Clearly it is not a simple matter to replace our ageing bridge-cameras with a more modern alternative from some of the other camera sectors.
Whilst Micro Four Thirds and DSLR’s offer outstanding quality and often at very good price points, nothing readily falls into the all in one solution. Most units require a two lens option to cover what we have been using previously. This is not to everyone’s liking, but at the time of writing this Fuji were giving no indication that they are even likely to continue in the bridge camera sector. The latest offering the S1 is a step backward for those of us wanting an improved HS50 or XS1. Perhaps a combination of the best qualities of both would yield a much more desired camera that we currently have.
- If pricing is important, that again narrows the selection somewhat, but doesn’t exclude some fine cameras.
- If image quality is important, any of the current ranges of ICL cameras will more than provide this.
- Should size and for factor be the prerequisite, then the 4/3 market has some very nice compact size cameras available.
After looking at many alternatives, camera bodies and lenses, the three choices I would opt for if the type of bridge camera that I desire were not available are:
- The Fujifilm XA1 twin lens kit
- The Pentax K500 twin lens kit.
- The Panasonic G6 twin lens kit.
Why these three in particular?
The XA1 provides excellent image quality, ergonomics, speed and size. Fuji colour is my number one favourite and this is maintained with the XA1, indeed with all Fuji’s X series cameras. I like the reasonable size of the XA1 & XM1 from the stand point of fit in the hand and ease of grip. I would probably buy either the thumb grip (same as the XM1) from kiwiphotos as both cameras share the same body or the Fujifilm handgrip. The down side of this is of course extra cost which could put us over our budgeted cost of $1000.00 NZD. These options are not must haves and can be purchased after some time has been spent with the camera. For some folks the loss of an EVF or OVF would be enough to put off purchasing the XA1.
As I am used to using the LCD/Liveview ( I wear graduated bifocals ) I don’t have to worry so much about getting my eye properly aligned to the EVF when wearing glasses. I have heard people state that for them this would be a deal breaker no matter what. Personally I think this is a little simplistic, embracing new technology and new ways of doing things can often lead to a more enjoyable experience, so don’t be too hasty in your decision making process.
The Pentax K500 is a mid size entry level DSLR that comes with a very good reputation. Essentially its the K50 without weather sealing and focus point confirmation. Two things I could live without, otherwise the two cameras are identical. One item I would notice if using the Pentax was the lack of tiltable LCD, something that Pentax hasn’t seen the need to incorporate in their DSLR’s and to be honest I think this is a fairly large mistake. However they are producing cameras to a price point so as always you get what you pay for. If you are looking for the DSLR look and feel that you are used to from your bridgecamera, then the Pentax is a very good option.
The latest in the Panasonic family G series, the G6 follows on from the very well received G5. The performance from the G6 is very much as you would expect from a DSLR style M4/3 camera and in fact has been known to out perform higher specified DSLR’s. The size and heft is very similar to what one would be used to with a bridge – camera and is not as large and heavy as some of its cousins.
Visual comparisons of the above cameras:
In conclusion what would I choose?
Without a doubt the XA1 twin lens kit from Digi Parallel Imports has to be just about the best buy for your money. At $879.00 NZD this is excellent value for money. One of the big pluses for the Fuji is the tiltable LCD screen. As I get older this is going to become a very important feature. Had the Pentax had this feature and a slightly more comfortable grip, the the K500 would have won out, but I have come to realise that ergonomics is a very big consideration, and I don’t like my knuckles banging against the lens. Fuji’s HS series cameras by comparison all have excellent grips.
It even leaves us with a few dollars to spend on extras, (hand grips anyone?). Maybe a new generation memory card or a bag, or just whatever you fancy. As much as I enjoy Pentax cameras and I have a shelf full of good lenses, the size, versatility, performance and system provided by the X series makes the XA1 (or the XM1 if your budget can stretch a little ), gives plenty of room to expand and grow your photography for the future.
While we weren’t able to pin down an all in one solution in our given price point, we have seen that there are some very attractive alternatives, that wont weigh us down in our kit bags and will do most or all of what we do with our bridge cameras, just with slightly different methodology.
The other option is of course to buy a new XS1 or HS50 for the current period and see what transpires over the next year or two.
I can tell you that I have already seen what could well become the benchmark for all new bridge camera models…more to come.