Off late, I’ve seen quite a few exciting deals on mirrorless cameras. The Olympus E-PL1 is available for under Rs. 20,000 and the Nikon 1 J1 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 are retailing online for around Rs. 25,000. Now, this is a starting point for premium super-zoom digital cameras, premium compact cameras and entry-level DSLRs – each one serves a different purpose. Super-zoom cameras are all-rounders. Be it super-macro shots, full HD video recording or extreme close ups of distant subjects, you won’t find anything lacking so long as you’re fine with photos in JPEG format. I prefer working with RAW files because of the granular control over exposure parameters offered at the time of processing. The one I like best in the super-zoom segment is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150. It’s sturdy, comes equipped with a 24x zoom lens that extends from 25 to 600 mm and most importantly, it has RAW support.
The Canon SX40 HS would have been a very sweet deal if it had RAW support. Speaking of RAW, premium compact cameras such as the Canon S100 and Olympus XZ1 shouldn’t be underestimated. I had once switched over to the Olympus XZ1 from my faithful friend, the Canon EOS 30D, and found myself hooked on to it for days. I preferred carrying it wherever I went because it was very convenient and at the same time, packed an incredible feature set which included RAW support, a large F1.8 aperture for superior low light performance and excellent handling. I would any day prefer using it while travelling or for street photography.
You can't go wrong with a DSLR
Unlike bulky DSLRs and super-zoom cameras that grab everyone’s attention, premium compacts go unnoticed, and hence are best for capturing the most natural expressions. For me, the next best option for street photography is mirrorless cameras because like premium compacts, they too don’t look intriguing. I’ve been more successful in capturing great impromptu shots and photos of children with smaller cameras. In addition to going unnoticed, they can be pulled out of the pocket and used almost instantly. You can be quick with a DSLR too, provided it’s hanging from your neck all the time. However, it can take a while to frame a shot using the optical viewfinder and you may miss a golden moment. Given a choice between a premium compact and a mirrorless camera, I would choose the former because they are more convenient.
A mirrorless camera would have been a better option, had the lenses and other accessories been more affordable. Most of the lenses are costlier than the camera and the choices are too limited. Mirrorless cameras perform better than premium compacts in low light and yield better background defocus because of the larger sensor. But just this aspect isn’t convincing enough for me to vouch for a mirrorless camera over a premium compact.
Now, for the big question – given a choice between the types of cameras available for up to Rs. 25,000, I would buy a DSLR any day. In fact, this has been a favoured option by the majority even on our forum and Facebook page. DSLRs have stood the test of time. They are the most confidence-inspiring because the heft lends good weight balance and the user interface can’t be more intuitive. The number of lenses available for DSLRs is large – some lenses are a bit expensive, but for the kind of shots you get with them, they are worth every Rupee. My second choice would be a premium compact, and I’m planning to invest in one – the Canon Powershot S100 is the first on my wish list.