New Compact Camera vs New Lens

Discussion in 'This or That?' started by sammaritan12, May 6, 2013.

  1. sammaritan12

    sammaritan12 Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 17, 2012
    So now I have raised enough money for my hobby and wish to purchase something new. I have an Olympus PEN E-PM1 w/ kit lens and either wish to buy a new lens or purchase a compact camera. The dilemma I have is that for general non-photography events I want to be able to take a camera with me in my pocket for when the opportunity arises.

    Here are some of my choices:


    I can get these for approximately the same price (under $400)

    • Olympus 17mm f/1.8 -the classic 35mm, fast focusing, versatile, clutch focus, too big to take everywhere with me (pockets wise, I don't wear jackets with zippable pockets)
    • Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 - sharp, versatile, in the road between 35mm and 50mm, SLOW focusing
    • Sigma 19mm f/2.8 - decent, cheap, not pocketable, slow start up and rattle, slow aperture
    • Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 - good focusing, pocketable, maybe a bit too wide and not versatile enough, cheap
    • Sigma 30mm f/2.8 - cheap, decent focus, slow start up and rattle, slow aperture
    • Olympus 15mm f/8 - More like a toy
    • Olympus 45mm f/1.8 - cheap, sharp, all rounder, not pocketable, may be too tight

    Compact Cameras

    I can get these for approximately the same price (under $400)

    • Olympus XZ-2
    • Olympus XZ-10
    • Panasonic TZ40
    • Panasonic LX7
    • Canon S110

    Any suggestions or help is appreciated. I can get Olympus prices so low because I know someone who can get it cheap for me.

    Even though the form factor for the Olympus PEN E-PM1 is quite compact I don't think it's suitable to being with me everywhere (yet).
  2. DynaSport

    DynaSport Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 5, 2013
    Real Name:
    If what you desire is to have a pocketable camera, then I don't understand why you are considering lenses that make your camera non-pocketable.

    That leaves you with buying one of the pancakes for you E-PM1 or one of the compacts.

    I would probably get the S110, just because I am familiar and comfortable with the Canon point and shoots and have been pleased with the results. Alternatively, I would probably get the P20.

    Best of luck to you.
  3. ssgreenley

    ssgreenley Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 12, 2011
    Get the Panasonic 20. It's [mostly] pocketable, bright, and versatile. It's not SLOW so much as leisurely focus. I suspect it will be far better on low light than most compacts, for example. My 2 cents!
  4. Biro

    Biro Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 8, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    Real Name:
    To the OP: How often do these non-photography events where you need a pocketable camera come up? Usually the advice is to point you toward new glass rather before a new camera body. But if the lack of a pocketable camera is preventing you from capturing a good amount of images that you want, then perhaps that's the way to go.

    In my case, I have cameras ranging from full-on APS-C DSLRs, micro-four thirds and compacts. The compact camera I choose to own is the Panasonic LX7. It's controls are a joy to use and image quality is solid up to ISO 800 and even 1600 in a pinch. And, if you get lazy, Intelligent Auto mode works great. I got together with three other highly experienced photographers over the past weekend and it turned out that we all own LX7s in addition to our other gear.

    Now, on the subject of lenses, I own all of the Olympus and Panasonic glass you have listed above and I would recommend the Olymous 17mm f/1.8 if you decide to go with a new lens. 35mm is a good, flexible focal length without getting too wide. And the lens will allow you to do a lot of great indoor and low-light photography without flash. And it works a bit better on Olympus bodies than the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 (particularly at higher ISOs). But it is bigger than the Panny.

    Good luck. I hope this helps.
  5. dohearne

    dohearne Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 23, 2013
    Vermont, Virginia
    Real Name:
    Dave Hearne
    What About Additional Functionality

    Here is a slightly different perspective. My pocket camera (Canon D10) is a "rugged" camera - waterproof, shock resistant, etc. Although image quality is higher in similarly priced P&S cameras it is still quite good and I can take it places I would not take any other camera, e.g in my fly fishing vest. To illustrate my point here is a picture taken with the D10 while fly fishing on the Maine coast.
    <a href="" title="10 Best 2011 - Parsons Beach Stripers, K'Bunk, ME">[​IMG]"800" height="600" alt="dohearne Photography: Favorites &emdash; 10 Best 2011 - Parsons Beach Stripers, K'Bunk, ME" /></a>
  6. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    Define 'pocket' for a minute - none of the MFT cameras are what I would call comfortably pocketable - ie fit in a jeans pocket, unless they're very, very baggy jeans, and with a pancake lens will fit in a roomier coat pocket.

    Having said that, the Oly XZ, Panasonic LX series are also not pocketable in the 'jeans pocket' sense. I owned an LX3 way back when because I thought it would be a 'take along more often' cam when attending social events, going out for drinks/party, and so on where I didn't want to take the DSLR rig along. or, when travelling, when heading places where I didn't want to drag my bigger camera along.

    My choice ended up being the RX100 - out of your budget, but the S series Canons are clearly the inspiration for the RX100's body design, and probably have slightly better handling, albeit worse IQ. It's an absolute winner for me, and fits (slightly tightly) in a jeans pocket and easily slips in and out of a coat pocket. Hands-down the king of compacts, and a great complementary camera to my MFT and full-frame Canon setup. Used it a lot more than I ever expected on Bonaire a few weeks back, far more than I ever used the LX3.
  7. drd1135

    drd1135 Zen Snapshooter

    Mar 17, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    Real Name:
    JMHO: If I were you, I would get a used XZ, LX, etc for around $200 just to have a pocket camera. You don't need the newest ones. the XZ-1 or even the LX3 can be just as good as the new ones, IQ-wise.
  8. DynaSport

    DynaSport Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 5, 2013
    Real Name:
    Then there is always the camera phone. The one thing I can say about my camera phone is that I always have it with me.
  9. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    Good point. :smile:

    I'd go either with the P14mm or P20mm. You will open up a new world of potential for the capabilities of these small cameras. Both are pancakes, both are very sharp both are reasonable fast. The 14mm hunts less in dim light the 20mm is a bit faster. A prime lens will cause you to exercise your imagination, your creativity and will begin to unlock your potential as a photographer. I'd start with a 20mm or 14mm.
  10. shizlefonizle

    shizlefonizle Mu-43 Veteran

    Apr 21, 2012
    Yep. And to me very few compacts are actually pocketable. Even the Canon S100 leaves a huge bulge in my pocket and is not very comfortable especially with smartphone with a 4.3" screen in the other pocket. Gives me a good reason to pick up more lenses for my OM-D though :wink:
  11. Steven

    Steven Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 25, 2012
    I don't really consider any of those compacts comfortably pocketable but that is a personal comfort issue. Except Canon maybe.
    I would rather get a nice lens and carry it in a bag. But it does depend on what kind of photos you plan to take. Mostly daytime, night, animals? Portraits ?
    Have you seen the new Panasonic LF1? Same sensor size as Canon with longer zoom and a viewfinder at same size.
  12. DeeJayK

    DeeJayK Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 8, 2011
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Real Name:
    This is the way I would lean if you want something smaller than your E-PM1. I've picked up a cheap (around $100 used) Panasonic TS20 "rugged" cam. It's very pocket-able (around 3/4" thick) and it can go places (including underwater) that I wouldn't dare take my :43: camera. The images it produces are not up to :43: quality, but they're pretty decent "snapshots" -- I've got one shot of my kids playing in the surf that I blew up and printed on canvas.

    If you went this direction for your "pocket" camera, you should still have enough left over in your budget to accommodate either the of the Panasonic pancakes which pair fantastically as "walking around" lenses for the E-PM1.
  13. Anthon

    Anthon Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 8, 2012
    The only two compact camera I like are the Fuji X20 and Sony RX100
  14. madogvelkor

    madogvelkor Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 22, 2013
    What about the XF1? It runs around $400 and has a 2/3" sensor. And it only slightly larger than the S110.
  15. skellington

    skellington Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 4, 2013
    Atlanta, GA
    Real Name:
    Not that it is a very popular lens, but the older Olympus 17 f2.8 is a pancake, and cheap.
  16. PaulGiz

    PaulGiz Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 3, 2013
    Rhode Island, USA
  17. DeeJayK

    DeeJayK Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 8, 2011
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Real Name:
    Unless you were really dialed in the on the 17mm focal length or you happened to find a great deal, I'd have a very hard time recommending the O17 over the P14. By most accounts the Panasonic is a sharper lens and the prices are generally within $20 of each other. The P14 is so small and light that I just throw mine in my pocket any time I leave the house with the camera.
  18. trelch

    trelch Mu-43 Rookie

    May 30, 2012
    I have faced a similar dilemma as you, in trying to put a camera with a lenses inside a pocket and walk around comfortably. I think the EPM1/2 with a 20mm pancake came closest to being comfortable and easy to whip out.
  19. Geoff3DMN

    Geoff3DMN Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 29, 2012
    Castlemaine, Victoria, Australia
    Real Name:
    I have a Canon S95 which I keep it for occasional uses because it (and the S100/S110) is the only compact enthusiast camera line that is truly a pocket camera.

    I enjoy my EPM-1 and I'll probably replace it with an EPM-2 but even with the small Panasonic 14mm lens it's not IMO a pocket camera, not unless you wear coats, jackets or other loose clothes.
  20. mh2000

    mh2000 Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 3, 2010
    Not on your list, but it should be! Oly 17/2.8. More versatile than the P14 (and better IMO... and I own both).

    If you have $400 to spend, get the 17/2.8 (for pocketability) and Sigma 30. Great inexpensive pair!