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Digital compact camera- any recommendations?

Is anyone willing to recommend a not too expensive camera (under £400 of our GBP) for macro photography? Or comment on what you use and how much you like it?

I am interested in photographing the usual: small insects on umbellifers, a well-camouflaged caddisfly on a stone bridge, details of flowers for later identification etc.

Thanks in advance.

Olympus Tough TG. I have used the TG3 for a few years - see my Obs. It does not have a better lens than the Leica-lensed Lumix series (by a long way) BUT it fits in your pocked (and your wallet)
DON’T buy red

Thank you, much appreciated!

Looks like I could get a TG-5 (in black not red!) for under £350…

I see on the Olympus website that the TG-5 is for “no-limit adventurers” while the new TG-6 is for “maximum-action explorers”. Which of those best describes those who like to peer at hoverflies on hogweed umbels or pollen beetles in buttercups?

I’m currently using a Fujifilm FinePix T (a pocket camera for when I’m not out deliberately botanising) and a HS 30 (a superzoom). Neither of which is very recent, so perhaps not particularly relevant.
The purpose of the superzoom (apart from trying to get closeups of plant parts) is to take photographs for later identification of plants which are inaccessible for a close look in the field, such as on the other side of a river or canal, or on the span of a bridge, or behind a fence in a brown field site, on in the last instance, on the surface of a schwingmoor, or to photographs leaves and flowers on trees when they’re not close to the ground. Pictures tend not to be pixel sharp - I don’t know to what degree that is due to the sensor being too small for the lens and to what degree it is due to stabilisation noise, i.e. artefacts introduced when automatically removing motion blur. In your case a superzoom might come in handy for photographing dragonflies resting on aquatic plants. But superzooms aren’t compact - for me they’re a compromise between a compact on one hand, and a heavy and expensive digital SLR.
I wouldn’t go so far as to recommend the HS 30 - I’m not happy with the lack of pixel sharpness, nor with its tendency to focus on the background rather than the plant/insect I’m trying to focus, nor with the depth of focus. (I don’t know how much I should be blamed for not knowing how to use the camera to the best of its capacity.)

On a slightly different topic I was recently shown/recommended the Pentax Papilio - a pair of binoculars optimised for close up work, i.e. insects and flowers rather than birds, deer and aircraft. It’s a lot more expensive that the basic binoculars you get from Aldi, etc., but the optical quality did look good.

They are basically the same camera, one can go deeper (in water) they each will cope well with ‘hoverflies on hogweed umbels or pollen beetles’, Simply look for cheapest (safe) deal and put a screen protector on immediately, The screen in not vulnerable but the habitats we study in are abrasive and so are pocket liners!
I have used Finepix and the Cannon HS - the latter is specially good. All modern camera are good. The Lumix (Leica lens) series are superzooms and can focus to 2cms.The TG can focus to near nothing and has Focus-stacking (Google) but that needs careful handling. The TG is the best-for-purpose I have ever used. All the pics in my recent Honeysuckle miner are taken with it
This is focus stacked with the TG. Click on it twice to see quality.

Thank you, both.

I’m off on a (probably soggy) walking holiday (being a “no-limit adventurer”, of course…) for a few days but will research this subject and, I think, buy a TG upon my return.

I’d second the TG, don’t use it very often but have leant it to various people who have taken it underwater and it has survived. As dejay mentions the close-up ability is very good especially if you are careful with it. On the down side it does not have a big zoom so you have to be relatively close to the subject.
I tend to use a slr with various lenses which ends up being a lot more expensive and cumbersome to carry around.
Smartphones, especially the new chinese ones with the periscope zooms are more or less as good as compact cameras these days which is why compact camera sales have fallen off a cliff. You can also get tiny attachable lenses to add to the smartphones which allow even closer pictures.

Having said how good the TG and other small sensor cameras are, I was reminded about a recent shot https://api.ispotnature.org/storage/app/sites/default/files/frontend/9/201909/Untitled-1.jpg taken with full frame sensor and image stabilised macro lens. The light was dingy so had to turn the filmspeed up into the thousands, it was hand held and I enlarged only a small bit of the frame but it has still turned out quite nicely.
There is no way you would have been able to get the shot with those smaller sensor cameras, for a start the bee would have flown off as you would have needed to be much closer but also there would have been loads of digital noise and image softness and potentially lots of processing artifacts, especially on the phone cameras which tend to heavily process the image whether you like it or not.
So in reasonable light the smaller sensor cameras are ok but when conditions deteriorate the image can also deteriorate markedly.

Thanks, I really appreciate that, miked.

I’m off to investigate what I would like to buy (and can afford… ).

I’ve recently uploaded some observations of insects. Either I’m a bad photographer, or the HS30 isn’t up to the job.

My problem is that I want a general purpose camera, to photograph cloudscapes, mountains, waterfalls, lakes, trees, deer, and so on down to liverwort gemmae and water purslane flowers, and still not weigh myself down with a DSLR and half a dozen lens systems, or spend a small fortune on equipment.

There are a quite few Mirrorless Micro-4/thirds (MFT) available second hand. You could get a Lumix body, say Gf5 for well under £100. These are quite miniature but your punch comes with lenses. I sometimes attach 4/thirds lenses from my MUCH bigger SLR via a small and cheap adapter. But MFT lenses are all good - the range it limitless.
The MFT system is the bridge tween pockets and SLR; it is a VERY good compromise.

Olympus TG-5 being delivered tomorrow. As it’s being supplanted by the TG-6, I was able to find the TG-5 new for as low as £309 from a reputable seller. All being well, it’ll get its first outing on Saturday.

Thanks again for all the comments.

Seem to remember it takes ages to charge the battery so factor that into the equation.

My new TG-5 is charging now, in preparation for a first outing tomorrow. First battery charge is expected to take three hours…

The battery is normally charged within the camera… I have never had battery issues but one TG now has faulty USB from overuse. I now take out the card for viewing and transfers and I charge that battery in newer TG. There is a 2 Battery + Double Charger (for under £12) via Amazn. We should all consider battery replacement after a couple of years but I have had mine for almost 5 (late 2014) with no issues, My first TG 3 is quite worn (rubbed) but not damaged

Charging took less than 3 hrs and was painless.
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First observation with TG-5 photos can be seen here:


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Very happy with this! Thanks again!

This camera has been a life-changer, almost, both before and during lockdown. It’s the first time I’ve been able to take macro photographs good enough for ID - and often the camera sees and captures diagnostic features that I just wouldn’t notice and in some cases literally would not see in the field with my eyesight. Thanks again for the recommendation, dejayM.

Welcome. Be not afraid to set ISO to 400 (almost NEVER Auto ISO) to use it one-handed as far as you can reach or underwater at arm’s length. keep looking for a spare one.


Never buy a red one, unless it’s much cheaper.

The problem I have had is reliability. I find cameras last no more than about 3 years. The last ones were:
Sony (not sure of model number - a bridge camera) - motherboard failed,
Canon PowerShot - tilting screen failure,
Pansonic Lumix FZ1000 - zoom control lever failure.
In each case, cost of repair either exceeded the value of the camera, or repairs were not available.
My current one is an extravagance - Sony DSC-RX10M4 - and it is not one I’d recommend. It’s far too expensive, and has far too many irrelevant (to me) options - hence a convoluted menu system - poor rear screen and battery life.
If you can manage the weight of a digital SLR (my arthritis became a problem with my Nikon), you may be better off: but good lenses are essential (and costly).