Compact Cameras for Fashion Bloggers
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Elle Fashion Voyeur 84

Image by Geishaboy500

 

In my last post I covered three tech tips for blog photos and I noticed that I received a great many comments regarding the use of cameras other than DSLRs.  I’m going to let you in on a little secret: in this day and age you simply do not need a DSLR to take great images, especially not if you only intend to post your images online.  In the last few years the compact camera market has exploded; where once great image quality and a full range of camera functions were reserved for top of the line DSLRs, this is no longer the case.  It’s one thing if you’re going to be making 50” prints or if you’re going to be shooting a great deal of HD video, but most fashion bloggers require only a small camera that is easy to carry and can still take great pictures to post online.  Here are some suggestions for cameras in the $400-$600 range that will be perfect for all your blogging needs.

 

Canon Cameras

 

Canon s95 ($400)

Pros:

  • About as small as a camera can possibly get; it will fit in a breast pocket.
  • Very low aperture of f/2.0 so you can shoot in dimly-lit rooms and for a nice out of focus background.

Cons:

  • It’s so small that it can easily be dropped or mishandled (be sure to get a good wrist-strap).
  • Not very usable at higher ISOs so you’ll probably be using your flash a lot, especially in darker rooms.
  • Slow Auto Focus, especially in a more dimly-lit room, so it won’t be very effective if your subject is moving (like if you’re shooting runway models).

 

Canon G12 ($600)

Pros:

  • Great build-quality: you could drop this thing off a roof (although I really can’t suggest it) and it’ll hold together.
  • Can be set to fully manual operation for total control.
  • Very long zoom range from 28mm-140mm so it will be perfect for every shooting situation.

Cons:

  • Significantly larger than most of the other cameras on this list; this is just not a pocket-sized camera.
  • Maximum aperture of f/2.8 means that it’s not the best for dimly lit boutiques and showrooms nor for getting a nice out of focus background.

Olympus Cameras

 

Olympus XZ-1 ($450)

Pros:

  • Very low maximum aperture of f/1.8 so it will be great for dealing with the low-light situations that bloggers are so familiar with, especially when shooting in boutiques and showrooms, and for getting a nice out of focus background.
  • Extraordinarily small and lightweight.  It can be a real pain carrying around a heavy DSLR all day (or all week if you’re going to be at Fashion Week) and this is a perfect solution; it will fit in your pocket with ease.
  • A “Super-Macro Mode” to get that really nice soft-focus effect with an out of focus background; perfect for shooting jewelry or other objects in close-up.
  • Comes packaged with a USB charger so you’ll be able to charge it on the go.

Cons:

  • Not the longest zoom range in this class of cameras, going only from 28mm-112mm (although probably just fine for most bloggers).
  • Olympus has a history of making slightly confusing user interfaces and this camera is no different.  Novices beware.

Olympus E-PL2 ($500-$700 [with an additional lens])

Pros:

  • Interchangeable lenses that all come with an affordable price tag.  You’ll never feel like you’re going to miss the shot you want.
  • Capable of very high ISOs (up to 6400) so you’ll always be able to shoot in dimly-lit rooms with ease.
  • Can be used with fully manual controls so that you will be in total control of every shot.

Cons:

  • Not the best video-shooting mode if video is something you’ve been wanting to add to your blog.
  • Sort of a weak flash, so you’ll need to stick close to your subject for its best effect (e.g. pretty useless for shooting runway models).

 

Panasonic Cameras 

Panasonic LX-5 ($400)

Pros:

  • Honestly, I can not say enough good about this camera.
  • Small and compact with an astonishingly good Leica lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.0 for dim rooms and a nice out of focus background.
  • Full range of accessories, including an attachable electronic viewfinder, will make this camera feel just like a DSLR but smaller, lighter, and just plain sexier.
  • An incredible range of shooting options all the way up to full manual controls.

Cons:

  • The lens can only zoom from 24mm-90mm (although the 24mm end is really wide and truly great for small rooms, again like boutiques and showrooms, where you don’t have a lot of wiggle room).

Panasonic GF2 ($550-$600 [with the non-zoom lens included])

Pros:

  • Great HD video if you’ve been wanting to add video to your blog.
  • Super easy to use interface means that it’s great for novice photographers and won’t get in your way when you don’t want to miss the shot.
  • Interchangeable lenses for a full range of lens and aperture options.

Cons:

  • If you attach a big zoom lens the pocketability of this camera is lost.

 

Comments

  1. Vyque says:

    A great camera for outfit posts is the Samsung Dual View with an LCD screen on the front too! If only it had a remote it would be perfect!

  2. Marie Denee says:

    Oooh how I wish we got some info on Nikons… this post is sooo timely for me as I am looking for a new camera! Is there a reason Nikon was not discussed… curious, as I have been leaning towards the Nikon 9100…

    • Nando says:

      The only reason I left the 9100 out of this post was because of its inability to shoot RAW images. All of the cameras listed above can shoot both JPEG and RAW. Most fashion bloggers I’ve met only shoot JPEG anyway, but I will never ever touch a camera that can only shoot JPEG. RAW gives you infinitely more flexibility when you process your files, especially for those ones that look like “missed shots” on the back of your camera. That being said, if you’ve been happy with your JPEG images so far then the 9100 is a great option. It’s got a huge zoom range and it can shoot full 1080p video and it’s really cheap.

  3. Cameron says:

    Wither the Sony NEX Series? The NEX-5 has a remote sensor, great for taking outfit post photos.

    • Nando says:

      I agree about the screen and the Nex-5 is great because it packs such a big sensor into such a small body. The only reason I left it off this post was because of its ease of use (or total lack thereof). I’ve used a great many camera systems, motion and still, film and digital. I rarely pick up a camera and am absolutely dumbfounded by how to operate it. I think the Nex series cameras are really neat, but prohibitively difficult to use quickly and efficiently.

  4. Rachel says:

    This is a really interesting post, especially reading as someone who as never had a non DSLR (I got my first one when I was 10 years old!)

  5. I’m in the market for a new compact camera that can replace my DSLR and Fujipix compact, which was recommended by a pro photographer but I have such a hard time getting good pictures from it. Thanks for the reviews!

    • kavery says:

      I bought a Fuji Finepix last year and the best images I get are in bright light. Plus since I shoot my own outfit photos on the self timer, I find it looses focus when the shot is taken. I still rely on my (old)Cybershot to shoot in low light conditions.

      • Nando says:

        If you’re taking photos of yourself I would suggest one of two things: 1) either set the camera to Manual Focus and pre-focus it to the distance at which you’ll be standing (this is what I’d recommend; see my previous post about aperture to help make this easier: the higher the f-stop the easier this will be for you), or 2) if you’re using autofocus, to set the main AF point to the center of the image; when you leave the camera to its own devices it will automatically focus the area of the image with the most contrast or the most movement

  6. ZahraLyla says:

    The timing for this could not be any better. I’m looking for a lighter camera than my Nikon D90. Think I might go check them out myself. Thanks!

  7. I recently bought a panasonic zf 45 and I’m extremely happy with it. I was on a tight budget, found a fantastic offer and al i can say is that it delivers brilliantly. The zoom is amazing, the functionalities are fun, it’s not too complicated to use and even though right now I hardly know what I’m doing, I would recommend this “toy” to anyone :)

  8. Thanks for this article, but the prices are comparable to a used DSLR (See eBay). Any recommendations for a cheaper one? I can’t take the guy who usually takes my pictures on my upcoming vacation and I need a camera…BAD.

    • Nando says:

      I didn’t address cameras cheaper than this in this post because, to be honest, once you hit that range they’re sort of all the same. Here are some things to look for though: 1) you’re going to want something that won’t break too easily (I’d avoid Sony Cyber-shots for this reason); 2) be wary of megapixel count because in cameras of this size, with sensors this small, more megapixels is never better and so I’d stick to around 14mp max (seriously, do not let camera manufacturers or the salespeople at the store sell you anything in the 16-18mp range, the image quality is horrific). I’d look into the Panasonic Lumix range of cameras and also things like the Nikon 9100, depending on how big or small you want the camera to be.

  9. Sean says:

    I use the Panasonic LX-3 and I love it, although getting pics as clear and dynamic as those on, say, The Sartorialist (strictly technically speaking) is a challenge. I get a lot of compliments though from readers and friends who think not shooting with a DSLr adds a unique quality to my photos!

    You be the judge :)
    http://kisforkankan.com

    ~Sean

  10. I have just spent $500 on a camera and I was disappointed not to see it here, but then I found it right at the bottom of your list – the Panasonic GF2. Being a photo-novice myself I certainly agree with you that it is easy to use. I think lists like this are great.

  11. Sanam from DayByDiva.Com says:

    All these cameras are roughly $400 (about £250?), so wouldn’t that still be a little pricey for a compact camera? I’m sure you can find DSLR’s for about that much.

    • Nando says:

      Maybe you can find a used DSLR on eBay for that price, but I definitely cannot recommend ever purchasing used cameras unless you’re buying a refurbished one directly from the manufacturer; I did that once and spent more getting the used camera fixed and back up to speed then I did on the actual camera itself. These cameras are sort of expensive, for sure, but I think that if you’re serious about having quality photographs then they are definitely worth saving up for. The camera industry is sort of neat too because the competition is so incredibly fierce that it pushes manufacturers to put all of the features from their older DSLRs into their newer compacts; every single one of the above listed cameras has major bang for your buck and you definitely won’t be disappointed with them.

  12. Catherine says:

    This is helpful for people trying to purchase a compact but good camera! Though as others have said, the prices are a little high compared to some entry level DSLRs. I bought a refurbished D3000 body for $300 to replace my D40 (which cost me $250 and lasted for years), but I will admit, they can be a little clunky at times. I usually assume that compact cameras aren’t as durable or that they aren’t very useful if you’re trying to use manual settings… seems I’m wrong!

  13. roanjean says:

    Reading this made me miss my G11 :( I really need to have it fixed!

  14. Dora says:

    I use a compact camera on all my blog pictures and I love the way they turn out :) Mine is a Canon A 480 which I got for about 100 Euros and it does a great job.I think it’s important to try to be original and unique more that spending huge amounts of money on cameras.

  15. angy says:

    What if you were just starting out? Mainly just keeping more of a fashion journal for yourself? I’m probably going to be shooting in fairly low lighting and access to limited funds, is there anything you could suggest?

    Thank you!

    • Nando says:

      Check out some of my replies to comments above. Some things to look out for: 1) stick to around 10 megapixels because in cameras this small and cheap more megapixels is not better; 2) get something with a built-in flash because, again, in cameras with sensors this small shooting at a high ISO doesn’t usually produce the best results. I would suggest something like the Canon Elph (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/753777-REG/Canon_4928B001_Powershot_100_HS_Digital.html). It’s a good combination of low megapixel count and a lot of features (like full HD video). Once you go below that price range you honestly (and I don’t mean this at all smarmily) you may as well be using an iPhone camera (i shoot a ton on mine, I love it). A good camera is definitely something worth saving up for and you’ll be disappointed if you just rush in and buy the cheapest thing with the highest MP count that the guy at the camera store tries to pitch you.

  16. Amanne says:

    This post is great! My camera just died out on me a few weeks ago (right before my trip to Rome and Dubai too) and I’m looking to buy a new one. I want something for personal use as well as my blog. I don’t feel like a dSLR is necessary and I know I’m not carrying it with me everywhere. I was actually looking into the S95 because it was suggested to me by a sales associate at Best Buy who said she’s an amateur photographer.

    My one question for you is about the con saying “at higher ISOs so you’ll probably be using your flash a lot, especially in darker rooms.” I am clueless about photography so I don’t know much about ISOs but how would this effect me taking pictures at night? Will this con cause the flash to give me a Casper the Ghost look?

    • Nando says:

      That’s such a bummer about your camera! Check out my post from last week about aperture, shutter speed, and ISO: http://heartifb.com/2011/06/21/three-tech-tips-for-blog-photos/

      The thing with smaller cameras though is that they have significantly smaller sensors, which means that the digital noise at higher ISOs is also significantly worse so your picture will look at discolored, grainy, and just generally unpleasant. With the S95 I wouldn’t recommend shooting at a higher ISO than 800 (maybe even 400) for posting online.

      I don’t know exactly what you mean by a “casper the ghost” look, but if you’re using your flash you should be able to keep your ISO pretty low.

  17. I have the Canon S90, which is a year older version of the S95. I have to say I really like it. I instantly saw an improvement in my pictures on my site and so did my readers. I’d never consider myself a photographer so it was important to get an idiot proof camera and this did the trick.

  18. Thanks for this post! I have a Kodak and I have been looking for a new camera. It’s time to update and I wanted to start taking better pic’s. This will really help me narrow it down!

    Thanks,
    Vogue & Vintage

  19. Marsha says:

    Hi, I’m a new blogger, the pictures from other bloggers, are bright, sharp and detailed.
    I love my Nikon S6000, but the images are kind of soft looking, I wish it was sharper. And right now I can’t afford those dslr cameras! Is there anyhting that I could do to make the images sharper?
    Thank you so much!

    • Nando says:

      I took a look at your blog and the pictures and here’s what I’d suggest.

      1) Make sure your lens is clean. It doesn’t look like it’s a problem with the lens, but in some photos there’s definitely a strange sort of softness that could be the result of fingerprints. Nikon makes a Lens Pen that costs about 10 bucks and it’s by far the best lens cleaning tool you’ll find; it’s got a brush for dust on one end and a microfiber tip on the other for grime. If you can’t find one you can just use a microfiber cloth or a really soft item of clothing (flannel or a super soft cotton will work, but be very careful with it). Never use a paper product to clean your lens because the wood fibers can wreak some serious havoc on it.

      2) Are you cropping your photos at all? Or using the longer end of your zoom? The lens on the Nikon S6000 isn’t so hot so at the longer end of the lens things can sort of lose resolution.

      It’s a little tough for me to know what the problem is without seeing the actual camera or what settings you’re using to shoot on.

    • 3QC says:

      I posted this in my comment below before I realized there was a Reply option. :) Here it is again:

      If you downsize your images to include them in your blog, you will lose a lot of detail in the process. You may want to try different sharpening options depending on your photo editing software. Apply a sharpening filter after you have resized your image and see whether that helps.

  20. PvdH says:

    I generally blog with a Leica D-Lux 5, and it is absolutely amazing. But recently I have been taking beautiful snapshots with my iPod touch. Perhaps a no-no, but it is also gorgeous for the vintage-feel that you can do in some apps. I’m obsessed.

  21. Thanks for this. I use a DSLR camera but I actually am just as happy with a good point and shoot and they are much easier to carry. I used to have a canon one which took pretty fantastic pictures but someone stole it from my bag :-(

  22. 3QC says:

    I’ve been using my Panasonic Lumix FZ7 for five years now, and it’s still going strong. With 12x optical zoom and tons of manual controls, it takes beautiful photos. I don’t feel the need to upgrade unless it’s to a DSLR.

    Marsha: If you downsize your images to include them in your blog, you will lose a lot of the detail in the process. You may want to try different sharpening options depending on your photo editing software. Apply a sharpening filter after you have resized your image.

  23. Cillian says:

    Hi Nando,

    I currently use an atrocious compact (Fujifilm Finepix Z5) and have been wanting to upgrade to something more professional for a long time.

    I’ve asked several friends (some of them photographers, some bloggers) and I’ve received very varied pieces of advice. Some recommend a bridge camera, while others wouldn’t even entertain the notion of anything but a Canon or Nikon DSLR.

    I’m looking for something to take good shots (also in dim light), that would suit for say photographing a collection in a showroom, taking “personal style” shots, and also shots of models on the runway that won’t turn out horrendously blurry.

    My budget is limited – I can’t afford to spend more than €400/$575 and would ideally like to spend just €300/$430.

    I’ve been looking into the Fujifilm HS10 bridge camera but I’m not sure I should pay that much when I don’t really need all that zoom?

    Thanks in advance,

    Cillian.

    • Nando says:

      Hi Cillian

      To be honest I don’t know a whole ton about those bridge/super-zoom compact cameras, because I’ve never actually used any of them. The zoom range is, I agree, pretty ridiculous and I doubt you’d be using it all that much. I looked into the HS10 and it’s low light performance is supposedly not so hot. In that same range of cameras though is the Panasonic Lumix FZ38 and FZ40, which have pretty solid reviews and they sound like they would definitely fit your needs.

      If you’re looking for something a little nicer and with interchangeable lenses I’d highly recommend the Panasonic G2. The body is about $300 but you could probably find a used one with a little zoom lens for about $400. It has the benefit of interchangeable lenses, which will be nice if you continue to shoot and I’ve heard nothing but good things about it.

      Don’t believe your friends in the Canon/Nikon debate. Panasonic has really exploded in the last few years. I’ve never owned one of their newer cameras, but I’ve played with them plenty. The user interfaces are extraordinarily sensical and easy to get around and really great cameras both for beginners and pros that are just sick of all the obnoxious buttons and dials on their cameras.

      Best,
      Nando

  24. Regan says:

    I’m surprised you guys didn’t feature the sony NEX cameras. They’re smaller than both the Olympus Pens and the Panasonic GF series. I know you can get them bundled with an extra 16mm f/2.5 (?) for about $750 or $650.. theyre super simple to use and an equally great camera as the ones featured! :)

    Regan

    • Nando says:

      Check out my reply to a similar comment above. I agree that it’s well priced and is indeed a very high quality camera. I don’t agree, however, that it’s even remotely easy to use. Maybe on Auto mode, but if you want the most out of the camera, with the fastest and most streamlined operation, the NEX series cameras are a total mess. Even after their initial firmware update that gave the customizable buttons more functionality, the things are terrifically difficult to use quickly and I’m really not sure that they’re for novices (or maybe they’re better for novices and I’m just used to something a little better designed which made it so difficult for me).

  25. Eliza says:

    Wow, I’m interested in Olympus XZ-1 and the Panasonic LX-5.
    They’re both so expensive :/, I’m stuck for now with my ollld Kodac Easy Share C663.
    *sighs*

  26. Wow, this was extremely helpful! It’s good to know that there are other options besides jumping right into DSLR mode. It seems that that’s what everyone recommends. Glad you showed another perspective.

  27. Bostonista says:

    I have a great little Canon that I love. But I was considering buying a DSLR. B/c at events, especially as a blogger, it just doesn’t look professional to whip out the old point & shoot.

  28. Such a great review! I’ll keep this on mind as I browse cameras this month.

  29. Cid says:

    I use the Canon S95 & love it. The size is great to travel with & carry every where. I get many compliments pn my pics from the S95. Best compact camera I ever had. Oh the video is really good too!

  30. helen says:

    Hey! :-)
    I’m just about to create my own fashion blog and I don’t know what to choose between Nikon COOLPIX L310 and Canon SX500. Which one of them do you think I should buy?

  31. I see one of those camera in cameara store australia http://www.camerasky.com.au i will buy one of those camera

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