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Old Jul 21, 2008, 7:54 PM   #1
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Hi all. I used this site over five years ago to research and purchase my first and still current digital camera, an Olympus D-550 Zoom. It still works fine, but I am long, long overdue for an upgrade, so I'm back. This time around, there is an overwhelming number of models, so I'm hoping to find some help to narrow my search.

This camera will primarily be used for "point and shoot" purposes. When I run/attend certain events, or am hanging out with friends, I'd like to be able to have it with me to take as many random shots as I want. On occasion I'll get the urge to take some artsy shots with my mini-tripod, so I'd also like it to have a few more options than your standard consumer camera (the Olympus mentioned above has none at all).

Here are some of the important things I'm looking for:
-Size: Compact. I need it to fit comfortably in my pocket, even when sharing space with a wallet or cell phone.
-Zoom: My current 2.8x zoom often leaves me wanting more. I see that the current standard is 3x, but if possible I'd like the extra reach of around 5x or more.
-Resolution: I don't think this matters very much, as long as the image quality is good. I would think anything around 7-8 MP or above would be fine. I just need it to have a decent enough resolution that it won't be replaced in the near future.
-Lag: I really need a camera that has a short start-time as well as short lag between shots. As stated above I'll usually have the camera off and in my pocket, and I'll often want to turn it on and take a few shots quickly. This is one of the worst aspects of my Olympus; it has very long lag between shots.
-Options: I'd like to be able to play around with the settings on those rare occasions when I'm in the mood, so the ability to change ISO, shutter speed, white balance, etc. would be great.
-Features: This is more of a question than anything else. I see "Image Stabilization" and "Face Detection" on many models now, and they sound like rather good features to have. But, I'm not sure what exactly they do and whether I really need them.
-Viewfinder: I prefer to have the option to use my eye instead of the LCD, but more importantly, I find that using a viewfinder improves battery life by huge amounts.

I think that about sums up what I'm looking for. If anyone has a few choice models to recommend based on my preferences, please reply. There are so many nowadays that I'm finding it hard to compare them all, so it would really be a big help.

Thanks.
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Old Jul 21, 2008, 9:26 PM   #2
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For ultracompacts with a viewfinder your options are limited to Sony and Canon. Sony makes the W120, W130, W150, W170 and W300. Canon makes the SD1100IS, SD770IS, SD870IS and SD890IS. These cameras range in price from about $200 to over $300. They are all small, reasonably quick and take good looking photos in good lighting conditions. None of them will do particularly well in challenging lighting conditions (low light without a flash). Also, none of them have full manual controls. They all have face detection and optical image stabilization. The former is kind of a gimmick, but the latter is really useful in countering the effects of camera shake.
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Old Jul 22, 2008, 12:59 PM   #3
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Okay. I cross-referenced your list with Steve's Best list, and that left me with the Sony W120, W150, and W200 and the Canon SD1100 IS and SD770 IS. Upon remembering that Sonys still use memory sticks, I'd really rather stay away from them, so of the two brands I'd probably rather get a Canon. Of the two Canons, I'd likely get the 1100IS.

However, my decision to get a camera with a viewfinder seems to be really limiting my options. Am I putting too much weight on this? Does having a viewfinder really make as much difference (for battery life or otherwise) as I think it does? Would your (or anyone else's) recommendations change if I removed the viewfinder requirement?
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Old Jul 22, 2008, 2:56 PM   #4
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If you leave off the requirement of the viewfinder, I'd add the Fuji F100fd, the Panasonic FX35, Panasonic FX500, Canon SD870IS and SD790IS.

My top ultracompact cameras overall would be (in alphabetical order):
Canon SD890IS
Fuji F100fd
Panasonic FX35
Panasonic FX500
Sony W300

While Steve's list is a very good guide, don't limit yourself to just those cameras as Steve hasn't reviewed every camera and Steve's list is just one person's opinion.

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Old Jul 23, 2008, 12:19 AM   #5
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I'm not sure how it fits with your ultra-pocketable requirement, but there are a few cameras with an external flash hotshoe.

In that hotshoe you can fit external viewfinders, the cheapest (but still very good) are those made by Cosina for the Voigtlander cameras.

As P&S viewfinders are basically useless nowadays, people who really want a great optical viewfinder are going the external finder route.

Cameras you might consider:
Ricoh GX200
Canon G9
Panasonic LX3 (Just announced and looks very nice)

The Canon has the biggest zoom though, and includes its own (poor) optical viewfinder, but allows you to mount an external finder. The only downside to the Canon is that its widest setting is only 35mm, the Ricoh goes to 28 and the panny to 24.
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Old Jul 23, 2008, 10:39 AM   #6
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Thanks for all the suggestions. Yeah, those three with the external slots are a bit larger than what I'm looking for.

The Canon SD890IS is interesting. It's the only Canon model with both a viewfinder and 5x zoom. It seems to be just what I'm looking for, but I'm slightly skeptical of the strange shape and plastic body. Hmm.

More recommendations, and opinions on whether a viewfinder is really important for this type of camera, are welcome.
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