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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Best Semi-Pro Compact Camera for Girl

Recently I lost my digital compact camera, the Canon A570IS, that I bought 3 years ago. I almost lost it once during my hiking on the Mount Kinabalu. I brought it up to the highest mountain in Southeast Asia and on my way climbing vertically down, it slipped out of my pocket. It's going free fall from the top of the mountain and luckily, my friend down there manage to catch it! That's incredible reflexes he had there. I shouted, he looked up and catch the camera, everything in seconds, or else it would have fall all the way to the bottom of the mountain.

Since I owned my D90, I only use the digital compact camera for my work purposes. I never use the A570IS for any of my outing photos anymore, because the quality from the D90 is just too superior. However, the compactness and conveniency of the compact still far too great. I'm planning to get another compact, but this time it's for my wife. She wanted to venture into photography as well but complaining about the size and weight of the dSLR (I suppose all girls are same?). So I'm all out to find her something that's small enough but still possess the power of the dSLR.

The first model that came into my mind is the Olympus PEN E-P1. This camera is been so famous that I've been hearing about it all the time especially its Micro Four Third Sensor. I did another search and found some other equally good compact that fall within her criterias. They are the Canon S90 and Panasonic Lumix LX-3. Of course that other superior compacts like Canon G11 and Panasonic DMC-GH1/G1 also catch my attention.

From right to left: Lumix GH-1, Olympus PEN E-P1, Canon G11, Lumix LX-3, Canon S90

What should I choose for her? Here go the selection process. I only have a budget of RM1,500 because if I spend any more, it would already can afford an entry level of dSLR. I'm not ready to spend more than a dSLR but still getting crap quality photos. Immediately the Olympus PEN E-P1 and Panasonic DMC-GH1/G1 is out of the game. Both these cameras are superb in quality near matching to the dSLR but the price is almost RM2,000-RM3,000 that can easily get a medium level dSLR like my D90.

That left me with the choice of Canon G11, Canon S90 and Panasonic Lumix LX-3. I quickly run into local shop and play with the camera because the second main criteria is the size of the camera. By just looking at these cameras through the glass door, I know my choice would be Canon S90. Let's look at some dimensional comparison:

112 x 76 x 48mm @ 375grams - Canon G11
109 x 60 x 27mm @ 265grams - Panasonic Lumix LX-3
100 x 58 x 31mm @ 195grams - Canon S90

With a quick glance, the S90 seems to be as big as the LX-3 but the thickness dimension reported for LX-3 is actually wrong. It only show the body thickness and the bad thing about LX-3 is that it's lens is extruded from the body and cause a little non-handbag friendly, which is not mentioned. I think the LX-3 measured at least 37mm in thickness.

A side to side comparison between the Canon S90 with the Panasonic LX-3. Little different? Wait till you hold them on your hand.

Of course that as a dSLR owner, I cannot be deciding just purely on size, because rules of thumb in eletronic world is that smaller means lower quality. I dig further for a quality comparison of Canon S90 and Panasonic Lumix LX-3.

Specification of Lumix LX-3
10.1 megapixel with CCD sensor of 1/1.63"
Leica DC Vario Summicron Lens of 24-60mm (2.5x zoom) with aperture of 2.0-2.8 - very impressive!
Shutter Speed 60-1/2000
ISO range 80-6,400
Burst mode 1.88 frames/secMovie capture of HD 1,280x720 @ 24fps
3.0" LCD with 461,000 pixels
Battery Life 380 shots per charge

Specification of Canon S90
10.1 megapixel with CCD sensor of 1/1.7"
Canon Lens of 28-105mm (3.8x zoom) with aperture of 2.0-4.9
Shutter Speed 15-1/1600
ISO range 80-12,800
Burst mode 0.94 frames/sec
Movie capture of 640x480 @ 30fps
3.0" LCD with 461,000 pixels
Battery Life 220 shots per charge

In all the important aspect that I compared, LX-3 just kicks the little S90 ass everytime, except the ISO range, which is not very important for such a small sensor. There is a lot of similarity between LX-3 and S90, and it's rumour that Canon copied the LX-3 design and launch the S90 for head-to-head competition for that market share. But still I will probably go for the S90, why?

1. Canon S90 28-105mm is really important especially for travelling. The 24-60mm offered by LX-3 is definitely insufficient although the lens are much superior in low light situation. But I'm looking for overall performance here, and the 60mm capped by LX-3 is making the decision easier.

2. The size of the camera plays a big role in my decision as it's meant for my wife and the light weight with much smaller size is the main attraction while losing a little on-paper specifications to LX-3. Remember handbag friendly that will make sure she will use it and take all interesting photos that she wanted.

3. Me and my wife are SCUBA divers and underwater accessories plays a part here. Canon S90 original underwater casing (up to depth of 40m) cost approximately RM850 with warranty of 3 years while I'm not sure if I can find anything for the LX-3 in Malaysia. Even if you are not a diver, having the underwater casing will also allow you to get some interesting photos during snorkelling and beach side activities. My quick search around the web show the LX-3 underwater casing cost almost RM2,000-RM3,000 from reputable brand like Nautica!

4. This is a rumour and based on web review, that the LX-3 has more noise than the S90 in low and even base ISO. Both cameras can stretch up to ISO400 for usable photos but ISO800 is possible if taken in RAW and photoshop manually. With most of the photos to be capture in good light of base ISO, noise is not acceptable and I'm not sure why LX-3 make that mistake. I will need to clarify, but I will take other professional reviewers online opinion for now.

Both the compact are within the same price range of almost RM1,500 and both are great compact. I'm still lingering around my mind on which to choose but I will reveal later. Any other recommendation and help are welcome! Cheers. =)


Mohamad Nazri Ismail said...

Bro change to canon laa :p hehehe i got some canon underground market lenses :)

KVINLIM said...

eh, ray is looking for 18-200 lens. ada jalan?

Anonymous said...

im oso facing some problems in order to decide which camera between G11, lmx-3 & S90 shud i buy.... ur opinion gv me a great help =)

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