Four cameras on my watch list

Most sane people would say I have enough cameras. By last count I have 9 cameras in various states of use. Plus, I have several more that have been “retired”. So why would I be looking at new cameras or have a camera watch list? Well… because it’s fun.

These are the cameras I ponder. They are totally unnecessary but fun to have. Because I have a large basket of cameras, the cameras on my watch list fill increasingly niche functions or have features that are moderate improvements on what I already have.

All four cameras are mirrorless but without interchangeable lenses. High-end point and shoots, if you will, most with fixed lenses. I’m already set with the Canon and Olympus systems, for now, so I’m turning my attention to stand alone cameras.

Here are the candidates.

Olympus XZ-2

The Olympus XZ-1 is my newest camera acquisition. A high-end, older model point and shoot that is surprisingly good and fun. I got it for an irresistible price and ended up liking it more than I expected. I use it as my carry around camera that gives me good quality pictures when I want versatility. Great for casual snaps of the family or on social get togethers. Documenting, clever I hope, scenes that I find in my daily life. I took it to California recently and had a ball shooting it at SFO (here and here), among other places.

The XZ-2 adds solid improvements over the original XZ-1. It has the same great lens but also adds a tilting LCD and the ability to customize. My research shows about a 1 stop improvement in lower light performance compared to the XZ-1 and it’s only 1 stop worse in noise than the old Olympus E-PL1. Not bad for a compact 1/1.7″ sensor.

Current new prices are running at $499 down from the intro price of $599. Things get interesting for me when refurbished (or new) prices hit about $300. For that price, it may be worth an upgrade for that boost in image quality. Plus, it has a much better movie mode than my XZ-1.

Fujifulm X100S

I’ve always had keen interest in the original Fujifilm X100 but it had enough “quirky” issues that I never pulled the trigger. In the mean time, I built out my Olympus Pen system and sort of lost interest in the Fuji. Now the X100s is here with some noticeable improvements. Early reviews are great. Zack Arias who I respect tremendously, says it is the greatest camera he ever owned. His review is really funny, his street photographs are awesome. You should read his review.

The camera is currently at its intro price of $1299. If the previous X100 is a guide, I don’t expect much of a price drop anytime soon. There is a considerable and passionate following for this camera which will keep the prices steady.

The price certainly gives me pause, especially for a camera with less flexibility than my current Pens. But the sensor is supposed to be terrific though the fixed 35mm equivalent lens at f2.0 is supposed to be a bit soft. It doesn’t add any new capabilities to my camera gear other than a bit more image quality and a 35mm focal length, which I don’t have. The biggest issue right now, the special X-Trans sensor requires a specially tweaked RAW software. There is a beta for Lightroom but I prefer Aperture 3, which has not announced X-Trans support.

Sony RX-1

Full frame is becoming more popular and the RX-1 allows me to get into full frame without lugging a heavy DSLR. The camera is getting great reviews but the $2800 price tag is really tough to swallow. I will have to monitor this guy and see how the pricing goes. I’m also bit concerned about the Sony yellowish-green color that I don’t like. I first noticed this on my NEX-5. Very few people talk about this but Ken Rockwell also mentioned the color issue on his RX-1 review.

Sigma DPx Merrill

Here is a camera way out there that most people won’t consider it. But the sample photos I’ve seen are mind-blowingly good. Michael Reichmann over at Luminous Landscapes says

It is my opinion that the Sigma DP2M, for its part, provides the highest image resolution of any camera / lens combination than costs less than a $2,000 – $3,000 dollars, and it seriously challenges the IQ of cameras like the Nikon D800e and even medium format backs in prints up to about 20X30″

You can read about the details of the camera and its one of a kind Foveon sensor on Luminous Landscape’s Sigma DP2 Merrill review.

These new Sigma compacts come in 3 flavors, the DP1 Merrill , DP2 Merrill and DP3 Merrill. All 3 models have the same design, sensor and processor but they differ on the fixed lens that is attached. They have a 28mm f2.8, 45mm f2.8 and 75mm f2.8 equivalent lens respectively.

They have terrible hardware and software wrapped around an absolutely gorgeous sensor and lens. I like 28mm the most but it’s the 45mm that is getting the raves. The image quality is amazing. I’m more impressed with samples from this camera than any other. It is that good. Current price $800. But that’s down from the recent $1000. The camera is impractical for most things. I would use it as a very specialized day time landscape (urban or nature) camera. My version of a medium format camera, placed on a tripod and shot slowly. Perhaps if it falls to about $500, it would be enough for me to overlook all of its limitations and take the plunge.

19 thoughts on “Four cameras on my watch list

  1. My X100 might just have to go on the market towards that X100S. Dave Hobby says sell and get it! I love my X100 and it’s hard to imagine better image quality but Zack and Dave are all over it. I’ve gotten used to the X100 AF system but snappier focusing would be a definite plus. Manual focus is the big thing I’m excited about. Fuji’s lens is plenty sharp at f2, I’ve got plenty of shots to prove it! I’m not for certain you’d like the platform since you enjoy the variety of various lenses. I find the limitation really fuels my creativity and it’s my anti-system everyday camera o’ simplicity.

    1. I won’t get rid of my Olympus system if I were to get the X100S so I’m fine with just the 35mm fixed lens. And I’m mostly shooting 28mm and 50mm on the Olympus, sometimes just the 28mm.

      Just read Steve Huff’s X100S review. Good review but not completely glowing like Zack’s. He claims focus in low light still not perfect. Focus speed still slower than the OM-D.

      If I can get the Sigma’s images on the X100S, I would be all over it even at $1299.

      Right now it still looks like in incremental improvement, image quality wise, to the E-PM2.

      We will see…

  2. The Merrill – you have to know why you want it. There is no “going to love” those cameras. It’s one you go after for the right reasons. Yes I saw the samples over at LL – awesome stuff.

    As mentioned in a previous post, I would shoot jpegs with the X100s, it’s that nice. One of the main attractions for me is the leaf shutter. Quieter, latitude in flash sync.

    Sony Rx-1 – It just doesn’t do it for me. I could be talked into that little Olympus.

    1. I played with the Merrill once, it is a brick of a camera. I’m seduced by the quality and I would use it on tripod and deliberately shoot with it. My Olympus will remain my fast versatile camera.

      I’m not going to pay $1299 for a JPEG camera no matter how good the JPEG. I want a proper RAW option.

      I played with the Sony too but not for long. I’m not considering it seriously at $2700, just yet. It felt more like a computer though, rather than a camera.

  3. I gotta have raw too, which was my hesitation in buying an X-Trans camera. I’ll have to pixel peep the latest conversions from Adobe before making up my mind. That said, I use JPGs from my X100 quite often – something I never do with Canon, not even my Mark III!

  4. That was a great post by Zach Arias on the X100S! Make me want one, except the fixed 35mm focal length…. That just wouldn’t work for me, but I do understand that would appeal to lots of photographers. I’ve heard that Adobe has gotten that X-Trans sensor figured out in its release candidates of their RAW converter now. It will be very interesting to see which one you go with!

  5. Great idea to link to others’ reviews when they have something unusual to offer. It’s hard to resist the charismatic Zach — until I hit the price attached to a single focal length fixed lens camera. If I were as good at using it as he is, maybe. Until then — Olympus.

    1. Zach is certainly funny and quite a photographer. The 35mm fixed lens is certainly limiting but that is exactly the appeal for some. It forces you to get creative and to see the world through 35mm.

  6. I’ve been using the DP1 Merrill for about six months now. I find its alleged limitations far less limiting than the interwebs would have us believe. Its UI is better than most digital cameras I’ve used. Autofocus is plenty fast and the manual focus system is genius. It doesn’t work at higher ISO (I never go over 200). But in decent light, jeeezuz christ those files are so beautiful! Even really big prints show detail that will have you shaking your head in disbelief.

    1. PE Preston, thank you for the feedback on DP1.

      How clear (noise wise) are long exposures? I do a lot of night, urban photography. If I set the camera to ISO 100 on tripod and shot for 15 to 30 seconds, how noisy are the images?

      1. Any noise comes from attempting to use higher ISO’s to overcome dim light. If you use ISO 100 – 200 on a tripod and a long exposure, noise will not be an issue in my experience.

      2. seenist, I’ll have to your word for it since I can’t see the photo up close. Great color and mood, by the way.

        How many seconds was the exposure?

  7. I second the comment about the Sigma. The hardware is actually very good, as is the camera software. The Raw converter is, well, quirky, to be polite, but actually no worse than say Olympus Studio. As a no-nonsense still camera, the Sigma is just well engineered and to the point. I’d even dare to put it in the same league, albeit a few notches down, as the Ricoh GRD. My main camera is the Pen E-P3 – and in my opinion, in terms of UI, the DPxM is largely better. The main drawback is the lack of an EVF. And actually, my mileage varies – I find the DP2M fine up to ISO 800.

    1. Thank you David for your thoughts on the Sigma.

      I asked PE Preston this same question, above….

      How clear (noise wise) are long exposures? I do a lot of night, urban photography. If I set the camera to ISO 100 on tripod and shot for 15 to 30 seconds, how noisy are the images?

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