Generous zoom ranges and enhanced controls make these cameras a good option when portability is essential
Basics: The 12-megapixel SP-590UZ boasts a monster 26x 26-676mm (equivalent) ƒ/2.8-5.0 optical zoom lens with optical image stabilization, yet weighs under a pound. It provides both an eye-level electronic viewfinder and a 2.7-inch, 230,000-dot LCD monitor. The SP-590UZ shoots JPEG still images at ISOs from 64-6400, plus 640x480 video. Dimensions are 4.3x3.5x3.6 inches, weight is 15.3 ounces, and the camera runs on four AA batteries. Images are stored on xD-Picture cards (or microSD cards, with adapter). List Price: $449.
Special Features: The SP-590UZ can shoot up to 25 3-megapixel images at 10 fps, up to 25 5-megapixel images at 6 fps and up to 5 12-megapixel images at 1 fps. Along with the tremendous focal-length range, it can focus down to 0.39 inches in Super Macro mode.
The Hook: A 26x zoom lens provides the focal-length flexibility to handle just about anything, photographically. That the wide end is truly wide is especially nice for epic landscape vistas and shooting in tight quarters, while the 676mm (equivalent) long end is longer than many wildlife and action shooters use. And, of course, you get everything in between. Now, that’s flexibility.
Verdict: Featuring the widest focal-length range of any compact digital camera as of its introduction, the SP-590UZ is a great choice when you want focal-length flexibility.
Basics: The 12.1-megapixel Lumix DMC-FZ35K has a 27-486mm (equivalent) ƒ/2.8-4.4 optical zoom lens with Power O.I.S. image stabilization. It provides both an eye-level electronic viewfinder and a 2.7-inch, 230,000-dot LCD monitor. The FZ35K can shoot JPEG and RAW images at ISOs from 80-6400. Dimensions are 4.6x3.0x3.5 inches, weight is 12.9 ounces, and the camera comes with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Images are saved on SD/SDHC cards, and there’s 40 MB of internal memory. List Price: $399.
Special Features: The FZ35K can shoot 1280x720/30p AVCHD Lite video, with Dolby Digital Stereo Creator sound via built-in microphone. You also can shoot video at 848x480, 640x480 and 320x240 resolutions.
The Hook: HD video lets you record moving pictures that look great on an HDTV. Being able to shoot still images in RAW format provides better image quality and gives you far more control if you like to improve your images in the computer.
Verdict: Combining an 18x wide-to-supertelephoto optical zoom, 12.1-megapixel still images and HD video in a compact package, the FZ35K lets you handle just about any shooting need, still or movie.
Basics: The 12-megapixel X70 features a 24x 26-624mm (equivalent) ƒ/2.8-5.0 optical zoom lens with sensor-shift Shake Reduction. It provides both an eye-level electronic viewfinder and a 2.7-inch, 230,000-dot LCD monitor. The X70 can shoot JPEG still images and HD video, with ISOs from 50-6400. Dimensions are 4.4x3.2x3.9 inches, weight is 14.5 ounces, and the camera comes with a rechargeable D-L192 lithium-ion battery. Images are stored on SD/SDHC cards, and there’s 33.6 MB of internal memory. List Price: $399.
Special Features: The X70 can shoot seven full-sized still images at 4 fps, 7 medium images at 6.3 fps or up to 21 5-megapixel images at 11 fps. In macro mode, you can focus to within 1 cm (0.4 inches) of a subject. Besides 720 HD video at 15 fps, the X70 can shoot 848x480, 640x480 and 320x240 video at 30 fps.
The Hook: A number of digital cameras offer face-detection AF, where the camera recognizes and optimizes exposure for human faces in a scene. The X70 can do this for up to 32 faces in approximately 0.33 seconds, great for group shots. The camera also can be set to fire when a subject smiles and even to warn the photographer when a subject blinks.
Verdict: This is a do-it-all camera, with focal lengths from true wide-angle to supertelephoto, HD and SD movie modes, and extreme close-up capability.
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