My Long Journey to Find the Best Camera(s) for Personal Use

Like many parents I take a lot of photographs of my family, when I am on vacation, or when I go to one of my daughters' school events.  Many times my iPhone 6 becomes my camera of choice because it is the only camera I have with me.  

I HATE the saying "the best camera is the one you have with you."  It isn't the best camera, it is the only camera ... BIG DIFFERENCE.  Many times the only camera delivers very poor results because of poor lighting, the wrong lens focal length, or poor autofocus, etc..

So I began a search to find a camera that was small enough that I wouldn't mind taking it with me and powerful enough to take quality images. 

Let me say up front, I am professional photographer and I shoot with the Nikon D4, Nikon D750, and the Nikon D810.  These cameras are the BEST on the planet, but they, when coupled with their big lenses,  weigh a ton, and are big and bulky.  Not a big deal when I am shooting professionally, but when I am on vacation, going to my daughter's recital, or at a friend's wedding, I don't want one of these monster cameras over my shoulder. 

I purchased the FUJI X-100 when it was introduced in 2010.  The images were beautiful.  I thought I had found my personal use camera.  But the autofocus was so slow that I was missing shots.  I sold it after about a year.  

In 2012 I bought the Olympus OM-D E-M5. The Olympus OM-D E-M5 is a nice camera.  It has fast autofocus, it is lightweight, it has a very good selection of lenses to choose from, and the image quality is better than a point and shoot, but not quite as good as the Fuji X100.  in early 2013 I bought the FUJI X100S, it has improved autofocus compared to the X100 and the image quality is even better.  I took both cameras with me on vacation to Seattle back in 2013.  One day I used the X100S and the next I used the E-M5.  Both cameras produced very nice images, but the FUJI X100S images were special.  

 The Olympus OM-D EM1, The Nikon D4, and the Fuji XT-1 with their 50MM Equivalent lenses. 

The Olympus OM-D EM1, The Nikon D4, and the Fuji XT-1 with their 50MM Equivalent lenses. 

In late 2013 Olympus announced the Olympus OM-D E-M1.  Olympus improved the autofocus, handling, and image quality of the OM-D E-M5.  I bought it.  It is a great camera.  But the image quality was still not the equal to the FUJI X100S especailly in low light / high ISO situations.  

In February 2014 Fuji introduces the FUJI X-T1.  The same sensor as the X100S, but with a camera body that provides faster autofocus and interchangeable lenses wrapped in a beautifully designed camera body.   

I recently sold my Olympus OM-D E-M1.  I found myself reaching for the Fuji X100s or XT-1 over the Olympus. It was collecting dust and I couldn't justify keeping it.  

On the Fuji side I have the 18-55MM F2.8 - F4.0 zoom lens.  This is a very sharp zoom lens and is has images stabilization.  I also bought the Fuji 35MM F1.4 (50mm equivalent) lens, a super sharp lens.  I have  the Fuji 10MM - 24MM F4.0 lens.  On a few occasion I have used my Fuji X-T1 with the 10-24MM lens in lieau of my big, heavy Nikon 14-28MM F2.8 lens on professional jobs when lighting is good enough.  The other nice thing about the Fuji is the tilt screen LCD.  When you want to take the high or low shots, the tilt screen comes in handy.  I just added to my collection the Fuji 55-200MM F3.5 to F4.8 image stabilized lens. 

 My current stable of personal use cameras:  Fuji X100S, Canon S110, and the Fuji XT-1

My current stable of personal use cameras:  Fuji X100S, Canon S110, and the Fuji XT-1

There are times when I want a pocketable camera and the Fujis are too big, and the iPhone 6 is just not good enough.  For those times I have a Canon S110. IT FITS IN YOUR PANTS POCKET.   It shoots RAW, it has a fast F2.0 lens at the wide end that zooms from 24MM to 120MM, it has a touch screen, has a built in lens cap and it takes decent pictures in good light.  When you don't want to carry a camera around your neck, this is the camera.  Canon has since introduced the Canon S120 which provides a slightly faster lens than the Canon S110.

I tried the Sony RX100, it produces nicer images, but is a bit bulkier and not as usable. I have owned a couple of Sony cameras and I just don't like their user interface.   I also tried the Canon G7X. It has a larger sensor, a tilt screen and is a bit larger and heavier than the Canon S110, but still pocketable.  I just thought the images were soft so I returned it.  The other thing I like about the Canon S110 is that the images are only 12 megapixels vs. 20 megapixels for the Sony RX100 line and the Canon G7X. More pixels mean smaller pixels, more noise and bigger files.  Quality, not quantity, is the key when it comes to pixels.  The one inch sensors in the Canon G7X and the Sony RX100 line are almost three times as large as the Canon S110/S120 but the pixel size is only 59% larger. 

 The Canon S110 fits in a relatively tight jean pocket!!!

The Canon S110 fits in a relatively tight jean pocket!!!

If I had to pick one camera for personal use it would probably be the Fuji XT-1 because it delivers beautiful images, a wide selection of lenses, in a reasonable size and weight.  For those times I don't want to carry any camera, I always have my iPhone (better than nothing).