Need help picking a first camera for an intermediate level friend.

Discussion in 'This or That?' started by CyVan, Mar 23, 2016.

  1. CyVan

    CyVan Mu-43 Veteran

    Mar 9, 2016
    OK I need to pick your brains here.

    I'm looking to buy a camera as a surprise birthday gift for a friend of ours. She's had videography training as a hobby and loves photography so she'd be fairly comfortable in manual mode. Currently she's stuck using her smartphone camera.

    Based on discussions over the past few weeks I've discerned the following:

    - She likes landscape photography but also wants to try portraiture but she's shy
    - Small enough to fit in her purse. She's fairly tall and not a girly girl so whatever she's using as a purse might not be THAT small.
    - She was leaning towards Canon until I showed her the advantages of MFT.
    - I'd want to get an ILC camera so she can start to build her collection of lenses but if there's a fixed lens camera that has excellent IQ and capabilities I'd take a look at that too.
    - Decent video quality so she can put her latent training to some use.
    - Tiltable/Swivel screen would be nice
    - EVF would be nice
    - Hotshoe or built in flash would be nice

    BUDGET ~ US$500 ( yeah yeah I know, USED gear is our friend here )


    - Pan GM5 - I hear a lot of good things about this one. Would the 12-32mm kit be good enough for landscapes? No tiltable screen though.
    - Oly Pen Series - These look really good but are larger than the GM5.

    Any other ideas or suggestions. I'm open to anything. I just want a good foundation camera for her to start her hobby with that's not too bulky.

    For reference she's held my GX8 and thought it was rather bulky.
  2. bomo

    bomo Mu-43 Regular

    May 7, 2014
    Hudson Valley, New York
    Real Name:
    I think the most bang for the buck right now is the Oly E-M10 but may be too big. Available from B&H for $499.

    The Panny 12-32 is a good lens and should be fine for landscapes. Both the GM5 and GM1 kits are available from Adorama.
    • Agree Agree x 2
  3. kingduct

    kingduct Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 12, 2013
    How important is video to her? The G7 would be a good option if that's the case, though it might be a little more expensive (Adorama currently has a kit for $600 that includes a snazzy microphone: Panasonic DMC-G7). Judging by the fact that she was looking at Canon, it doesn't sound like the G7 would be too big.

    That said, I'm a little leery of doing this as a surprise. There's a big difference in how a GM5 and a G7 handle.
  4. CyVan

    CyVan Mu-43 Veteran

    Mar 9, 2016
    @kingduct@kingduct Yeah I was seriously looking at the G7 for her as well. I could go body only because I have the 14-42 kit lens from my old G7 still. I'm leery of the surprise factor but what I'm doing is telling her she's helping me decide on a camera for my GF from a 'female' point of view. So I'm getting her to think what SHE'D want to use :)

    Once I narrow down the field a bit I'll give her the options and see which one she goes for. It boils down to whether she wants a camera for her purse or one she can carry in separately but its still small and light.
  5. ean10775

    ean10775 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 31, 2011
    Cleveland, Ohio
    Real Name:
    I'd say E-M10 for ILC or possibly an LX100 if you/she could live with the focal range.
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  6. Bruce McL

    Bruce McL Mu-43 Veteran

    I bought the GM5 in December. My requirements are very similar to your friend's: light weight, small size, primarily landscape photographer. I am very happy with the 12-32 lens for landscapes. It's sharp and the color rendition is reasonably good. The weight of the combination is 281 grams. The LX100 weighs 393, and is slightly more bulky. Throw any other MFT camera into camera compare, and you'll find it's not in the same size and weight class as the GM5 - other than the GM1.

    Compact Camera Meter

    For 1" sensor, the Canon G9X would be worth looking at.

    For smaller sensor, I think the Fuji XQ2 would be a good fit. I'd rather have that than a Canon S120, which is about the same size as the XQ2. I have used the Fuji X30 and Canon 100, both related to the two cameras above. I think the XQ2 is a very versatile camera that doesn't get enough recognition.

    Olympus XZ-2 gets a lot of praise, and was on my short list for a few years. It's a bit heavy though. The XZ-10 is lighter but has a smaller sensor.

    Side by Side Comparison: Digital Photography Review

    Edit: over the years I have found some good excuses to buy cameras outside of my weight and bulk comfort zone. I usually end up regretting those decisions.
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2016
  7. Moula

    Moula Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 9, 2016
    If size and weight matters, then GM5 + 12-32 or + 15.
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  8. davidzvi

    davidzvi Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 12, 2012
    Outside Boston MA
    Real Name:
    Since video is important I would pick Panasonic over Olympus, it handles video better. I personally prefer Olympus, but I really don't do video. And since you have a Panasonic you'd be on familiar ground.

    GM5 might be OK, but might be small. I'd probably look at the Panasonic GX7. If the GX8 is too big than the G7 would be as well where as the GX7 is about a centimeter smaller each in WXDXH.
  9. CyVan

    CyVan Mu-43 Veteran

    Mar 9, 2016
    Thanks for the replies so far guys. I think I need to do some more digging. I know the GM5 would work but I need to see if she'd be open to a bigger form factor. In terms of video , I think she's interested in it but not necessarily a day to day thing. So she might not need the 4K capabilities of the later Panasonics. Luckily this talk of her helping me getting my gf a camera has her thinking about it too so that means I can approach her more directly about what she would want. Then we can just talk to her husband to make sure they don't get one before her birthday :)
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  10. sammykhalifa

    sammykhalifa Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 22, 2012
    Pittsburgh PA
    Real Name:
    I think I'd look at the EM10 or the G-Series.
  11. bikerhiker

    bikerhiker Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 24, 2013
    Real Name:
    Have you thought about recommending her the Olympus E-PL7? It was designed to appeal to female shooters and it has a selfie mode. Remember; that's important for phone users.. :)

    With or without a viewfinder is not all too important for smartphone users as they are used to composing using the phone screen anyhow. This is what I noticed.

    In regards to video, 720p or 1080p is good enough. I know people seemed to think that you need 4K, but editing 4K video especially RAW footage require much more powerful computer and not on the smartphone that she'll probably be using.

    People need to realize that when someone is used to editing footage and photos on the smartphone, they only need a camera to improve the quality of the footage and photos but I don't think are ready to go to a laptop or desktop computer to do some serious editing. At least I never met anyone who use a phone camera all of a sudden buy an iMac Core i7 or i5 in a huge line up just to do video. It takes small steps to get people to gel with a standalone camera. Buy something simple so she would use it all the time rather than using it maybe once or twice and then leave it. Then, it's not her lost because it is your money that bought that camera for her and I saw many of that happened when I was working in the camera retail field.. Families and friends tend to buy more camera than what the intended person would need as a gift, because they tend to be more serious and deep into the hobby..

    The best way is to talk to her and understand what she truly needs and not make assumptions based on what you think she needs.
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2016
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  12. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Ask yourself honestly whether building a lens kit is something she would really do. I know that literally every one of my friends/family members that I've helped buy cameras end up adding exactly zero lenses to their kit after the initial purchase. If you are not going to add any lenses, then really the ILC is a waste of space - even if it is GM5 sized!

    I would probably lean with a large sensor compact based on what you've said above and reading between the lines a little bit. It's a huge step up from a phone, gives plenty of room to grow her skills and it's a self-contained item that doesn't encourage her to spend extra money on lenses, etc. Canon G9X is well within your budget new, as an example

    P.S. - I commend your generosity, what a nice gift!
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  13. demiro

    demiro Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 7, 2010
    I agree with tkbslc about being certain she wants to do ILC. If not, I would be thinking LX100, but it sounds like the newer Canon options are pretty good as well.
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  14. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    In my opinion the GM5 is a camera where everything was sacrificed for the smallest possible size.
    EVF is "small", controls are small, lcd is fixed, max 1/500s mechanical speed, max 1/50 flash synch, etc.

    It's a beautiful camera but I would pick another one anytime except to keep it in my pocket. And the pocket factor goes quickly away as soon as you add a couple of full size lenses.
    Today I went out, to take pictures only, with the E-M10 + O60 in one jacket pocket and the O75-300 in the other. So pocketability is relative.

    I see the GM5 as a second camera, not as the main one I would use to do "serious" photography or videos. For just in case pictures you still have the phone. Like EDC tools vs real tools.

    Then you have the "look" factor: the E-M10, for example, looks much more like a "real" camera and is quite beautiful too.

    The LX100 with max 70mm focal length may be a little too short for me, and the lens is not as fast as most primes.
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  15. WendyK

    WendyK Super Moderator

    Feb 28, 2014
    Northern Virginia
    Real Name:
    For what it is worth, I carry my eM10 + a prime lens (25 or 45) in my purse all the time. It fits in every purse I have. Unless she carries very small purses or carries a lot of stuff in her purse (like a mom with small children might) then I don't think you need to limit it to the smallest options
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  16. listers_nz

    listers_nz Mu-43 Veteran

    Nov 22, 2013
    Christchurch, New Zealand
    Real Name:
    The Panasonic GX7 ticks a lot of your boxes - EVF (tiltable), tiltable screen, built in flash, hot shoe, decent video, and is relatively small. If you can pick up a 12-32mm lens (you can often find them separated from a kit) it makes a reasonably compact package, or you could pair it with your 14-42mm kit lens. With the 12-32mm lens it isn't a lot bigger than the LX100, see:
    Compact Camera Meter
    • Agree Agree x 2
  17. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 21, 2014
    Yep. I bought my mom a GF3 and an adapter for her OM lenses a few years ago after she kept wistfully saying the could use her old SLR lenses. Of course, she never does, and the 14-42X that came with it is glued to the camera. I bought her the 25/1.7 last year when it was on sale for $99 because the indoor results from the kit zoom aren't great, and I think even convincing her to use an AF prime more often isn't going to be easy.

    Most people just don't want ILCs. The majority of sub-$1000 DSLRs sold are used exclusively with the kit lens, essentially making them bulky replacements for an RX100 with fewer features.
  18. CyVan

    CyVan Mu-43 Veteran

    Mar 9, 2016
    I agree, which is why I'm open to getting an Olympus.

    I agree here as well but I've noted a couple things. She's artistic by nature, even though she's in a technical field like me , she does a lot of hands on artistic stuff. She appreciates a good picture and the technical aspects that went into making it; so she's not just using her camera to record events or simple pictures. Based on our discussions she would want to use it to create "art". We (her friends) would want this camera to be a good foundation for her growing into that. She might start out with the 12-32 kit and do a lot with it, but at least with an ILC she'll have the option to go further than she would with a fixed lens camera IF she wants to. We've spoken about collaborating on stuff as well so I have no problems lending her my lenses for a project. She would have bought herself a camera long ago except for some other overriding priorities.

    We have a couple months before her birthday, so I fully intend to explore the extent of her wants in this area. But you guys are definately giving me options for me to show her before we make up our mind.

    This is good to know. I plan on paying closer attention to what she travels with day to day to see if the same thing could apply to her. I love the feature set of the EM10's and their used price is within budget.
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  19. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    Real Name:
    GM5 is a great camera when exceptionally small size means EVERYTHING, but it is a very poor primary camera, in my view. (Yes, I have a GM5 and it can make awesome images! But it is far from my 1st choice as a shooting camera.)

    For your friend, I'd go with a GX7, if interchangeable lenses are needed. Make the size of the camera work and get over it. Awesome size and superb capability. The GX7 is a landmark camera loaded with great features.

    If ILC isn't necessary, go with the LX100, a camera which I believe EVERY photographer can make good use of and would love having. The LX100 is my idea of something that we all should have, always riding along, wherever and whenever we go. Fantastic, compact camera that yields superb stills output and has 4k video! This would be a significant step up from her cell phone cam and would remain a great, useful tool even after she adds an interchangeable lens camera and various lenses.
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2016
  20. demiro

    demiro Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 7, 2010
    I think DHart has it nailed. I agree about the GM5. While I don't think the GX7 is a landmark camera I do think it is very good and it is best option to meet criteria that have been discussed. I'd pair it up with a 20/1.7. Zooms are fine, but I think the 20 will speak to the artist in your friend. $500 for that pair used might be possible if you shop around some.
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