Q: I go to concerts often and need a good low-light camera because flash photography not only is forbidden, it is annoying to the performers and those around me. I'm typically close to the stage, so I don't need a super zoom. Besides, big, protruding lenses get scrutinized at shows. And I don't want a large camera, either. What do you recommend?
A: I understand your concern over the size of the camera. Good low-light photography requires a big sensor and image stabilization, as well as a large aperture (fast) lens. Ideally, you would have all three, especially with moving subjects like performers at a concert.
Regular readers know I am a strong proponent of the mirrorless Micro Four Thirds system from Olympus and Panasonic, and it is a perfect match for your needs. Here are two models that are around the same size as a point-and-shoot camera, yet have a big sensor and the image quality and low-light capability of a much larger digital SLR.
The Olympus E-PL8 has extremely effective three-axis image stabilization in the camera body, so whatever lens you use will be stabilized. This beautiful, stylish camera is currently on sale for $449, and a 14-42mm pancake zoom is $198 more, bringing the price to $647. The 14-42mm pancake is not a fast lens, but fast zooms are bigger than the camera itself and will draw scrutiny from security personnel.
If you are willing to spend a bit more, I suggest you get one or two fast, fixed-length lenses to go with the zoom. The incredibly sharp Olympus 25mm/1.8 lens and 45mm/1.8 lenses are on sale for $249 each. For your application it would be hard to do better than an E-PL8 with the 25mm and 45mm lenses. (getolympus.com)
Panasonic's Lumix GX850 is even smaller than the E-PL8 and includes an excellent 12-32mm zoom lens for $549. The small size means there is no image stabilization in the camera, so you must choose lenses with optical stabilization. The maximum 32mm zoom of the lens also offers a bit less reach than the 42mm lens. Panasonic does offer a small 35-100mm zoom and a 45mm/1.8 lens with stabilization. Panasonic's video quality is spectacular, so if making videos is part of your plan, I would take that into consideration, as well.
Though it is not as small as the others, Panasonic has a special offer on the Lumix GX85. You can get the GX85 with the tiny 12-32mm zoom lens and a regular-sized 45-150mm zoom lens for only $599. The full-featured, technologically advanced GX85 has a big sensor, in-camera stabilization and optical stabilization in the lenses. It's probably not ideal for your application, however, because of its size. Although smaller than an SLR, it is bigger than the point-and-shoot sized E-PL8 and GX850. Other readers might be looking for a new camera, though. If so, it is an amazing deal. (panasonic.com)
A versatile scanner
Q: Two years ago you recommended a scanner that will scan multiple images at a time, prints as well as 35mm slides and negatives. A lot of the negatives and slides I have are from my dad's medium-format Rolleiflex and are much larger than 35mm film. What scanner do you recommend that can also handle these?
A: The scanner you mentioned was the $199 Epson Perfection V550. The good news: It also can scan medium-format slides and negatives. I am a proud Rolleiflex owner and have scanned many of its slides and negatives with the V550. (epson.com)
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.