I’ve already written loads of posts about using smaller, less noticeable cameras for your street photography. I’ve had great experiences using the Fujifilm X100, the Fujifilm X-pro 1 and even the micro four thirds Olympus OM-D (which is my main camera now), but what about real compactness? A camera that is truly made for portability yet a compact camera that still packs enough of a punch to please your inner RAW shooting self. Even using small mirrorless cameras may not be quite enough for some. I was looking for something to step up the pocketability a notch. Something that you could actually fit inside your coat pocket the same way you can comfortably place your cell phone in your pocket.
These days people tend to want their cell phones bigger and their cameras smaller. Sony only recently released their Full Framed RX-1, that sort of sums up the search for tightly packaged performance. APS-C sized sensors are finding their way into more and more compact cameras. Some years ago Leica started the premium compact craze with their X1 APS-C sensored camera. Soon followed by the ever so fantastic Fujifilm X100 (and now the X100s). Sigma’s DP Merrill and Ricoh’s GR are also fitted with an APS-C size sensor. One of the latest compact to feature this previously DSLR Exclusive goodness is the Nikon Coolpix-A. Even though these cameras are all officially compact cameras, they are obviously aimed at the professional/enthusiast photographer. They’ve got all the functions and customizability’s of their DSLR brethren and the IQ they produces is often great.
A quest for the tiny
So that being said, I started my search for a high quality, good looking, well-built and small sized camera to be with me always, wherever I go, just like my trusty old crappy phone camera. Now I’m a guy on a budget. I don’t consider myself a pro, nor do I make much money with my photography. So my budget for this purchase was really quite very low (especially since my X-pro 1 got stolen, darn thieves be cursed). That basically rules out anything Leica, and obviously the Sony RX-1 and also the Fujifilm X100s. All of these cameras wouldn’t have fitted in my coat pocket very well anyway, so ah well…Now that sort of slimmed it down to the Sony RX100, the Fujifilm X10/X20 or the Ricoh GR. The Nikon A fitted the bill but not the budget so that wasn’t an option. Now the Ricoh GR is outfitted with an actual APS-C sensor, other than the Fuji which has a 1/1.7 inch sensor and the Sony which has a one inch sensor. Sensor size isn’t all that matters though (many will disagree with me on that, sensor being the image making component and all…).
What else is important to you then? One may ask.. Well, the way a camera looks and feels in your hands and on your eyeballs that sort of thing. It adds to the pleasure of shooting when your camera just feels good you know? So, the Ricoh GR sort of lost on that respect. I wasn’t really fond of its design, it felt kind of boring (keep in mind though that my only experience with it is testing it out for a couple of minutes in the store). The Sony vs the Fuji then… Okay honestly the Fuji just looks better. I’ve been a proud and happy owner of both the big bastard version and the sleeker yet bulky compact single focal length version (the X-Pro 1 (which got stolen, I curse all camerathieves again) and X100), I have to say, that they were pleasing in every way. So the X10/X20 fuji’s couldn’t possibly disappoint right? Well.. Right! Sort of. I went for the X10, because everybody was really positive about it’s IQ and performance all over the internet. And it also costs half of what the newer X20 costs, so that was kind of a no brainer to me. I’ve been using it now for a couple of weeks and I’ve been really happy with all the lovely performance cramped in such a sweetly sized compact camera. I have to admit, the RX100/RX100II are probably great performers with their bigger sensors and higher megapixel count. They’re also are a tad smaller than the Fuji… But I’m a sucker for good looks, and the Fuji holds up to the Fuji legacy of being very good looking camera’s. Especially if you attach the ridiculously overpriced lens hoods, that makes em look so fancy. Well all that put aside. Nothing bad is to be said about the performance during the daytime. It has a very cute little zoom lens (28-112 equivilant) that bends light onto your sensor through its f/2.0-2.8 max aperture opening. It does its light bending magic in a surprisingly low distortion way. I do have to be honest with you guys, using this at night isn’t a very good idea, you’d be better of using the X100 for that. In very low light situations it can have difficulties focusing, and the high ISO’s won’t be very detailed.
The body is crafted from die-cast magnesium, giving it a very solid and high quality feel. You can buy the X10 in black only, this enhances its street stealth, giving you an edge in candid street photography. Just like with the X100, people won’t often respond to you taking a picture of them, if they notice at all.
Your coat pocket companion
I’d have to conclude that this camera is great for those looking to downsize their travel kit to a single small system that needs very little extra care. Don’t expect this to outperform a mid-range DSLR, it is in the end a compact camera. But you can expect it to make very high quality photos at very low cost, both physically and financially.
Here are some sample shots: