I'm going to second what alexzn recommended in his earlier post. The Olympus OM-D E-M5.
Originally Posted by Finndog
I am looking for a good quality camera that I can take hiking for wildlife and nature photo as well for travel. My wife and I are headed to South Africa this fall and we want something that is small enough to travel and hike with but still has the ability to take excellent quality images from distances. I realize there's a trade-off here but looking for best of what meets this need. I won't ski with it. thanks!
It checks all the boxes you mentioned:
1) Extremely good build quality. Weather proof and "nearly waterproof" IMO - I'll explain below...
3) Perfect for wildlife due to 2x crop factor and outstanding 5-axis Image stabilization
4) Great for nature & macro (depending on lens)
5) Excellent .jpg quality right out of the camera
There is a wide variety of very good lenses AF from Olympus & Panasonic.
Also: Good 1080i video quality
Added bonus (also applies to some other mirrorless cameras) is you can pick up some pretty cheap legacy Manual Focus lenses from the film days and with an adapter you can use almost any lens ever made on this camera. With a tripod (or not) and a little practice this is a great cheap way to take some beautiful landscape or portrait shots. I've picked up a half dozen good lenses mostly well under $100, with one decent Hoya 135mm f/2.8 for ~$15. I also got a superb Canon 80-200 f/4 L
lens for ~$250, but that's the very high end. This is part of the fun, IMO.
1) Not as good as a DSLR in very low light
2) Not inexpensive
3) Not the best for fast action, but can be made to work well enough with some pratice.
Need proof, see this: http://blog.scottrinck.com/reviews/in-the-bush-with-the-olympus-om-d-e-m5/#comment-2938
I'll explain the "waterproof" part: This only applies if the lens is rated as "weatherproof." Many are not, but even with those, I wouldn't worry about having this camera out in a bit of bad weather. In my case, I do have the "weatherproof" 12-50. Two months ago I was snorkeling on a cruise and put the combo into a cheap "waterproof" case: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=orderHistory&A=details&Q=&sku=612831&is=REG
It worked well until the second time I used it and foolishly, didn't seal it very well. As I was taking some underwater video, I suddenly realized the case was filled with water and the camera was ~50% submerged in it. I panicked and swam back to the boat with the case above my head. When I finally dumped out the water, the camera was still working as if nothing happened!! I took the lens off and not a drop of water was inside. Zero damage done. So, I think I can take this camera skiing!
Here are some of the photos I took on our cruise for reference. http://www.flickr.com/photos/57438627@N00/sets/72157632692507480/show/
Those were taken with a variety of Oly, Panny, and some MF lenses (one obviously being a VERY SMALL & excellent fisheye).
I'm not saying these rival a top DSLR, but for almost anyone who wants a vastly smaller kit to travel with, they're good enough, IMO. In fact, I left my DSLR home for that exact reason, and was very glad I did. I'll probably keep the DSLR for a while, but slowly, I'm starting to move away from it, I think. I'm leaving the DSLR home (for the first time) on my trip to Winter Park next week and I'll find out if the OM-D can hack it on the slopes. One thing is for sure, It's going to be super light and easily accessible without ever removing my pack.
So, many of the Canikon folks will tell you I'm crazy, but for what you're specifically looking for, it's a good fit. If you do decide to lean that way, I'd recommend the following - OM-D with the aforementioned 12-50. It also has a decent Macro function and a silent powered zoom ring for video. This is the 35mm equivalent of 24-100mm. Good for general outdoor shooting of any kind. If you think you'll use it a lot indoors, you may want to pick up a second lens such as a used and TINY
Panasonic 14mm f/2.5.
Personally, I'd get whatever I could refurbished from Cameta Camera. They are a top notch store near me. I've been there and they're extremely reputable. They have a lot of OLY refurbished product. I've bought it and it's 100% immaculate with a 1 yr. Oly warranty.
Here's combo #1 above: http://www.cameta.com/Olympus-OM-D-E-M5-Micro-4-3-Digital-Camera-12-50mm-Lens-Silver-Black-Factory-Demo-68985.cfm
You could also buy the significantly smaller and cheaper combo with a 14-42mm lens. Not a bad lens, almost as good as the 12-50: http://www.cameta.com/Olympus-OM-D-E-M5-Micro-4-3-Digital-Camera-14-42mm-II-Lens-Black-Black-Factory-Demo-68986.cfm
Or, do as I did, and as Scott Rinckenberger did, and combine the body with the very ridiculous, one lens does it all 14-150 (28-300 equiv.). Sure, it's a compromise, but not much considering the uber-small size. I got that lens refurb from Cameta as well: http://www.cameta.com/Olympus-M-Zuiko-14-150mm-f-4-0-5-6-Micro-ED-Digital-Zoom-Lens-Factory-Demo-60908.cfm
Of course, you can also save a bundle and combine the 14-150 with a cheaper Oly mirrorless such as the E-P3, E-PL2, etc., but a refurb OM-D is worth the price IMO.
All that being said (if anybody could even bear through it all), my Olympus pitch will most likely be rejected or ignored in the same way that snow storms ignore me wherever I go. I'm used to it, but I'm a happy fanboy right now regardless.
I haven't really even mentioned the spectacular new prime lenses either, but that's another story. Here's a final perspective http://www.thephoblographer.com/2012/06/21/op-ed-why-i-sold-everything-for-the-olympus-om-d-e-m5/
Good luck, whatever you decide. I'll let you know how my OM-D works out next week too in Winter Park (and possibly Powder Addiction snowcats)!Edited by carvemeister - 2/24/13 at 4:43pm