Most photographers, whether professional or amateur, as much as they love their photographic gear, loathe the notion of lugging around tons of heavy equipment. What’s the solution, you may ask? Well, some would say, “why don’t you get a portable point-n‐shoot”, or “invest in one of those smaller mirrorless cameras”. Others disagree amusingly and grab their bulky DSLR with a smug on their face!
You might have found yourself in one of those tricky scenarios, where you really wanted to carry your bulky camera and yet you wished it was a few pounds lighter, a tad bit smaller but still gave you pleasing results. Thanks to technology whiz-kids in the camera land, we have had a ﬂurry of compact cameras being introduced recently that oﬀer plenty of bells & whistles to satisfy even the most demanding consumer / prosumer, and professionals alike for their speciﬁc needs. Having said that, I admit these cameras may not entirely deliver quality that rivals pro level DSLR’s yet it’s suﬃce to say they pack quite a punch for intended purposes.
(A shot from lower Michigan Ave. by the Chicago river. NEX-5, 16mm, f/5.6, 1/3 sec, ISO 200)
In search of a decent point and shoot camera, I found myself rather inclined towards the Sony NEX-5, which was a newly-released camera back then (the current version of the camera is the Sony NEX-5R, which Nasim reviewed a while ago). I bought it, took occasional photos of friends & family and enjoyed it from a point and shoot user perspective. In fact it would be fair to say I never really pushed the camera, and explored all the possibilities. For quite some time, read months and months, my camera was just sitting at home. Needless to say, since I invested very minimal time & eﬀort into utilizing the camera to its full potential and improving my photography technique with it, I was left with images that were rather sub-‐standard and eventually my self biased brain blamed it on the camera.
I must admit, it was the small form factor of the NEX system that made me swing back and want to carry it with me almost everywhere I went. Attached with a small 16mm pancake lens, it was easy enough to ﬁt in a jacket pocket and be ready when the moment appeared. Deﬁnitely convenient than my Nikon D800 any given day!
(Flamingo shaped abstract structure created by the “Alexander Calder”. NEX-5, 16mm, f/5.6, 1 sec, ISO 200)
There are many websites that discuss the technical pros and cons of such smaller portable cameras, but in this article I’ll refrain from repeating those and stick to my personal experience. From what I can tell, having good equipment helps but its crucial to remember these are photography tools ultimately; and having a tool that helps you take more shots at the right time might be handy than the one that you left in your bag because it was heavy. I guess, what I’m trying to say is: Sometimes people get so much caught up with the technical aspects of capturing a photo they forget the reason why they got involved in the ﬁrst place.
(SE view of Chicago downtown from my condo. NEX-5, 16mm, f/5.6, 1 sec, ISO 200)
For those that argue about the technical ability of such compact systems basically need to re-evaluate and ask themselves who their target audience really is. If you are only going to post your photos on social media and/or share it with friends & family; these system have enough potential to deliver images if you’re willing to up your game.
(The very famous Chicago Bean, commonly known as the “Cloud Gate”. NEX-5, 16mm, f/5.6, 6 sec, ISO 200)
(Eastern view of Chicago river walk. NEX-5, 16mm, f/5.6, 1/10 sec, ISO 200)
In my opinion, these compact systems act like a natural extension to one’s photographic needs without adding the bulk. For those that already have a DSLR, having a smaller system comes in handy in places where you don’t want the additional weight or risk losing those candid shots since most bulky DSLR’s tend to intimidate people. And, for those that would like to graduate from their cell phone cameras, these will serve you well for years to come.
(A traveler from far east. NEX-5, 50mm, f/1.8, 1/200 sec, ISO 200)
Ultimately, my intent in this writeup is not to encourage readers to go out and purchase a compact camera, or in case anyone’s thinking – recommend a Sony NEX system! No, I am not here to praise about one system or bash another. My goal is simply to reiterate: take as many photos as you can with what you have, and enjoy along the way. If a smaller system happens to make that task easier, by all means jump for it! Challenge yourself, and use the equipment you already have instead of buying the next-best-camera on the market.
In the end, I’m going to leave you with a rather generic comment, but one which got stuck in my head, “If your advantage is hardware, time will test you for sure but if your advantage is technique then time will be by your side and you’ll capture memories”.
I have a few more images I’d like to share. Enjoy, and thank you for reading!