Following my last article about small cameras, I have a few things to say about even smaller cameras. A number of people who saw my article have asked me about a small camera to replace or complement their full-size DSLRs. They wanted to know if the Micro Four Thirds format cameras I discussed would be appropriate for them. In some cases, my reaction was not that these cameras weren't enough but rather were still too much. A lot of folks are looking for the most compact camera they can find that will still perform well and yield high quality images. Like me, they want something small enough to carry everywhere and good enough to make fine prints. And, for many people a zoom range from moderate wide angle to short telephoto is all they need. I shoot probably 95% of my personal work within a focal length range of 24mm-90mm. As it happens, my Panasonic DMC-LX7 pocket camera covers exactly this range. And, it allows me to make lovely prints at 12" x 18" and even, with some TLC in the digital darkroom, up to 16" x 24". I shot the photo above with the LX7's predecessor, an LX5, and made a 16" x 24" fine art inkjet print that looks great from two feet away. To see this image full-screen, visit my Bewilderness gallery.
In addition to the LX7, there are a number of other pocketable high-end enthusiast compacts that have bright lenses with moderate zoom ranges and very high image quality. These include the Canon G15 and G1X, Olympus' XZ-2, Fujifilm's X20, Nikon's P7700, and Sony's RX100, among others. If you don't need a long telephoto lens and aren't planning to make exhibition-quality poster-size prints, one of these might be all you need. Sure, my G3 and GX1 cameras are even more capable and give me access to extreme focal lengths, but they won't fit in a pocket. The camera you have with you is always better than the one you leave at home, which is why I'm keeping my LX7.