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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

It Takes Two (or Three)

It's hard to get by with just one camera nowadays. Even if you shoot with a topnotch digital SLR there will be times when it's not convenient to carry it with you-at a formal dinner party, for example, or at the grocery store. Under those circumstances it may be better to have a high quality compact camera that will slip into a pocket or purse. That way you will not miss that "once in a lifetime" shot of the kids being kids-or the boss wearing a lampshade on her head-simply because you left all cameras at home.

There are other times when a DSLR is too cumbersome but you still need most of the versatility, particularly the extended zoom. A baseball game is a good example, or when you're stalking the backyard birdfeeder. In those situations, a hybrid such as the Olympus SP-570UZ with its 20X zoom and SLR-like features may be just the ticket. Or the Nikon 18X zoom CoolPix Z80, or 15X Sony Cyber-shot DSC H50. All of these cameras deliver most of the features you look for in a DLSR at a fraction of the weight and bulk. They lack lens interchangeability, of course, but offset that deficiency with a long zoom. In many cases, the zoom begins at true wideangle, as is the case of the aforementioned Olympus which has a zoom that covers the equivalent of 26~520mm. On the other hand, cameras of this ilk offer what some consider to be a major advantage: live view, all of the time. You can compose and preview right on the LCD.

If it's big-camera functionality in a smaller package that you're after, take a serious look at the very serious Canon Powershot G9. It won't quite fit in a normal-sized pocket but it's plenty compact enough to fit in a small bag or briefcase with room to spare. And it provides many big-camera features, including 12-megapixel resolution and RAW format image capture.

Do your leisure time activities take you near water-as at the beach or in a boat? Both Pentax and Olympus offer quite capable compact digital cameras that can be fully submersed without damage. Even if you're not an aquanaut, having a digital camera that performs in thunderstorms and blizzards is often the difference between getting dramatic images-and getting nothing. The Pentax W60, for example, will serve you well as an all-around, everyday camera-even on rainy days. The Olympus Stylus 1030SW is not only waterproof, it's tough, too: it can be dropped from a height of about six feet without being harmed and can be sat on by a normal size person without being crushed. It also features a 3.6X zoom that begins at 28mm and 10-megapixel resolution.

So while it is possible to have only one camera that you use all day, everyday, it's probably more fun to have a second (and maybe third) camera that you use for special applications when the need arises. After all, you use a fork, spoon and a knife to enjoy a banquet-why rely on one utensil to capture the world?

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