Wednesday 26 October 2016

Tech review: Look beyond the camera on your phone

Published 19/12/2015 | 02:30

Sony RX100 III
Sony RX100 III
Canon Powershot SX610
Sony AVR
Canon 100D
Panasonic LX100
Canon GX7

These are pocketable cameras that don't require an interest in adjusting photo setting manually, but can still deliver much better photos than your phone.

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Point and shoot compact

Premium: Sony RX100 III

€720 from The Camera Centre

For a camera that you can slip into almost any pocket, this 20-megapixel model from Sony is fairly remarkable for a couple of reasons. It has a relatively large 1-inch sensor, which improves photo quality over other compacts. And its f1.8-2.8 lens allows both for low-light shooting and also makes it way classier for taking shots of people (because you get a nice blurring effect in the background).

It has a 3x zoom and is pretty decent at video, too. Other features that are handy include a flip-out three-inch LCD touchscreen and on-board Wi-Fi, meaning you can transfer photos to your phone or tablet immediately for sharing. Sony also has a version IV of this camera but, at over €300 extra, it's not worth it.

Affordable: Canon Powershot SX610

€180 from Littlewoods

Why bother with a compact camera when you have a fancy smartphone from Samsung or Apple? One reason is zoom. Cameraphones have none - they simply artificially enlarge one bit of the photo, with the consequent blurring that occurs.

If you're looking for something more versatile for events, there are dozens of basic compacts to choose from. But Canon's SX610 is a very nice option. Its 18x zoom covers most conceivable situations. It records in video in full HD, has a 3-inch screen and includes Wi-Fi, so you can immediately share your photos online or via email through your phone.

Two to challenge the pros

These are the 'serious' cameras that allow you ultimate flexibility thanks to their ability to take different lenses. Picking two is hard: there are dozens of good ones.

Premium: Sony A7R

€2,299 with 28-70mm lens from Conns Cameras

If money isn't too big a deal, there are some amazing premium DSLR cameras you can get from Canon, Nikon and others. But it's worth mentioning Sony's A7 range too, as the company has managed to considerably shrink the form factor of a 'full-frame' sensor camera.

The result is a very powerful, advanced camera that produce some stunning photography while taking up less space in your bag. There are lots of A7 variants (including the A7s) but the best bet for now is probably the original 36-megapixel A7R. Aside from its high megapixel count and proper large sensor, it comes with handy adjustable knobs and Wi-Fi on board. The only drawback is that there aren't as many lenses available as for Canon and Nikon cameras.

Affordable: Canon 100D

€499 with 18-55mm from Conns Cameras

If you want to jump into lens-changing photography at an entry-level price, this may be the best camera to do it with. The 18-megapixel 100D connects to what is arguably the best lens ecosystem going: you can pick really good ones up second hand as well as new.

It also has a size advantage over other entry-level DSLRs, in that it's about 20pc smaller. Although it has no Wi-Fi, it has a 3-inch touchscreen. It shoots 'full' HD video and has an ISO that goes up to 12,800 for shooting in low light. Overall, it shoots flawlessly, quickly and is comfortable to use.

Handy snappers with more control

This one of the fastest growing areas in camera usage: snappers that aren't as bulky as big DSLRs but which have high-end sensors and fixed lenses, and give lots of manual control.

Premium: Panasonic LX100

€750 from The Camera Centre

The LX100 was my favourite enthusiast camera of 2015, with a brilliant Leica f1.7 lens, beautiful styling and an overall mix that offers a perfect blend of flexibility and photo quality. The metal and rubber construction gives it a real upmarket feel. And there's a lot of control over the camera's functions via rings and dials on the outside of the camera. This includes an aperture ring for the f-stop settings, shutter speed and even the format size of the photos. For those who know what they're doing and want instant control, this is all excellent. It has a limited 3x zoom, the equivalent of 24mm-75mm. The LX100 is marginally too big (115 x 66 x 55 mm) to fit in a pocket. But don't let that put you off: this is a fantastic portable camera.

Affordable: Canon G7X

€499 from Conns Cameras

Canon's G7X is a powerful, advanced camera masquerading in the body of a compact model. It's small enough to easily fit into pockets, case sleeves or even jacket linings. But it still packs a decent one-inch sensor attached to a lens that shoots from F1.8 to F2.8, meaning it's capable of letting in a huge amount of natural light into photos and can give amazing depth of field (the nice 'blurring' of background details in shots) for people shots. Its 4x zoom is about the equivalent of going from 24mm (a really nice wide shot) to 100mm. It also has a pleasing manual ring to quickly adjust the shot just underneath the mode selector. You can focus manually while recording HD video and it has both a flip-out screen and Wi-Fi.

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