As a photo-artist I really appreciate always having a camera with me. Rather than taking a bulky, heavy SLR everywhere I have reverted back to compact cameras because they are certainly delivering on thin, light, wide zoom-range and gobs of features. They are also bound and determined not to provide a view finder – to my chagrin.
But the LED viewing/composing screens on the back are getting ever better. And now that HD video is on board so is multiple fast exposures. And most cameras provide at least 10MPixels and 10x zoom so there is a lot to like as portability with lots of picture taking power becomes ever better. And the new compact cameras are a real leg up on using smartphones with their tiny sensors and cramped, coke bottle lensing. So here are three compact cameras, two of which were at the CES 2010 show which show very great promise for the price:
1)Sony Cybershot HX5V/B – $350, 10MPixels, 10x zoom, 171grams
To these capabilities Sony has added a rich set of goodies including HD video clips at 1920 x 1080p using either AVCHD or storage efficient MP4 recording format, four anti-blur functions, and GPS capabilities – the camera records not just the time and date when the picture was taken but also its location and direction of shooting with an on board compass – orienteering people take note.
My 3 favorite new goodies are burst mode of 10 frames per second so you never miss that action shot. The Sony people have taken this capability a step further with the Panorama Sweep Mode. Press the shutter and sweep – then the camera does the rest, continuously shooting images and in one second stitching them together. Second, the camera takes face recognition to a new level with anti-blink detection and Smile recognition. Now all you have to do is coax the subject to relax and enjoy their portrait. Third, there is Transfer jet Technology which allows transferring up to 10 files by just touching two devices together. Most of the major camera makers are on board – Canon, Casio, Eastman Kodak, Hitachi Ltd, JVC-Kenwood Holdings, KDDI, NEC, Nikon, NTT docomo, Olympus, Panasonic, Pioneer, Samsung, Seiko Epson, Sharp, SoftBank Mobile, Sony, and Toshiba. The speed is about 35 MB second and the demo was impressive; but I am from Missouri on this, the Motion Detection, and in camera Photo editing functions. You and I will have to wait until mid March this year to test out these features. But boy I wish the Sony SLRs could get some of these smarts. Oh and perhaps most important of all, the Cybershot HX5 supports industry standard SD/SDHC cards.
2)Samsung HZ35W – $350??, 12MPixels, 15xzoom, 245grams with battery and SC/SDHC card
Like the Sony Cybershot, the Samsung HZ35W has video but at 720P and 30fps with HDMI or USB connector and H.264 compression. It also has GPS capabilities and takes them a couple steps further than Sony. There is in-camera software for displaying saved images on a map interface so that users can in effect use the camera as a record of when and how pictures were taken – and as a live GPS compass.
Meanwhile The 3″ AMOLED screen [much better visibility in direct sunlight] not only shows GEO tags and maps but also delivers truer colors while reducing battery drain. The 15x zoom is tops in this compact camera field with equivalent of a 24-360mm SLR range.
Finally, the Samsung provides greater camera control – with manual mode, aperture priority and shutter priority as well as a choice of ISO 80-3200, shutter 16sec- 1/2000sec, and f3.2 to f9.8. This is coupled with 2 auto-focus corrections and 8 major picture taking modes. The one problem is that Samung has not decided on a price for the cameras debut at the end of March 2010 – the lower bound is the $280 price of Samsung TL105.
To this camera buff the great zoom and camera control options make the HZ35W a real contender depending on how that AMOLED screen performs and the final pricing.
3)Casio EXILIM EX-FH100 – $350, 10x zoom, 10MPixel, 181grams without battery
The CASIO EX-FH100 looks a lot like the Sony Cybershot in its key specs. However it does not have the Cybershot’s GPS feature and can only do HD at 1280 x 720p at 30 fps [ but also can do a range of small sizes from 640 x 480 at 120fps to 224 x 64 1000fps]. And its high speed exposure capability is carried into the still image taking where the camera can take 30 shots at 9MPixels shooting from 2fps to 30fps [user selected]. Given that the camera already has two auto focus correction systems, the sharpness of the image is enhanced by Best Shot Option that automatically selects the best image from burst exposures depending on what shooting mode is chosen.
The Casio EX-FH100 uses its burst mode operation coupled with its fast image processor to merge with the flash combining two or more images into one evenly lighted shot. Likewise the camera does auto-HDR combinations of 3 images shot at user selected ev intervals to get the best possible highlight and shadow areas combined into one image. This smart burst-shot technology is combined with a back illuminated CMOS sensor to provide a total 10 Best Shot modes of operation.
Having used the Casio EX-FH1 for the past two years, I am anxious to tryout the EX-FH100 in mid-March when the camera goes on sale. My contacts say that the Best Shot modes, new camera raw format, and 9MPixels [versus 5MPixels for the my EX-FH1] makes for outstanding image taking. I am anxious to confirm that.
Although these three cameras each have very similar basic profile [and for me that is light, thin, and fit in a shirt pocket], each has its own special attractions. I will definitely be at the camera stores in March and April to give readers an update on the performance of each of these compact cameras. I am from Missouri, so I have to see for myself how well these cameras perform before I give the final review on what appears to be 3 great mobile cameras.