Thursday, October 08, 2009

How Small Should A Travel Camera Be?

I'm just back from Victoria and it seems a good time to discuss what is a good travel camera. What I took was my 40D, 18-55IS and 55-200 IS. I made good use of the full range, occasionally wishing I had wider than 18 - but probably not enough to want to carry an extra lens (and remember you can always stitch - even hand held if you are reasonably careful).
I have just read's review of the Panasonic GF1 which got me to thinking about camera size. No question that the GF1 is significantly smaller than the 40D, but what about the size of a 28-400 mm.(full frame equivalent) kit look like. Yes, that 20 looks small and cute - but no IS and frankly a lens that is smaller than my 18-55IS would not be all that helpful. The Panasonic 45-200 doesn't look all that much smaller than the 55-250 I have and would need an adaptor anyway. Net result is a very small camera would not make for an especially small kit. My case could be one size down but frankly that doesn't really make a difference.

What really happens with camera kits is that things change when there is a quantum jump in storage - from a carry bag to a belt clip on to a rain coat pocket to a shirt pocket.

My wife's Panasonic TZ5 (now replaced by the ZS-3) is shirt pocketable and covers better than the same range. Of course I lose a view finder, manual controls, high ISO, rapid focusing, and the ability to make larger than 11X17 prints. The GF1 will still require an over the shoulder case and two lenses and won't make a fundamental difference to carrying, storing and accessing the camera - so is it worth both the money and the compromises to have such a system? I suspect the answer for me is no. I guess it might be a nice carry around camera when you don't want to have more than one lens and are willing to live with the size of a zoom or the lack of zoom and IS in the 20 mm. lens. For some, that is all they need, it just wouldn't work for me - I'd miss the longer focal lengths.

What have you been thinking about these new small camera, decent size sensor models?


Unknown said...

I got my GF1 with the 20mm on Tuesday. I agree with what you are saying about kit sizes, but what was attractive was a kit size for travel that is MUCH smaller than my 1D and choice of lens plus by using the 20, a carry camera for those times I just can't carry a "real" sized camera.
Yes I could get smaller than the 1D by going with a APS-C Canon, but I couldn't shove that into my briefcase.
This is going to be perfect for the numerous oversea trips I take every year.
So far I'm really liking the camera, where as any digicams I've used drive me nuts because of how slow they are.

George Barr said...

Thanks for contributing your observations. Yes, sometimes there is a specific requirement for equipment that cannot be circumvented - if it has to fit in a brief case, then the GF1 is it. For someone who didn't need the large range from 28-400, a single lens setup with GF1 could be exactly what's needed, and there is something very attractive about going back to a fixed lens small camera combination which can still make a great 13X19 print - that in itself could be an attractive consideration.


Jeff Kohn said...

I liked the idea of micro-4/3 as an alternative to the small-sensor point-n-shoots when I first read about it. I've been wanting to get something small that I could keep in the glove-box and stick in my pocket when I'm out and about but not actually on a photo outing.

But once the micro-4/3 cameras started arriving, it became apparent that the lenses required for a sensor that size are just too big for these cameras to actually serve as a P&S.

I can understand some folks aren't looking to micro-4/3 as a P&S, but rather want a smallish kit with interchangeable lenses. Some might even be happy with a micro-4/3 system as their only camera kit, but for me it has too many compromises compared to my Nikon kit. For me a smaller camera doesn't hold much appeal unless it's actually pocketable. So I've got my eye on the new Canon S90 for a take-everywhere pocketable camera.

Paul Bailey said...

I tried the panasonic G1 but returned it. A plastic button fell of the front. It was fairly portable but I kept thinking I would try to come back with my sony alpha 900 to get the larger file. In the end, I would rather carry fewer lenses and get the larger file.
Ansel Adams used to say that he would use the largest camera he could carry. In the end, he settled on a hasselblad.
I moved to digital from Rolleiflex G 6cm X 6cm with zeiss 3.5.

Sony alpha with zeiss lens is only rig that looks remotely like the rollei for me.

Like the rollei, I use one lens (35) a lot and crop in for close ups. With large file, that works.

For portraits, I use 70-300 or 85 in studio.

H. Demey said...

My main camera is a Nikon D200 with glass going from 10.5 up to 400 mm. Really too much to carry while on holiday or during a city trip with the wife.
I always carry a Canon Powershot G9 because it is ..carryable. However it lacks in zoom range and suffers from noise, even at ISO 100.

I really don't see the micro 4/3 cameras as a true alternative.

At the moment I am reading everything to be found about the Leica M9, and am impressed by the positive press it is collecting. Could this be a carryable quality camera? I think so. Perhaps it will become my new system...

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