I've been happily using a Lumix TZ-70 for the past six or seven years. I love having a viewfinder (I just can't get on at all with framing a shot on a screen) and the 30x zoom was useful for random snapping of general subjects both near and far. Recently, though, I've been getting more into bird photography - or at least trying to - and I've found that the Lumix seems to have a major drawback in that the "infinity" focus point is only about 50ft-60ft distant whatever the zoom setting, which is basically useless for shooting small subjects at anything much over 500mm equivalent focal length. Not a huge surprise given the inevitable compromises that such a design has to have (although it could also be that the camera has developed a fault over the years) but I'm now thinking it could be time to look for something that will be better able to satisfy this more stringent requirement.
So what I think I'm looking for in this potential new camera is:
I'm thinking that, given some of constraints outlined above (size, weight, cost) I probably wouldn't be looking at a DLSR. But I might be wrong.
Oh, and did I mention that it must have a viewfinder? I'm kind of assuming that anything bigger than a compact will have a viewfinder anyway, but again I might be mistaken.
Would be grateful for any and all suggestions and advice!
* OK, at a push maybe not the scope, since I do already have a digiscoping attachment for my phone - but it's by no means quick to get set up, compared to whipping out a camera.
No specific recommendations, but a second hand DSLR would fit your described needs pretty well (aside from the size weight) and would be cheaper than you think given the wide onset of mirrorless cameras. Take a look at MPB or Wex for good quality second hand kit.
Also be aware that a lot of modern cameras (not DSLR) will have electronic viewfinders - not an issue regarding the handling of the thing, but not quite the same as an old-school system.
Aslo to add: a lot of the features you list are actually the ones that mean you can get "gallery quality" - it's not really about megapixels anymore.
Thanks for those points.
> Also be aware that a lot of modern cameras (not DSLR) will have electronic viewfinders
I've got no problem with an electronic viewfinder, so long as it's not too cluttered. It's what my current compact has anyway. I just much prefer looking through a viewfinder when setting up a shot, rather than looking at a screen. I think it also makes it easier to hold the camera steady.
The boring answer would be a Lumix G9 + 100-400mm zoom. Perhaps 2nd hand from MPB depending on budget.
Have a look at the Sony RX10 - I have the Mk vii and it is an expensive bit of kit, but the best camera I have ever had. 24-600mm lens with amazing stabilisation, the earlier models back to the Mk iii have the same lens at a more reasonable price. No changing lenses so no getting crap on the sensor.
A couple of photos taken at 600mm handheld,
What Ian said.
For the biggest reach in the most compact form, you're probably looking at a micro 4/3rds system; Olympus or Panasonic. Lots of choice of bodies and lenses.
I tried an Olympus camera and though there were many things to love about it, the menu system and I didn't get on at all so I went for a Canon mirrorless. But we don't all work the same way and Olympus cameras have many fans. Worth a look, at least; Panasonic similarly. Lots of bodies and lenses available on the used market.
The Sony RX10 Mk VII does not have a 24-600mm lens.
It has a 9-72 mm focal length lens.
When combined with the 1" sensor, this gives the field of view of a 24-200mm lens in full-frame / 35 mm equivalence.
It does have software-based 2x and 4x 'digital zoom' functions.
But it's still a 9-72mm lens.
So you are not hand-holding at 600mm. You are hand-holding optically at 72mm combined with a software based digital zoom.
> What Ian said.
> For the biggest reach in the most compact form, you're probably looking at a micro 4/3rds system; Olympus or Panasonic. Lots of choice of bodies and lenses.
Why not APS-C? I notice most people on UKC seem to recommend 4/3rds when recommending a crop sensor. Just wondering if there’s something I’m missing?
> Why not APS-C? I notice most people on UKC seem to recommend 4/3rds when recommending a crop sensor. Just wondering if there’s something I’m missing?
I have both. It boils down to lenses. For distant/small wildlife the combination of G9 + 100-400mm lens would match a Canon APS-C with a 600mm lens in terms of angle of view. I can handhold the 100-400, I can't with a 600mm - it's just too big and heavy. Note that the body is irrelevant in this sense - my APS-C body (550d) is actually smaller and lighter than the G9, but not not by enough to offset the difference in lens heft.
Absolutely nothing wrong with APS-C, some fine cameras use that format. But my recommendation for micro 4/3rds was based on you wanting something reasonably compact with a good focal reach. Micro 4/3rds cameras have a 2x 35mm equivalence, APS-C cameras 1.5 or 1.6 times.
Micro 4/3rds wasn't for me, but I can see why it has lots of fans.
That's the RX100 you have linked to, not the RX10 - though I got my vii and iv mixed up as I have both
> The boring answer would be a Lumix G9 + 100-400mm zoom. Perhaps 2nd hand from MPB depending on budget.
The boring answer is not necessarily the wrong answer, when it ticks many boxes other than the dSLR size camera that the OP would prefer not to have.
Panasonic/Lumix do some excellent small micro four thirds cameras that will take the 100-400mm lens and a walk-around lens 12-35mm to cover almost all outside and inside options.
You could get a second hand Panasonic/Lumix GX80
And any lens of your choice from tiny pancake lenses to the 100-400mm lens for wildlife.
.... In reply to Chris Craggs:
so .... the 'Current' RX-10 does not have a 24-600mm lens.
It has a 8.8-73.3 mm focal length lens.
When combined with the 1" sensor, this gives a Sony claimed field of view of a 24-200mm lens in full-frame / 35 mm equivalence.
It has software-based 'digital zoom' functions. But it's still a 8.8-73.3mm lens.
So you are not hand-holding at 600mm. You are hand-holding optically at 73.3mm combined with a software based digital zoom.
You have linked to an earlier model that had a 24-200mm lens. DPreview describe the current model as having a 24-600mm lens - https://www.dpreview.com/search/?query=RX10&product=sony_dscrx10iv
It is certainly a hefty chunk of glass on the front of it,
Yes, the Mk1 and Mk2 had a 24-200 (equivalent) lens. The Mk3 and Mk4 have a 24-600 equivalent. As shown here:
I traded my 60D with several L series lenses for the Sony Mk4 and I wouldn't go back to the DSLR. Too heavy, too cumbersome and I always seemed to have the wrong lens on the front. The Sony is perfect for me, and because it's lighter than the DSLR I actually take it with me.
In reply to Chris Craggs & boriselbrus:
OK, I'll shut up then, lol.
... except it is a 8.8-220mm lens (not a 24-600mm) ...
Well I'm glad that all got sorted out!
I've had a look at the RX10 iv: looks very capable but I'm not sure it doesn't have more features than I would ever need, hence I might end up paying for more bells and whistles than are actually required. Plus, the list price is rather more than I was hoping to have to pay to get what I do need.
I've also had a look at the G9: again, very nice, but heavier and bulkier than the RX10 once you include a suitable lens, and total cost looks likely to be higher than the RX10 with the lens included.
I think the above comparisons still apply when you look at used prices.
A used RX10 iii looks like it might be a more comfortable fit cost-wise, without being significantly less capable than the iv for the things I'm interested in. OTOH the iv has phase detection AF rather than the contrast system in the iii. Hmm...
I see that Panasonic also do 'bridge' cameras but I'm a bit wary of the brand at the moment due to the unexpected issues I've encountered with autofocus on my current Lumix compact - especially in comparison to the AF on the missus' Sony compact, which seems to work fine on distant subjects all the way to the top of the optical zoom range. Maybe not wholly justifiable but, as it's my money, I'm inclined to allow myself a modicum of gut feeling in the overall decision.
What would be really handy would be being able to get my hands on some candidate cameras in a physical shop, but they seem to be thin on the ground these days. There used to be a Jessops in central Edinburgh but that shut down a while back. I'm sure MBP would accept returns (consumer contracts regs and all that) but it seems a bit of a faff to ship 1kg+ of camera/camera+lens up and down the country just to have a look-see. Oh, hang on...it looks like there is a Wex in town, which might be worth a visit...
I had an RX10 MK3 before upgrading to a used MK4 The auto focus is day/night better - not important for portrait/landscape stuff but so much better for sports or birds in flight. It does have a lot of bells and whistles but it also has lots of "scene" modes to help get the best without getting too complex.
Downsides, well the battery life isn't great but additional batteries are cheap, a fully articulated screen would be nice and compared to a full frame sensor the smaller sensor means low light /high ISO photography means lots of noise. This can be resolved with the right software.
If you are anywhere near Perth, you are welcome to come and have a play with mine, sometimes it's just about how the camera feels in your hands.
One thing to note with the telezoom bridge and pocket cameras... is that the lens is part of the camera... and especially the telescopic ones are prone to having issues if tweaked when extented.
So the price of being compact, is something that is not as robust.
The happy medium, would be one of the many rangefinder kind of mirrorless cameras. Smaller body than the dSLR body type big brothers, but still changeable lenses... E.g. Panasonic used to to a GX-series, Olympus had the PEN -range and so on (I recall Sony also has their options, and Canon the M-series).
Which might be a good option.
And while I personally like my Panasonics, I will need to make a point that the autofocus on those is not the best... I recall corresponding models from Olympus having better AF. And to my knowledge generally all other brands are better. This might be an issue (or not) for shooting wild-life or sports.
You should have a look at Olympus range if you are visiting Wex.
Always some sort of compromise needed and it will depend on what you are prepared to accept to get any must haves.
I chose Olympus many years ago for a variety of reasons and have not regretted that decision as they still meet my priority needs. They do small(er) bodies that have interchangeable lenses, but even they may have more controls that you desire. You just ignore all the settings that you don’t want or need; I do.
Olympus are not the best for speed of focusing, using in low light, and have higher noise levels generally, but not unreasonable for my level of photography. On the need for stabilisation for hand held shots they are incredible (that was one of my essentials so I could avoid tripod need, for example).
At least worth considering if you have looked at Panasonic. The lenses are interchangeable* between makes so gives more options for getting lenses to suit. (* there have been some reports that the Panasonic 100-400 does not fully work electronically with Olympus bodies or vice versa, so say for example lose some image stabilisation stops, but I took the chance and mine is fully compatible).
The 100-400 lens, btw, as others mentioned, is a great lens for bird photography for its size, weight, and cost compared to some of the other lenses professionals use with Nikon and Canon.
> ...Also be aware that a lot of modern cameras (not DSLR) will have electronic viewfinders - not an issue regarding the handling of the thing, but not quite the same as an old-school system.
I preferred optical viewfinders (e.g., 6d). Till I tried a good electronic one (G9). It made me realise that the 6d might have a good low-light sensor, but if you can't actually see the thing you're trying to photograph then it's a bit academic! Whereas the electronic one on the G9 act as an 'image intensifier' (as would live view on the 6d, but that doesn't count - it's a screen).
That’s why I still enjoy my Pentax KP DSLR and Canon G15 compact, both with optical viewfinders. I’m pleased that Pentax is still committed to DSLR. Optical view finders are more important to me than the high spec numbers but dubious real world benefits (for me) of mirrorless.
> That’s why I still enjoy my Pentax KP DSLR and Canon G15 compact, both with optical viewfinders. I’m pleased that Pentax is still committed to DSLR. Optical view finders are more important to me than the high spec numbers but dubious real world benefits (for me) of mirrorless.
I think they both have their pros-n-cons. It's not just a case of one always being better than the other. I don't take my FF camera birding (far too heavy) and I don't use the G9 for astro (too noisy). There's also a tendency to confuse the issue with labels like 'mirrorless'. For me the G9 setup is advantageous due to it's Micro 4/3 sensor rather than due to it being mirrorless. Having got it for the former reason I have found some merits in the mirrorless aspect (like the image intensifier feature of the EVF * ), but those are just cherries on the pie.
I wouldn't want to be without either system these days.
* The other really nice wildlife feature on the G9 (and I assume on other mirrorless cameras) is the capability to start taking a burst of pictures *before* I press the shutter release. For action shots that's really a boon.
> The other really nice wildlife feature on the G9 (and I assume on other mirrorless cameras) is the capability to start taking a burst of pictures *before* I press the shutter release. For action shots that's really a boon.
How do you do that please?
Olly do similar on some models; if same it’s half press records up to 50 frames before you press shutter. If you don’t and release it deletes. Can fill a SD card fast with Olly ‘if’ you use the max 120 frames per second with up to 50 in the pre part.
What a great feature which coincides with me getting a 200mm prime lens today so I had a play at the local park.
Even though it's been wet and very dull, I took 3k of images in a couple of hours getting used to the feature. I got a handful of keepers. 😀
I’m also an electrical viewfinder convert, just didn’t know if it’s what the OP was after
It is a good setting when needed (called pro capture with Olympus). Needs good light and clean background ideally on the Olympus cameras to improve hit rate. I also use back button focus with it when I do use it. I’ve never found subject tracking to work well for me.
I spoke to another bird photographer last year who bought an Olly camera specifically with the Pro capture mode to help her bird photography improve. Has it’s uses, but overall I prefer one of the sequential shooting modes as my default for birds.
With the power housed inside modern mirrorless cameras, I don't see the point or need for Back Button focus.
Here is a little quiz. The winner gets an ALDI mega puff. Only the one though.
Which image was taken with my sexy new Pre-Burst attempt and which one was spray and pray?
Did you look at the image or date taken?😇
> ... I took 3k of images in a couple of hours getting used to the feature. I got a handful of keepers.
That is indeed one of the 'unintended consequences' of fast burst modes (pre- or otherwise). You often end up with lots of almost indistinguishable images. But which is best? Usually the only difference is slightly different focus plane, either 'cos you are refocusing for each image or the subject is moving slightly. I ended up lashing together some software to display the images side-by-side with the most-in-focus areas highlighted. It's crap, but better than nothing. I've not seen any proper software that has that feature.
On your Flickr, puffin in flight is being pursued by a black headed gull and two sandwich terns, which is really cool.
All I know is that everything moved so fast, I was just looking at blurs whizzing across the sky.
another vote here for the sony rx10 mk iv. I spent months agonising over what to get and settled on this eventually. it retails for around £1500 but i got it for £1100 from Cotswold cameras as a grey import if you are ok with getting it that way. its an amazing camera although not lightweight.
> its an amazing camera although not lightweight.
You're not wrong. I managed to have a brief play with one yesterday (in John Lewis of all places) and my initial reaction on first picking it up was "stripe me, this is heavy". It weighs more than the Zenit E I was given for my 16th birthday back in the 1970s, and that was built like a tank (probably built from melted-down tanks, in fact). I know the Sony has mind-bogglingly more tricks up its sleeve than the Zenit did but I can't really see myself lugging that around along with my other paraphernalia.
I also had a play with a Panasonic FZ330 that they had on display. That felt much more like the kind of heft that I could countenance carrying. The price tag was also attractive. The f2.8 throughout the len's zoom range appeals. There's a limit to how much one can deduce about a camera's performance from playing around with it in a (largeish) shop but it did seem to be capable of getting focus lock at its full telephoto focal length at much greater distances than my TZ70 manages. Yes, Sony's PD focusing would be nice to have, and the 1" sensor, but not at that weight or price for me.
As for the G9/100-400mm combination, even at second hand prices that seems to be in the same cost ballpark as the RX10, while being even heavier.
I've read up about the FZ330 online and, although not without some issues, it seems to be fairly well liked by those that own one. Being 'splashproof' and 'dustproof' might be another practicality factor in its favour (no ratings are given for either, but it does at least indicate that some steps have been taken to mitigate against such risks).
As I said in my OP, I'm not aiming to get gallery-quality prints but I do want something that can take legible pictures of the type of subjects that I'm most interested in, and the current camera definitely doesn't meet that need. And the price is undeniably attractive. But yet there is still this niggle in the back of my mind deriving from my current poor experience with Panasonic's AF technology...
> As for the G9/100-400mm combination, even at second hand prices that seems to be in the same cost ballpark as the RX10, while being even heavier.
Just thought I'd share the awful focusing of my second-hand G9 and second hand 200mm lens.
Not just me who gets triggered by the G9 autofocus is this and that comments then, all you have to do is look at the Flick G9 groups to see its more than capable
... And related the that, I was wondering just how good (optically) the 100-400mm lens is, so here a test image: A ten pound note taken at ~9 metres, 400mm wide-open aperture using the G9 hi-res sensor-wiggling option, comparing a single normal-res image (on the right @ 400%) with the derived hi-res image (on the left @ 200%):
Bottom line: The 100-400mm lens @ 400mm F6.3 has a higher resolution than the 20Mpx sensor in the G9. If you get a soft image in normal use you can't blame the optics!
Just to be clear, this was indoors, heavy tripod, stabilisation turned off and electronic shutter (aka silent mode - shutter slap *will* degrade the hi-res image) and 8s shutter delay. There's no way you'll be able to reproduce this outdoors, handheld!
> Not just me who gets triggered by the G9 autofocus is this and that comments then
Think I will show my GH6 some love today and take it for a spin with my 100-400. It hasn’t taken a single photo since I got my G9.
Up until last week, every single lens that I own had a UV filter on it to protect the glass. So I experimented with ditching the filter. I don’t know if it’s my imagination wishing, but the images look more sharp and clear sans UV filter.
> Not just me who gets triggered by the G9 autofocus is this and that comments then
If that was in response to Lemming's post which was addressed to me, I don't think I've ever said anything bad about the autofocus capabilities of the G9 specifically. I expressed reservations about buying another Panasonic because of the issues that I've experienced with my current Lumix compact, but I'm well aware that that camera and a G9 will be worlds apart. (I think it was HeMa who disparaged Panasonic's autofocus technology vs the rest in this post: https://www.ukhillwalking.com/forums/photography/time_for_a_new_camera-757530?....)
As it happens, I have got in touch with Panasonic customer support about the autofocus problem on my TZ70, and I've sent them a video of it failing to achieve focus lock on distant subjects at the extremes of its zoom range. I'm now waiting to see what they say. If it's: "you're right, it shouldn't do that," i.e. the camera has developed a fault, that would be much less disappointing than: "they all do that, it's a limitation of the camera".
I've no doubt that the G9 is a good camera but the price and weight, when you include a telephoto zoom in the package, is prohibitive for me. I think - though the worst case scenario would be to spend a three-figure sum on a bridge camera and then find that it still doesn't get me what I want...
> another vote here for the sony rx10 mk iv. I spent months agonising over what to get and settled on this eventually. it retails for around £1500 but i got it for £1100 from Cotswold cameras as a grey import if you are ok with getting it that way.
Having fallen foul of Nikon's attitude to non-UK-dealer sourced kit in the past (regarding a pair of binoculars, not a camera) I'm wary of going down that route in future. Their estimate for the repair was: the price of a new pair. Not a great way to encourage repeat business.
On MPB the Sony RX10 mkiii is half the price of the RX10 mk iv. Unless there is a massive upgrade in specs, maybe the mkiii is a fine deal?
No not at all, was in response to Lemmings tongue in cheek "awful" comment, see it all the time, Panasonic has bad autofocus etc, admittedly its not as good as dSLR but its by no means bad.
> No not at all, was in response to Lemmings tongue in cheek "awful" comment, see it all the time, Panasonic has bad autofocus etc,
Here's today's attempt with my GH6 and its awful auto-focus. Admittedly I cocked up on the exposure, but in my defence I was holding a sandwich box in one hand and my camera plus fekin heavy lens in the other hand when all hell broke loose for about five seconds.
I can't fault the auto-focus of either of my Panasonic cameras, however I will ditch the GH6 in a heartbeat once Phased Detection becomes available. Its not all sweetness and rainbows because my last camera, a Panasonic GH5 would have missed focus for most of the shots.
The Panasonic G9, which is knocking on for a six year old design, is a phenomenal bit of kit and I'm so glad that I took a punt and bought it second-hand. My GH6 is not too shabby but awful with low light photography. The elderly G9 is outstanding however it could not compete with a full-frame sensor.
I went G9 as it was a sort of halfway house of GH5 for video and yet a good stills camera, they are a great option as the video is pretty capable just without some of the high end bells and whistles of thet GH5. I do wish they would give the G9 shutter angle though, and a live composite function like the Oly's while they are at it!
I have to admit i keep getting tempted by the S5 deals i see but then i look a the price and size of the lenses and quickly realise why i went M4/3 in the first place.
> I have to admit i keep getting tempted by the S5 deals i see but then i look a the price and size of the lenses and quickly realise why i went M4/3 in the first place.
I too am not going to go S5ii because of the size, weight and cost of the glass. Also my MFT GH6 has far more codecs and higher frame rates than the S5ii simply by the size of sensor and number crunching power of the camera.
I'm waiting with baited breath for phased detection. This feature would give Sony a run for its money as King of the Hill.
> I'm waiting with baited breath for phased detection. This feature would give Sony a run for its money as King of the Hill.
I'm not sure this will ever come will it or have you heard something?
Panasonic have introduced this on the latest S5's.
Presume the MFT's will follow...
> I'm not sure this will ever come will it or have you heard something?
Ho, its coming. But what MFT camera will get this killer-feature first?
PDAF is hardware dependent though i would expect so it won't be on current MFT hardware, does the newest Oly EM1 not have PDAF already?
> Panasonic/Lumix do some excellent small micro four thirds cameras that will take the 100-400mm lens and a walk-around lens 12-35mm to cover almost all outside and inside options.
> You could get a second hand Panasonic/Lumix GX80
Thanks for the GX80 suggestion, which I somehow managed to overlook before. I hadn't previously considered that type of camera.
> And any lens of your choice from tiny pancake lenses to the 100-400mm lens for wildlife.
The 100-400mm lens does look pretty amazing, but cost and weight could again be a factor. The Panasonic 100-300mm is around half the price and half the weight - but is it only half as good? Obviously it doesn't have the reach of the Leica lens, but it does still have ILIS which works in conjunction with the IBIS like the Leica does.
The GX80+100-300mm would be roughly the same cost and weight to carry as the RX10 Mk3, which I had previously ruled out on weight grounds. Maybe I need to revisit that...
> PDAF is hardware dependent though i would expect so it won't be on current MFT hardware, does the newest Oly EM1 not have PDAF already?
IIRC phase and contrast was from EM1 mk 2, so the mk 3, EM1 X, and the latest OM1 all have it.
> - but is it only half as good?
Yes, speaking as somebody who had the 100-300 then upgraded to the 100-400, the 100-400 is a stunning lens, the 100-300 is great VFM and i took some images with it that i was pleased with but it can't come anywhere near the 100-400
This image was taken on the 100-400, its not as sharp as it could be but that was my fault
> > - but is it only half as good?
> Yes, speaking as somebody who had the 100-300 then upgraded to the 100-400, the 100-400 is a stunning lens...
Or at the risk of repeating an earlier post that might have been missed...
"... This is a £10 note at 9 metres comparing a normal 20Mpx image with a hi-res (sensor wiggling 80Mpx) one:
Bottom line: The 100-400mm lens @ 400mm F6.3 has a higher resolution than the 20Mpx sensor in the G9. If you get a soft image in normal use you can't blame the optics!"
> The 100-400mm lens does look pretty amazing, but cost and weight could again be a factor. The Panasonic 100-300mm is around half the price and half the weight - but is it only half as good? Obviously it doesn't have the reach of the Leica lens, but it does still have ILIS which works in conjunction with the IBIS like the Leica does.
With my 100-400mm lens all the way out at 400mm takes an awful lot of practice to pick out a fast moving subject. Dropping down to 300mm gives more of a fighting chance to even see your fast moving subject in the frame.
As with anything, once you go beyond a mid build price range, then it becomes a law of diminishing returns where you start to pay quite a lot for tiny increments of improvements in quality.
I've had my 100-400 since 2018 and its been one of my most used lenses, and given me the most enjoyment with the images it captures. I got this today at the local park.