include a crappy flash. Include a superior LCD screen. And include an EVF or OVF so that I don't have to rely on a 3.0" LCD screen to compose my photos. (Believe me, there will be a point, no matter how anti-reflective that LCD screen is, that it will be unusable in the light you have available. Not good.)
Okay - this is coming off more as a rant than anything, and that's not really the intent. My intent is to find the best P&S that I can get for a price that won't break the bank. Nothing out there will be perfect. But is it too much to ask a camera maker to make a $500 compact that has all of the features below? Then it would be perfect:
- $500 price point
- Large sensor (no smaller than 1/1.6", but preferrably APS-C/micro-4/3rds sized)
- Nice zoom lens (does not have to be interchangeable for me...)
- EVF/OVF. Absolute Must. I can't rely only on the LCD.
- Nice LCD screen. But it no longer has to have 930k pixels on it at this price point, esp. when I'll be using the EVF/OVF 90% of the time.
- RAW output
- Full manual controls (or, at least Aperture Priority, though the smaller the sensor, the less useful this becomes for controlling DOF)
- Manual focus
- Flash. Seriously. There's no excuse not to have a little flashbulb in there. Yes, it will produce harsh, horrible light, but that's better than nothing.
- Hot-shoe. Because I'll want to put a better flash on it.
I could add a lot more to that list, but then this post would be longer than it needs to be. (It already is.) At the moment, then, it seems my only possible cameras are the following:
- Canon G10 (or G9, but oddly enough, the G9 is more expensive than the G10 is, at the moment)
- Panasonic Lumix LX-3 (More $$$ than I want to go, but gets good reviews. Note that it has no EVF, but it does have a 460k LCD. Still, I'd prefer an EVF/OVF.)
- Sigma DP1 or DP2 (Except for the fact that the LCD is 230k, no EVF/OVF, and handles like molasses.)
I'm not sure, but I think the mind just got made up. Canon G10. I want (no, need) an EVF/OVF, and the G10 has an OVF. It won't be like the captured image, but it's better than relying totally on the LCD. And that LCD? 460k pixels. All at around $500. It's not my perfect compact (small sensor, slow lens, ...) but maybe it is close enough.
If I get one, I'll let you know. If I get something else, I'll say so, and give the reasons why. And if I totally lose my mind and get the E-P1, well, you'll never find out, because my credit card will kill me!