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September 27th 2011 4:41 pm

Downsizing from a Digital SLR

I have been shooting with the Canon EOS SLR system for several years now and have always been very happy with the cameras, lenses & accessories. However, my choice of activities while travelling now precludes lugging around large camera bags with various lenses and accessories or even just a single large SLR body and lens.

I had all but abandoned my trusty SLR and relegated it to the attic until recently when I took it on a recent trip and rediscovered my fondness for photography, so I have started looking for a decent camera that I can take on trips, something that takes excellent pictures, allows full manual control and is small and light enough to find a place in the most minimalist trekking backpack, motorcycle tailpack or on the back of a climbing harness.

Having recently come across a couple of glowing reviews of the Panasonic Lumix GF-1 / GF-2 cameras (with the pancake lens), and having seen the new entrant on the field - the Nikon 1 series, I'm wondering if one of these may actually be the camera for me.

Continued in the comments below...
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budchawla's pick

It's been a while since I used a DSLR - last one I bought was a 1Ds Mark II, but I've found the NEX-5 a capable companion for your stated sort of use.

The new 5N has an (add-on, adding some bulk) EVF which I've always wanted, and as far as I can see keeps everything that I like about the 5 but improves in some key areas. I've seen issues with the movie mode stated, but that's probably not a big enough reason to not consider it.

I'm interested in the NEX-7 really if I was upgrading the 5 with like for like, but I'm going to wait for more authoritative takes from dpreview and the dedicated photo blogs to see if the major pixel-count boost on the sensor is a good thing or not. If not, then I'm probably going to start looking at DSLRs as a replacement to my 5, as my usage mode has changed a little and I can probably tolerate a bigger device when I actually decide I need to take an interchangeable-lens camera.

But I'd say give the NEX-5N a try in a shop, or hang on for opinions on the 7.
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budchawla's pick

Sensor size is really critical if you want great low light performance with minimal noise. The problem with smaller cameras is smaller sensors. There is just no way around this without some revolutionary improvement in sensor efficiency; and, so far, there have been none.

That said, if you know and accept the limitations, then a Four Thirds is the logical first stop when downsizing. I haven't seen any great reviews of the new Nikons, but they have a sensor that is even smaller than that of a Four Thirds system camera - so - buyer beware. I can't recall his name, but there is a fairly well known pro that is experimenting with one of the Four Thirds cameras. You might be able to learn more from him and his blog.

The other approach is to just go with a full featured digi-cam. An example of the type of camera I am thinking of would be the Canon G12. For your purposes, I would be tempted to start in that category rather than messing around with a tweener camera.
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I'm not sure if compact, micro four thirds or any other system is the winner, but I'm looking for a small, light, tough, fully manual camera with excellent optics, good high ISO performance, instant shutter release, fast AF etc. Basically - all the features that you'd expect from a mid-range digital SLR shrunk down to a tiny package that weighs nothing! The benefit of interchangeable lenses will be that when the opportunity arises (at home or near home) I can then carry / use additional lenses and not need to be stuck with a single focal range.

I find reviews like this one for the GF-1 extremely useful:­/journal­/gf1­-fieldtest/ - someone who has taken the camera on the sort of journey with the same requirements as me and has written a lucid, balanced (albeit slightly gushy) review.

Your thoughts?
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