I am using my compact cameras more often than my Canon and Nikon SLR – what? Putting aside $3000++ of photo power for machines costing 1/10th as much? Now don’t get me wrong – the Canon and Nikon SLRs do deliver notably better sharpness, less noise and many more shooting options in both still and video shots. But like the iPad and iPhone the compact cameras have 5 winning characteristics which the SLRs are hard pressed to match:
1)compacts are very light and self contained – no gadget bag of lenses and extras required;
2)compacts are very convenient to carry, often fitting in a shirt pocket. I carry one everywhere;
3)compacts match if not better SLRs for battery life – typically 200-400/shots per battery;
4)compacts deliver low light images rivaling SLRs in some cases;
5)But compact cameras cost 50-70% less than the price of an SLR.
And I have not mentioned that compacts also deliver at least 720p HD video and a number of specialized goodies like panoramic images, HDR exposures, and video at ultra-high frame rates.
To my delight, the NYTimes agrees with 3 of my top choices:
David Pogue’s story today in the NYTimes covers 3 of my top 6 favorite compact cameras for 2010. The slide show shows the attributes of these 3 cameras; but there are 3 other cameras which may garner your attention despite having slightly smaller sensors. Here are those 6 compact cameras in alphabetical order because I find them hard to choose from. Match features and prices to your needs:
Canon Powershot S95 – $400, 3.8xZoom, 10MPixel, 1280x720p video, Manual+Auto shooting modes, Raw+JPG image file options, Hybrid camera shake filter, f2.0 28mm wide lens
Casio EXFH100BK – $300, 10xZoom, 10Mpixel, 40fps burst mode image capture with special BestShot control, video 1280x720p 30fps, 1000fps for 240p video, DNG RAW file option, Manual/Shutter/Aperture shooting modes, low light corrections
Nikon CoolPix S8000 – $240, 10xZoom, 14.2Mpixels, 1280x720p video, 3″ 920Kpixels viewing screen, f2.4 30mm base lens, Smart Portrait face and smile detection
Panasonic Lumix DMC-S7ZR – $315, 12xZoom, 12Mpixel, 1280x720p with refocus with zoom, Camera shake Image Stabilization 3 modes, 4 exposure modes including manual
Samsung TL500 – $445, 3x zoom, 10Mpixel, 30fps 640x480p video, Image stabilization, Manual+ 3Auto shooting modes, JPG+RAW image file options, low light corrections, f1.8 24mm base lens
Sony Cybershot DSC-H55- $200, 10xZoom, 14Mpixels, 1280x720p video, Manual+ 3Auto shooting modes, JPG+RAW image file options, Sweep Panoram shooting, HDR-High Dynamic Range shots
These compact cameras have a trade-off in size, MPixels, features, zoom range, video recording capabilities and quality of images, especially in low-light situations. Buyers will put different weights on these capabilities. This reviewer is putting more emphasis on low light,low noise and sharp images plus video at 1280x720p with refocussing for zoom shots. Yes, as you guessed, no camera delivers all the goodies. My favorites are the Casio for video performance, Sony for value+image features, and Samsung and Nikon for low-light still picture taking. Okay, so you have to take along an SDcard and try before you buy. But expect very good natural light performance in both video and still images with all these cameras. Also image stabilization has come to compact cameras so you will have to work at getting blurred images. Take one on me!