With its retro styling, the Olympus Pen-F is an almost ludicrously comprehensive interchangeable-lens camera in a tiny package. It measures just 12.5cm x 7.2cm x 3.7cm and has a plethora of redoubtable features, from the conveniently sited mechanical dial on the front panel, used to select artistic modes, and the top 1/16,000th of a second shutter speed, to the 21.8-megapixel Live MOS sensor and the 2.36M-dot OLED electronic viewfinder. The five-axis (roll, pitch, yaw, vertical and horizontal) stabilisation works for HD video as well as stills, and – get this – the 50-megapixel High Res Shot mode combines eight photos into one incredibly detailed image. Exploiting just a quarter of the functions would very likely make you a better photographer. £1,200 with a 17mm ED lens, from olympus.co.uk.
The C-Lux is a terrific travel camera. It has a 24mm wide-angle zoom, perfect for any street scene. There’s a 2.3m-dot resolution, electronic viewfinder with an automatic eye sensor, a dioptre-correction wheel, a 3in touchscreen and, almost needless to add, RAW capability to ensure you can take top-quality pro-standard photos. What is really impressive, however, is how the Leica DC Vario-Elmar lens opens to a full 360mm focal length, which is very long for a non-digitally enhanced telephoto. I don’t normally have a lot of use for telephoto lenses, but when testing out the camera in the Swedish countryside I spotted an elongated wagon-sized barrel on wheels in the middle distance. The telephoto produced a wonderful photo, both in content and technical quality – and there wasn’t a pixel or a flaw to be seen. The huge (for a pocketable compact) 1in sensor had done it’s Leica-like job magnificently. £875, from leica-camera.com.
Sony RX100 VI
Smartphone cameras are so good now that great shots are hard to miss. Yet a dedicated camera is still vastly better than the best phone camera. Which is why I’m always on the lookout for the very ultimate in pocketable ultra-compact models. Sony updates its RX100 model almost annually, and the mark VI is a most sophisticated and adaptable compact. Its list of features is almost ludicrous. Best of all are a fantastic pop-up OLED viewfinder that’s a joy to use and a rear screen that contorts like a gymnast into the most awkward positions, all of them useful. The 24-200mm equivalent, 15-element Zeiss zoom lens is exceptional. The only drawback is that some may find the controls so small they’re fiddly. £980, from sony.co.uk.
Canon EOS M50
“Mirrorless” is not an easy concept to explain in a few words, but in short it means that around 80 per cent of the characteristics of a professional DSLR can be replicated in a significantly smaller machine. The mirrorless M50 is almost comically dinky. It contains elements borrowed from many more expensive and sophisticated Canon models. Using adapted components from the pro 5D, it has what the company claims is the fastest autofocus in any Canon mirrorless camera, and the fastest burst shooting, at 10 frames a second. Add to that the seven new lenses Canon has built for the M50, plus the ability to use, via an adaptor, 102 existing Canon lenses, and you have a complete camera system in munchkin size. £649.99 with EF-M 15-45mm lens, from canon.co.uk.