Author Topic: Your vote for best compact cyclist's/cycle-tourist's camera  (Read 4249 times)

Danneaux

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7181
  • reisen statt rasen
Your vote for best compact cyclist's/cycle-tourist's camera
« on: December 05, 2011, 05:38:37 AM »
Hi All,

As I sit here planning my next big bike tour come spring, I'm reviewing my past trip photos and pondering my camera.  

A few years ago, I purchased a Panasonic Lumix TZ-5.  I chose it for the exceptional (at the time I purchased it) 10x optical zoom range and for its small size, reasonable battery life, and the ability to take 720 HD video.  I decided against a DSLR due to weight and bulk, and because I wanted a camera I could carry in a case on my belt daily.  After all, no camera is any good if it is sitting home in a drawer when that wonderful, surprise picture opportunity presents itself without notice.  I often congratulate myself on having a camera along when the perfect picture erupts before me.  For decades, I was deeply into 35mm SLRs and devoted entire handlebar bags to spare lenses, motor drives, bounce-flash units, and filter cases.  No more.  

I have been largely pleased with the TZ-5 and have gotten some great results, but there have been some problems.  Beyond the usual complaints about digital noise compared to the larger sensor in a DSLR (the in-camera processing engine in the TZ-5 has actually been pretty good and in balance with my needs has been fine in this regard), its real shortcoming since new has been unreliable autofocus.  It simply isn't possible to get a focus lock in some common circumstances, typically during Oregon's low-contrast grayer days and especially where bodies of water are concerned.  It hunts and hunts, but can't lock on till well after the duck has flown or the heron has swallowed the fish or the light has changed, no matter which focus mode or program is selected.  Frustrating!  To compound matters, the video has a periodic loss of focus as well, at ~0.5 second intervals.  I had so hoped to take video to augment my stills, but to have it wow-wow-wow on playback focus has been so disappointing I really don't use the feature very much.  The video option really eats batteries, too.

I see Panasonic have revised the TZ-series since I purchased my TZ-5, adding features (including GPS tagging -- nice!), but with generally less success in maintaining image quality.  The latest model, known in markets other than the US as the TZ-20, has received some rather mixed reviews, especially with respect to both digital noise and "smearing" of the pixels as a byproduct of Pana's efforts at noise-reduction.  It has an option for drawing little outlines around the margins of distant objects to compensate to a degree, but seems to have missed the mark a bit compared to my old T-Zed-5.

I would consider something like a micro four-thirds but prefer an extreme-zoom built-in for considerations of space and convenience.  Wide-to-super-zoom range and macro capability are must-haves, and the ability to shoot HD video is also important.  It would be great of the batteries could be charged from USB, since I've got Tout Terrain's "The Plug 2" on my Sherpa and generate my own electricity while riding using the SON28.  A full manual mode, small carrying size and reasonable battery life would round out the package for me.  I'd prefer to avoid a touchscreen, but could adapt if the rest of the package were there.

Any suggestions?  What works well for you with these requirements in mind, especially on a cycle-tour where space and weight are at premium?  Day tours, too, with perhaps just a jersey pocket for storage.  What do you use now?  Are you happy?  If not, what do you wish your ideal travel camera included?

Thanks in advance,

Dan.

« Last Edit: December 05, 2011, 08:36:55 AM by Danneaux »

Lemming

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 32
Re: Your vote for best compact cyclist's/cycle-tourist's camera
« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2011, 07:50:09 AM »
For Micro Four Thirds:  Panasonic G3 with 14-140mm lens.
Meets your wide range zoom, full manual and HD video requirements.
It has a touchscreen, but (so far) I have managed to do everything with the buttons.
It is about an ounce heavier than the GF/GX models, but the built-in EVF more than compensates for this - the add-on EVFs have a nasty habit of detaching......
I usually carry the Olympus 12/2 as a wider/faster lens as well.

Compact and high quality:  Fuji X100.
Fixed 35mm equivalent.

Unfortunately, nobody seems to be making USB chargers yet for these, but non-original batteries are cheap and light.

Danneaux

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7181
  • reisen statt rasen
Re: Your vote for best compact cyclist's/cycle-tourist's camera
« Reply #2 on: December 05, 2011, 08:59:24 AM »
Thank you, Lemming; well worth my reading up on the G3 and this lens as well. 

<nods> Yes, the tilt 'n' swivel free angle LCD viewscreen  is a really nice touch and if sturdy, well, that's gravy isn't it?   Nice to have it augment the live viewfinder.

I surely like the small size and the possible zoom range.  Off to the Pana global site for a look-see and then the independent review sites as well.

Thanks again for the recommendation!

Others?

Best,

Dan.

julk

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 883
Re: Your vote for best compact cyclist's/cycle-tourist's camera
« Reply #3 on: December 05, 2011, 11:08:45 AM »
Dan,
I bought a Sony Cyber-shot DSC HX7V Black Digital Camera this year for use on cycle trips.
It is a small pocket sized beast which does just about everything, I carry it in a loksak sealable bag for waterproofing whilst travelling.
It is next to the smallest common camera size, it has a small grip shaping at the right hand end and the buttons are just big enough for my large size fingers.
Have a read up on it on the web.

The only problem I have encountered in use is that there is a dedicated video button which is too easy to grip whilst getting the camera ready and you find you are already taking a video!
Julian.

Cambirder

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 132
Re: Your vote for best compact cyclist's/cycle-tourist's camera
« Reply #4 on: December 05, 2011, 02:33:10 PM »
I've just bought an Olympus Pen E-P3 and sold one of my DSLRs. It is a fantastic camera and takes up little room in my bar bag, but I do not like super-zooms due to their relatively poor IQ and their rather limited aperture range (unable to throw the background out of focus), so I've gone with relatively two fast prime lenses (17mm F2.8 and 45mm f1.8.) Now saving for the 12mm f2.

Couple of pics from a recent ride.




rualexander

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 828
Re: Your vote for best compact cyclist's/cycle-tourist's camera
« Reply #5 on: December 05, 2011, 04:37:14 PM »
I've just bought a Canon SX130is, got it from the Canon Ebay outlet (UK) for 80.
I've been looking for a camera for a while to carry easily in my saddlebag side pocket and in general a smaller camera than the Canon S3is which I have used for the past four years and with which I have been pretty happy.
I wanted to be able to continue using AA batteries which severely limits the choice these days which is a shame.
So the SX130is does pretty much all that my previous camera does but with a higher pixel count and is about half the bulk.
It is last years model and has been replaced with the SX150is but looking at review sites, the pictures are actually better from the SX130is and it is still available at quite significant discounts.
Haven't really had it long enough to fully assess it though.

Danneaux

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7181
  • reisen statt rasen
Re: Your vote for best compact cyclist's/cycle-tourist's camera
« Reply #6 on: December 05, 2011, 09:53:00 PM »
Cambirder,

Thanks!  Those are stunning pictures you posted, and it certainly helps to see what the camera is capable of.   I can surely see why you wish to avoid the super-zooms, but they have proven so handy to me in terms of providing the really long focal lengths and wide angles all in one, I'd really miss it.  Still, one can't argue with results and your sample shots are terrific.

Rualexander, you make a good point about the AA cells...those would allow direct and easy recharging while I ride, plus emergency replacements available at virtually any store or retail outlet.  I do like the included zoom range, and the price is surely attractive (I'm pretty flat after the recent Sherpa purchase).  Then, too, my on-tour cameras lead a pretty hard life, with exposure to the elements, dust, and constant vibration, even when carried in a case within the Ortlieb handlebar bag.  I was a bit dismayed to find finely deposited alkali dust can etch lens coatings when it gets wet in foggy conditions.  No wiping necessary!  :'(

Thanks for the suggestions, guys; what a great Forum and members, as always.  Off to read some more.  Still welcome any additional.

All the best,

Dan.

Andre Jute

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2900
    • Andre Jute
Re: Your vote for best compact cyclist's/cycle-tourist's camera
« Reply #7 on: December 07, 2011, 02:09:46 AM »
I'm not making recommendations in this company, merely relating some experiences. About twenty years ago I bought a Canon Digital Ixus 300 to replace several bags full of Pentax equipment, none of it digital. (And none of it used much after I bought an Olympus electronically controlled but still film camera for idiots and found it a huge pleasure to use in various semi-manual modes. I loved the moonlight flash on both that old Olympus and the Ixus. Very flattering if you're taking many candid shots of women you don't know all that well.) The Canon was chosen, despite the expense (the full kit was over a thousand punt, probably about two grand American, Dan), on professional advice from the sports photographers art my paper, because it had the best lens of the small digital cameras then just becoming widely used. I used it to take photographs for publication, portraits, landscapes, whatever I was writing about.

I also have a sports movie camera, probably water resistant rather than waterproof, never really tested, to collect evidence against motorists; it is mounted permanently on my bike with a gorilla-type bendy tripod. Cheap, as I don't remove it when I leave the bike, and expect it eventually to be stolen. Kodak Zx1, eminently satisfactory at what it does. About fifty bucks at Amazon. Not a proper camera but in the right hands it takes a respectable still photo and is more convenient to use than a phone camera, especially if your gorilla pod has a quick screw fitting.

Yesterday I replaced the Canon Ixus with an Olympus D-720 that is currently on sale at Lidl, a German supermarket chain, at 99. (Generally speaking, where I live an Olympus camera of that quality would be about two and a half times that price, which is what my wife paid for one of the mu models from Olympus.) The 720 is described as a "Super Wide" 10x optical zoom camera. Weight is 5.5 ounces and it seems sturdy enough in its stainless shell, though my wife's mu model, in lightweight ali, is (subjectively) much lighter. There is a electronic zoom beyond 10x too but it can be locked out. Large three inch screen, not touchscreen. Control buttons logical but too small to be handled with gloves. Movie modes both low and high def. Full manual control if desired, including ISO settings for those moody, grainy fake SLR shots. 14 megapixel, so it can make a respectable size print at a reasonable resolution. No experience with it. I would want to see the screen (more than one level of contrast, if I remember correctly) in bright sunlight before I recommend it to a sportsman. USB recharging, of course, but then all these small, jewellery type cameras have that now. Of note is an ultra-macro focus of a little over half an inch, in case you want to make portrait studies of the crickets that will keep you awake. The case is very nice, with a belt loop for the trigger happy tourist, but worthless for a long-distance cyclist as it is of fold over design with elastic sides, and four open places to let in water; budget for a more practical case for your use.

I had such good experience with the IXUS for so long that, while mine is a big chunk of stainless steel, I have no hesitation in recommending it's newer and especially littler sisters to people who ask me to name a really good general purpose camera. My son has a tiny one, without some of the bells and whistles,  but it leaves a good deal of space in a shirt pocket, and the current equivalent can probably be had at the discounters for not to much over a hundred bucks. Frankly, I'm surprised not to have heard Canon's iXUS mentioned several times already. For a serious photographer the quality of the lens Canon fits must be a consideration. (The same consideration also puts the Fuji, which gets only one mention, right behind the IXUS.)

Andre Jute

Danneaux

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7181
  • reisen statt rasen
Re: Your vote for best compact cyclist's/cycle-tourist's camera
« Reply #8 on: December 07, 2011, 02:59:05 AM »
Thanks, Andre, for a well-reasoned and presented recommendation as always.  

<nods>  Yes, I was deeply into the Pentax film-based SLRs and still believe Pentax had the best anti-reflective lens treatments on the market with their SMC (super multi-coating).  Pana's TZ-5 just isn't there in that regard, and usually places a bright aqua splotch in the worst possible place in my compositions whenever I shoot toward a light source.  For quite awhile, my travel camera of choice was a little Pentax Optio S4, which shared the fine lens treatments of its big brothers.  I never ceased to be amazed at what this tiny wonder could do...until I took it to Europe where it succumbed to Belgium's cobbles on a heavy tour.  Just too much vibration, I guess, as it never focused cleanly for me again. You can imagine my dismay on returning home to find every shot after the cobbles looked like they were taken by an astigmatic in a heavy fog, while riding a paint-shaker.  The cobbles had a similar effect on me, but I recovered.   ;)

Your richly-textured writing rewards a careful reading.  This little gem popped out at me...
Quote
I also have a sports movie camera, probably water resistant rather than waterproof, never really tested, to collect evidence against motorists; it is mounted permanently on my bike with a gorilla-type bendy tripod.

(!)  :o  I have nurtured similar thoughts and ideas, but you bring them to execution.  Something tells me there is a story behind this, and I hope the outcome favored you, Andre.  I recall you mentioned U-locks make effective windscreen hammers; are these two innovations related?  Traffic contretemps aside, the closest I can come is the Rowi camera clamp I have mounted to my Thorn Low-Loader Mark V pannier racks.  It makes a terrific mobile tripod for still and video footage and remains unobtrusively available in any circumstance.

Your Olympus D-720 was quite a buy at Lidl.  I saw one of their stores in northeast Belgium, near the border to Aachen, and was surprised at some of the things available there.  The Dutch Aldi chain sometimes has surprising buys as well; the one in Schiedam carried a pedalec (electrically-assisted bicycle) during my visit.  

I'll check out your suggestions and do a re-review of the entire Ixus line, known as the Powershot Digital ELPH series here in 'Merka.

Other suggestions are most welcome; thanks!

Best,

Dan.
« Last Edit: December 07, 2011, 08:35:28 AM by Danneaux »

RobertL

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 56
Re: Your vote for best compact cyclist's/cycle-tourist's camera
« Reply #9 on: May 17, 2017, 10:13:27 AM »
I do hope that one day my RST will be used for some touring - it has been 100% dedicated to commuting.

While I have a nice Coolpix A (discontinued but still available), I prefer analogue. My 1973 F2 weighs as much as a tent these days, so I expect an Olympus Trip 35 (selenium, all mechanical, bomb proof) might be my choice for touring - you can still find them, as is- where is for around $30.

mickeg

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1222
Re: Your vote for best compact cyclist's/cycle-tourist's camera
« Reply #10 on: May 17, 2017, 05:18:05 PM »
I am sure that everybody that commented in 2011 has new cameras by now, I know I do.  The one I used in 2011 was 3 megapixel.

John Saxby

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1255
Re: Your vote for best compact cyclist's/cycle-tourist's camera
« Reply #11 on: May 19, 2017, 03:00:30 AM »
Dan, I have little more than basic literacy with cameras, but FWIW, I've been very pleased with the Panasonic ZS40 point-and-shoot, which I bought in 2014. It's compact (110 mm x 65 x 35) and fairly light (240 gms). I bought it because it offered a decent wide-angle capability (24 mm), had an electronic viewfinder as well as the LCD screen, and could be charged via a USB cable. It wasn't cheap, at just less than CAD500 (sans sales tax) at the time of purchase.

All the photos I post on the Forum have been taken with this camera.  The battery life seems very good (except for the one problem below), and I can easily recharge it using my Anker 5200 cache battery.

I've had only one problem with it:  The original battery, a lith-ion item not much larger than a book of matches, conked out in the first three weeks of operation. I tried in vain to get a replacement in Berlin, where the camera had just been released.  I asked the Panasonic rep, rhetorically but with an edge in my voice, "Surely a firm like Panasonic would not release a new and expensive camera into the German market without backup spares?" My sorta-compliment got me nothing, 'cos there was nothing to be had. Using generic batts would void the warranty. I rang Marcia, who was about to come to Berlin, and she went to Henry's, my LCS in Ottawa where I'd bought it, and got a replacement for CAD 75 (!!) The camera performed brilliantly during our subsequent 3-plus weeks in Turkey, especially the wide-angle architectural shots.  When I returned to Canada a couple of months later, Henry's agreed that it was a warranty problem, and refunded the money.

No hesitation in recommending this, Dan, though I must say that this is not as informed an opinion as most of those above -- and I don't do false modesty ;-)

Danneaux

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7181
  • reisen statt rasen
Re: Your vote for best compact cyclist's/cycle-tourist's camera
« Reply #12 on: May 19, 2017, 09:14:28 PM »
John,

I thank you so kindly for your thoughtful and informative reply; so very helpful as always and much appreciated.

In the 6.5 years since I started the topic, most of my camera gear has been replaced by my smartphone. I now find I only carry and use a dedicated digital camera for the times when I need optical zoom capability. The digital zoom in my smartphone quickly shows its limitations when expanding those pixels in an effort to simulate a true optical zoom.

I still have my Panasonic TZ-5 and it still has its limitations focusing in flat or dull light conditions and its battery won't charge directly from my USB ports. For this reason. I generally carry my Sony HX-20V. It charges directly from USB input, geotags photos with its built in GPS and produces great results except when it doesn't. In oblique lighting, the 9-sensor array develops internal reflections so a red grid with 9 spots is superimposed on my shots. Disappointing, but given it works in most light and I use it rarely, I'll likely keep it rather than splash out for another.

Though I'm not currently in the market for a new camera, I enjoy hearing what people are using, so any additions to the thread are most welcome. 'Might be especially useful to those looking to buy a camera for an upcoming tour.

All the best,

Dan.

George Hetrick

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 101
  • retired software engineer in Austin, TX, USA
Re: Your vote for best compact cyclist's/cycle-tourist's camera
« Reply #13 on: June 24, 2017, 01:17:53 AM »
Dan,

I've been using the Canon SX600 (https://www.dpreview.com/products/canon/compacts/canon_sx600) the past few years for the same reason -- optical zoom. I take most pictures with my iPhone, but when you need a real zoom, you need a real camera.

I carry it in a small bag attached to the chest strap of my hydration pack.

Danneaux

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7181
  • reisen statt rasen
Re: Your vote for best compact cyclist's/cycle-tourist's camera
« Reply #14 on: June 24, 2017, 02:11:48 AM »
Thanks, George!

All the best,

Dan.