On Saturday my brand new camera arrived!
I've been complaining about the quality of the pictures I can take on my phone for a while now. While it can and does shoot some stunning pictures, it's lacking some features I think are important such as low light capability and RAW mode. So I decided to upgrade to something a little more high-tech. I've done a lot of research over the last few weeks and I thought I'd compile it all for you.
I ended up choosing the Sony DSC-RX100 mark 3, a relatively small compact with a 20.1MP 1 inch Exmor CMOS sensor, Zeiss 24-70mm lens, and plenty of manual control. It is also expensive with an average price of £532 though is currently on sale at £469 from amazon. So why did I choose this over a mirrorless or DSLR? And what are your options?
If you're going to go all out, there's a range of DSLRs you can buy starting from about £270 for the Canon EOS1300D and Nikon D60. These are both current entry level models with 18MP and 10.2MP sensors respectively.
DSLRs are typically a more professional choice, with an optical viewfinder and a wide range of interchangeable lenses. Photographers tend to be split between Nikon and Canon, I personally prefer the latter from my (limited) experience, so I would recommend you go and have a test of a couple in person before you buy one. My main reasons for not choosing a DSLR were the prices, the portability, and the ease of use.
In terms of price, I ended up choosing a very expensive point and shoot, however, it is one of the best premium point and shoots on the market. To get a premium DSLR you would expect to spend upward of £850 on the body alone.
My biggest concern was size. I travel light, usually with hand luggage only for up to a month, the space that a large DSLR with its additional lenses would take is just not practical for me. Additionally, some of the places I visit have a relatively high risk of theft or muggings, and I would prefer to have something that is easier to hide in my bag and doesn't look as expensive.
Finally, for ease of use, I am not a professional photographer and I don't think I ever will be. I needed something that I can take out of my bag and quickly take a photo of when the time is right. There are situations where if I had needed to spend a minute finding the right settings I would have lost the shot.
(Image Canon EOS 6D Mark II)
The next option would have been mirrorless. These are set up in a similar way to DSLRs but tend to be more compact and use digital viewfinders instead of optical. They still have a range of lenses that can be replaced, but it isn't as wide as for a DSLR and they often need adapters. As a mirrorless, I looked at the Sony Alpha A6000, currently £449 from amazon with one lens. This was a serious contender for me and I was bidding on some (I'll get on to that a little later) so if the timing had worked out differently the A6000 could have been my choice though it also had issues with size and convenience.
(Image Sony Alpha A6000)
Compacts range in price from about £20 to £999, I have however recently seen two going for over £1500- the Light L16 for £1850 which is fascinating with 16 individual lenses with a combined effective pixel count of 52MP. I don't think I could justify spending that much on the first generation of a camera. The other was a Leica for over £3000 but I think if you have £3k to spend on a point and shoot you probably won't be reading my money-saving blog. Or you might, I don't know your priorities!
My initial plan had been to spend under £150 but I quickly realised I wasn't going to get what I was looking for that kind of price, especially new. So instead I looked for the best compact camera I could find to compare it with the Sony A6000. The two I ended up deciding between were the Sony RX100, and the Canon G7X II which came in at £539.99. What settled it for me was eBay. I personally love eBay and use it whenever amazon is too expensive (like the first six seasons of Game of Thrones last year for a grand total of £28. Seasons 5 and 6 cost that much each on amazon!). So I started trawling through, first looking at refurbished cameras, then ones that I believed could be fixed.
(Image Sony DSC RX100 III)
Making the purchase
My particular RX100 III cost me £180 including shipping with the knowledge that I would be spending a little replacing the screen. I bid low for four days and kept and eye on it while I checked other options both in the UK and the US, and saw the average price for even damaged versions was about £320, and was similar for the G7X II, the A6000 cost even more and were often sold without lenses. I built up a conversation with the seller to find out exactly what was wrong with the camera before making my first bid, and decided it was fairly easy to fix, or, could be controlled using just the pop-up viewfinder. Now, even though I'm an engineering student who could probably replace the screen of a camera with no problems, I decided I would prefer to pass on the burden to someone who does it for a living. I should get it back before my trip in June so we won't really get to see how good it is until then.
Info on the Camera
SENSOR TYPE. 1.0" type (13.2mm x 8.8mm) Exmor R CMOS sensor
NUMBER OF PIXELS (EFFECTIVE). 20.1MP
ISO SENSITIVITY ISO 125-25600
The screen rotates 180º for ease of use with low angles or for selfies, and both the viewfinder and flash pop-up as and when you require. The high ISO sensitivity and long shutter speed mean that I can finally take the low light photographs I've been trying to get for years. I'm very excited about trying that out on a clear night!
(Image Sony DSC RX100 III)
For a more manual control, there is a twisting lens ring which can be used to control functions such as focus, zoom and aperture as well as selecting the scene for one of the many auto settings. This makes the control a lot faster, since the menu can be a little complicated to follow. The previous model did not have a pop-up viewfinder, the twist control, or WiFi. WiFi for me was a big selling point since it's much easier to transfer photos onto my phone while I'm on the go rather than needing to use my laptop all the time.
GPS, which is a shame because I enjoy seeing the map of where I've been and can help me to remember exactly where I was when I was taking photos. In Italy especially this was useful because since the trip I had forgotten some of the names of the many churches we had visited. However it isn't a vital feature for me and if I need a reminder I can still use my phone.
No 4K video. This is also not an issue for me at all since I have a 4K waterproof action camera (I'll be honest, it's a knock-off GoPro after my Hero 4 went kaput a couple of years ago) which takes wonderful videos and I can use for diving, but only manages 10MP photos.
I've chosen the perfect camera for myself and for what I want to take photos of. If you're looking for something specifically for, say, wildlife, you would probably be better off getting an SLR with a good telephoto lens, or for action photography and videography a GoPro. But, for me for taking beautiful shots while I'm travelling with the capability of wonderful astrophotography (as shown here from Lonely Speck)