DigitalCameraReview.com
Digital Camera Buyer's Guide: Compacts
by Andy Stanton -  10/23/2008
Ultracompacts | COMPACTS | Ultrazooms | DSLRs

Compact cameras are larger than ultracompacts and are usually powered by two AA batteries - alkaline or longer-lasting lithium non-rechargeables, or NiMh rechargeables. Compact cameras can fit in a large pocket or purse. They are usually more versatile than ultracompacts and contain features that ultracompacts lack, such as manual controls and long optical zooms.

A compact camera is a good gift for someone who wants to learn about photography, but is not ready for a larger, more sophisticated camera.

Under $200

Canon PowerShot A590 IS

Canon PowerShot A590 IS


The A590 is one of the best bargains available in digital cameras. For a price of less than $150, you get an 8 megapixel camera with a 4x optical zoom, face detection, motion detection, optical image stabilization, an optical viewfinder, and full manual controls including aperture priority and shutter priority modes. The A590 IS has a very sharp lens and good all-around picture quality. This small camera is ergonomically pleasing, with a comfortable right-hand grip.

Overall, it's an excellent gift for someone who wants to take more than basic snapshots.

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Nikon Coolpix P60

Nikon Coolpix P60


This 8 megapixel camera is about the same size and shape as the Canon A590IS and also has a prominent right-hand grip. It has a 5x optical zoom, optical image stabilization, face detection, and a useful feature called D-lighting - a post processing tool which improves the picture in high-contrast shots. The P60 also has manual exposure options, though it lacks aperture priority or shutter priority.

Unique among compact cameras is the P60's electronic viewfinder, which consists of a small version of the LCD screen and is very useful in sunny lighting conditions where the LCD is hard to see.

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$200-$300

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5


The 9 megapixel TZ5 is a sturdy, compact camera that has a long 10x optical zoom and a wide-angle 28mm lens. Unlike most compact cameras, it runs on a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. The lens, made by Leica, is excellent, with good overall sharpness and minimal distortion.

Picture quality is very good and the TZ5 can record video in high definition. The TZ5 has an Intelligent Scene Selector and optical image stabilization. It lacks a viewfinder, but has a very sharp, high resolution screen.

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Canon PowerShot SX110 IS

Canon PowerShot SX110 IS


The SX110 IS is a 9 megapixel compact camera with a 10x optical zoom and optical image stabilization. It has very good overall picture quality and its macro function allows you to take a photo as close as 1cm away. The SX110 IS has full manual controls, including aperture priority and shutter priority. It makes an excellent gift for someone who wants to learn more about the art of photography.

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Over $300

Canon PowerShot G10

Canon PowerShot G10


The Canon G series cameras have always been considered among the best point-and-shoots. The new version, the G10, has recently been released and early reviews indicate that it carries on the tradition of quality.

The G10 has a 14.7 megapixel sensor, a 28mm wide angle lens, a 5x optical zoom, an optical viewfinder, and a clear, high resolution LCD screen. Its lens is very sharp, with minimal distortion, and it has superb picture quality, especially in good light. While it runs on a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and has a strong flash, it includes a built-in hot shoe, to allow the attachment of a separate flash. The G10 allows you to shoot in raw format, which produces more detailed photos that have not been processed by the camera. It also includes full manual controls as an option. While the G10 is heavier than most compacts, its build quality is superb.

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3


Panasonic's competitor to the G10 for the title of the ultimate compact camera, the 10 megapixel LX3 is smaller and lighter in weight, but includes many impressive features. It has a very wide 24mm lens and a 3x optical zoom. It has a sophisticated sensor that enables the LX3 to provide very good picture quality in low light, as well as excellent picture quality in good lighting situations.

Like the G10, the LX3 includes a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, a flash hot shoe, full manual controls, a super-close macro mode, and the ability to shoot in raw format. The LX3 also has a high definition video option. It lacks a viewfinder but has a very high resolution LCD screen.

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