Help Choosing a Camera for Backpacking

iPhone4 as my primary camera

I’ve been using my iPhone4 as my primary camera for the photos taken on my blog for the past 18 months now and am really quite impressed with the quality and clarity of the pictures it takes. I don’t bother taking my old camera, a Nikon Coolpix S51, with me anymore on trips because the iPhone does such a good job at taking photos.

As good as the iPhone4 is, there are things it simply can’t do. It can’t take good macro photos – unless I buy one of those quirky little lenses –  and it can’t take a good action picture. My Nikon compact camera isn’t any good for those things either. I’ve reached the point where I’m ready to take the plunge and buy a ‘real’ camera, but I’ll openly admit that I have little to no clue about cameras.

GORUCK GR1 Rucksack

So here’s where you can help me. I know what I want the camera to be able to do, but I don’t have the necessary experience to know how to choose the right one. I can compare the features as well as anyone else, but I lack an understanding of the fundamentals of camera functions. I’m f/stop challenged!

Criteria for my next camera:

  • Compact (lightweight would be a bonus)
  • Simple to use
  • Fast/rapid shooting modes
  • Built-in flash (hot shoe if possible)
  • Macro shooting
  • High speed photos
  • HD video

I’m sure all of the camera geeks among you are rolling your eyes right now and cringing at my lack of both photographic terminology and specific needs. I told you I was challenged.

I’m very intrigued by the Panasonic Lumix cameras with their four thirds interchangeable lens system, I just don’t know if those would be over kill for what I need?

So there you have it, I clearly need all the help I can get. I’m willing to answer any follow up questions (leave a comment below) you might need to ask me in order to help guide my decision, but warn you that I may have questions for you too.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=5317477 John Radi

    Canon S95 is the Cadillac of point and shoot cameras.  Low light photos like you wouldn’t believe.  As easy to use as a point and shoot can get, with controls that rival any professional camera.  It’s often referred to as the point and shoot for professionals (when they don’t want to lug around their SLR’s).

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=5317477 John Radi

    Canon S95 is the Cadillac of point and shoot cameras.  Low light photos like you wouldn’t believe.  As easy to use as a point and shoot can get, with controls that rival any professional camera.  It’s often referred to as the point and shoot for professionals (when they don’t want to lug around their SLR’s).

  • Treeswing

    This link on waterproof cameras will probably be more technical than you like (but it’s the best site IMO for camera reviews). A friend has the Panasonic Lumix, and likes it a lot. Coincidentally, it got the best overall of the six. When we upgrade our point and shoot, we’ll almost definitely go with one of these.

    http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/Q311waterproofcompactgrouptest/

    • Katt Camps

      I just bought the Limux for kayaking and its AWESOME!  The digital zoom is better than I’ve seen before and its pretty good in low light and action shots.  definitly worth a look

  • Treeswing

    This link on waterproof cameras will probably be more technical than you like(but it’s the best site IMO for camera reviews). A friend has the Panasonic Lumix, and likes it a lot. Coincidentally, it got the best overall of the six. When we upgrade our point and shoot, we’ll almost definitely go with one of these.

    http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/Q311waterproofcompactgrouptest/

  • http://www.hikinginfinland.com/ Hendrik Morkel

    Sony NEX-5N. I’m using mine to photograph and shoot ULAZ. The NEX-5 was brilliant at night – Aurora Borealis, Moon over lake, Macros and and and. The NEX-5N is even better. A superb bokeh effect, panorama function, touch screen, timelapse capable, interchangeable lenses, superb 1080 HD even in very low/ artificial light, hot shoe flash, high speed photos. With the 16 mm lens it is very compact (though I prefer the 18 – 55 mm lens for the options it gives); the iA mode is superb, though even Aperture and Shutter modes are easy to learn & understand for a novice. Yes, it has it all and I love mine.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Wow – I thought you were a Lumix man all the way, I had no idea that you had changed to the Sony NEX-5N. What was the difference between the -5 and -5N?

      It does appear to do everything I want and more and 10 f/s in full 16.1mp is sweet. It’s a little more expensive that I had planned but as Outdoorgrrl says below, I shouldn’t cheap out.

      Do you care that the camera only accepts te Sony e-frame lenses unless you get an adapter, or is that not an issue?

      Thanks for the great info as always.

      • http://www.hikinginfinland.com/ Hendrik Morkel

        Well, I have a Lumix GH2 but that’s a whole different beast. The Lumix GF1 is still awesome, but probably too “pro” in comparison with the Sony.

        NEX-5N has a touch screen, bigger sensor, bigger ISO, a tad lighter, and just newer technique.

        No problem with the lenses. They’re very good, and you can get with an Adapter a very wide variety of lenses.

        • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

          Do you mean “pro” in terms of the skills needed to operate it or its functions properly? If so then that may well be the tipping point for me.

    • http://www.facebook.com/james.ratzloff James Ratzloff

      I am holding out for the Nex-7, which should ship in April.   The electronic viewfinder is the big selling point for me.   Another big plugs is the adaptors that are available to use my treasured Rokkor lenses. (which the Nex-5 has also).

  • http://www.hikinginfinland.com/ Hendrik Morkel

    Sony NEX-5N. I’m using mine to photograph and shoot ULAZ. The NEX-5 was brilliant at night – Aurora Borealis, Moon over lake, Macros and and and. The NEX-5N is even better. A superb bokeh effect, panorama function, touch screen, timelapse capable, interchangeable lenses, superb 1080 HD even in very low/ artificial light, hot shoe flash, high speed photos. Yes, it has it all and I love mine.

  • http://pig-monkey.com Pig Monkey

    I went with the Lumix LX5 last summer. It’s not compact enough to comfortably fit in a pocket, but otherwise I think it’s great. It fits all of your criteria. I have no expertise in photography, though, so there might be something better.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      That’s good to know. I’ve always considered your photography to be top-notch, so it’s great to know what you’re using. No expert – my ass!

    • http://www.facebook.com/ravitz Evan Ravitz

      I now use the LX5, and still have my LX3. About 10 oz., it’s all most people need for both stills and video. It has a Leica lens, one of the best. It has a larger sensor than most compacts, which means less noise, especially for low-light photos. But the sensor is still considerably smaller than the 4/3 system, which is overkill unless you need really big prints -over 13″X19″.

  • http://pig-monkey.com/ Pig Monkey

    I went with the Lumix LX5 last summer. It’s not compact enough to comfortably fit in a pocket, but otherwise I think it’s great. It fits all of your criteria. I have no expertise in photography, though, so there might be something better.

  • Andre

    Brian,

    The iphone4 camera is no slouch, and I think you might find yourself coming back to it at sometime. I have a minor camera addiction (iphone 4, Canon S90, Nikon D90 DSLR, and a bunch of film cameras) and I still find myself using the iphone a lot because it is with me and because it is so accessible in a front pants pocket.

    Everything gets bigger and heavier from the iphone on up though.

    I’d agree with the comments so far, take a look at the Canon S100 ( newer than the S95 and S90) for maximum pocketability and features.

    Bigger but more dials (ie faster to use ) is the Canon G series (G12 is current and GX just announced) The macro capabilities of these cameras are pretty good, same with the S series. I think the current fastes shutter speed is 1/4000s which is very fast, there is still more shutter lag with these than a dslr though.

    Panasonic tough/waterproof cameras get good marks and if i bought a new camera to replace the s90 i might be looking at these.

    I don’t have any M4/3rds experience yet but you might wanna see about the Olympus OM-D that is suppose to debut soon. It is the first weather sealed m43rds body.

    Then you end up at DSLRS. They are big and heavy and so are the lenses. I’ve hauled mine on too many hikes but never taken it out because it was packed too far away. If you are stationary on the sidelines of a sporting event these cameras are king though for action. It’s hard to be conspicuous with a huge camera around your neck too. I am shamed to admit how little I use mine at times.

    Here are a couple of personal camera sites by writers who aren’t afraid to give an opinion.

    http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/recommended-cameras.htm
    http://www.bythom.com/

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Hey, great information Andre. Very informative and helpful. I think I fall into the micro 4/3rds category because I’m done with point-and-shoot cameras and DSLRs are too big for what I want.

      It seems to be a Lumix LX5 vs. Sony NEX-5 showdown. Any thoughts on either of these over the other?

  • Andre

    Brian,

    The iphone4 camera is no slouch, and I think you might find yourself coming back to it at sometime. I have a minor camera addiction (iphone 4, Canon S90, Nikon D90 DSLR, and a bunch of film cameras) and I still find myself using the iphone a lot because it is with me and because it is so accessible in a front pants pocket.

    Everything gets bigger and heavier from the iphone on up though.

    I’d agree with the comments so far, take a look at the Canon S100 ( newer than the S95 and S90) for maximum pocketability and features.

    Bigger but more dials (ie faster to use ) is the Canon G series (G12 is current and GX just announced) The macro capabilities of these cameras are pretty good, same with the S series. I think the current fastes shutter speed is 1/4000s which is very fast, there is still more shutter lag with these than a dslr though.

    Panasonic tough/waterproof cameras get good marks and if i bought a new camera to replace the s90 i might be looking at these.

    I don’t have any M4/3rds experience yet but you might wanna see about the Olympus OM-D that is suppose to debut soon. It is the first weather sealed m43rds body.

    Then you end up at DSLRS. They are big and heavy and so are the lenses. I’ve hauled mine on too many hikes but never taken it out because it was packed too far away. If you are stationary on the sidelines of a sporting event these cameras are king though for action. It’s hard to be conspicuous with a huge camera around your neck too. I am shamed to admit how little I use mine at times.

    Here are a couple of personal camera sites by writers who aren’t afraid to give an opinion.

    http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/recommended-cameras.htm
    http://www.bythom.com/

  • sygyzy

    What do you consider small/lightweight?

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Fits in my pocket or a small pocket on my pack, doesn’t require a huge separate carrying case, weighs not much more than a point-and-shoot.

  • sygyzy

    What do you consider small/lightweight?

  • http://www.outsideways.com/ Damien @ Outsideways

    I second two cameras mentioned here: the Lumix LX5, and the Sony NEX 5. I had it down to both of these when we were deciding on a compact camera for backcountry use. We settled on the Sony because of the bigger sensor (bigger than an micro 4/3 camera) and the option for interchangeable lenses. We love it. Having zoom/macro lenses makes it a bigger package though. We use ours with a fixed length pancake lens. The flash is not built-in though, but we never use a flash. We also like the ability to attach an external mic.

    When my mother-in-law was looking for a new camera, I recommended the LX-5… actually I recommended the Leica version for her. The Leica version comes with a license for Lightroom, and has slightly better colors straight out of the camera. This camera can do zoom and macro (no interchangeable lenses). The flash is built-in. She loves it.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Another vote for the Sony NEX-5. I’ve always had such lousy experience with Sony cameras and optics in general – that kinda throws everything. Is this the camera that your wife is using now for her blog? Her photography is simply gorgeous.

      • http://www.outsideways.com/ Damien @ Outsideways

        She alternates between the NEX-5 and her Nikon D300 DSLR. Any shots you see taken in the outdoors are generally the Sony as the Nikon is not particularly portable. All stuff around home is the Nikon.

        Did you see Ryan’s BPL review of the NEX-7? It isn’t done yet, but I am very interested in seeing how that looks too…

        • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

          No I haven’t seen his review. Buying cameras now is like buying computers used to be, you can wait and wait to get the latest and greatest (and never buy anything) or bite the bullet and get one that is almost immediately outdated. So far the Sony NEX-5 is top of my list based on what I’ve just read…

          • http://www.outsideways.com/ Damien @ Outsideways

            If weight/size is a big concern, the LX5 will be more compact to carry. It will have a built-in zoom/macro lens. In order to get that for the NEX, you will need a bigger lens which will make it much less compact than the LX5. If you go with a fixed length lens (i.e. the 16mm), the NEX-5 will be quite compact, but you will have to use your feet to zoom in and out.

          • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

            Interesting. I’m trying to think how often I ever use the zoom function of my Nikon Coolpix P&S? Hardly ever is the answer to the best of my knowledge. I hadn’t really thought much about that, in which case I may not even need a zoom lens? I do like the ability to easily switch lenses though.

            Great feedback. I really do appreciate you taking the time to provide so much information.

  • http://www.adventureinprogress.com/ Damien @ ADVENTUREinPROGRESS

    I second two cameras mentioned here: the Lumix LX5, and the Sony NEX 5. I had it down to both of these when we were deciding on a compact camera for backcountry use. We settled on the Sony because of the bigger sensor (bigger than an micro 4/3 camera) and the option for interchangeable lenses. We love it. Having zoom/macro lenses makes it a bigger package though. We use ours with a fixed length pancake lens. The flash is not built-in though, but we never use a flash. We also like the ability to attach an external mic.

    When my mother-in-law was looking for a new camera, I recommended the LX-5… actually I recommended the Leica version for her. The Leica version comes with a license for Lightroom, and has slightly better colors straight out of the camera. This camera can do zoom and macro (no interchangeable lenses). The flash is built-in. She loves it.

  • http://www.nwoutdoorgrrl.com/ Outdoorgrrl

    I’ll add my voice as another Lumix fan. I have the LX3 and love it. The next iteration of the camera – the LX5 – has a few extra features. I particularly like that is has a f/2.0 Leica lens. It also is the widest angle lens in its class, which is great for landscapes.

    Whatever you choose, don’t cheap out. You’re working hard to get to the most beautiful places in the world. Make sure you have the right tool to capture the shots!

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Thanks Outdoorgrrl. It looks to be turning into a Lumix LX vs. Sony NEX battle. I like that it has very quickly come down to these two cameras.

      I’ll admit that I was hoping to find a camera in the $600 range that met all of my needs, but for the extra few hundred dollars I can get much more camera and it will probably still provide me with all of my needs even as my photography skills develop.

      Thanks for keeping me honest.

  • http://www.nwoutdoorgrrl.com/ Outdoorgrrl

    I’ll add my voice as another Lumix fan. I have the LX3 and love it. The next iteration of the camera – the LX5 – has a few extra features. I particularly like that is has a f/2.0 Leica lens. It also is the widest angle lens in its class, which is great for landscapes.

    Whatever you choose, don’t cheap out. You’re working hard to get to the most beautiful places in the world. Make sure you have the right tool to capture the shots!

  • http://sticksblog.com/ Chad “Stick” Poindexter

    I have the Lumix FH20. I am not saying that it is any better than any of the other cameras others are recommending, but it is a good entry level camera, IMO. I like it much better than other cameras I have used, but I will probably go with a higher model camera when I replace it. 
    I am no photographer, more of the – take a bunch of pictures and hope to get a few good enough ones – type of person! :) The one thing that I really don’t like about this one is the fact that it will not zoom while recording video. Another thing that would be nice is the ability to capture panoramic pictures easier. (I know that some cameras have modes that make this easy ~ this one does not.) Otherwise I gotta say I am pretty happy with it as far as pictures and HD video quality. As well, the camera was inexpensive ($120 on Amazon) and the menus are easy to navigate through. i think that the buttons are laid out in a simple and easy to use way. I love the back display and find it more than adequate. (Touch screen is not a necessity for me here.) 
    Anyway, good luck with your decision!

  • http://sticksblog.com/ Chad "Stick" Poindexter

    I have the Lumix FH20. I am not saying that it is any better than any of the other cameras others are recommending, but it is a good entry level camera, IMO. I like it much better than other cameras I have used, but I will probably go with a higher model camera when I replace it. 
    I am no photographer, more of the – take a bunch of pictures and hope to get a few good enough ones – type of person! :) The one thing that I really don’t like about this one is the fact that it will not zoom while recording video. Another thing that would be nice is the ability to capture panoramic pictures easier. (I know that some cameras have modes that make this easy ~ this one does not.) Otherwise I gotta say I am pretty happy with it as far as pictures and HD video quality. As well, the camera was inexpensive ($120 on Amazon) and the menus are easy to navigate through. i think that the buttons are laid out in a simple and easy to use way. I love the back display and find it more than adequate. (Touch screen is not a necessity for me here.) 
    Anyway, good luck with your decision!

  • John Modica

    May I chime on the learning side of this conversation?
    I am in the point same point of research as Brian.
    What does this group think of the HD Hero2, pros and cons.

    • http://www.hikinginfinland.com/ Hendrik Morkel

      Hei John, I have a GoPro HERO2 as well, and it is a nice piece of gear, though I would recommend it more for HD (POV) video, Timelapse and possible burst photography. The thing about it is that in great conditions = as in good weather, it will take good photos, though once the conditions are not optimal (and where I hike/ paddle/ bike that often is the case; cloudy, grey and “bad” light are more common than sunshine and good light) then taking good photos with it is difficult. 

      Another practical thing is that it is a small camera, and with the lens being very wide-angle you sometime might accidentally have your hands in a photo. The wide angle also might not be the most pleasant setting for photos, as it “bends” the photo at the corners; the most “flat” setting is 96° if I remember correctly. 

      I think the HERO2 is a great 2nd camera, though I myself would prefer something more substantial in form of a small DSLR. 

      If you got more questions, please don’t hesitate and ask!

  • John Modica

    May I chime on the learning side of this conversation?
    I am in the point same point of research as Brian.
    What does this group think of the HD Hero2, pros and cons.

  • http://www.hikinginfinland.com/ Hendrik Morkel

    Hei John, I have a GoPro HERO2 as well, and it is a nice piece of gear, though I would recommend it more for HD (POV) video, Timelapse and possible burst photography. The thing about it is that in great conditions = as in good weather, it will take good photos, though once the conditions are not optimal (and where I hike/ paddle/ bike that often is the case; cloudy, grey and “bad” light are more common than sunshine and good light) then taking good photos with it is difficult. 

    Another practical thing is that it is a small camera, and with the lens being very wide-angle you sometime might accidentally have your hands in a photo. The wide angle also might not be the most pleasant setting for photos, as it “bends” the photo at the corners; the most “flat” setting is 96° if I remember correctly. 

    I think the HERO2 is a great 2nd camera, though I myself would prefer something more substantial in form of a small DSLR. 

    If you got more questions, please don’t hesitate and ask!

  • http://www.prepplace.blogspot.com badvoodoodaddy

    The Lumix is by far the best bet.  It has a leica lens and since panasonic owns leica it has a lot of the technology that leica uses in their cameras.  They also have an excellent macro setting.  

    • http://www.outsideways.com/ Damien @ Outsideways

      The Panasonic LX5 does have a Leica lens, but Leica is not owned by Panasonic. They just partnered on making the camera.

  • http://www.prepplace.blogspot.com/ badvoodoodaddy

    The Lumix is by far the best bet.  It has a leica lens and since panasonic owns leica it has a lot of the technology that leica uses in their cameras.  They also have an excellent macro setting.  

  • http://www.adventureinprogress.com/ Damien @ ADVENTUREinPROGRESS

    The Panasonic LX5 does have a Leica lens, but Leica is not owned by Panasonic. They just partnered on making the camera.

  • Enrique

    I would definitely recommend a mirrorless camera from either Panasonic, Olympus or Sony.  I personally have an NEX-C3 and I absolutely love it.  Big sensor in small camera!

  • Enrique

    I would definitely recommend a mirrorless camera from either Panasonic, Olympus or Sony.  I personally have an NEX-C3 and I absolutely love it.  Big sensor in small camera!

  • Ross Polete

    Brian, sounds like you need the Pentax Optio WG-1. It will do everything you want and is great for those macro shots. Water proof, weather proof. I love the Panasonic cameras too but they are not weather proof and you will have to baby them in the wilderness. 

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Ross, that is one rugged looking camera. I like the small LEDs for macro work, that’s kinda cool. I’ll take a closer look. Thanks for sharing.

  • Ross Polete

    Brian, sounds like you need the Pentax Optio WG-1. It will do everything you want and is great for those macro shots. Water proof, weather proof. I love the Panasonic cameras too but they are not weather proof and you will have to baby them in the wilderness. 

  • James Martin

    Bryan, be sure to check out the new micro 4/3 cameras. They are about the size of your typical point and shoot but have nice interchangeable lens systems.  Also, I just got a Canon PowerShot Elph 300 HS which takes some incredible pictures and it dwarfs my Droid bionic with the extended battery and case.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Thanks James, I’ll check them out. I’m beginning to loose all interest in point-and-shoot cameras. I’ve owned several good ones and they all lack the ability to take photos quickly. In fact some are so slow that I miss photo opportunities because they have such a shutter delay.

      I’m interested in the micro 4/3 cameras.

  • James Martin

    Bryan, be sure to check out the new micro 3/4 cameras. They are about the size of your typical point and shoot but have nice interchangeable lens systems.  Also, I just got a Canon PowerShot Elph 300 HS which takes some incredible pictures and it dwarfs my Droid bionic with the extended battery and case.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Thanks James, I’ll check them out. I’m beginning to loose all interest in point-and-shoot cameras. I’ve owned several good ones and they all lack the ability to take photos quickly. In fact some are so slow that I miss photo opportunities because they have such a shutter delay.

    I’m interested in the micro 4/3 cameras.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Ross, that is one rugged looking camera. I like the small LEDs for macro work, that’s kinda cool. I’ll take a closer look. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Wow – I thought you were a Lumix man all the way, I had no idea that you had changed to the Sony NEX-5N. What was the difference between the -5 and -5N?

    It does appear to do everything I want and more and 10 f/s in full 16.1mp is sweet. It’s a little more expensive that I had planned but as Outdoorgrrl says below, I shouldn’t cheap out.

    Do you care that the camera only accepts te Sony e-frame lenses unless you get an adapter, or is that not an issue?

    Thanks for the great info as always.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    That’s good to know. I’ve always considered your photography to be top-notch, so it’s great to know what you’re using. No expert – my ass!

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Fits in my pocket or a small pocket on my pack, doesn’t require a huge separate carrying case, weighs not much more than a point-and-shoot.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Another vote for the Sony NEX-5. I’ve always had such lousy experience with Sony cameras and optics in general – that kinda throws everything. Is this the camera that your wife is using now for her blog? Her photography is simply gorgeous.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Thanks Outdoorgrrl. It looks to be turning into a Lumix LX vs. Sony NEX battle. I like that it has very quickly come down to these two cameras.

    I’ll admit that I was hoping to find a camera in the $600 range that met all of my needs, but for the extra few hundred dollars I can get much more camera and it will probably still provide me with all of my needs even as my photography skills develop.

    Thanks for keeping me honest.

  • http://www.adventureinprogress.com/ Damien @ ADVENTUREinPROGRESS

    She alternates between the NEX-5 and her Nikon D300 DSLR. Any shots you see taken in the outdoors are generally the Sony as the Nikon is not particularly portable. All stuff around home is the Nikon.

    Did you see Ryan’s BPL review of the NEX-7? It isn’t done yet, but I am very interested in seeing how that looks too…

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Hey, great information Andre. Very informative and helpful. I think I fall into the micro 4/3rds category because I’m done with point-and-shoot cameras and DSLRs are too big for what I want.

    It seems to be a Lumix LX5 vs. Sony NEX-5 showdown. Any thoughts on either of these over the other?

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    No I haven’t seen his review. Buying cameras now is like buying computers used to be, you can wait and wait to get the latest and greatest (and never buy anything) or bite the bullet and get one that is almost immediately outdated. So far the Sony NEX-5 is top of my list based on what I’ve just read…

  • http://www.adventureinprogress.com/ Damien @ ADVENTUREinPROGRESS

    If weight/size is a big concern, the LX5 will be more compact to carry. It will have a built-in zoom/macro lens. In order to get that for the NEX, you will need a bigger lens which will make it much less compact than the LX5. If you go with a fixed length lens (i.e. the 16mm), the NEX-5 will be quite compact, but you will have to use your feet to zoom in and out.

  • rcMike

    I’ll put in my vote for the LX5 since it meets your criteria but also adds a lot of flexibility.  I do like the hotshoe because it allows me to mount either a cable release or a Zoom external mic.  Add the lens adapter tube and you can use a UV or Polarizer filter or add an ultra wide angle lens (additional weight of course).  I keep my lens adapter tube on the camera with a UV filter on it because it protects the lens mechanism from dust and sand.  I do love my iPhone 4 photos and they can be made to look even better but shots out of a dedicated camera (whichever one you end up with) will be better.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Thanks Mike. I too love the quality of the photos I can get with my iPhone4. Close to 99% of all the photos on my blog were taken with it. I’ve always wanted a better camera not just for backpacking but for being able to catch up with my kids. Having a dedicated ‘real’ camera will be a lot more fun.

  • rcMike

    I’ll put in my vote for the LX5 since it meets your criteria but also adds a lot of flexibility.  I do like the hotshoe because it allows me to mount either a cable release or a Zoom external mic.  Add the lens adapter tube and you can use a UV or Polarizer filter or add an ultra wide angle lens (additional weight of course).  I keep my lens adapter tube on the camera with a UV filter on it because it protects the lens mechanism from dust and sand.  I do love my iPhone 4 photos and they can be made to look even better but shots out of a dedicated camera (whichever one you end up with) will be better.

  • http://www.hikinginfinland.com/ Hendrik Morkel

    Well, I have a Lumix GH2 but that’s a whole different beast. The Lumix GF1 is still awesome, but probably too “pro” in comparison with the Sony.

    NEX-5N has a touch screen, bigger sensor, bigger ISO, a tad lighter, and just newer technique.

    No problem with the lenses. They’re very good, and you can get with an Adapter a very wide variety of lenses.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Do you mean “pro” in terms of the skills needed to operate it or its functions properly? If so then that may well be the tipping point for me.

  • Paul O’Toole

    Canon PowerShot A1200. Really like this camera! It small enough to carry almost all of the time, and it has a view finder. Might be worth upgrading your phone, the new iphone has a better camera.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Thanks Paul, it’s definitely compact enough, but at only 1fps it’s not really what I am looking for. BTW they have these on sale at my local Walmart right now!

  • Paul O’Toole

    Canon PowerShot A1200Really like this camera!It small enough to carry almost all of the time, and it has a view finder.Might be worth upgrading your phone, the new iphone has a better camera.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Thanks Mike. I too love the quality of the photos I can get with my iPhone4. Close to 99% of all the photos on my blog were taken with it. I’ve always wanted a better camera not just for backpacking but for being able to catch up with my kids. Having a dedicated ‘real’ camera will be a lot more fun.

  • Jim C

    I chose the Canon G12 last year for my JMT trip. I like the size, the articulating screen and the quality of the pictures. It also has a view finder.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Great camera, but seems to be too big for what I am looking for. Do you find the size an issue when taking it with you on trips?

  • Jim C

    I chose the Canon G12 last year for my JMT trip. I like the size, the articulating screen and the quality of the pictures. It also has a view finder.

  • Andrew Downie

    So, I was wandering through Costco the other day, as I tend to do while there, and I spotted something interesting.  It was a Nikon AW100.  It is an all-weather point-and-shoot with an integrated GPS and compass.  Comes in at around 6.3 oz (178g) and has a 16MP sensor and 5X zoom.  Might be worth checking out.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Costco! Who knew? I’ll check it out, thanks.

  • Andrew Downie

    So, I was wandering through Costco the other day, as I tend to do while there, and I spotted something interesting.  It was a Nikon AW100.  It is an all-weather point-and-shoot with an integrated GPS and compass.  Comes in at around 6.3 oz (178g) and has a 16MP sensor and 5X zoom.  Might be worth checking out.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Costco! Who knew? I’ll check it out, thanks.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Great camera, but seems to be too big for what I am looking for. Do you find the size an issue when taking it with you on trips?

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Thanks Paul, it’s definitely compact enough, but at only 1fps it’s not really what I am looking for. BTW they have these on sale at my local Walmart right now!

  • RyanSchwiebert

    I’ve been thinking about getting a ruggidized camera too.  What about the New Nikon AW100?
    http://www.dpreview.com/news/2011/8/24/nikonaw100

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      I’m really trying to move away from a point & shoot camera even if it’s ruggedized. That looks like a nice camera but not what I’m going for. Are you thinking of geting one? Love DPReviews :)

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      I’m really trying to move away from a point & shoot camera even if it’s ruggedized. That looks like a nice camera but not what I’m going for. Are you thinking of geting one? Love DPReviews :)

  • RyanSchwiebert

    I’ve been thinking about getting a ruggidized camera too.  What about the New Nikon AW100?
    http://www.dpreview.com/news/2011/8/24/nikonaw100

  • http://www.adayak.com/ David

    Upgrade your iphone to an iphone 4s or Galaxy S2 (what I have). The GS2 has a panoramic and macro options. It takes amazing photos and shoots 1080p HD video. It’s lightweight – the only camera I take with me on hiking trips.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      I have an iPhone4 not the ‘S’ admittedly, but won’t be switching to Android. I’m impressed with my iPhone4, I use it for 99% of all my photos right now (they look okay right?), but I’m looking to get a camera. How long have you had your GS2?

  • http://www.adayak.com/ David

    Upgrade your iphone to an iphone 4s or Galaxy S2 (what I have). The GS2 has a panoramic and macro options. It takes amazing photos and shoots 1080p HD video. It’s lightweight – the only camera I take with me on hiking trips.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    I’m really trying to move away from a point & shoot camera even if it’s ruggedized. That looks like a nice camera but not what I’m going for. Are you thinking of geting one? Love DPReviews :)

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    I’m really trying to move away from a point & shoot camera even if it’s ruggedized. That looks like a nice camera but not what I’m going for. Are you thinking of geting one? Love DPReviews :)

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    I have an iPhone4 not the ‘S’ admittedly, but won’t be switching to Android. I’m impressed with my iPhone4, I use it for 99% of all my photos right now (they look okay right?), but I’m looking to get a camera. How long have you had your GS2?

  • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

    I think I’m going to go look at the Lumix GF2 this weekend. I’m not sure I can justify the extra few hundred dollars for the SONY NEX-5N. Maybe I’ll compare them side by side in a store?

    Thank you to everyone one who voiced their opinion, gave suggestions, and generally helped steer me in the right direction. This is what I love about the outdoor community :)

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    I think I’m going to go look at the Lumix GF2 this weekend. I’m not sure I can justify the extra few hundred dollars for the SONY NEX-5N. Maybe I’ll compare them side by side in a store?

    Thank you to everyone one who voiced their opinion, gave suggestions, and generally helped steer me in the right direction. This is what I love about the outdoor community :)

  • http://1000milesonmyowntwofeet.blogspot.com/ Abigail Austin

    Brian, I just found your blog and I’m excited to start following your backcountry stories. I write the ‘1,000 Miles on My Own Two Feet’ blog, and I think your gear input, recipes, etc. will be cool to read. Thank you for sharing and happy trails!

  • http://1000milesonmyowntwofeet.blogspot.com/ Abigail Austin

    Brian, I just found your blog and I’m excited to start following your backcountry stories. I write 1,000 Miles on My Own Two Feet http://1000milesonmyowntwofeet.blogspot.com/, and I think your gear input, recipes, etc. will be cool to read. Thank you for sharing and happy trails!

  • http://www.facebook.com/james.ratzloff James Ratzloff

    I am holding out for the Nex-7, which should ship in April.   The electronic viewfinder is the big selling point for me.   Another big plugs is the adaptors that are available to use my treasured Rokkor lenses. (which the Nex-5 has also).

  • AllenQ

    Maybe somebody’s already mentioned this (I didn’t get through all of the comments), but I used one of the Lumix line of cameras recently and it had something like a 1:12 optical zoom, and the photo quality was very impressive.

  • AllenQ

    Maybe somebody’s already mentioned this (I didn’t get through all of the comments), but I used one of the Lumix line of cameras recently and it had something like a 1:12 optical zoom, and the photo quality was very impressive.

  • Mark H

    What do you mean by: “Fast/rapid shooting modes” and “High speed photos?”  If you mean fast auto-focus, you are going to be sorely disappointed by all of the above recommendations, save maybe the Sony Nex-5n.  The latest micro 4/3s cameras from Olympus and Panasonic will do better, and any DSLR will do even better.  If you mean high frames-per-second, then most non-DSLR cameras will not give you much in that area.

    You need to prioritize your list (maybe you already have?).  If compact is the most important, then go with the Canon S100.  It’s better than any of the Panasonic Lumix cameras by far.

    Simple to use is a non-starter, since every camera has an “auto” mode these days.  More advanced cameras aren’t harder to use, they simply have more ability to take manual control of the camera.

    Of your next 5 criteria, three are in almost every camera (flash, HD video, macro).  Which leaves the above two parameters.

    To get real high-speed auto-focus and frame rates, you need to go DSLR.  You said you want to keep up with your kids, which are moving subjects.  Nothing will do that save for a DSLR, and maybe one of those 4/3s or micro 4/3s.  If that is a priority, I would check out the Nikon D5000 with the kit lens ($500 refurbished at Adorama).  With the kit lens, it is only 3 ounces heavier than the Sony 5n (19.8 vs 16.4 ounces).  Plus cheaper, and you can rent big Nikon lenses for your kid’s soccer game and shoot like a real pro for a weekend.

    Since this is a lightweight backpacking blog, I would simply revert to the S100 recommendation.  It weighs more like 6 or 7 oz, and it is pocket-able, takes great pics, but it will not keep up with your kids.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Mark, thanks for the great (detailed) feedback. As you can tell from my lack of clarification I am no photography expert. I would like a camera that can keep up with my kids though – so I will definitely take a look at the Canon S100. Oddly that never came up on any of the sort lists I’ve put together or recommendations from others.

      Weight is not the highest priority here, I’d like a camera that does all the things I need more than just a small camera that saves a few grams.

      Thanks again for taking the time to write up your comments. ^ BG

  • Mark H

    What do you mean by: “Fast/rapid shooting modes” and “High speed photos?”  If you mean fast auto-focus, you are going to be sorely disappointed by all of the above recommendations, save maybe the Sony Nex-5n.  The latest micro 4/3s cameras from Olympus and Panasonic will do better, and any DSLR will do even better.  If you mean high frames-per-second, then most non-DSLR cameras will not give you much in that area.

    You need to prioritize your list (maybe you already have?).  If compact is the most important, then go with the Canon S100.  It’s better than any of the Panasonic Lumix cameras by far.

    Simple to use is a non-starter, since every camera has an “auto” mode these days.  More advanced cameras aren’t harder to use, they simply have more ability to take manual control of the camera.

    Of your next 5 criteria, three are in almost every camera (flash, HD video, macro).  Which leaves the above two parameters.

    To get real high-speed auto-focus and frame rates, you need to go DSLR.  You said you want to keep up with your kids, which are moving subjects.  Nothing will do that save for a DSLR, and maybe one of those 4/3s or micro 4/3s.  If that is a priority, I would check out the Nikon D5000 with the kit lens ($500 refurbished at Adorama).  With the kit lens, it is only 3 ounces heavier than the Sony 5n (19.8 vs 16.4 ounces).  Plus cheaper, and you can rent big Nikon lenses for your kid’s soccer game and shoot like a real pro for a weekend.

    Since this is a lightweight backpacking blog, I would simply revert to the S100 recommendation.  It weighs more like 6 or 7 oz, and it is pocket-able, takes great pics, but it will not keep up with your kids.

  • Mark H

    So sorry, I meant the Nikon 5100, not the 5000.  Totally different beast.  It is $630, and the weight I listed above is wrong.  28.8 oz with the kit lens.  So the Sony is quite a bit lighter, but still more expensive.  Plus the Nikon has an optical viewfinder, and the Sony has no viewfinder.  I think an accessory electronic viewfinder is available and supposedly quite good, but it is like $350.

  • Mark H

    So sorry, I meant the Nikon 5100, not the 5000.  Totally different beast.  It is $630, and the weight I listed above is wrong.  28.8 oz with the kit lens.  So the Sony is quite a bit lighter, but still more expensive.  Plus the Nikon has an optical viewfinder, and the Sony has no viewfinder.  I think an accessory electronic viewfinder is available and supposedly quite good, but it is like $350.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1323956455 Kendall Bassett

    Leica D-Lux5, I use one when I cannot take a large DSLR with me. It  is a light great camera with most professional functions.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1323956455 Kendall Bassett

    Leica D-Lux5, I use one when I cannot take a large DSLR with me. It  is a light great camera with most professional functions.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Mark, thanks for the great (detailed) feedback. As you can tell from my lack of clarification I am no photography expert. I would like a camera that can keep up with my kids though – so I will definitely take a look at the Canon S100. Oddly that never came up on any of the sort lists I’ve put together or recommendations from others.

    Weight is not the highest priority here, I’d like a camera that does all the things I need more than just a small camera that saves a few grams.

    Thanks again for taking the time to write up your comments. ^ BG

  • http://www.facebook.com/ravitz Evan Ravitz

    I now use the LX5, and still have my LX3. About 10 oz., it’s all most people need for both stills and video. It has a Leica lens, one of the best. It has a larger sensor than most compacts, which means less noise, especially for low-light photos. But the sensor is still considerably smaller than the 4/3 system, which is overkill unless you need really big prints -over 13″X19″.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ravitz Evan Ravitz

    Brian, the Sony NEX series has a sensor the same size as most DSLRs. The body is smaller because it lacks a viewfinder. You would only need a sensor this size IF you want to make BIG prints -like 20″X 30″. Otherwise a Lumix LX5 or a Canon S100 are more what you want. With a larger sensor, the lenses are larger and heavier. My LX5 makes fine 13″ X 19″ prints. The S100 lens retracts more than the LX5, making it truly shirt-pocket size. The best place to compare cameras and learn about them is http://dpreview.com  In the “Cameras” tab, click “side by side camera comparison” and select the models you’re considering.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ravitz Evan Ravitz

    Brian, the Sony NEX series has a sensor the same size as most DSLRs. The body is smaller because it lacks a viewfinder. You would only need a sensor this size IF you want to make BIG prints -like 20″X 30″. Otherwise a Lumix LX5 or a Canon S100 are more what you want. With a larger sensor, the lenses are larger and heavier. My LX5 makes fine 13″ X 19″ prints. The S100 lens retracts more than the LX5, making it truly shirt-pocket size. The best place to compare cameras and learn about them is http://depreview.com  In the “Cameras” tab, click “side by side camera comparison” and select the models you’re considering.

  • Katt Camps

    I just bought the Limux for kayaking and its AWESOME!  The digital zoom is better than I’ve seen before and its pretty good in low light and action shots.  definitly worth a look

  • Parvi

    PASAS LUMIX GF1 with 20mm 1.7 served me well on many crazy trips. Great for stills and movies! You can even hack the firmware to have better video. Size is just ok.
    Another good example is new Fujifilm X10. Sensor is smaller than in GF1, but you can run it at size M with smaller # megapixels in DR400 mode to have wide DR range with close to DSLR picture quality. It supports RAW format. Bright zoom is a bonus+1080P movies.
    Both are around 350g total weight, so very good. Small enough to carry them in hip belt pocket.

  • Parvi

    PASAS LUMIX GF1 with 20mm 1.7 served me well on many crazy trips. Great for stills and movies! You can even hack the firmware to have better video. Size is just ok.
    Another good example is new Fujifilm X10. Sensor is smaller than in GF1, but you can run it at size M with smaller # megapixels in DR400 mode to have wide DR range with close to DSLR picture quality. It supports RAW format. Bright zoom is a bonus+1080P movies.
    Both are around 350g total weight, so very good. Small enough to carry them in hip belt pocket.

  • http://twitter.com/LyndsayCabildo Lyndsay Cabildo

    I would agree. See, when travelling I want to enjoy it and not focusing on how should I protect my camera, carry it, protect it just to share it on my blog. Although, I wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to share it to my readers too, so having a good camera on your phone is good enough. A pro photographer friend says its not the camera that matters, its the eye of the one taking shots. He said, a good pixelated camera that gives out a clear image is good enough, cameras are just the same, it only varies on who takes it and how he does it.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      You may have read that 99% of all of my photos on this blog were taken using my iPhone4 – they’re not bad right? So I agree for the most part.

      I’m not trying to buy a new camera to make me take better photos. I want a camera with the necessary aperture/speed settings to take photos that my iPhone simple cannot handle.

      Since writing the post I have bought a Lumix GF2 and I am VERY happy with it. I used the GF2 to shoot all of the photos on my recent review of the Teva Nilch shoes for ToeSalad.com. I think they came out great, but the style of shot was not drastically different than my normal style.

  • http://twitter.com/LyndsayCabildo Lyndsay Cabildo

    I would agree. See, when travelling I want to enjoy it and not focusing on how should I protect my camera, carry it, protect it just to share it on my blog. Although, I wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to share it to my readers too, so having a good camera on your phone is good enough. A pro photographer friend says its not the camera that matters, its the eye of the one taking shots. He said, a good pixelated camera that gives out a clear image is good enough, cameras are just the same, it only varies on who takes it and how he does it.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    You may have read that 99% of all of my photos on this blog were taken using my iPhone4 – they’re not bad right? So I agree for the most part.

    I’m not trying to buy a new camera to make me take better photos. I want a camera with the necessary aperture/speed settings to take photos that my iPhone simple cannot handle.

    Since writing the post I have bought a Lumix GF2 and I am VERY happy with it. I used the GF2 to shoot all of the photos on my recent review of the Teva Nilch shoes for ToeSalad.com. I think they came out great, but the style of shot was not drastically different than my normal style.

  • Eric E.

    Olympus Tough TG-810 are awesome. Fits in any pocket, takes a pounding, takes great photos including macro and HD video. Easy one hand use. I’ve taken great under water pics and videos of trout while fly fishing. It also has a mode to shoot a series of photos in just a few seconds. As for a DSLR I use a Canon Rebel. Simple to use, takes amazing photos and a good slr camera to start out with. I do use the IPhone cause its always with me but these two cameras do a better job than the phone.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Underwater pics! I don’t have much of a need there, but the more I think about it I might want to look into it with two small very active kids. Thanks Eric.

  • Eric E.

    Olympus Tough TG-810 are awesome. Fits in any pocket, takes a pounding, takes great photos including macro and HD video. Easy one hand use. I’ve taken great under water pics and videos of trout while fly fishing. It also has a mode to shoot a series of photos in just a few seconds. As for a DSLR I use a Canon Rebel. Simple to use, takes amazing photos and a good slr camera to start out with. I do use the IPhone cause its always with me but these two cameras do a better job than the phone.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Underwater pics! I don’t have much of a need there, but the more I think about it I might want to look into it with two small very active kids. Thanks Eric.