Saturday, May 15, 2010

My next camera for travelling.

Ever since Olympus released their affordable PEN E-PL1, I've been meaning to pick it up as a travel camera. It is extremely tiny, has a decent selection of lenses (especially, the highly desirable 20mm f/1.7), and most importantly, supports capturing of HD Video which looks amazing thanks to its large sensor size that gives professional looking shallow depth of field.

When Amazon dropped the price of the PEN E-PL1 from $599.99 to $549.99, I almost hit the trigger and placed the order. It's a good thing I held on for a few days because Sony just announced their versions of the tiny mirror-less cameras to compete in this ultra-compact category.

There are actually 2 models introduced
   - Sony Alpha NEX-5
   - Sony Alpha NEX-3

Both are identical in features and technical specifications. The only difference between the 2 are:
   - Video quality: NEX-5 can capture 1080i in the AVCHD format, while the NEX-3 is limited to 720p in the MP4 format.
   - Build Quality: NEX-5 has a magnesium alloy body while the NEX-3 has the plastic polycarbonate.
   - Size & Weight: The NEX-5 is slightly smaller & weighs a wee bit lesser than the NEX-3

So what makes the NEX-5 better than the Olympus E-PL1?
For me, the obvious is the sensor size. The NEX-5 has a large APS-C sensor (same sensor size as my current Nikon D200 and about 40% larger than the E-PL1) and its ISO can go up to 12,800 (which leaves my D200 in the dust with its maximum ISO of 1600).

There are only 2 lenses available at the moment (a 16mm f2.8 and a standard zoom lens 18-55mm). Currently, the lenses can only be purchased as part of the kit and Sony has announced that it will release a third lens (18-200) that will retail for around $800.

I plan to pick up NEX-5 with the 18-55mm lens (retail price $699), the moment it is released (end of June) and will give it a spin when I travel to India in July, and will hopefully be able to pick up the 20mm at a later date.

Both NEX-5 and NEX-3 can be currently pre-ordered for Sony Style.


Marzouq said...

My traveling camera is the Canon G11, I can't change the lenses, maybe except for one but overall its a great camera and it is perfect for my traveling needs!

Cajie said...

Hi Marzouq, the G11 is definitely a good choice for travelling.
However, it suffers from the same problems that plague all point & shoot cameras.
1. Cannot handle low-light situations due to the tiny sensor size.
2. Cannot achieve shallow DOF (again, due to tiny sensor size).

So, it really comes down to the sensor size, which is why I prefer the NEX-5 over even the micro 4/3 counterparts such as olympus E-PL1, as the sensor on the NEX-5 is much bigger than micro 4/3 and very very big when compared to the point & shoot cameras.

Bu Yousef said...

Mine is also a G11, but I agree about the limitation of the sensor. Post some of your summer shots.

NicoleB, Egypt said...

Sounds like a darn good travel companion :D

Elettra said...

Best wishes for next camera ,is beautiful and efficient

Fidelis Lobo said...

The NEX-5 with the APS-C sensor sure looks tempting. I hear they have improved the shutter lag on these cams as well. I still believe this category has one more year before it settles down in a viable option. I expect Canon/Nikon to take a plunge into this catergory and hopefully with an APS-C sensor. Until then its the G11 for all emergencies.

Cajie said...

Shutter lag is never really a problem with this camera because it is not a point-and-shoot. It is a true dSLR. The only difference is they have removed the mirror box.
This camera is similar to the Micro 4/3 offerings from Olympus (pen series) and Panasonic (GF series), except that the sensor is APS-C.