Technology improves every day. So do compact cameras. I distinctly remember a time, some few years ago when I had to review a 5 or 6 megapixel compact.
It was so poor in its image quality that I wanted to mention that no one should touch that camera even with a 10-foot pole! Of course, being a good soul that I am (ahem!), I refrained from being that harsh.
New features are offered each day; old ones are improved upon. With each improvement, cameras do get increasingly complicated. Many times, a single button or switch performs multiple tasks. To further aggravate things is the fact that many users do not take the trouble to study their instruction manuals. The end result? Going by the number of users regularly asking “which compact should I buy?”, I would say, the end result is – no decision!
To help you decide the best camera you could buy, we have short-listed top 10 compacts. We have not considered interchangeable lens compact cameras (ILCCs) as they are designed for a different segment of users. Here we have considered the build quality, key features, ergonomics , overall performance, and of course, the price. We are not saying which is the best, for ‘the best’ would depend on your needs, likes and dislikes. All we are saying is that these are the 10 best compacts you could buy today. The options are in alphabetical order. Take your pick!
Canon PowerShot G12
Canon’s G series have over the years acquired the reputation of being the professional’s choice of a compact camera. The G12 continues that tradition. Beautifully finished and sporting a magnesium alloy body, the G12 uses a 10MP CCD and Canon’s DIGIC 4 processor to produce above average results. The 28-140mm f/2.8-4.5 5X zoom lens gives enough focal range to capture most subjects. Nine AF points, full manual control, spot metering and a tilt and swivel 2.8 inch LCD screen complete the specs. The G12 produced good, saturated results with impressive dynamic range for a compact camera. Noise control was also admirable. Along with Panasonic’s LX-5, the G12 vies for top honour in the compact camera race.
* AF-Quite quick, even in low light. * Metering-Good * Optical VF-Disappointing * LCD-Clear and sharp * WB-Goodn Noise control-Good, at lower ISOs * Video-Good, but most settings cannot be manually changed. * Cost: Rs. 31,995
Canon PowerShot S95
The S95 is the best Canon camera in the S series and very close to the G12, overall. A 10 MP sensor and DIGIC 4 processor are common to both cameras. The S95 comes with a 28-105mm f/2-4.9 lens that features both vertical and horizontal image stabilization. A bright and clear 3 inch LCD monitor, manual focusing, spot metering and full manual control are on offer. Fast and accurate autofocus, accurate White Balance and good noise control were the hallmarks of the S95. The only negative is that Canon do not supply a printed instruction manual. Nevertheless, a very strong contender in the compact camera stakes.
* AF-Fast, accurate * LCD-Bright and clear * WB-Accurate n Corner darkening-Yes * Flare/CA- Strong CA and flare * Slight barrel distortion * Noise control-Good, up to ISO 800 * Cost-Rs. 26,995
Fujifilm Finepix X-100
Fuji’s X-100 evokes nostalgic feelings from the past. The design, which is very successful, is reminiscent of old Leica and Zeiss rangefinder cameras. The camera features a high quality 35mm fixed lens with an aperture of f/2. A 12.3 MP CMOS sensor is supported by Fuji’s new and improved EXR processor. The advanced viewfinder can switch between optical, electronic and hybrid modes. Although autofocus is a little slow, the X-100 delivered sharp results with good control over noise. If you are a retro person and can afford the asking price, you will not be disappointed.
* Sharp images * APS-C size sensor n Distortion-not noticed * AF- Slow. Difficult to AF in low light * Corner darkening-Prominentn Flare/CA-Yes, distinct * WB-Good n Noise control-Excellent * Cost- Rs. 66,999
Nikon Coolpix P300
Nikon’s P300 is perhaps Nikon’s answer to Canon’s S95. The P 300 comes with a 12.2 MP sensor, a high quality 24-100mm f/1.8-4.9 lens and full manual control. A 3 inch 921,000 dot LCD screen and image stabilization are the other USPs. The P300 is well finished, works well and produces above average images. Its macro mode, which allows you to get as close as 3cm from the subject, is another plus point. True, the sensor is smaller than that of Canon’s S 95 or Panasonic’s LX-5; also there is no RAW or manual focus. There is, however, no denying the fact that the P300 promises and delivers virtually everything else.
* Build Quality-Excellent * Optical VR-Yes * AF- Fast even in low light * Overall sharpness-Good * Noise control-Excellentn Corner darkening-Yes (noticeable) * Flare-Yes (prominent) * Distortion-Slight barrel throughout the zoom rangen WB- Good * Cost-Rs.16,950
The Nikon Coolpix P7000 is a professional level compact camera, launched as a possible competitor to Canon’s G11 and G12. Loaded with cutting-edge features, the camera uses a 10.1-megapixel CCD sensor and the new EXPEED C2 image processing engine. The camera has a 28-200mm equivalent lens with lens-shift Vibration Reduction. The lens is constructed with 11 elements in 9 groups including 2 ED elements. It can capture HD movies at the best quality of 1280 x 720 pixels at 24 fps. The camera has a 3-inch, 921,000-dot LCD monitor. The P7000 produced excellent image quality, especially when shot in RAW format and processed in Adobe Camera Raw.
* AF-Fast in good light; not so in low light n Sharp images * WB-Very good * LCD-Very high res (921,000 dots) * Noise control- Ok at lower ISOs * Flare-Reasonably well controlled n CA-Yes * Corner darkening-Yes * Cost- Rs.29,950
Olympus Tough TG-810
The Olympus Tough TG-810 is made for extreme weather and boasts a waterproof, shockproof and freeze-proof design. It is waterproof up to approximately 10m, shock proof up to 2m, freeze-proof up to -10 degree Celsius, and crush proof up to 100kgs. It is a 14 megapixel model and uses a 28-140mm equivalent lens featuring dual image stabilization. The TG-810 uses a TruePic III image processor and has an internal memory of 2GB. The camera can capture HD movies at 1280 x 720 pixels at 30 fps (720p). The battery/card chamber has a double locking mechanism to ensure that you do not accidentally open it. If you are looking for an all weather camera, look no further.
Build- Best in its class * AF- Could have been better * Darkening of corners- Yes * Flare- No * CA- Not seenn Distortion- None to be of concern * Overall sharpness- Good * White Balance- Excellent (best in class) * Noise control- Struggles to keep up * Cost- Rs. 20,999
The Olympus XZ-1 is a high-end compact camera, in the league of Canon G12, Nikon P7000 and Panasonic LX-5. Deviating from the norm of packing the sensor with pixels at the expense of effective light capture, Olympus has incorporated a 10-megapixel CCD that is larger than that of the G12. Combined with the new True Pic V processor, the device is designed to provide better image quality. The XZ-1 features a 28-112mm equivalent lens with maximum aperture of f/1.8-2.5, which is certainly top of the line.
* Build: Impressive * Lens: Best in its class * Wireless flash control: Yes * AF: Could have been faster * Darkening of corners: Not observed * Flare: Slight * CA: Slight magenta fringing * Overall sharpness: Goodn White Balance: Excellent * Noise control: Good * Cost: Rs.25,999
Panasonic Lumix DMC – LX5
Panasonic’s LX series have now carved a solid niche in the professional compact camera sector. The latest incarnation, the LX-5 is a further improvement on its predecessor, the LX-3. Solidly built and exquisitely finished, the LX-5 features a 24-90mm f2-3.3 Leica Vario-Summicron lens featuring Optical Image Stabilization. Sensibly, the LX-5 features a 10.1 MP 1/1.63 inch Type CCD sensor. Full manual control, RAW format, and a dedicated accessory shoe are added advantages of the LX-5. The LX-5 produced sharp results with excellent White Balance performance. The lens is a stunner when it comes to control over aberrations. Yes, we acknowledge that Panasonic’s sales and service network in India still has a long way to go. This should, however, not detract from the sheer quality of the product. The LX-5 is a winner.
* AF-Fast, accurate * Noise control-Good, at lower ISOs * WB-Excellent * Corner darkening- Not noticeablen Barrel distortion-Yes, throughout * Flare-Yes; CA-Not noticed
Of all the camera manufacturers, Ricoh has the lowest profile. As a result, the Company sometimes does not get the recognition that it deserves for its products. The CX5 is a good example.
Excellent build quality, a fine 28-300mm lens, sensor shift image stabilization and high resolution LCD monitor are some of the CX5’s USPs. Fast and accurate focusing, sharp results and excellent White Balance performance were the distinguishing features of this camera. Yes, there are no manual or priority modes but the overall package is still very attractive.
* AF- Fast and accurate in good light; struggled in low light * Macro performance-Good * Overall sharpness-Goodn Only P mode. No manual or priority modes n Corner darkening-Yes (mild, at f/8) * Flare-Yes * CA-Not noticeablen Distortion-None to complain about * WB- Excellent * Noise control-Good at low ISOs * Cost-Rs. 17,000
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V
Sony HX9V is a 16.2 megapixel compact super zoom camera that boasts Full HD movie capture, high speed autofocus, and backlight correction. The camera is rugged, providing a very secure feel, characteristic of Sony Cyber-shot cameras. The outer body is made of metal at the front and tough engineering plastic frame. The back of the camera houses a 3.0-inch LCD. The DSC-HX9V uses a 1/2.3-inch type (4.62 x 6.16mm) EXMOR R back illuminated CMOS sensor and features a BIONZ processor. The lens offers an optical zoom range of 24–384 mm equivalent featuring optical SteadyShot image stabilization. It can capture movies in AVCHD format at the best quality of 1920 x 1080 (50p, 28M, PS) approx. 28Mbps. On the flip side, Sony does not provide a printed or PDF instruction manual. The HX9V is easily Sony’s best compact camera in the market.
* Build Quality-Excellent * Optical IS-Yes * AF- Fast and precise even in low light * Excellent Macro performance * Overall sharpness-Good * Corner darkening-Marginal * CA-Mild n Distortion-Slight barrel at extreme telephoto endn WB- Excellent * Noise control-Good at low ISOs * Cost-Rs.17,990