So I'd like to get a "proper" camera..

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This is actually my first post here, but I've been lurking a little while.
So, Hi folks!

I've been deliberating about what camera to buy for a few months now, and I thought perhaps you fine people can help! Apologies for the wall of text, but, I assume extra info can't hurt...

I'll start with an example anyway. :)
This photo, is OK. But it's not the photo I wanted to take. Other than the low light levels.. conditions were perfect for the amazing portrait that I saw with my eyes. This girl sat staring at me for 10 minutes, as mesmerized by my camera as I was of these tiny monks chanting in unison, surrounded by golden glowing temples. And while they all fidgeted around her, she sat almost perfectly still. I wanted to do her justice but I couldn't, no matter what I tried with the camera. The one I uploaded is the best shot out of many.

There are more examples in the rest of my gallery of disappointing photos of beautiful things. :p
I'm totally up for feedback on any of it, in case it's not a hardware issue! I'm definitely hoping to improve my photography skills as well as my equipment of course.

But currently I do feel like I'm held back by using a cheap point & shoot. ;)

As per the sticky..

1. Budget: I'd preferably spend not more than around the £1000 mark, but can spend more IF it'll be a longer term/more flexible/much higher quality investment, and it ticks all my boxes. I have been eyeing up some pretty hefty price tags, but I don't want to make a bad decision based on "expensive must = good", and the endless amounts of online reviews that claim almost every camera is great. :s

2. Current camera: Well uh.. In late 2014 I decided an iPhone is not enough. I had no idea about cameras really, but I knew I wanted some zoom in my life! I bought a Panasonic Lumix TZ-35. Since then I've been using a combination of that, and an old GoPro to take my photos. So I've got something like 15mm & 24-480mm+ focal range in extremely compact form, which I do enjoy and am kinda spoilt by tbh. The one thing I don't think I can retain (as I upgrade) is this zoom range.

3. My intentions: So, here's why I'm having trouble narrowing down to just one camera: I don't have a specific niche of photography. I do most of my picture-taking when I'm travelling so I guess, "travel photography" (or you might say "holiday snaps" ;p), but that doesn't narrow things down much, does it?
Apart from, I suppose: It's not studio photography, or weddings. And I appreciate fast and light cameras.

Other than that, the subject depends on where I am, and that will vary a lot. So far I'm most often taking landscapes and street shots (with people being a main focus). I've attempted some wildlife photography, but it seems I really don't have a setup for quality shots there. I am fascinated by animals, and would really love to be able capture their beauty with a camera, however it sounds like one of the hardest things to pull off, probably requiring the biggest investments in money, size/weight of equipment you carry, and time on site (ie setup/waiting).

The locations we're planning on visiting in the next couple of years, I imagine, will be excellent opportunities to photograph wild animals, however! Late this year we're planning Southern Africa, including one of the big wildlife reserves, Cape Town, and Victoria Falls. After that we'll probably do Alaska, aiming to spot bears, whales, glaciers and generally beautiful, vast landscapes.

The other thing is, I travel with my girlfriend, who isn't that big on photography herself (but Very big on travelling), and while she's fairly understanding (her brother being a professional photographer, she understands a lot of it is about preparation), I still don't particularly want to make her stand around in the cold while I muck about with cameras and tripods and things for hours - Which appears to be the next step in "getting more serious with photography"!

4. Skill Level: By trade I'm a digital artist. I've been using Photoshop for 15 years, mainly painting, illustration & 3D modelling/texturing. So, that is my background, not exactly photography. I'm probably above average on the post-processing side, but so far I've only been able to work with JPGs. Anyway, I'm one of those people who got into photography itself via a smart phone camera. :p So manual handling is not my forté. I've never had any particular photography training, never used a film camera, and never used a DSLR. So I guess I'm quite amateur. However..

5. By now, I've done a boatload of Research! I'm quite confident about what the common manual controls are, and the effects of fiddling with them (although, having not had much actual practice I'm not going to be very fast with using full manual mode). I feel I understand generally which types of cameras/lenses/specs are good for different scenarios. However, I haven't yet been able to bring it all together and decide what exact equipment is best for ME, considering my non-specific area of photography, and that, for instance spending thousands on just a lens.. is not very realistic. ;)


The main things I don't like about my current setup:
- No RAW format. As mentioned below, I'm pretty alright at the post-processing, but it's quite limited with just JPGs.
- No manual focus. Branches, leaves, spider webs, windows, etc.. All screw me over.
- I've no way to get narrow depth of field. I've actually Photoshoped it into a couple of my photos where the background is just too ugly and distracting!
- I love the GoPro's wide-angle lens, but having no viewfinder/screen means sometimes I'll have absolutely no idea that a shot failed until I later transfer over wifi.

Other things I'd like:
- Good image quality! Well, you can see more of my photos here. Like I said, I'm totally up for feedback on any of it, but to my eye, it seems like one of my biggest problems is an obvious lack of detail in most of my shots. Like, I think most of the thumbnails look great, but up close they just look pretty meh. Especially ones taken in low light conditions.
- Good clean photos even when handheld. I plan to get a tripod, but I Know I won't always be able to use it! Lots of cameras and lenses claim to have image stabilisation, vibration reduction etc etc. But which ones are actually any good?
- Touch Screen. Just seems very useful! Especially for assisting auto focus.
- Weather sealing. I don't want to be scared to get my fancy new camera out near waterfalls, glaciers, beach, etc.
- Not too heavy/bulky. Although I think I just need to come to terms with the fact that if I want better image quality, I can't avoid my kit being heavier.. Massive telephoto lenses are way too over the top for me, realistically!


What can you suggest..
For more detailed landscapes, in perhaps not the best conditions?
In bright light even my current camera is fine for landscapes tbh. This level of quality is OK with me. But as soon as it gets a little dark, things go downhill fast. I'm aware a tripod would help, and with landscapes using one isn't really a problem.. (Assuming I find a good one that isn't super expensive or heavy! Suggestions?)
However, for street photography, especially the candid sort, it's obviously not an option. :p
And.. Well, any ideas for a bit of wildlife photography? Or is that a dead-end unless I'm gonna throw massive amounts of cash into it?


Here are the bits I've mainly been considering:

Panasonic FZ-330 (300):
- So I actually grabbed an "as new" used one of these from Amazon Warehouse this week (so I won't feel bad about returning it if it doesn't seem right for me).
When I discovered the category of "bridge" camera and the super-zooms, they sounded excellent. I'd keep my zoom range, and get all the other features I wanted. It is really a nice, clever camera IMO, but so far the image quality doesn't seem better than my TZ 35 (they do have the same sensor size and resolution.. So I guess it's expected.) But if I'm gonna lug around a DSLR-sized camera, I think I do want more quality. Or at least, the flexibility to get more (ie upgradable lenses).
The image stabilisation also feels very jumpy - When I'm resting it on something still, the picture often "bounces". Not sure if that's a common thing..

Panasonic FZ-1000:
- The other option I considered around the time I saw the 330. Better image quality but.. Not weather sealed, heavier, shorter zoom, and an aperture that apparently starts to narrow very quickly as you zoom. I thought the trade-offs weren't worth it, but maybe neither is the perfect camera for me.

Sony Alpha 7 II:
- Man it has pretty much all the features I'm after, but.. Expensive camera and expensive lenses! Surely it's overkill, right?

Almost all DSLRs:
- Nearly every day I'll click on a different camera model and investigate. Often I'll think I should just grab any basic DSLR and a couple lenses and go for it. It's the heavier option, but probably cheaper. If I did this, I'd still ideally be looking for something with my preferred features though, eg weather sealing and touch screen.


Thanks a lot for reading, and for any feedback about anything whatsoever!
Morgan
 

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Touch screen and weather sealing....not a very common combination as far as I know. My suggestion would be the Nikon D5500. Has the touch screen. Price is affordable. Weather sealing is vastly overrated, based on my experience, and I live in one of North America's more rain-prone regions. Frankly, I would SKIP the touch screen, because that's more of a noob-thing and it's just simply not on many serious cameras.

You need to leave the wide-range 24-480mm zoom lens compacts behind if you want low-light capabilities, AND high quality images. Personally, I'd suggest you buy a Nikon D3300, save the touch-screen money penalty behind you, and buy a better lens or two.

A Nikon D3xxx or D5xxx is not really any heavier than a Sony A7 series, especially if you add in the three batteries the Sony will need for a day's shooting. Most good lenses for the A7 series weigh in the same as Canon or Nikon lenses. I suggest a camera with the 18-140mm Nikon zoom PLUS a 50/1.8 G and 35/1.8 DX lens and time to learn. This is the "proper camera" route by my way of looking at it: a higher-end mirrorless camera with APS-C or larger sensor, or a d-slr with similar sensor size.
 

cherylynne1

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Wow....I can definitely see why you're having trouble.

Because of your low light requirements, I'd say you need at least APS-C, if not full frame.

Because of your weight/size requirements, I'd say mirrorless is your best bet.

Because of your interest in wildlife, I'd say DSLR is better (mirrorless isn't ideal for long focal lengths.)

But because of weather sealing, you're either looking at micro four thirds (not great in low light), DSLRs (not great for traveling light and possibly out of budget) or the Sony A7rII (way out of budget.) Plus, you need weather sealed lenses, which are also more expensive.

Definitely a tough decision. Do you have the opportunity to go into a camera store and see these cameras? Sometimes you fall in love with the feel in your hand and not the specs on a page.

I will say this, though...based on the quality of your images even without a "proper" camera, I think you would get your money's worth if you went over budget.
 

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Cherlynne1 has pretty much summed up your situation; you'd like to have it all...but...

I used to sell cameras at retail, long ago, and have encountered literally six,seven,eight,ten,twelve people a day who had a camera quest under way to one degree or another. At times, the prospective buyer will have in his or her mind one feature, or two features, that make the choosing of a camera a difficult to impossible task. Weather sealing is a great SALES feature, it truly is. For some people, the idea of mirrorless is a big sales feature. Touch screen, great sales feature, but something cameras have been mostly lacking since the 1850's. (wink).

I consider camera selection at one basic level as being dictated based on how one wants to actually CARRY the camera. Do you want a shirt pocket camera and its level of capabilities? A jacket pocket level camera? A camera that needs a bag to carry it? A shoulder-strap camera, like a d-slr?

A large-size mirrorless, such as any Sony A7 model with its typical lens is the SAME THING as a small Canon or Nikon d-slr when it comes top how it will be carried.

A Canon G-series advanced compact with external manual controls is a fantastic jacket pocket compact.
 

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After spending a significant portion of my lifespan reading your post (just kidding) There are a few observations I would like to make:

I still don't particularly want to make her stand around in the cold while I muck about with cameras and tripods and things for hours -
When you get more experience as a photographer little things like personal relationships become less important than getting the photograph you want. I once sat on a beach in Phuket for 6 hours OVERNIGHT just to get sunset and sunrise pics while my family were at the hotel about an 8 Km walk away. My wife knew I wanted those pictures and was happy that I was happy.

I only own 2 cameras. FUJI HS-20 Bridge and A Samsung Note 3 phone. I get acceptable quality from both (have a look at some of my posts on this forum and make your own judgement). I have exactly the same requirements as you and I have literally been round the world with these cameras from New York City to the Jungles of Malaysia and the deserts of the Middle East. The thought of travelling with a separate bag of photography gear might sound great but I guarantee within minutes of your first trip you will regret it. Travelling is a whole separate classification of photography and you will have to decide what the acceptable quality / weight ratio is for you.

I followed a few of your links and did not see anything horrible. Printing and viewing online are 2 different things. For viewing online they are fine and a few flaws would show up when printing large SO WHAT!
 

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Out of your list i would pick the Sony A7mk2, i have A7mk1 with Voigtlander close focus adapter and use my Leica fit lenses and the perfect combo is with the Voigtland Color skopar 35mmF2.5, this lens only sticks out from the camera about 40mm
This shot is with the Voigtlander Nokton 40mmF1.4

DSC00856-XL.jpg


and this is a crop of above

DSC00856_1-XL.jpg


and this is what you can do with the close focus

DSC01096b%2Bw-XL.jpg


iso16,000 handheld at 70mm 1/20

DSC01243-XL.jpg
 

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Adapted lenses on mirrorless cameras or adapted lenses on d-slr bodies are the province of tinkerers, or very seasoned cameramen, people like Gary, people who really, at a fundamental level, know how to shoot, how to focus using different methods, how to use different strategies, how to anticipate shots,etc.,etc..

Advising people who do not have extensive experience in camera-handling that they can handle and get good results with adapted lenses and focusing done by hand-and-eye, that just does not make much sense in the modern era. Without autofocusing and without native lenses, the vast majority of people will have so many duff shots it's not even funny.
 

gsgary

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Adapted lenses on mirrorless cameras or adapted lenses on d-slr bodies are the province of tinkerers, or very seasoned cameramen, people like Gary, people who really, at a fundamental level, know how to shoot, how to focus using different methods, how to use different strategies, how to anticipate shots,etc.,etc..

Advising people who do not have extensive experience in camera-handling that they can handle and get good results with adapted lenses and focusing done by hand-and-eye, that just does not make much sense in the modern era. Without autofocusing and without native lenses, the vast majority of people will have so many duff shots it's not even funny.
He said he wanted manual focus and looked at his photos and all could be shot with 35mm and with that lens fitted it will fit in my pocket
 

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I could not tell what the heck he "really" wanted...
 
OP
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Wow, thanks for the feedback! Yes, unfortunately you guys have the same problem I do - not being able to agree on one camera. :D
I'm sure it is indeed confusing, unreasonable, and common to want everything. I'll try to narrow it down some more!

For reference by the way, that photo I linked of the girl.. Here is the original "out of the camera" shot (scaled down). It's at ISO 1250, f/5.2, 1/8 sec.
As you can see, I had to do some pretty drastic noise reduction, among other things. There is no detail in the area I wanted it - You can only just about tell that she even has eyes!
I'm sure, if it was a studio setup, it could be easily fixed with lighting. But, this is the kind of situation I find myself trying to take photos in.. I can choose my own position, timing, and equipment, but I can't affect anything else in the scene.
And aye, I could have picked any of those other little nuns to focus on, eg one in better light. But this one had a story, so. :)

vcfQA1w.jpg


Also in this case I had 10 minutes to sit there snapping as much as I liked, but usually I'll see a fascinating moment that's gone in a flash, and either my camera and I are prepared and fast enough to capture it, or it's missed. :[

Touch screen and weather sealing....not a very common combination as far as I know.
Ah! I didn't know that was rare. The FZ-330 I have in my hands atm has both, but perhaps it's just a bridge camera thing?

And cool, great info thank you! A Nikon 5300/5500 were the latest ones I had been looking at actually (just before making that post!). Seems a very solid option indeed. I'm having a closer look at those lenses now. :)
Also, uh, this seems like a ridiculous deal: Nikon D5500 DSLR Camera with 18-140mm Lens (Black)
Possibly some of this "grey import" business (of which I don't know much)?

About weather sealing:
So would you guys not cringe at getting a non-weather sealed camera out where it's likely to be splashed etc? Or, can any old non-WS cam survive that just fine anyway? Living in rainy old England, I don't have much choice but to use my TZ-35 while it's 'spitting', and never thought much of it tbh. I mainly started prioritising WS after speaking to a friend who lost his beloved Olympus to some mild water damage. :(
But.. I hadn't considered Cherlynne's point.. That a WS body isn't much use without WS lenses!

Touch Screen:
Alright, so it's not exactly a requirement - If it was missing from an otherwise perfect camera, I'd still be happy. And I can definitely understand how people say it's just a sales thing etc. But, for navigating menus, or picking focus points, surely it's much faster than up, down & select buttons. Of course, physical buttons for manual stuff like shutter speed etc are the fastest option.. So, I do want those. And luckily they come on most "proper" cameras anyway so it's not a question. You are right that a touch screen adds nothing that those 1850's cameras didn't have. :) It's only because I'm after speed (between seeing a thing and taking a suitable picture, before the thing is gone), that I'm interested in it if possible. But yes, probably other things would get me faster shooting, for the same or lower cost. Eg a better lens!

Size/weight:

Yeah, I agree this is a really important one to get right, but it's hard to say what I'd be comfortable with carrying because I'm sure it depends on the person, and I've not tried it yet myself! It's not exactly something you can read about online. :D What I definitely don't want, is to buy a big camera that I end up not willing to carry or get out of my bag, because it's so big. On our 3-day trek I only realised that one of our group actually had a camera (an expensive DSLR + lens), when she produced it from her back, once, on the last day, while we were sat stationary in a boat for an hour. But she'd carried it on her back (along with a macbook!) for 8 hours every day because she didn't want to leave them in her big backpack that was being entrusted to some locals to transport via motorbike..


How I'd carry the thing:
I was already thinking that a neck or shoulder strap-scenario is potentially more convenient for shooting fast, than my TZ35 anyway. Mostly because unfortunately my girlfriend can't use a map! So I often need my hands free for navigation while we're walking through bonkers Asian streets. And while the compact camera does fit in any pocket, the caveat is - Only when it's off (ie lens retracted). So it's actually fairly slow to pull out of the pocket, turn on, and start shooting.

But, well.. what's it actually like to carry around a DSLR on a neck/shoulder strap? I imagine neck is more secure but could probably ache after a while? And also limit positioning of the camera (ie can't take a shot with your arm outstretched to the side or whatever)?

I do already carry basically a bag of photo gear with me almost all the time I'm travelling anyways. If I'm out for a day or more, I'll have my two small cameras, both their battery chargers (external boxes), spare batteries and a 300g power bank (which can keep every thing charged for a few days!)

I do like the feel of this FZ330 actually - Its nearly 700g and styled like a DSLR. That seems manageable so far. I think being able to comfortably hold the camera one-handed is important. But is it true that a more compact (but still heavy) mirrorless like the A7 can actually be harder to hold one-handed because they don't have a big grip?



407370:
Hah, your post made me chuckle and explain to my girlfriend why I was laughing! Luckily, she is at least up for doing and seeing things at sunrise already - And it does help that when you're the other side of the world, "4am" becomes meaningless to your body anyways!

gsgary: Amazingly detailed photos! That does seem like a really very nifty camera.

Without autofocusing and without native lenses, the vast majority of people will have so many duff shots it's not even funny.
I do agree with this though ^
While I mentioned manual focus, my point was just that I don't currently have any option at all to manually focus, and would like to be able to when needed/when I have time to. But, I will still primarily default to autofocus, in most cases. So yes, at least for now, I'm looking for a setup that allows both, and preferably offers good, fast AF. :)


In conclusion(ish).. There seems to be two main toss ups:
Zoom Range VS Sensor size - Seems that, for what I'm most often taking pictures of, and the conditions I'm taking them in, sensor size wins, so I shouldn't go lower than APS-C.
For my main lens I'd like a little bit of zoom at least, because for various reasons, sometimes I just can't get closer to a subject that's across the street from me. :D I guess.. high resolution (and cropping) can also compensate for lack of zoom sometimes?

I still have an itch for wildlife photography, but I don't think I can scratch it. At the very least, we'll still have the TZ35 with us - I'll pass it on to the girlfriend. If it comes to it, maybe I'll buy a big telephoto lens one day!
Size VS Quality - Not sure really. I could be gung-ho about it, but it could end up a big mistake!

I had been thinking that the A7ii wins both those battles, and apparently the kit lens is very good too. But, I probably don't need to go all the way to full frame.

Are there any APS-C (or similar) ICL compact cameras you guys would particularly recommend?

PS sorry for the essay again..!
 

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You're worried about selecting focus points using a touch screen--as if a serious camera is shot like an iPhone or a P&S. And yes, w/o weather sealed lenses, weather sealing on the body is less of a complete, impervious-to-rain solution and more of an advertising check-box.

You want good, fast AF? Can a Sony RX10 II keep up with a Nikon D5500 on the soccer field?

A Nikon D5500 managed 2/3 of its shots in-focus at a women's collegiate football (soccer) match in daylight, while at the same match, a Sony RX10 Mark II managed about 10 percent. Wow...that sucks. But hey--the Sony is mirrorless, and it is small, and compact!

You want so much, yet seem unwilling to understand that the limitations of a tiny camera can EASILY be overcome by buying a new, modern Nikon d-slr with class-leading sensor performance. A D5500 will out-perform mirrorless compacts costing twice as much.It HAS a touch-screen for both navigation AND touch-to-focus. The images can be cropped. The High ISO performance is state of the art good. There are FAST f/1.8 prime lenses for low light, priced affordably. Image quality is exceptionally high, approaching the Sony A7 or Nikon D610 levels, but at a fraction of the price.

Ridiculous comments like needing to have both hands free while walking through "Asian streets". FFS...all this talk about your girlfriend and her "limitations"...again...srsly. Time to get off the pot.
 
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astroNikon

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weather sealing is all relative by definition.
Some are sealed against very light moisture
some against frigid heavy rains
and other can be frozen in a block of ice, melted and then used with no problem.

You'll also find out that the better cameras have much better focusing systems, including in low light.

I have a Nikon P7800. Looks at the specs of it. It's awesome. Unless you compare it to my d600 FullFrame camera. there's no comparison except the P7800 fits in my jacket pocket and I can carry it with me all the time.
 

cherylynne1

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Haha, glad you wrote in when you did, OP. I was just in the middle of writing you a novel in which I came to basically the same conclusion: take a look at APS-C mirrorless.

I have the Sony a6000, and I love it. Like you mentioned, my friends all have entry level DSLRs, and they never go anywhere. My camera with the 35 1.8 prime (which is what's usually on it) can fit in a large coat pocket or I can wear it around my neck all day while barely even noticing. If you plan to leave it on all day, yes, a couple extra batteries would be needed vs. a DSLR, but I find there's a huge difference between having the extra weight around my neck or in my hand rather than in a bag. There is no problem with shooting one handed (I have a struggling toddler in the other hand half the time) other than technique....the pin sharp shots are hard to get in that position. Low light is very good, autofocus is very good, and you can put it in a mode where you autofocus first and then can fine tune manually, if that's what you like.

You're still going to have trouble with wildlife, but there is a 55-210 lens for about $350 that will help slightly...it never goes as far as you think it will. The superzoom may get better results than cropping. Worth doing a few tests before you get out there.

If you want to see some other cameras in this category (the d3300 was also mentioned) this is a reliable website:

2015 Roundup: Interchangeable Lens Cameras $500-800

And as for that link from Derrel, it's a somewhat unfair comparison, as the RX-10 is a bridge camera. The autofocus on the a6000 is known to do very well and matches the keeper rate for most enthusiast level DSLRs.
 

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You're worried about selecting focus points using a touch screen--as if a serious camera is shot like an iPhone or a P&S. And yes, w/o weather sealed lenses, weather sealing on the body is less of a complete, impervious-to-rain solution and more of an advertising check-box.

You want good, fast AF? Can a Sony RX10 II keep up with a Nikon D5500 on the soccer field?

A Nikon D5500 managed 2/3 of its shots in-focus at a women's collegiate football (soccer) match in daylight, while at the same match, a Sony RX10 Mark II managed about 10 percent. Wow...that sucks. But hey--the Sony is mirrorless, and it is small, and compact!

You want so much, yet seem unwilling to understand that the limitations of a tiny camera can EASILY be overcome by buying a new, modern Nikon d-slr with class-leading sensor performance. A D5500 will out-perform mirrorless compacts costing twice as much.It HAS a touch-screen for both navigation AND touch-to-focus. The images can be cropped. The High ISO performance is state of the art good. There are FAST f/1.8 prime lenses for low light, priced affordably. Image quality is exceptionally high, approaching the Sony A7 or Nikon D610 levels, but at a fraction of the price.
It won't out perform an RX1r
 

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Not sure if the OP's GF can handle too much camera...
 

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