The Nikon 1 V1, Fuji x10, & Canon s100 (plus Fuji x100 and Canon G12 & s95) all have something in common this holiday season – they are collectively the hottest high quality compact cameras on the market. While some like the s95/s100 may be classified as a “point and shoot” camera, I really put all of these cameras above and beyond the typically low quality consumer cameras that we call point and shoots.
This article is the home page for other articles that cover each camera individually. I’ll send this series with a comparison article(s) that will cover how they compare in more depth. Please check back often to see links to new updates as my goal is to complete this series by mid-December 2011.
What about the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1, etc…?
Noticeably absent from this line up is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1, but the reason is simple – I just could only do so much so I focused on the cameras I was most interested in. I’ve borrowed a friends DMC-GX1 briefly and it seemed like an okay camera, but I had my hands full with this comparison so other cameras simply didn’t make the cut. My apologies to the Lumix fans out there.
What do you mean by plus Fuji x100 and Canon G12 & s95?
When writing this article I had “on hand” the four cameras shown in the photo at the top of the page, but you can also read my existing reviews on the G12, s95, and x100. I am very familiar with those cameras and I own a G12 (as well as having extensive experience with the G9, G10, and G11) . However, the x100 and s95 was not on-hand for a side, by side comparison during my testing. I have all of my data from testing them previous and will discuss that during this comparison.
My Testing Methodology
While these cameras are DLSR-like, they are not DSLR’s. Instead, they are more portable so I wanted to test these cameras as my alternative camera for times when I didn’t want to have my bulky DSLR. As a result, the types of photos I’d take or situations I’d be in with these cameras are entirely different than what I’d do with DSLR’s. In short, I used these as every day practical cameras not only for myself, but I also shared it with my wife and friends to give me their subjective feedback on the real-world usefulness of these cameras. In fact, some of my friends might choose these as their step up from their current crappy point and shoot as a DSLR-alternative, so my testing drew lots of interest.
I carried one or more of these cameras to normal day to day activities and shot them as I’d normally shoot my G12 or iPhone. While I typically modified the settings to capture RAW files (when possible), I did try to take advantage of the auto features of these cameras and use their in-camera JPEG’s as much as possible. I did this because my idea behind owning one of these cameras is to sacrifice some quality (over a DSLR) in exchange for portability, easy of use (i.e., literally point, shoot, and move on), and faster post-processing times (either print or upload to the web “as is” from the in-camera JPEG, or only minor Lightroom edits).
At the conclusion of my testing I did put all of these cameras on a tripod and did various testing using different modes, focal lengths, ISO, etc… This testing is primarily for my own use, but I will share some of those images and data in this series. However, I’m not trying to replace what DPReview.com does – they have a staff and its their full-time job, so they can do a lot more than me.
If you want a scientific comparison to pixel peep until your eyeballs dry out, then go to dpreview.com. If you want a subjective opinion of Ron Martinsen, his wife and friends on what these cameras are REALLY like to own and use on a daily basis then you a have come to the right place. My goal of this comparison, much like I’ve done in my tripod & ball head series, noise reduction roundup, lens rental series, printing series, and web hosting series is to give you MY personal opinion of which product I like the most based on my own personal preferences. I test them as scientifically as I care to so I can try to eliminate any bias or preconceived notions, but the winner(s) here will be the camera(s) that I’d actually go out and buy (at B&H’s normal prices) just like you. I’ll also consider which camera my wife would want as well as she’s the one who will use it most often, and while image quality is important so are size, features and ease of use.
Detailed Review List & My First Impressions
Click the review link next to name of the camera below to see my full review. If there is no hyperlink then I haven’t published the review yet, but it is coming soon. I’m also including what my first impressions of each camera was which may differ from my final opinion based on my looking at the detailed data I’ve collected during testing. The cameras are currently listed in the stack ranked order from most favorite to least favorite based on my opinion today, but this list order may change before this article is 100% done – stay tuned.
- Fujifilm FinePix x10 (P&S of the Year Review) – While this camera lacks some of the ease of use and creature comforts of the Canon G12, this camera is everything I hoped it would be and more when I reviewed the x100. I loved the image quality of the x100, but I thought it was pretty spendy, quirky, and impractical as a camera for my wife. The x10 sacrifices a little in image quality compared to the x100, but sheds a lot in price. It also works extremely well as a point and shoot for my wife and friends, and lacks most of the quirkiness/bugs of the x100. In short, I love this camera for still photos, ease of use, and excellent video. In fact, I loved this one so much that I bought the copy I reviewed.
- Canon G12 (review) – While this camera lacks 1080p HD video, the killer high ISO performance, and dynamic range of the non-Canon cameras in this comparison, it is still a tough camera to beat. It’s hard dials make it super easy to switch to non-full auto modes and dial in the result to get the shot. My wife knows or cares nothing about geeky camera terms, but she quickly learned and loved how she could dial in a higher ISO or do an exposure compensation to get the shot. She couldn’t define or explain either to you, but she knows to rotate those dials to make the blurry images go away or modify the image brightness. She’s also appreciated the durability as this rides in her bottom diaper bag compartment where it takes a beating daily. She’s enjoyed the pivoting display so she can capture herself in photos or videos with the baby. However, the feature she enjoys the most is the speed – in short, when she uses this camera she usually gets the shot about 90% of the time (which is higher than me my DSLR as I’m usually too busy dialing in my settings). Regardless of what I do, my wife may not give up this camera without a fight.
- Nikon 1 V1 (review) – I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – the idea of a “mini-DSLR” to me is just stupid. I say this because you end up with a new proprietary system where you have to buy lenses and ultimately get trapped to stick with the platform. However, these systems offer less quality and cost more than the lower-end DSLR’s by Canon and Nikon. These cameras are also not very light or portable, so they fall into this gray area where they suck as a DSLR and they are too heavy/cumbersome to be a point and shoot. With that gripe out of the way, it is fun having these tiny lenses, a killer LCD on the back, and outstanding video quality in a package this small. However, the thing that really drives me the most insane about this camera is how Nikon buries nearly all of the controls in menus rather than having lots of external buttons (which is effectively their advantage / trademark when comparing with Canon). The exterior is so dumbed down that it can be infuriating at times. The full-manual mode wasn’t too bad once I got used to it, but I’ve just got to be able to have quick access to ISO and exposure compensation. I couldn’t’ do that with this camera and that really annoyed me. This is a good camera, but it really doesn’t belong in this comparison as a comparison against the DMC-GX1 would make more sense. That said, my review will still treat it fairly and tell you what I really think (i.e., it doesn’t suck). I will say right now for Christmas shoppers that it doesn’t have a significant edge in image quality over the cameras in this comparison which I think is due to cheap quality lenses, so don’t rush out to buy this thinking it can be like a mini D3000 – it’s not even close . (NOTE: I did use the sexier J1 at the Expo in New York and was underwhelmed – I’d definitely go for the V1 over the J1 any day)
- Canon s100 (review) – I really struggled where to place this camera because it’s the most pocketable camera in the bunch and it is statistically so good. Canon has also packed it full of great features like built-in GPS tracking, a huge LCD on the rear for its size, amazingly good high ISO performance up to 6400, and an innovative ring selector on the front that is programmable so you can have your favorite feature readily accessible without going into menus. With that love aside, I don’t think it doesn’t live up to the hype. I’ve been very unimpressed with the build quality and reliability of both the s95 and s100 I’ve tested. I also find that despite how it seems on paper when you compare it to the G12, the reality is that when you are out shooting kids doing activities its shutter lag is annoying and it repeatedly underwhelms me with the images that come out of it. While you can use the High-Speed Burst HQ scene mode to get a fast burst of 8 shots, RAW is not supported and frequently the subject is out of focus. I’d rather have a 3 megapixel version of this camera that had much better dynamic range and faster performance than this dog. Despite its great stats on paper, a car analogy is in order – it’s much like comparing a Ford Mustang GT to a Porsche Cayman S. While the Mustang might fare well on paper, and looks are subjective, when you actually use both you realize there is no comparison. My wife liked the s95 when she compared it to the G12, but we ultimately went with the G12, Now that she’s a seasoned G12 owner, but she lasted 10 minutes with this camera before she handed it back to me in disgust and resumed using the G12. She said she still loved the compact size, but we made the right decision getting the G12. I couldn’t agree more.
From here, the Fujifilm FinePix x100 (review) would be next on my list despite all of its quirkiness and lack of a zoom lens. This camera just feels like quality your hands and it draws you in with its cool geeky features (like the innovative optical AND digital viewfinder). I couldn’t justify buying one and my wife could never live with it, but if someone gave me one for Christmas I’d be pretty jazzed. It just has an addicting quality to it much like a super fun but frustratingly hard video game.
The Canon s95 (review) can’t keep up with the s100, so if you’ve got to have a camera that size then go with the s100 – it is better. It does everything the s95 does, but better in my opinion. However, the s95 is dirt cheap this holiday season as the channel tries to sell out their remaining inventory, so if price is your only concern then you probably won’t find a better deal.
Video Comparison (NEW)
Click here to see my article where I compare the video of the s100, x10 and V1 of a subject all recorded at the same time in identical conditions.
Upgrade your Lightroom & Adobe Camera Raw
Photoshop will require Adobe Camera Raw 6.6 and you will need Lightroom 3.6 to use the RAW file format of the Nikon 1 V1 (*.NEF), Fujifilm Finepix x100 (*.RAF), or the Canon s100 (*.CR2). If you don’t have those versions you can still read those image formats using the latest versions of Capture NX2 (2.2.8+), SILKYPIX (18.104.22.168 & up), and DPP (3.11 & up).
The Perfect Case For These Cameras
Nikon wants $60 for their case, but I found the BlackRapid SnapR 35 to be a brilliant choice with the V1. I use the SnapR 20 with my X10 as well, and it would work for the s100 as well. I’ll be posting my review soon, but it’s basically a nice case with a built-in mini BlackRapid strap (see my RS-7 review) that is brilliant for point and shoot cameras. You can see above how there is room for this camera with plenty of extra space. There’s also nice side-pocket storage as shown below to hold your accessories on both sides:
A Simple Portable Tripod
While reviewing these camera I got my hands on a Gary Fong Flip-Cage Pro, so I used it as my tripod when I was out and about. The Pro size is needed for the V1, G12 & X10, but a smaller size flip cage can be used with typical point and shoots like the s100.
None of these cameras are bad cameras. In fact, compared to most consumer products out there they are excellent. The s100 may be my least favorite, but it is a joy to use and comes in the perfect package. The Nikon 1 V1 seems pointless to me, but it can take a decent photo and the interchangeable lenses open up new options. With that said, all are good but only one is great – the Fujifilm X10.
I love the X10 so much that I’ve actually purchased my evaluation unit from B&H. If I was buying for my wife only I'd wish a G12 replacement was out, but she loves the X10 based on our real world experiences at Thanksgiving, in Hawaii, and Christmas (including Christmas lights outdoors). The other cameras are nice and have their benefits, but my money goes to the X10 for the best overall performance.
Please use the links to the cameras found in this article to make your purchase, and feel free to enjoy my discount coupon code page to save even more on your favorite photography products.
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Where to Buy
B&H made this comparison possible at a time when it was near impossible to get access these cameras. Please support this blog and their generosity by using the following links when you make your purchase:
- Click here to buy the Canon s100
- Click here to buy the Fujifilm X10
- Click here to buy the Nikon 1 V1
While most popular blogs have mechanisms for generating revenue, few disclose it. I believe in transparency so I will disclose that B&H has given me an extended return period to review these cameras, but I returned the s100 and V1 when I was done. I purchased the X10 based on my findings at an open box discounted price.
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