Buyer's Guide 2008: Advanced Compact Cameras
Travel light with high-megapixel, long-range zoom cameras
BUILT-IN FLASH VS. HOT-SHOE
On cameras that have only a built-in flash, the direction of the flash can't be changed. You can't bounce light, and you can end up with that all-too-familiar washed-out look, with everyone looking like the walking dead-unless the camera allows you to adjust the intensity of the flash, like the Fujifilm FinePix 9100. It has Intelligent Flash or iFlash, which adjusts the flash output to complement the scene conditions so subjects always appear natural.
With the exception of a few cameras, most in this class have both a built-in flash and a hot-shoe so you can attach a better flash with more features and a tilting head for bouncing light off a wall or a ceiling. Or, you can get a flash with wireless capability so you can take it off the camera and put it wherever you want.
Because the histogram—a graphic representation of an image, from pure white to pure black-is the single best tool for determining if you have a good exposure, we recommend buying a camera that has this feature. That way, you can snap a picture, check the histogram and see right then and there if you need to make any adjustments before you take another shot.
Some cameras even offer real-time histograms. Both the Panasonic DMC-FZ18K and Fujifilm FinePix S9100 allow you to review a histogram before snapping the shutter. As advanced as metering systems are now, they're not perfect. Sometimes they get it wrong, and a poor exposure isn't always obvious when images are displayed on a 2.5- or 3-inch LCD.
The latest addition to Canon's G-Series, the Canon PowerShot G9 has a whopping 12 megapixels. The 6x optical zoom has a range of 35-210mm (35mm equivalent), which can be extended with optional wide and teleconverters. Optical image stabilization helps ensure sharp images at any focal length. Shots can be composed live on the 3-inch, anti-glare, anti-scratch LCD. And with the new intelligent orientation sensor, the LCD will switch between vertical and horizontal views to match how you're holding the camera. The G9 features both manual and auto modes, including 16 scene modes. It also has adjustable white balance, 11 different color modes, an ISO sensitivity up to 3200 for low-light conditions, and the ability to capture a maximum of 1.5 frames per second. List Price: $500.