Compact camera sales dominate the digital imaging market, appealing
to a broad range of photographers, from those who want the simplest point-and-shoot,
to enthusiasts who are after a pocketable alternative for when they can't
carry their more serious equipment.
To cater for such a wide range of customers, there's an equally
wide variety of models available. Some are truly tiny, slipping virtually
un-noticed into shirt pockets, while others attempt to balance the comfort
of a larger grip with reduced pocketability. Some appear almost bereft of
controls so not to intimidate beginners, while others try to closely match
the options of traditionally higher-end cameras.
Many of today's models feature surprisingly high resolutions
and are packed with features like huge colour screens, high sensitivities
and respectable movie modes. There's certainly plenty to compare when you're
in the market for a new compact camera, but it's easy to become blinded by
specifications, or playing a numbers game which could bear little importance
to your requirements.
At Camera Labs we believe a good quality compact could be one
of the best investments you'll ever make. It will end up travelling almost
everywhere with you and be responsible for recording some of your most memorable
events. As such we strongly believe you shouldn't skimp when buying a compact,
but at the same time you don't need to spend a fortune to enjoy excellent
So over the following pages we've taken four of the most popular
mid-range models and put them through their paces in our first compact camera
group test. We've tested Canon's chunky but powerful PowerShot A620, Fujifilm's
highly sensitive FinePix F11, the tiny Pentax Optio S6 and the futuristic
touch-screen action of Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-N1.
Rather than review each camera in turn, we've singled out the
most important features, such as resolution, lens and screen, and compared
the models side-by-side so you can easily work out which will be best for
you. For the less experienced photographers out there we've also explained
exactly what these features actually mean and what you should be looking out
for when buying.
Higher-end photographers may wish to skip these explanations
and head straight for our Results pages where we've performed exactly the
same gruelling tests we would for any high-end product. After all, optical
and processing quality is equally important whether a camera's slung round
your neck or slipped into a pocket.
For examples of how each camera performs in day-to-day use,
check out our Gallery section, or if you're really busy, just click straight
through to our Verdict page to see which camera impressed the most. Finally,
to discover the best price on any of the cameras - while supporting us at
the same time - simply click the price-check links through to the store websites
or consider buying from Amazon using the links below.
Note: at the time of writing, the Fujifilm FinePix F11 was not
on sale in the US. This may change in the future, but for now the US market
will stick with the earlier F10 model. The main differences are the F11 has
Aperture and Shutter Priority modes, a higher resolution LCD and a slightly
better Macro Mode. Its gun-metal finish is also slightly darker than the silver