Generous zoom ranges and enhanced controls make these cameras a good option when portability is essential
Basics: The 12-megapixel Samsung HZ15W features a 10x 24-240mm (equivalent) ƒ/3.3-5.8 optical zoom lens with optical image stabilization. It has a 3.0-inch, 230,000-dot LCD monitor. The HZ15W records images in JPEG format at ISOs from 80-1600 (and 3200 at reduced resolution). Dimensions are 4.1x2.4x1.4 inches, weight is 8 ounces, and the camera comes with a rechargeable SLB-10A lithium-ion battery. Images are stored on SD/SDHC cards, and there’s 21 MB of internal memory. List Price: $299.
Special Features: Besides that amazing, truly wide 24mm focal length, the HZ15W provides 720 HD video shooting at 30 and 15 fps.
The hook: Due to the tiny size of their sensors, you don’t see really wide lenses on compact digital cameras. So it’s remarkable to find a true 24mm (equivalent) focal length on the HZ15W, especially in a 10x zoom lens. It might not seem like 24mm is that different than 28mm, but try it and you’ll discover a markedly different wide-angle view. The 3.0-inch LCD makes it easy to compose your wide shot.
Verdict: An excellent choice for wide-angle fans, with HD video as a bonus.
Basics: The DP2 is built around the same three-layer Foveon image sensor used in Sigma’s flagship D-SLR and features a fast, wide 24.2mm (equivalent) ƒ/2.8 lens that was designed for that sensor. The 2.5-inch, 230,000-dot LCD monitor serves as the viewfinder. The DP2 can shoot 12-bit RAW or JPEG images at ISOs from 50-1600. Dimensions are 4.5x2.3x2.2 inches, weight is 9.2 ounces, and the camera comes with a rechargeable BP-31 lithium-ion battery. Images are stored on SD/SDHC cards. List Price: $649.
Special Features: Unlike conventional image sensors used in other digital cameras, the Foveon sensor used in the DP2 (and Sigma’s DP1 and SD-series D-SLRs) records all three primary colors at every pixel site. It does this by stacking three layers of pixels. The top layer records blue wavelengths, the middle layer green ones (which penetrate silicon deeper than short blue ones), and the bottom layer records red wavelengths. There are three 2652x1768-pixel layers, for a total of 14.1 million pixels.
The Hook: Because the Foveon sensor records all three primary colors at every pixel site, there’s no interpolation (guessing) required to fill in missing color data as with conventional sensors. And there’s no need for an image-blurring anti-aliasing filter. Thus, the Foveon sensor can deliver sharper images with more accurate colors. The APS-C-format Foveon sensor is also much larger than typical compact digital camera sensors with much larger pixels, which improves dynamic range and low-light capability.
Verdict: This isn’t a “bells and whistles” snapshooter’s camera, but rather a pocketable device providing complete control for the knowledgeable user, plus excellent image quality.
Basics: The 9.1-megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 features a 20x 28-560mm (equivalent) ƒ/2.8-5.2 optical zoom lens with optical image stabilization. It provides both an eye-level electronic viewfinder and a tilting 3.0-inch, 230,000-dot LCD monitor. The DSC-HX1 can shoot JPEG images at ISOs from 125-3200. Dimensions are 4.5x3.3x3.6 inches, weight is 17.8 ounces, and the camera comes with a rechargeable InfoLITHIUM battery. Images are stored on Sony Memory Stick PRO and DUO PRO media, and there’s 11 MB of built-in memory. List Price: $499.
Special Features: The HX1 can shoot 10 full-resolution, 9.1-megapixel images in one second. Sweep panorama mode lets you shoot a continuous series while panning the camera, and the camera will combine the images into a wide panoramic shot. The HX1 can shoot 1080/30p HD video with stereo sound via a built-in mic, plus 720 HD at 30 fps and 640x480 SD video. Twilight mode combines six images to cancel out noise for better image quality at any ISO setting.
The Hook: Most compact digital cameras can shoot low-res movies, but only a handful can shoot HD video. Even fewer can shoot 1080p full HD video. The HX1 not only does that, it does it with high-quality stereo sound, no accessories needed. Sweep panorama does automatically in-camera what used to take long hours at the computer.
Verdict: The HX1 is a versatile compact camera offering some unique and useful features.
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