If camera phones have got people thinking twice about the need for a decent snapshot camera, no one's told the camera manufacturers. Canon, Nikon, Sony, Panasonic, Fujifilm, Kodak, Pentax, Casio, Samsung, and Olympus all continue to produce point-and-shoot cameras in a wide array of shapes, sizes, and abilities. The variety is amazing, bordering on downright silly.
This is why the question "What's the best point-and-shoot?" is difficult to answer; while one camera might excel in low-light conditions or photo quality, it'll more than likely come up short in design, usability, performance, price, or in some other area. Sure, I can stack up some cameras with some similar features and prices, but with so many variables it's very difficult to be specific. But, I'll give it a shot.
Below is a list of the best cameras--or at least those worth considering--that fall under a particular type, size, or feature. These are ones that left a strong enough impression on me to make me recommend them again and again to readers, friends, and family. None of them is perfect, but they have pluses that outweigh the minuses. If you're after the best photo quality in a compact camera, Canon's PowerShots are your best bet. However, their shooting performance tends to be behind those from Panasonic and Sony.
While I'm at it, there are a few things you should keep in mind when shopping for any point-and-shoot camera. For capturing kids, pets, or any other fast-moving subjects, you really need a digital SLR. A couple here are pretty quick--the Panasonic ZR1 and Sony WX1 come to mind--but if you're regularly shooting things in motion you'll want to step up to at least an entry-level dSLR. I suggest the same for those wanting the best in low-light shooting without a flash (though again, there are a couple here worth buying).
Optical viewfinders are all but gone from new models. Canon still has a few, but the rest of them are nothing but LCD. Lastly, most of these models use proprietary something or other: a memory card, cable, or, most typically, a battery. It's irritating, occasionally frustrating, and adds to the overall cost of a product--definitely worth keeping in mind when you're shopping.… Read more
On September 16, Pentax launched the K-x, an entry-level-ish digital SLR that it's offering in navy, red, white, and black versions. While different body colors are not unusual for point-and-shoot digital cameras, offering more than a black dSLR is still rare. (In fact, just Pentax and Sony offer color options, currently.)
Unfortunately, after testing many snapshot cameras available in a single color as well as those offered in several colors, I've developed a working theory that the more colors a camera comes in, the more likely there's something wrong with the model.
It's not the case … Read more
Continuing its tradition of aggressively priced dSLRs, Pentax's K-x model breaks the low ground by offering video capture support in a kit that costs less than $650: the body alone for Nikon's D5000 runs about $700, Canon's EOS Rebel T1i a bit more and Sony and Olympus don't even offer video yet. And for good or ill, Pentax will also be offering navy and red versions a month after launch, as well as its Stormtrooper white and traditional black models. According to Pentax, women traditionally constitute 20 percent of its dSLR sales, but that increased to 50 percent for the white K2000/K-m model. As such, I wanted to thank Pentax for not offering a pink version, as well as for using a single naming convention for the US and the rest of the world.
Now that the K200D has been disoncontinued, the K-x sidles up next to the dirt-cheap K2000 in Pentax's product line; unlike many crowded competing dSLR lineups, the K-x it differs enough from its line mates that Pentax shouldn't bewilder its own customers.
Like the cheaper models, the K-x runs off 4 AA batteries--some people think that's a plus, others not so much--has the same superior-for-its class viewfinder as on the K2000, and looks like it uses a similarly austere design, color choices notwithstanding. It introduces a 3-shot High Dynamic Range capture feature which debuted in the K-7 and sounds like the one in Sony's recently announced (and more expensive than the K-x) Alpha DSLR-A500 and A550 and creative filter modes à la the K-7 and Olympus.
Here's where it fits in Pentax's current lineup:… Read more
Pentax's dSLRs may be the attention-getting cameras for the company, but its point-and-shoot Optio line deserves some recognition, too. Even if it's only for their lenses and prices.
The P80 is a refresh of the Optio P70, a decent ultracompact camera that had the unique feature of letting you shoot vertically using the control pad on back for a camera phone-like experience. It looks like most of the specs are the same, too: 12 megapixels, 2.7-inch LCD, and a 4x, f2.6-5.8, 27.5-110mm-equivalent lens. There's still no optical or sensor-shift image stabilization, but at … Read more