Wednesday, April 6, 2011

High-Performance Compact Cameras

There are dozens of compact digital cameras on the market in a wide variety of shapes and even colors.
By Mike Stensvold Published in SLRs
High-Performance Compact Cameras



Video: 720/24p
Eye-Level Finder: Optical
RAW-Capable: Yes
List Price: $499


Dimensions: 4.5x3.1x1.8 inches
Weight: 12.7 ounces (w/battery & card)
Nikon’s top compact for serious shooters, the P7000 features bigger pixels than most compacts and Nikon’s new EXPEED C2 image processing for better image quality and a wider usable ISO range. One of our favorite features, Zoom Memory lets you return to a selected focal length at a touch. Tone Level Information provides a histogram and lets you check balance between highlights and shadows. Optical and electronic VR (vibration reduction) help keep things sharp at slower shutter speeds.

Verdict: Though not Nikon’s newest compact model, the P7000 is still our favorite in the Nikon lineup, with an excellent zoom range from wide to tele, plus i-TTL compatibility with Nikon Speedlights.

Power: Li-ion EN-EL14
Sensor: 10.1 MP CCD 1/1.7 inch
Lens: 28-200mm ƒ/2.8-5.6 (35mm equivalent)
ISO Range: 100-3200 (expandable to 6400)

LCD Monitor: 3.0-inch, 921K
Max. Burst Rate: 1.3 fps at full res



Video: 1080/30p
Eye-Level Finder: None
RAW-Capable: No
List Price: $329


Dimensions: 4.1x2.3x1.3 inches
Weight: 6.7 ounces (w/battery & card)
Nikon’s new coolpix P300 features an extremely fast maximum aperture at the wide end of its 4.2x zoom lens, a backside-illuminated, 12.1-megapixel CMOS sensor, ISO settings to 3200 and optical VR (vibration reduction) to deliver good results in tough lighting. Backlight HDR mode combines multiple shots at different exposures in-camera, and Night Landscape mode combines multiple shots taken at higher shutter speeds for better tonal range and noise levels.

Verdict: We love fast apertures, and ƒ/1.8 at the wide end of the P300’s range makes it ideal for soft-focus backgrounds or tackling low-light conditions.

Power: Li-ion EN-EL12
Sensor: 12.2 MP CMOS 1/2.3 inch
Lens: 24-100mm ƒ/1.8-4.9 (35mm equivalent)
ISO Range: 160-3200

LCD Monitor: 3.0-inch, 921K
Max. Burst Rate: 8 fps at full res



Video: 720/30p
Eye-Level Finder: Optional EVF
RAW-Capable: Yes
List Price: $499


Dimensions: 4.4x2.6x1.7 inches
Weight: 9.7 ounces (w/battery & card)
With a large CCD sensor (for a compact camera), CCD-shift stabilization and a wide-to-tele iZuiko zoom that’s very fast throughout its range, the XZ-1 is a good low-light compact. The fast lens and larger-than-most sensor also let you limit depth of field for selective-focus images. Another DSLR feature that’s rare in a compact camera is the XZ-1’s ability to control off-camera flash units wirelessly (there’s also a built-in flash unit). There’s no built-in eye-level finder, but you can attach an optional EVF to the accessory shoe.

Verdict: A fast maximum aperture and relatively large sensor make this our top compact from Olympus.

Power: Li-ion 50b
Sensor: 10 MP CCD 1/1.63 inch
Lens: 28-122mm ƒ/1.8-2.5 (35mm equivalent)
ISO Range: 100-6400

LCD Monitor: 3.0-inch, 921K
Max. Burst Rate: 2 fps at full res

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