Thursday, April 2, 2009
Toolbox: Top Compact Cameras
For candid and casual photography, today’s fixed-lens cameras offer near-SLR performance and some unique tricks all their own
The Olympus SP-590UZ is the new superzoom leader, equipped with a whopping 26x wide-angle optical zoom (equivalent to 26-676mm), blazing high-speed 10 fps sequence shooting (with some limitations) and full Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual exposure modes. It incorporates image stabilization to keep that big zoom steady and also features HDMI output for viewing images on your HDTV. The SP-590UZ offers 12-megapixel resolution and Advanced Face Detection that can spot up to 16 people simultaneously for perfectly focused and exposed faces. It has a 2.7-inch LCD monitor that’s optimized for all viewing conditions, including bright sunlight. Dual memory-card support (xD Picture Card and microSD) is provided. List Price: $449.
A camera that’s finding its way into the jacket pockets of many D-SLR shooters is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3—and it’s easy to understand why. It features a 24mm wide-angle Leica Summicron lens that has an exceptionally fast ƒ/2 aperture for low light (or controlled depth of field) and full Manual, Aperture and Shutter Priority exposure modes. It features a large, sharp 3.0-inch LCD monitor, a hot-shoe for advanced flash options, provides RAW file format capture and records movies in 1280x720 at 30 fps. An external button allows you to pick from three switch-selectable aspect ratios: 16:9, 3:2, 4:3. Bottom line, the Lumix DMC-LX3 offers small size, a complete feature set and outstanding low-light performance, with optical image stabilization and the ability to deliver low-noise images even at high ISO settings. List Price: $499.
The Pentax Optio W60 qualifies as a valuable alternative to a D-SLR despite the fact that it lacks some of the high-end features found in other cameras. The Optio W60 will deliver up to two hours of continuous operation at an underwater depth of four meters (13 feet). That’s JIS Class 8 waterproof performance for you technical folks. It’s also dust- and grimeproof—use it in the mud, then rinse it off in the sink. This 10-megapixel marvel has a 5x nonprotruding wide-angle zoom lens and a 2.5-inch LCD display. It offers ISO settings up to 6400, Face Recognition and HD movie capture. In many ways, it’s the perfect camera for those “I don’t want to take my D-SLR out because it looks like rain” days. And if you have an outdoor pool, you absolutely need this camera. List Price: $299.
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