Camera Minimum Budget for Upgrading from Panny LZ8 & Redmi 1s

kidrow

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Hi all,

Please note that the section within the dotted lines is just a bit of background that may be skipped. The actual question follows this section at the bottom....

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I recently compared the low light pictures of my P&S Panasonic LZ8 with those shot with my phone, a Xiaomi Redmi 1s. I shot a few images with my phone first, since it can only shoot in auto. I then took the same images with my phone, after adjusting the exposure to match that of the phone, being careful to match the iso as well.

Here are those shots. The title of the images shows the exif data.

http://s1263.photobucket.com/user/kidrow1/library/Panny LZ8 Vs Redmi 1s

I was surprised to see that the phone handles noise better than the LZ8. Of course, the LZ8 was purchased about 5-6 years back, while the phone was purchased about 2 years back. But I never realized that camera phones had improved by that much. Mind you, both my phone & camera were ~Rs. 5000-6000 when I purchased them. So neither are exactly high-end.

The comparsion came about because my wife, after coming back from a recent trip, complained that the LZ8 took too long to focus & that a large number of shots taken by her travel companion ended up being blurry. I can only guess that the lighting situation must have been adverse on those occassions, & hence the camera struggled to focus & that the resultant shutter speed was probably too low.

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So What would be the minimum spend required to get a camera that would be a decent upgrade to my LZ8/phone (a Xiaomi Redmi 1s)?

I'm essentially looking for a travel camera with around 10x to 15x zoom that can be used by even novices. So the Auto mode needs to be good. The focusing needs to be quick & performance in low light situations should be better than what is available on my phone.

Though I'm open to a dslr or mirrorless camera, I don't see myself buying any lenses in the near future. Plus I want to keep my spending to a minimum. (Though I enjoy photography as a hobby, I don't spend enough time pursuing it). There's also my perception that a dslr is bulky, though I'm not really sure as it seems that, nowadays, entry-level dslrs are much lighter. (Are they about as heavy as a bridge camera?).

Certain things that I'd like would be -

1. A camera that is about a stop or two faster than my phone & LZ8 (to gain a faster shutter speed for those with unsteady hands & to help in low light situations).

Would a basic P&S current-gen camera's handling of noise at iso 3200 be comparable to that of my phone at iso 1600. Is that a valid way of thinking about this?

Have there been any significant advancements in image stabilization in current-gen cameras that'll help?

There is also the question of a faster lens, but this seems to be available on only premium compacts such as on the RX100 or a dslr with a prime lens.

My focus is on low-light performance because apart from that, the image quality on a phone is as good as a dslr (for my needs). Also, many places, usually encountered on trips, such as museums, aquariums etc. have low light & restrictions on flash use.

2. Decent zoom of about 200-300mm equivalent & higher.

3. About 16 or more megapixels.

Often, I have to crop excessively in order to frame shots properly. For instance, a photo taken by someone else may need to be cropped from landscape to portrait.

Though I don't print large nor pixel-peep, a higher dpi/ppi would mean that even after heavy cropping, I'd be left with something usable since even if the image is a bit noisy, at a given print size or monitor size, a higher meagpixel count would mean less apparent visible noise & more sharper photos.

4. Raw image capture would be a bonus. (Or would it?).

There are often times that the subject is underexposed by the auto mode, probably because of the metering mode chosen. When I bring up the levels in Photoshop later, it results in a lot of noise. Now I'm not sure if this is because -
a. the image is noisy to begin with on account of the smaller sensor
b. it is the nature of the beast & trying to up levels will always result in noise
c. I'm doing something wrong in Photoshop or
d. the Jpeg format which has only so much information is to blame

I've also read that the smaller sensor doesn't capture as much detail as on a larger sensor, & consequqently raw data on a smaller sensor camera isn't as useful as on a larger sensor camera. Is that true?

5. Speedy Auto-focus

6. Manual control (PASM) would be a bonus.

7. Features such as on-camera HDR compositing (where multiple exposures are taken & composited together to adjust for tricky lighting situations), or bracketing, or sweep panorama would be a bonus.

I initially looked at the Nikon S7000 since it retails for around Rs. 10000. It seems like a decent camera for the price. But I'm unsure about how much better its low light performance will be compared to my phone. The only camera I'm sure will be a jump is one with a larger sensor like the Sony RX100 mk1, or a Nikon J5. But that is a huge jump in price as well. Price-wise, these are in entry-level dslr territory. Also, the zoom is limited.

So I'm hoping for some pointers that would help with deciding on what would be a good upgrade, & what sort of budget would need to be set. Have we reached a stage where a camera purchase with a 1/2.3" sensor doesn't make sense anymore?

*#1 - On a related note, are compact enthusiast cameras like the RX100 or superzooms or dslrs available for rent in Mumbai? Any idea what the rents would be like?

*#2 - Which sites compare sample images of different cameras side by side? There's dpreview, of course. But a lot of the cameras there in the current comparison tool are on the higher end. There's also the imaging-resource comparometer or the German dkamera. Any other besides these?

Many thanks!!!

PS: Apologies for such a long post.
 
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nac

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I'm essentially looking for a travel camera with around 10x to 15x zoom that can be used by even novices. So the Auto mode needs to be good.
Better stick with small sensor compacts. Getting this much zoom in large sensor would be expensive and heavier.

The focusing needs to be quick & performance in low light situations should be better than what is available on my phone.
To see something significant, you have to go for large sensor cameras (fixed or ILC)

Though I'm open to a dslr or mirrorless camera, I don't see myself buying any lenses in the near future. Plus I want to keep my spending to a minimum. (Though I enjoy photography as a hobby, I don't spend enough time pursuing it). There's also my perception that a dslr is bulky, though I'm not really sure as it seems that, nowadays, entry-level dslrs are much lighter. (Are they about as heavy as a bridge camera?).
Yes, lighter but not as light as your mobile or compact camera. And it's not heavy to hurt your wrist. Yes, it's as heavy as some of the bridge cameras.

1. A camera that is about a stop or two faster than my phone & LZ8 (to gain a faster shutter speed for those with unsteady hands & to help in low light situations).
If I am right, all the today's small sensor compact's lenses won't be faster than your phone or as fast as your phone. So don't expect that. But it will have better IS than your phone.

Would a basic P&S current-gen camera's handling of noise at iso 3200 be comparable to that of my phone at iso 1600. Is that a valid way of thinking about this?
My focus is on low-light performance because apart from that, the image quality on a phone is as good as a dslr (for my needs). Also, many places, usually encountered on trips, such as museums, aquariums etc. have low light & restrictions on flash use.
I doubt. Even if it does, won't be significant enough if you emphasis too much on low light IQ

Have there been any significant advancements in image stabilization in current-gen cameras that'll help?
I guess so.

2. Decent zoom of about 200-300mm equivalent & higher.
With large sensor this would cost you a lot.

3. About 16 or more megapixels...
Don't bother about this, all the cameras today have lot of pixels at your disposal.

4. Raw image capture would be a bonus. (Or would it?).
Yes. But it doesn't matter if you don't shoot in RAW. And don't expect too much from small sensor.

I've also read that the smaller sensor doesn't capture as much detail as on a larger sensor, & consequqently raw data on a smaller sensor camera isn't as useful as on a larger sensor camera. Is that true?
Yes

6. Manual control (PASM) would be a bonus.
This will put you in a position to spend more than 15k as no small sensor cameras with PASM are priced under 15k.

7. Features such as on-camera HDR compositing (where multiple exposures are taken & composited together to adjust for tricky lighting situations), or bracketing, or sweep panorama would be a bonus.
If you're serious enough to process RAW, this is nothing. Don't mind about this feature...

I initially looked at the Nikon S7000 since it retails for around Rs. 10000.
If this is the price you have in your mind, you're expecting tooo much.

Have we reached a stage where a camera purchase with a 1/2.3" sensor doesn't make sense anymore?
That depends on the buyer. For one who wants 1000-2000mm focal length, he doesn't have much of a choice today.

*#1 - On a related note, are compact enthusiast cameras like the RX100 or superzooms or dslrs available for rent in Mumbai? Any idea what the rents would be like?
DSLRs are available for rent, don't know about compacts.
http://www.irentshare.com/cameras.html


*#2 - Which sites compare sample images of different cameras side by side? There's dpreview, of course. But a lot of the cameras there in the current comparison tool are on the higher end. There's also the imaging-resource comparometer or the German dkamera. Any other besides these?
You may not find for all the cameras, so you have to rely on sample pictures posted by reviewers (user/expert).
 

kidrow

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@nac Thanks for your time & patience.

Based on your response, I'll conclude that if
a. Zoom is a priority, then decide on the extent of zoom required & buy accordingly.
b. Better Iso performance is a priority, then save up for a premium P&S or Dslr because anything else will not have any noticeable improvement over the phone.
If both are required, then buy &/or rent & carry 2 cameras.

Any thoughts on my question on the noise in Photoshop when increasing levels (#4 above)?

A couple of additional questions -
1. Is the Nikon 1 series of cameras not available in India? I cannot see it for sale anywhere online, except on Nikon's India website (J5 for ~25k). Even the MFT system cameras don't seem to be available.

2. How do I calculate the effective zoom achieved after cropping a photo in post in 35mm terms?
For eg, Let's say I take a shot at 50mm equiv & the resolution is 16 megapixels. If I crop it to 8 megapixels, what would be the resultant zoom/field of view? What formula governs this?
 
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nac

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4. Raw image capture would be a bonus. (Or would it?). Yes
There are often times that the subject is underexposed by the auto mode, probably because of the metering mode chosen. When I bring up the levels in Photoshop later, it results in a lot of noise. Now I'm not sure if this is because -
a. the image is noisy to begin with on account of the smaller sensor - When you try to get information from shadows/highlights, it won't be as clean as properly exposed one. Be it small or large sensor. With large sensor you can push it little further than small sensor before it gets too obvious.
b. it is the nature of the beast & trying to up levels will always result in noise - It won't be apparent if you keep it minimum.
c. I'm doing something wrong in Photoshop or - Could be, if you doubt your method check some online tutorials
d. the Jpeg format which has only so much information is to blame - Yes, jpeg has little info than RAW and you can't do as much/many with jpeg.

I've also read that the smaller sensor doesn't capture as much detail as on a larger sensor, & consequqently raw data on a smaller sensor camera isn't as useful as on a larger sensor camera. Is that true? Yes

Based on your response, I'll conclude that if...
Travel zoom/bridge with PASM modes or entry level DSLR or large sensor compacts all would cost at least 18-25k.
DSLR costs less than large sensor compacts and give you better low light performance but at the cost of size and weight. You can go for dual lens kit which will cover upto 300/400mm eq.
Travel zoom/bridge cameras costs as much as DSLR, I don't find it worth spending on it when your opening post has a lot of emphasis on IQ
 

aka911

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seeing the situation you are in, I conclude that you want a camera that should be superior to and will be used in addition to your existing camera phone.
Also we have to factor in the situation that you may upgrade your redmi 1s to something with a better camera phone in the future
Thus we should prevent a situation where your point and shoot again becomes inferior to your future camera phone.

The rate at which the technology in camera phones is progressing and the amount of money companies like Apple and Samsung are spending in R&D is unlikely to be matched even by big 2 Canon-nikon.

Also you mention Low light IQ as a priority.
In that case my humble suggestion would be to get an entry level compact dslr like D3300 and pair it with a 55-200 lens or something.
It will be quite a while before camera phones catch up to the aps-c sensor. And physics never fails.
 

kidrow

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@nac Thanks for the clarification on the levels issue in Photoshop. Was confused as there are many videos online which, while discussing the advantages of Raw, demonstrate ramping up the exposure without much apparent increase in noise.

@aka911 Yeah, there's no doubt that a dslr would trump the other options when it comes to IQ. I was wondering though if I could get away with only a P&S. It's just that I'd like a camera which can be used by everyone in the family & also on trips which I'm not a part of. Based on your response, I think it's safe to say that it only makes sense to upgrade to at least a 1" sensor size. 1/2.3" sensors are not going to outperform phones by much, even while talking about low-end phones like the Redmi 1s. They only offer the advantages of a zoom & a stronger flash & better optical image stabilization.

Again, thank you both for your time. Any idea about the Nikon 1 or MFT cameras, lenses availability in India? & about the cropping & zoom bit?
 
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nac

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Again, thank you both for your time. Any idea about the Nikon 1 or MFT cameras, lenses availability in India? & about the cropping & zoom bit?
Pricing doesn't look attractive and they are not widely available.
 
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ssslayer

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I will suggest the following course of action (with my case in italics):
0. How big camera?
I don't like DSLRs because of their bulk, and I know they will sit gathering dust in the cupboard all the time. So I like to draw the line at micro-4/3rd. Nothing bigger than those.

1. Ascertain what is the most stringent shooting condition that you would want your camera to excel in?
For me it will be taking photos after sunset or before sunrise without flash. Similarly dim lights at home/gathering but no flash required.
That makes the scene to be about 3-4 Ev


2. What is the usual focal length for shooting, what are the typical lens F-Stop?
For me it will be about 40-50 mm, based on analyzing most of the photos I have snapped in the past. Which means for still life I need about 1/30 exposure time. Which can be cut down to 1/8 if the image stabilization / vibration reduction works well.
I take 4 as the reference f-stop since most lens offer it.


3. Now comes the moment of truth. With the given Ev scene, given F-stop, and given limits to the Tv, what is the least ISO that the camera must support?
In my case it comes to 2 seconds for ISO 100. Or 1/8 for ISO 1600. Or 1/30 for ISO 6400.
1/30 is great. 1/8 is borderline acceptable. But here I must say that ISO 1600 at 1/8 will produce fantastic image quality. The borderline acceptability arises from exposure time that I want to be quick.


4. Which camera supports that level of ISO? Head over to DXO mark website (https://www.dxomark.com/Cameras/Ratings). (Or if you desire you may supplement it by poring over test snapshots at various review sites for seeing which cameras perform acceptably at your desired ISO levels)
Woops, so not many cameras perform flawlessly at ISO 1600 ... ok, let me try my luck 2 stop less - ISO 400. There are many cameras in my sight now.
If they perform flawless at ISO 400, they must perform satisfactorily at ISO 800, and ISO 1600 also too to good extent.


Based on the above, I set my eyes on the following candidates:
1. Micro 4/3rds like Olympus PEN and Panasonic Lumix - these give option of removable lens that can be small sized or long zoom types
2. Compacts like Sony RX100, Panasonic ZS100, Canon G series - these give the option of being there with me when I require a camera

Oh but there is a spoiltsport here in my calculations
:D
Compact high end cameras typically have F2 easily available! That means up to 2 stops more light. That means I can actually compare a DSLR or Micro4/3 and F4 lens at ISO 1600 with a Compact and F2 lens at ISO 400.
My pick will be high end compacts!

[edit]: just so that you don't get bewildered. The ISO that I am talking about are at SNR of 30 dB which is very good image quality. The phone's camera SNR would be much much poor
 
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kidrow

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Thanks for your replies.

@ssslayer Interesting analysis indeed. I agree that the premium compacts are the most flexible cameras around (with the exception of zoom). They have the best of both worlds - a larger sensor & a faster lens. So yes, something like a RX100 is a safe bet.

Trouble is, I wanted to know if anything lesser is still good enough to beat a phones IQ at higher Isos. I was expecting that the answers here would indicate that a current-gen budget P&S camera with a 1/2.3" sensor would still beat a current-gen budget phone which has a smaller sensor. But all the answers indicate that the gap between the two isn't as great as it was a few years ago.

@6pack I think all of the premium phones have cameras that perform admirably. They are quite expensive as well, :p .
 
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nac

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I agree that the premium compacts are the most flexible cameras around (with the exception of zoom).
If you have deep pockets, they have something for you, G3X, FZ2000/1000, RX10 series...
But all the answers indicate that the gap between the two isn't as great as it was a few years ago.
IQ doesn't have to be the only factor to decide.
I for one would settle for PnS over mobile camera.
 

kidrow

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If you have deep pockets, they have something for you, G3X, FZ2000/1000, RX10 series...

IQ doesn't have to be the only factor to decide.
I for one would settle for PnS over mobile camera.
You are right to point those out, of course, as they are indeed all-rounders. But yes, I don't have deep pockets, unfortunately, :( . At those price levels, I'd rather spend on a premium activity on a trip (like skydiving, for instance) than have superb photographs. & tbh, the maximum that I'd aspire for is 25k at this point in time, simply because of the fact that the Sony RX100 mark1 was retailing for around that much recently.

Interesting that you say you'd pick a P&S over a mobile any day. Why do you say that? I can think of ergonomics, flash, zoom, & image stabilization as being the differentiating factors. Are those or any others the reason for your statement?
 

nac

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Interesting that you say you'd pick a P&S over a mobile any day. Why do you say that? I can think of ergonomics, flash, zoom, & image stabilization as being the differentiating factors. Are those or any others the reason for your statement?
I can say few more, but what you have said is good enough to opt for dedicated camera than a mobile camera. I don't give all the weightage to image quality, after all I am an hobbyist/enthusiast not a pro.
 

ssslayer

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Trouble is, I wanted to know if anything lesser is still good enough to beat a phones IQ at higher Isos. I was expecting that the answers here would indicate that a current-gen budget P&S camera with a 1/2.3" sensor would still beat a current-gen budget phone which has a smaller sensor. But all the answers indicate that the gap between the two isn't as great as it was a few years ago..
Yes but the scene for the compact cameras is not as bad.
You can never get the optical zoom in your phone, the way it happens on compact camera.
Also what about PASM controls?
 

vyral_143

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@kidrow Last year, I was in very much same boat as you are in currently. I was looking for better camera than my phone (iPhone 5S at that time). However, I checked Nikon S7000 but for 10K it was not sounding VFM. 1/2.3" sensor was at fault. I moved to Sony RX100. But cost was 25k around on Amazon which was way beyond my budget of 15K. I ended up buying Nikon S1 Mirrorless camera from USA during Black Friday sale for $170 from Adorama. It is PnS size with very little bulk in lens. I have not bought any new lens apart from bundled one 11-27.5mm. I am satisfied with results of it.
 

Jambumali

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DSLR will be a burden, in all senses. Hence would idle & accumulate dust.

Suggest a combo of a pocketable premium compact like RX100 and a phone with a decent camera like Moto G4+, for the days you leave or, forget the camera.

If you can afford, buy the Pixel, as suggested above. This is the most expensive option.
 
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kidrow

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.... I don't give all the weightage to image quality, after all I am an hobbyist/enthusiast not a pro.
Yes, pristine IQ isn't something I'm after either. While it does seem like that's exactly what I'm after in this thread, it's only because that seems to be the only objective way to assess whether one camera is better than the other. Being able to push iso up further is only a way of saying that I can go a stop faster & thus have a faster shutter speed.

For instance, on dpreview, the RX100 IQ is about the same as a Nikon P900 up to iso 1600 (when zoomed in ~50%, not 100%). Beyond that the RX100 holds up very well, while the P900 doesn't. That just tells me that I can have a much faster shutter speed on the former for a given exposure.

So it's clear that any 1" sensor & above camera will comfortably beat a budget phone. (I'm not bothered about high-end phones as they are quite expensive, & I'm looking at the minimum I can get away with). The question that remains is can a P900 or similar sensor still beat a budget camera phone like the 1s. Given the responses, it seems as though even if it does, it'll be by very little.

@kidrow Last year, I was in very much same boat as you are in currently. I was looking for better camera than my phone (iPhone 5S at that time). However, I checked Nikon S7000 but for 10K it was not sounding VFM. 1/2.3" sensor was at fault. I moved to Sony RX100. But cost was 25k around on Amazon which was way beyond my budget of 15K. I ended up buying Nikon S1 Mirrorless camera from USA during Black Friday sale for $170 from Adorama. It is PnS size with very little bulk in lens. I have not bought any new lens apart from bundled one 11-27.5mm. I am satisfied with results of it.
Yes, the Nikon 1 series was also something that I was thinking about. But it doesn't seem to be as prevalent in India. In fact, the same can be said about the other mirrorless systems. Consequently, I don't have any idea about pricing. Based on the Nikon website, a Nikon J5 is ~25k (mrp). So about the same as a RX100. The latter has a faster lens, so it's settled.

For a budget below that, the US of A has plenty of used mirrorless cameras. But I don't have anyone to get one across. When you bought it from Adorama, did you or someone else carry it across? Or was it ordered through a courier service? If the latter, then is the $170 inclusive of courier charges?

DSLR will be a burden, in all senses. Hence would idle & accumulate dust.

Suggest a combo of a pocketable premium compact like RX100 and a phone with a decent camera like Moto G4+, for the days you leave or, forget the camera.

If you can afford, buy the Pixel, as suggested above. This is the most expensive option.
No. Pixel & other higher-end phones are beyond budget. In any case, they don't make sense because
a) even if I could spend, I'd want to have a camera that could be handed to someone else. I'm trying to cover situations or trips I'm not a part of.
b) the RX100 is cheaper.

Your combo suggestion is something I did consider, because that would ideally cover almost every situation. Which is why I'm also interested in knowing about renting premium compacts.

Ideally, I'd buy a travel zoom such as S7000 for the zoom. (Situations where one would use the zoom are going to primarily be in decent lighting). & rent a premium compact for low-light scenarios. (I've come across just one website -primes & zooms- that lists an RX100 3/4 for rent. Whether they cater to Mumbaikars, I'll need to check). Alternatively, rent both a travel zoom & a premium compact at the same time. Put them through their paces, & conclude which one fits my needs better.

& yes, thanks for tagging me on that Nex sale thread. Just too expensive for a used cam imo.

Again, thanks to everyone for replying. Cheers!
 
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vyral_143

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When you bought it from Adorama, did you or someone else carry it across? Or was it ordered through a courier service? If the latter, then is the $170 inclusive of courier charges?
My brother carried it for me last year, hence no charges. It is the best way to source mirrorless at reasonable prices.

The question that remains is can a P900 or similar sensor still beat a budget camera phone like the 1s. Given the responses, it seems as though even if it does, it'll be by very little.
You answered it correctly, yourself !
 
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Jambumali

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Reg. renting, this is India and I would be very hesitant to rent an electronic gadget that can go kaput any moment. That would become very expensive.

If the renting is only to identify and finalize, it may be OK. Else, won't suggest rental esp., during travel.
 
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chiron

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I'd say go for a bridge camera. Large enough to fit nicely into your hands for a steady grip, enough functions to play around with and a very handy zoom range for travel.
 
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