Searching for the ultimate photo camera

The best camera, is the camera you have on hand. That is the easiest non-answer to the frequently asked question ‘What is the best camera?’

Unfortunately, the non-answer is true. Because ‘best’ depends on what you think is important in a camera. Most of the times the camera I have on hand, is my iPhone. But to be honest, I want more out of my photos than that. So I tried different kind of photo cameras. Let me tell you about my search for the ultimate photo camera.

First, let me explain ultimate. I’m looking for that family camera, both my husband and myself love using. A camera with a great auto option and fast autofocus for my husband. And options for myself to tinker with some technical settings such as aperture, bracketing and focus. The ultimate camera is great for portraits and for shooting landscape. It can even get in with big zoom for that occasional wild life close up. It shares photos wireless so I can put pictures online fast if I want to. And analogue dials for easy acces to options.

So here’s how my search went.

Taking it easy: Panasonic DMC-TZ5

Before iPhone and Instagram, it was easy. I had a Panasonic DMC-TZ5 that I had on me not only while on holiday, but also on day trips. Hooray for pocket size! My beloved TZ5 easily fitted in my purse or the pocket of my jacket. It also had tremendous zoom. I could zoom up to an equivalent of a 280 mm zoom lens. If you think it sounds big, it’s because it is. I could take that picture of that bird in a tree across the street. And even that lion if I had gone on safari. I didn’t. So I haven’t. But I could have.

Still, as years went by, my little TZ5 was overtaken by newer models with more pixels, bigger sensors and more options. And so in 2012 with a new family member on his way, I thought I needed a more high end camera to make that Instagram proof family photos. So bye TZ5. And hello Sony Nex-5N!

Getting serious with system camera Sony Nex-5N

The Sony Nex-5N is a system camera, where you can switch lenses attached to the camera body. Yup, like an old school reflex camera, or a semi professional DSLR camera. But smaller. And lighter. Of course, I liked the semi professional look. And the more technical options too. The Nex-5N gave me the option to manually set aperture or speed, or both. That was a feature I definitely needed for my photography class. The class that would help me make awesome family and travel photos.

See how the Sony Nex-5N compares to the Panasonic DMC TZ5

But I didn’t make those awesome photos. At least not as much as I thought I would. That camera was in the study on the top floor, while my baby and I were downstairs in the living room, with my iPhone within reach. Even on holiday, the camera would stay in the hotel room, as it was still to heavy and to big for my day pack. And if I did take it with me, it often stayed in my bag. In its own case. And capturing that photogenic moment (which with boys, is gone in seconds) too much of a hassle: taking the camera bag out of my bag, getting the camera out, getting the lens cap off, getting the settings right through the touch screen….

So I started looking for a new camera. One with wifi connection – to make posting on Instagram and this blog easier. A smaller and lighter one. With the option to set aperture manually. And a integrated lens cap that I can’t lose. With a great lens for portraits and depth-of-field. That performs in low light conditions, so I can mainly shoot photos without flash. And some zoom would be nice. And a 180 degrees tilting screen in this selfie and blogging day and age is almost a must-have.

And then analysis paralysis hit me. Hard. I think I stayed in research mode for almost 3 years. First I thought upgrading the specs of the cam would definitely make me use the camera more often. So I waited a year and a half for the upgrade. When it finally was released the price upgrade blew me in a new phase of analysis paralysis. Then I thought about getting a pocket camera with serious specs. Maybe I’m just too Dutch for serious specs, because SERIOUSLY? Why are these little cameras so dayumn expensive?

All those specs, they make you think you need them. When really, you don’t. In any case, I don’t. Not that often that is, that is worth spending the money over. My current relationship with my photo camera is on a yearly basis. Once a year, I take it with me on our family holiday. The other 50 weeks, I take photos with my iPhone. It’s attractive idea to buy myself into the serious amateur photographer lifestyle, but deep inside I know it won’t work. The same way a size 6 jeans in my closet is laying there the with tags attached for a loooooong time now. And will be some longer time still.

Getting real with Canon Powershot G7x mark II

But my days of photo camera choosing apathy are over. This week, I decided on buying the Canon Powershot G7x mark II. It’s a pocket camera with most of the things I want. And through Marktplaats, the Dutch version of Craigslist, I got it quite cheap. The one thing I’m sacrificing is sensor size. The Sony Nex-5N carries an APS-C sensor which is way bigger than the BSI-CMOS sensor in the Canon G7x mark II. What does this tech mumbo jumbo mean? The bigger the sensor, the bigger the depth-of-field. That means a beautiful blurry background when making close ups. With the bigger APS-C sensor, the Nex-5N makes better portrait and better macro photos. So I’m keeping that camera for garden pics and family portraits at home.

See how the Canon Powershot G7x mark II compares to the Sony Nex-5N.

I did a few test shots and I like the handling of the camera. Basic settings are accessible through the ring, dials or easy buttons. Unlike with the Nex-5N where most settings could  only be adapted through touch screen. I’ll update you on my photography lifestyle progress, and my experiences with the G7x mark II. In the meantime, I’ll try to suppress the urge to look into a APS-C compact with that TZ5 style zoom and fast lens…

And if you’re looking for a compact camera in point-and-shoot style, but want your next camera excel in other specs, here are some options that I looked into but discarded:

  • Faster lens, less zoom: Sony DCS RX 100 III
  • Bigger zoom, slower lens: Panasonic ZS/TZ100, ZS100
  • Bigger zoom, smaller sensor: Sony HX90v
  • Waterproof and 4K video, smaller sensor and resolution: Olympus Though 5-G
  • Slower and shorter lens, lower price: Canon Powershot G9x mark II

What is your photography lifestyle? And what camera do you have to fit that lifestyle? 

xoxo – Irene.

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