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Why Every Photographer Should Have a Casual Compact Camera

Most photographers, especially the big-shot professionals, are very selective and even grandiose with their gear, but here's why having a casual and compact camera for everyday use is a great idea.

For most of our lives as photographers, we almost always are in pursuit of the best gear. Any reader of this site would know how much camera technology has been progressing this year more than any other. But why on earth would a professional photographer be seeking a small camera when everyone is going for the big guns?

The Actual "Need"

Ever since I started writing for Fstoppers about half a year ago, I've reviewed quite a number of cameras and related accessories. In order for our articles to be effective and worth your time, we always have to provide attractive visuals to keep your eyes entertained while you go through our babbling. For gear reviews, I always try and make it a point to take decent product photos of whatever I am reviewing, but I really usually don't feel like setting up my gear just for those. So, that's why I decided and convinced myself that purchasing a small camera would be reasonable. But of course, I didn't want to spend too much on such. 

My banged up Sony RX100 mark III (ironically, photographed with my phone)

I wanted something that would fit my pocket but still take decent quality photos. Choosing between a Canon G7X series camera, a Fujifilm X100 variant, and a Sony RX100, I found that the latter best fit what I was looking for. It's small and could fit my pocket, has a decent electronic viewfinder, and has pretty good range. I chose the third generation variant since it was the first among the line that had an EVF and was therefore the cheapest. 

The Added Benefit

As I got acquainted with the nice compact camera, I found myself bringing it anywhere and everywhere I went. Previously, the role of the everyday camera belonged to my smartphone, but I have to admit that I've always wanted something that could zoom in even just a bit without wasting good resolution. 

A handheld architectural photo taken with my compact camera

Professionally, I am an architectural photographer. And like most photographers, I go through my bouts of self-doubt, which is why I have actively been seeking ways to improve my vision and shoot more creatively than I have done in the past. The fact that I live in a developing city gave me access to a pretty good collection of test subjects even as I go through my daily routine. This newfound habit actually bore fruit to two direct benefits. First is that I now relatively enjoy running even the most boring errands, and second is that I get to train my eyes to find potentially unique angles.

Finding patterns with a small camera

Just in Case

In the short period of time that I've had this camera in my pocket, I've also found it very handy for situations where I didn't expect to be shooting something significant, but actually was. I recently went on a trip with circumstances that really would not allow me to carry my gear. Given the kind of photography that I'm passionate about, that can be quite a painful experience. Having a small and casual camera in my pocket every time I found something interesting to photograph was absolutely a delight. Having been able to carefully choose the camera that deserved the throne that is my sweaty pocket, I was able to rest assured that the photos of my random finds were of decent quality, at least good enough for me to work with. 

The built-in ND filter on my camera was actually something I didn't know of prior to purchasing, but it came in handy when I found this scene.

Photography as a Lifestyle

Another random travel find

I probably don't speak for everyone who reads this, but I believe that I'm not the only one who would call photography a lifestyle over a hobby or a profession. I'm not one of those people who do those one-photo-per-day challenges, but I certainly am one who would always be on the look-out for something nice and unique to photograph. A few years back, I was one of those eager photographers who would bring their gear literally anywhere. Nowadays, I don't always have that energy. So, having a capable camera always within reach is a delight. Having it on hand allows me to capture any moment I would want to, though with relatively more limitations, and lets me train my eyes for future projects.

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82 Comments

Previous comments
Paul C's picture

Cat - and another reason to get a Canon compact camera is the Canon Hack Development Kit group who make software you can add to the SD card that turns "point and shoot" models into full DSLR control, RAW shooting, cameras.

Even better - take out the SD card and the camera reverts back to its factory settings.

Google "Welcome to CHDK Wiki! CHDK" to find out more.

Cat Milton's picture

Gosh! I had no idea about this Paul, thank you. My evening is about to change direction and dive down that rabbit hole :-)

Spy Black's picture

Panasonic FZ100 first gen is now $450 at B&H. Great camera wrapped around a 1-inch sensor with an f/2.8-4 25-400mm full frame equivalent lens. The newer model goes out to 600mm equivalent, but I find the older lens has better IQ, and you can't beat the price. You get 4k video too at 100Mbps MP4. 20 meg image size, 5 axis stabilization, OLED EVF, etc. Lots to like:

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1073850-REG/panasonic_lumix_dmc_f...

Jerome Brill's picture

When I went to full frame from the Canon 70D I still wanted something smaller in the APS-C realm. My A6000 was supposed to be that camera. Not sure if you can call it compact but compared to my Full Frame and the 70D it was small.

I've used it on a few occasions and tried to keep it with me but my cellphone is still way more convenient. It is what it is. I'd have to want to take something specific to use the A6000 and if that's the case I could just use the full frame instead. Now I'll admit the kit lens on it isn't that great. Not as good as some of the higher end compacts that can go down to f/1.8. That might be more useful to me. I do have the 50mm f/1.8 for it but at that point the camera isn't very compact and now you're spending time switching lenses which defeats the purpose.

In the end I'm close to selling the A6000 and lenses. I still got some great shots but again it's not that convenient to keep on me all the time. I'm not sure something even more compact would change my mind over my cell.

Deleted Account's picture

A point & shoot with an ND filter... nice. Must look into that.

Paul C's picture

yes - ND filters can be what are needed to get movement in landscapes or cityscapes......but often you need a fix to get the ND filter onto a compact camera lens without the filter thread.

There are 2 options that work well for me:
[1] glue an old filter with the glass taken out to the front of the lens and screw round ND filters in as needed
[2] Carry a ball of "blue tack" in the camera bag and a small diameter variable ND filter can - and just add to the lens when needed

Now - with the collected wisdom of the F-stoppers readership - I am sure there are other "fixes" just waiting to be shared !!

Deleted Account's picture

Compacts are great! I have my Ricoh GRii on me at all times.

Stephen Holmes's picture

So basically, a modern smartphone!

Scott Edelstein's picture

I agree and have tried several cameras. Early on I tried and gave up on the RX100III. Mostly because the controls were very fiddly and the X100F was so much fun to use. I will admit, I may not have been patient enough. I still carry the Fuji around on a neck strap, but that happens less frequently these days as I have learned to be more thoughtful and with my iPhone. That new commitment came after I tried the Ricoh GR3. I really wanted to love that camera and hoped to lean the joy of 28mm. Unfortunately, the GR3 simply wouldn't focus in anything but bright sunlight. The latest RX is now very tempting... Everything but the price, that is. Anybody have any thoughts on whether the new autofocus and lens are worth the extra $$$?

Kenny Simpson's picture

I use a Nikon D850 as my main camera, and my smartphone for my pocket. I bought a LG G7 ThinQ because of the camera specs in this phone. It does take really good pictures, for a phone.

Jorge Malo's picture

Great article! I have been wanting to buy a camera that I wouldn't mind carrying it every day, but I still haven't decided on which one to choose. I do not want to carry my heavy gear with me all the time, yet I'm too picky to compromise on quality, sensor size and camera's ability to withstand abuse.
I really enjoyed your writing!

Mark Harris's picture

I always carry an RX100-II when off duty, and it paid for itself when this image was spotted on my FB feed and used for a 6ft roll-up. I would never balance my DSLR on a ski pole, and a phone wouldn't have had the resolution for the roll-up.

Konrad Sarnowski's picture

Fuji's X70 was the best edc camera ever - sad the earthquake happened and they had to cut it :/ Even sadder I sold it to buy x100f :D

stuartcarver's picture

Id like one of those one day i must admit.

Tom Reichner's picture

For the life of me, I can't think of any reason to have a small compact camera with me at all times.

As someone who only wants to photograph wildlife, I never just "happen upon" photo-making opportunities that I am interested in. The only photos I want to take are those that I intentionally seek out, and even then it usually takes days or weeks of planning and preparation to get into position to take the kind of image that I really want to create. I just don't see how having a small compact camera would ever help me with that.

I used to have a Sony bridge camera with a very powerful zoom, but it was incapable of producing the type of image quality that is necessary when shooting professionally, and for a few years I never even took a single picture with it. Eventually I just gave it to my ex because I realized that having it along "just in case" was utterly useless.

Besides, my "real" cameras and lenses are always in my car and with me wherever I go, so why would I need an inferior kit in addition to my pro gear?

Deleted Account's picture

If that's the majority of what you shoot, then a compact would constantly feel lacking. Compacts are great for street photographers. The files are generally much better than what a phone provides and you never have to "turn off" the desire to shoot because many fit easily into a coat pocket. When I happen upon a scene with interesting light and I feel inspired, I'm able to quickly take a moment to capture what I'm looking at.

Tom Reichner's picture

Wildlife is the only thing I have any interest in shooting, and I only want to take extremely high quality photos of wildlife. I have no interest at all in taking photos that are not excellent in every facet.

I don't understand the use of the word "EVERY" in the title of this article. That is asinine.

The author of this article should put more effort into thinking through exactly what he is saying, and then re-word things accordingly, so that what he says is never inaccurate in any context. Writers need to hole themselves to higher standards than they currently hold themselves to.

stuartcarver's picture

I think you may have taken it a bit too personally, it was a generalised statement indeed but not controversial enough to be getting riled with

Tom Reichner's picture

It's not about whether I take it personally or not. It is about an author being sure to use wording that is absolutely accurate. Any sentence that uses words such as "every", "always", "everyone", "never", etc. is almost always going to be incorrect. See how I used the word "almost" there. That is what writers need to do in order to ensure that what they say can never be shown to be inaccurate. Otherwise, it appears to be like clickbait, which attempts to generate the greatest number of views, at the expense of literal accuracy. And that is just plain evil.

stuartcarver's picture

Maybe he truly believes that all photographers should carry a compact, regardless of shooting style. Just because you shoot wildlife doesn’t mean you should ignore a stunning sunrise/sunset and not use your skills to capture it.. like I say not worth worrying about when compared to a lot of the poison/click bait you see posted online.

Deleted Account's picture

It's an editorial piece so maybe the author actually thinks even though you only shoot wildlife, you should have a compact too.

If anything you clicked on it and engaged int he comments so you've given the site more ad revenue. A good rule of thumb is to assume that everything on the internet is click bait.

Mike Shwarts's picture

I work as a forester and like to have a camera with me in the woods. Micro 4/3 is a little too large to fit in my cruiser's vest with all the other stuff I have in it. For awhile, a Canon G15 went into one of the interior pockets. Now I carry a RX100iii. It is smaller, lighter and has a bigger sensor than the G15. It can go into a shirt pocket. The G15 can barely be stuffed into a standard size shirt pocket, and the weight makes it feel like you have a small brick in your pocket.

My m4/3 now stays in the truck for when I want to stop for a photo. My APS-C and several lenses stay home unless I plan to go out looking for photos. The RX100iii now goes in a pocket when I am away from home or the truck and might run into a good photo opportunity. And its ergonomics and usability beats my phone (which also is capable given it is what it is).

Ludwig Heinrich's picture

I agree with you Nicco. I also use my compact for "spotting". i.e. when I am travelling I sometimes see a scene that deserves a photo but it is the wrong time of day or the weather is against me so I take some shots with my compact. I then know the GPS location, the time of day and what lens(es) to bring when I come back with my main cameras.

Zack Schindler's picture

I also bought a Sony RX100 years ago to keep in the glove box of my car.

Der Wotan's picture

Shot on my iPhone Xs Max in Spring 2019 in Utah (Muley Point,) using the Lightroom CC camera. Edited completely inside LR CC on my iPad Pro (2018.) Printed from LR Classic on my P800 on Epson Legacy Baryta 13x19 paper... I also had my A7R iii with me at the time, but since this wasn't around sunrise or sunset, I did not take it with me on the hike...

Katherine Mann's picture

Sony RX100 III. A little limited compared to my Canon stuff (pretty good stuff) but she's always there when I need her.

David Burckhard's picture

Folks who believe that a smartphone is as capable as contemporary compact cameras simply don't know how competent a contemporary camera such as a Sony RX100 or Canon G5X or G7X is. Much larger lenses and sensors, powerful image processing, faster response, precise focusing and image stabilization, not to mention far superior handling make using these pocketable cameras a joy. I won't deny how well my smartphone works as a camera. I also won't deny that my little Canon point-and-shoot is so much better all-around. I always feel stifled and limited with my iPhone. On the other hand, I've never felt I've reached a limit with my little Canon.

G Tank's picture

I carry my iphone and a Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II (1" sensor) when I travel. For low light indoors at museums, etc, the G7 is incredible. I have made prints on metal up to 40" with satisfaction. The iphone is great for effortless pano's which fill up my phone on trips. I could not do it with one or the other. To add to the mix Xit LCD screen view for those bright days when seeing the LCD screen on the G7 is impossible. All in all, this combo is essential for me to return from a trip with wall hangers that I am proud to show off. Great article!

jim orlowski's picture

Great encouraging story. I especially like the comment on photography being a 'lifestyle'. Eye training is another hurdle you mention that is ongoing for a start picture maker like me....got lots to think about over coffee.
My carry around is an Olympus OMD mII, and when I'm really in a rush my Samsung note 10+..

Timothy Gasper's picture

When I shoot with film, before phones with cameras, I used any compact film camera I could find or even bought a disposable one if I had to. Now that we have smart phones, etc....I just use it. I also take the Fuji xt1 when going to shoot overseas, but when out in the field and far away from electricity, I ALWAYS use the Hasselblad 500 CM and/or Nikon F2a and FE (used on 90 if need be). Whatever you others are using is just fine. You all know what you're capable of doing with your equipment.

Carl Marschner's picture

I've been carrying compacts for years. It started with just a little Canon PowerShot A2300, which was a dirt cheap camera, but it did just what I wanted. It gave me a way to take pictures without using my phone and it's small enough that it literally goes anywhere. Even today there's some places where anything else would be a tight fit. I also have a PowerShot SX730 HS. This is the point and shoot that gets the most use from me because it's just that versatile. It's got an extreme zoom, but fits in a pouch. Lastly, there's my PowerShot G1 X Mark 1. It's not getting a lot of use right now just because my DSLR'S are getting more use, but it's a good compact and it does RAW.