The Best Digital Compact Camera

I have now looked for possible candidates for my shortlist of digital compact cameras. I have used my favorite photo site dpreview in finding promising cameras, and also “doing the bing” and googling!

My requirements are generally that of someone wanting a compact camera to complement their DSLR. In my case it should complement my Canon EOS 550D – when I for some reason do not want to bring it with me but still want to bring a camera. I should probably also point out that I require my photos to come out of the camera looking good – without much need for further processing! I seldom take RAW pictures and whatever adjustments needed to an odd picture now and then must not be further off than it should be possible to do with the JPG! On this type of “point-and-shoot” camera I will use “Auto” most of the time and would like the camera to handle the most common situations well! For example white balance in the shade and cloudy conditions should work well. (I know it is difficult…) The camera should give pictures that resemble the ones from the Canon EOS 550D.
It must of course be much more compact! 😉
For those that are in a hurry – a hint:  Look at the picture just above! 😉

Summarizing my digital compact camera requirements:
(See the full description of my requirements here!)

  • Sensor – not too much over 10 MPix, back lit is a bonus
  • Orientation sensor – so that I can have the computer rotate the pictures automatically
  • Lens – 24-28 mm wide angle, minimum 4-5x zoom, aperture larger than f 1:2.8, min focus 5 cm
  • Flash – being able to use it really close
  • Shutter – long times (> 10 sec manually and >1 sec automatically)
  • ISO – wide range 100-3200, Auto-ISO with setting for highest ISO
  • Panorama support – for full size pictures where all pixels are used
  • Screen – 3″ or bigger – NOT wide screen and > 200 000 pixels
  • Movie Mode – HD 1280×720 minimum – but full HD 1920×1080 with autofocus and zoom during filming is a bonus
  • Image quality! – similar colour saturation, contrast and hue as Canon EOS

I have my eye on a relatively new camera that will use the latest technology to produce pictures of high quality! I know that this is one of the hardest requirements to check! Relying on the manufacturers sample pictures is not an option for me! Their pictures are usually taken under ideal circumstances so they give little indication of how good pictures the camera produces under normal everyday conditions! At the end of the day it is the image quality that matters most to me! (But how you get through the day also matters – especially if the end result is very similar!) I should probably add that I do want the pictures to come out of the camera looking beautiful – I do not want to spend hours in front of the computer tweaking and improving the pictures all the time! (I know this is a slight exaggeration work wise – but I want the wast majority of JPGs to be ready for use at once!)

This second time around I am looking real hard for sample pictures before I decide! Below you can see what I found out by searching the web! If you ever want to compare sample pictures go to the “Comparometer” – it is quite handy and they have lots (but not all cameras I am sorry to say…) of studio sample pictures! It was great help to compare the cameras I was interested in!

The Best Digital Compact Camera – shortlist

Panasonic DMC-FX700
A 14 Mpix sensor is a little on the high side and not back lit. Good fast lens – f 1:2.2 and good close up distance of 3 cm. Let down by its 230 000 pixel screen. Really good long shutter times 60 sec manual and 8 sec automatic! Panorama support for taking adjoining pictures. Mysterious wide angle limit of 29 mm when filming! Good battery life.
Sample photos shows not so good pictures at higher (320) ISO and I am not really impressed with the noise at lower ISOs either. That is enough of proof for me…
So this has to go!

Sony DSC-WX5
12 Mpix backlit sensor. Good fast lens – f 1:2.4 and good close up distance of 5 cm. OK screen 460 000 pixel screen but “only” 2.8″. Limited long shutter times 2 sec manual and only 1 sec automatic! Sweep panorama support. Very tempting 3D support! Unknown battery life. But why 5 hour battery charge!?
Sample photos better than the Panasonic DMC-FX700 but pictures at higher (400) ISO is not that impressive – a little colourless. Noise at lower ISOs is ok but still not overly impressive. Sharpness of lens seems good.
I am sorry – but this has to go!

Sony DSC-HX5V
10 Mpix backlit sensor. Not so fast lens – f 1:3.5 but 10x zoom and good close up distance of 5 cm. Let down by its 230 000 pixel screen. Good long shutter times 30 sec manual but only 1 sec automatic! Sweep panorama support. GPS! Good battery life. But why 5 hour battery charge!?
Sample photos similar to Sony DSC-WX5 – low ISOs looks OK  but pictures at higher (400) ISO is not that impressive – a little colourless. (Is this a common problem with back illuminated sensors?) Noise at lower ISOs is ok but still not overly impressive. Sharpness of lens seems good.
I am sorry – but this has to go!

Sony DSC-TX9
12 Mpix backlit sensor. Not so fast lens – f 1:3.5 and only 4x but very good close up distance of only 1 cm. Very good 3.5″ screen 921 000 pixel. Limited long shutter times 2 sec manual and only 1 sec automatic! Sweep panorama support. Very tempting 3D support! Medium battery life.
Sample photos shows not so good pictures at higher (400) ISO and I am not really impressed with the noise at lower ISOs either. Very handy size … but it is picture quality that counts …
This has to go!

Fujifilm FinePix F300EXR
12 Mpix backlit sensor. Not so fast lens – f 1:3.5 and a whooping 15x and a good close up distance of  5 cm. Good 3.0″ screen 460 000 pixel. Alright, but not outstanding long shutter times 8 sec manual and only 2 sec automatic! Sweep panorama support. Medium battery life.
This sounded REALLY good on specs – but got a really bad review in the swedish “Foto”-magazine!
Because of that bad review  this has to go!

Canon Powershot S95
10 Mpix backlit sensor. A very fast lens – f 1:2.0 but only 3.8x zoom – good close up distance of 5 cm. Wide angle only 28 mm – I have been spoilt by all the others 24 mm wide angles …! OK screen at 460 000 pixels. Good long shutter times 15 sec manual but only 1 sec automatic! Panorama support for taking adjoining pictures! Battery life – unknown.
Sample photos low ISOs looks really GOOD and pictures at higher (400) ISOs looks better than most other compact cameras I have checked out! Sharpness of lens seems good.
This one stays!!!

Panasonic DMC-LX5
10 Mpix backlit sensor. A very fast lens – f 1:2.0 but only 3.8x zoom – very good close up distance of just 1 cm. OK screen at 460 000 pixels. Very good long shutter times 60 sec manual but only ? sec automatic! Panorama support for taking adjoining pictures! Battery life – unknown.
Sample photos low ISOs looks really GOOD and pictures at higher (400) ISOs looks better than most other compact cameras I have checked out! Sharpness of lens seems good.
This IS quite troublesome! Soo good it competes with the Canon S95 – which should pick? Both the Canon S95 and the Panasonic LX5 produce really beautiful pictures – so this could turn out to be a dilemma! I am not intending to buy two! 😉 The LX5 produce slightly colder skin tones than I would ideally have – so that is at least a small minus… As I am looking for a compact camera to bring with me when I am too lazy to bring the Canon EOS 550D and I have “compact” in my requirements – luckily the choice is not that difficult! The LX5 is alittle too bulky – or to be more correct it is not compact enough! I can not point out enough that having ones requirements clear – helps a lot! But the DMC-LX5 is a tough contender – especially as I would normally carry it in a small camera pouch attatched to my belt … so being a little bulkier does not really matter that much!
This camera is really good – but the lens is sticking out a little too much making it to bulky – so it has to go! (This also throws out a few other cameras that are not compact enough!)
(Probably The S95 and the LX5 should not really be compared – even if they both produce pictures of such very high quality – they seem to have different aims! To my thinking, the Canon G12 seems a more close candidate to the LX5!) 

At last!  I have selected (what I think is) the best digital compact camera for me! The Canon Powershot S95. 🙂 It was not an easy selection since the LX5 also is so good! But a bit bulkier! If I had let “bulkier” (and it is a relative word) cameras be included I would have to have had the Canon G12 included as well… A lot of other compact cameras offer 24 mm wide angle lenses – which I would have liked to have … but none of them had as good image quality as the S95! At least sometimes I can use panorama pics to help get a wider angle! I had to give up an other feature to get as good IQ as the S95 … full HD movies …

The tricky thing for me has been to balance what I think is “high quality images” against compactness – I did not want to end up with something like my Canon EOS 550D – which is compact by DSLR standards but still bulky – and does not fit in a (normal size) pocket! 😉 And also balance compactness against zoom range, wide angle, and other features … and finally not forgetting the price!

I have just placed an order with Amazon UK – with free delivery to Sweden! Now I just have to wait … In roughly 10 days I should have it in my hands! I will write one of my reviews of it and let you know how well I think it handles and of course put up some sample pictures – comparing it to my gold standard – the Canon EOS 550D! Hopefully helping some of you make your choice!


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  1. #1 by batonghiyas on January 31, 2012 - 10:12

    I am having a dilemma of choosing between canon s95 and sony wx10 😦

    • #2 by sfennl on January 31, 2012 - 21:40

      A nice dielmma – between two very good cameras. But they are quite different in features! So if you go only by features the choice should not be that difficult…well it might still be difficult…
      I have no experience of the Sony WX10 picture quality wise so I can not help you with that. What I can say is that the S95 is really good and you probably saw a few samples in my blog. The Sony should also produce good pictures but it seems to be a less expensive camera with a LOT of extra features which could mean that thay have saved a little on picture quality … on the other hand cameras gets cheaper all the time and the sensors develop so that might not apply at all! The sample pictures I have seen looks very good … but I have not been able to compare the same picture taken with both cameras.
      To help you at all I would need to know a little more about your requirements.
      Photoman

  2. #3 by wall hugger recliners for rvs on May 24, 2013 - 07:05

    I do not know whether it’s just me or if everybody else encountering issues with your website. It seems like some of the written text in your posts are running off the screen. Can someone else please provide feedback and let me know if this is happening to them too? This may be a issue with my internet browser because I’ve had
    this happen before. Many thanks

    • #4 by sfennl on May 26, 2013 - 18:30

      Hello,

      I can’t say I have been able to replicate your problem … and I am using a WordPress theme (Fusion) so I do not control the details of the formating.
      If you see this problem on other blogs using the same theme – please report it to WordPress!
      Thanks for reading my blog!
      Photoman

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