Compact digital camera group test


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 results.

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 F10.

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