While today's DSLRs – the least expensive models included - are amazing in every sense of the word, there's something special about a decent camera you can tuck away in your coat pocket or hang on your belt. Sure the DSLR will take a finer image, especially if you plan on making extreme enlargements or are shooting under less-than-desirable lighting circumstances, but if you have to think twice about taking your camera out for the day, there's a good chance it's staying home. But if you own a camera that’s mindless to carry about, there's a good chance you’ll have it handy when that amazing shot passes before your eyes. That said, here's a selection of the latest pocket rockets from the land of the rising sun.
Olympus brought two special guests to the party in the form of the crushproof, drop-proof, and waterproof Olympus 1030 SW and 850 SW. Both of these rugged mini-pups can withstand a drop onto concrete from 5 feet, the trauma of spending the day in the rear pocket of a 200lb man, or a 30’ dive under the waves. To help illustrate how they hold up to the extremes, the folks at the Olympus booth displayed the new cameras in an ice sculpture.
The Olympus 1030 SW packs a 10.1Mp CCD, a 28-102mm equivalent zoom lens, a scratchproof 2.7” LCD, and is available in Platinum Silver, Midnight Black, and British Green. The Olympus 850 SW contains an 8Mp sensor, a 38-114 equivalent zoom lens, a 2.5” LCD, and is available in Starry Silver, Midnight Black, and Metal Pink. If you want a pocket-sized digicam that can take a beating and keep on ticking you should take note of these pocket warriors.
Olympus 1030 SW
Nikon’s very cool line-up of CoolPix digicams contains a list of image and performance enhancements. The heaviest-hitters on the list include the CoolPix P5100, which packs a 12.1Mp CCD, a 3x (35-123mm equiv), 52Mb of built-in memory, SD card compatibility, an ISO range of 64 to 6400, Optical VR, ISO 3200 capability, and a high-fidelity 2.5” LCD in a neat, matte black-finished, grip-enhanced package.
Nikon CoolPix P5100
Nikon CoolPix P60
Similar in design are the 8.1 Mp CoolPix P60 (5x, 36-180 equiv, 2.5” LCD, 12Mb built-in memory, ISO 80-800, Optical VR, ISO 2000 capability) and CoolPix P50 (3x, 28-102mm equiv, 2.4” LCD, 52Mb built-in memory, ISO 2000 capability, Electronic VR).
Nikon’s ultra-slim S-series digicams kick off with the 10Mp CoolPix S600, which claims the title of both the world’s smallest body and the world’s fastest start-up time among similar cameras in its class. A 28-112mm equiv zoom, optical VR, an Active Child Mode, a 2.7” LCD, Face Priority with Auto Red-Eye, and D-Lighting for dead-nuts accurate exposures are among the camera’s many positive attributes.
Other models in the ‘S’ –series lineup include the CoolPix S550 (10Mp, 5x zoom, hi-res 2.5” LCD, Electronic VR, ISO 2000-capable), the CoolPix S520 (8Mp, 3x zoom, hi-res 2.5” LCD, Electronic VR, ISO 2000-capable), and the CoolPix S210 (8Mp, 3x zoom, 2.5” LCD, Electronic VR, ISO 2000-capable).
The Nikon CoolPix S51c has an 8.1Mp sensor, a 3x zoom, a hi-res 3” LCD, Electronic VR, and my Picturetown direct wireless transfer to the Internet and email accounts.
Nikon CoolPix S51c
The Nikon ‘L’, as in Large, series digicams are slightly larger than S-series CoolPix digicams, and are powered by ‘AA’ batteries, alkaline or rechargeable, in a choice of the CoolPix L18 (8Mp, 3x zoom, 3” hi-res LCD, Anti-Shake AE, and ISO 1600 capability) or CoolPix L16 (7.1Mp, 3x zoom, 2.8” hi-res LCD, Anti-Shake AE, and ISO 1600 capability)
Nikon CoolPix L18
The newest ‘flagship’ consumer digital camera in FujiFilm’s 2008 line-up is the FujiFilm FinePix S100FS, which incorporates expanded-range image capture similar to the technology found in FujiFilm’s professional DSLR, the S5 Pro. A new 2/3” 11Mp Super CCD sensor captures highlight and shadow details in places you used to simply write off as ‘not-possible’, with FujiFilm’s RP Processor III doing most of the dirty work.
A non-interchangeable zoom lens offers the range of a conventional 28-400mm zoom, and opens up to a fast f2.8 at the wide end and an effective f5.3 at the long end. Face Detection 2.0 (with auto red-eye reduction) can recognize up to 10 faces within a scene, even when angled to profile position.
The ‘FS’ in the name stands for ‘Film Simulation’, and as such the FinePix S100FS can be set to mimic the color, tone, and personality of FujiFilm’s popular Velvia and Provia film stocks.
Other features include Dual Image Stabilization, advanced mode bracketing for expanded exposure and color settings, a 2.5” tilt-able LCD, RAW and JPEG capture, xD and SD/SDHC compatibility, and a very sexy design. And if the pop-up flash isn’t enough for you, the ISO can be kicked up to 10,000 (at 3Mp capture).
If you like the FinePix S100fs but you need a camera with a longer lens check out the FujiFilm FinePix S1000fd, which packs an 18x, 27 to 486mm equivalent zoom lens. A 10.0Mp CCD sensor, Dual IS, Face Detection with RedEye Removal, a 2.5” LCD, and Intelligent Flash and exposure control make for a powerful, yet compact, travel companion.
FujiFilm FinePix S1000fd
The compact hottie of Fuji’s new line-up of digicams is the FujiFilm FinePix F50fd. Despite its tiny size, the F50fd packs a 12Mp, 7th-generation Super CCD, Dual Image Stabilization, Face Detection 2.0 with Automatic Red-Eye Reduction, ISO settings up to 6400, along with a bunch of other neat tricks.
Panasonic’s latest releases reflect a refinement of their proven imaging technologies, including Mega O.I.S (optical image stabilization), Intelligent ISO Control, Intelligent Scene Selector, which takes the guess-work out of choosing the best shooting to match the occasion, Intelligent Exposure Control, for keeping blown highlights in check, and Face Detection, which can identify up to 15 faces within a scene.
Most notable is the incorporation of Panasonic’s latest image processing engine, a.k.a. the Venus Engine IV, which reportedly offers tighter color, tone, improved noise-reduction, faster start-up times, reduced shutter lag, faster burst-rates, and improved exposure accuracy as compared to previous Venus Engine image processors.
All of the new Lumix digicams are now HD-capable in both still and video modes.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35B
Wide-angle lovers rejoice, for those wonderful folks at Panasonic have delivered what will probably be the season’s hottie for shooters who go for a healthy measure of depth and drama into their pictures. The Lumix DMC-FX35-series digicams feature a 4.4 -17.6mm Leica DC Vario-Elmarit zoom lens that emulates the field of view of a traditional 25-100mm lens.
Packing 7 elements in 6 groups, the new zoom boasts 4 aspherical elements and 6 aspherical surfaces, and opens up to an impressive f2.8 at the wide end of the range. Other features include MEGA O.I.S. to steady the bumps, an ISO range of 100 to 1600 (plus Auto), a shutter speed range of 8 to 1/2000th sec, and a ‘Starry Sky Mode’ that pops the shutter at 15, 30, and 60-second exposures.
Among the plethora of shooting modes are ‘Food’, as well as ‘Baby1’ and ‘Baby2” (cute baby and not-so-adorable baby?). Aspiring videographers have a choice of three video shooting modes including HD (1280x720 @ 30fps). Still and video clips can be viewed and edited using the FX-35’s 2.5” LCD. The DMC-FX35 accepts SD and SDHC memory cards in addition to 50Mb of built-in memory. The Panasonic DMC-FX35’s are available in Silver (DMC-FX35S), Black (DMC-FX35K), and Blue (DMC-FX35B).
Panasonic’s Lumix DMC TZ5
The Panasonic DMC-TZ4 also has a 28mm-equivalent 10x Leica DC Vario-Elmar zoom, with an 8.1Mp sensor and a 2.5” LCD. Both cameras also feature optical image stabilization.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ8 and DMC-LZ10 are wider-angled, higher-res updates of the DMC-LZ6 and LZ7. The DMC-LZ8 packs an 8.1Mp CCD and a Leica-designed 5x (32—160mm equiv) zoom, while the LZ10 ups the ante to 10.1Mp and a 30-150mm equivalent zoom. Both cameras accept SD/SDHC memory cards, contain 20Mb of built-in memory, and as you might guess both cameras contain all of the nifty Panasonic signature features mentioned above. ‘AA’ batteries power the show.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS10
Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-FS3 is a new compact Lumix-series digicam featuring an 8.1Mp CCD, a newly designed Leica DC Vario-Elmarit zoom lens with an equivalent range of a 33-100mm lens, Mega O.I.S., Intelligent ISO, Intelligent Scene Selector, Face Detection, a 2.5” LCD, and all the advantages of Panasonic’s new Venus Engine IV image processor.
And perhaps the most interesting new offering amongst all the new point-and-shoots is the Sigma DP1, which harks back to the Konica Hexar, Nikon’s T35 & T28, and Leica’s original Minilux as a serious lightweight (8.5 oz) compact (4.5 x2.3 x2.0”) camera. The Sigma DP1 utilizes the same 20.7 x 13.8mm, 14Mp Foveon imaging sensor found in the larger Sigma SD14 DSLR, which is far larger than the sensors found in conventional compact digicams, which according to the numbers translates into far better image quality.
Featuring a fixed 16.6/4mm (28mm equivalent) lens, the Sigma DP1 can prove to be a hot street shooting machine for those seeking a wide-angle look in a solid, well thought-out package. Images can be captured as JPEGs or RAW using 3 metering modes and 5 exposure modes. The DP1 AF system uses 9 focusing points to nail your subject and has manual overrides for focusing and exposure controls.
Other features include a 2.5” LCD, 30fps QVGA video recording, a built-in flash as well as a hot-shoe for use with Sigma’s EF-500 DG and EF-530 flashguns. The Sigma DP1 accepts 46mm filters.
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