Best compact cameras 2012: Best travel, tough, and pocket compact cameras
August 15, 2012
Tough cameras are ideal for the adventurous because they can operate underwater, withstand shock and freezing temperatures.
‘Travel-zoom’ compacts provide a host of shooting modes and a wide optical zoom range with some models over 20x. We round up what we think are the best travel compact cameras on the market at the moment.
Canon Powershot S100
Canon’s S100 is a true pocket camera with an elegant design and the sort of handling that dedicated photographers appreciate.
The camera’s 24mm f/2 lens has a 5x optical zoom and features a lens control ring which can operate various controls such as zoom, focus or shutter speed.
Furthermore a built-in ND filter can be applied for long shutter-speed exposures and is equally useful for making most of the f/2 aperture in bright sunlight.
Raw and JPEG images are recorded using a 12.1-million-pixel CMOS sensor and processed by the company’s latest Digic 5 processor. Shooting modes include HDR, high-speed shooting up to 9.6fps and all images can be embedded with location information using the GPS tagging function.
AP verdict: best compact camera for handling
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7
Street price around £450
Building on the company’s flagship compact camera the LX5, the LX7 also has a wide 24-90mm zoom lens. It is the fastest on the market at f/1.4-2.3.
An ND-filter with 3EV reduction is built-in to the camera, which enables use of these wide apertures in sunlight.
The imaging sensor is now a CMOS type with 10.1-million-pixels, whereas its predecessor uses a CCD type.
The lens has an aperture control ring, which works well with the rear dial for manual exposure adjustments, while a direct control for aspect ratio can be found on the lens barrel too.
Serious photographers will appreciate the hotshoe port, which works with the company’s (optional) electronic viewfinder.
AP verdict: best compact camera for fast lens
Sony Cyber-shot HX20V
We recently gave the HX20V a five-star review, because it is an ideal travel companion.
The camera is packed with features, not least of which is its 18.2-million-pixel back-lit CMOS sensor and 25-500mm (25x optical zoom) f/3.2-5.8 lens, which can be further extended to 1000mm using the Clear Image Zoom mode.
Thankfully, Optical Steadyshot is available for those telephoto images, enabling the use of slower shutter speeds when shooting handheld at the telephoto settings.
There are several shooting modes available, including a 10fps burst mode and a background defocus mode, but users will find the Superior Auto mode is perfectly capable of capturing most scenes. JPEG capture only is possible, and images are processed quickly and with pleasing end results.
AP verdict: best compact camera for travel
Street price around £400
Samsung has been the market leader in bringing wireless technology to its cameras, which is now in its flagship compact camera model, the EX2F, a camera that replaces the company’s EX1.
Its 12-million-pixel images can be sent to a smartphone for immediate sharing on social network sites.
There is more to the camera than its wireless functionality. The camera features a 24-80mm f/1.4-2.3 Schnieder-Kreuznach lens, which equals the lens of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 for speed.
Like its predecessor, the 3in AMOLED screen is bright, crisp and is articulated from its hinge on the side of the camera.
The body feels weighty and well made, with a tough brushed metal-effect top-plate.
AP verdict: best compact camera for wireless
Olympus Tough TG-1
Street price around £350
Olympus has a long line of ‘tough’ cameras, and the TG-1 is its current flagship model. It is shockproof to 2m, crushproof to 100kg, freezeproof to -10oC and waterproof down to 12m.
This is an all-metal body camera with hard glass lens front, designed for the elements and for the user who does not want to worry about breaking their camera.
While the emphasis is on the build quality of the camera, work has been put into the image quality too. Images are recorded using a 12-million-pixel sensor and 25-100mm f/2-4.9 zoom lens, and can be tagged with GPS data.
Although the camera has no option for manual exposure control, the auto modes are capable of good results.
Creative shooting is possible too, with a 1cm super macro mode and compatibility with the company’s fisheye or tele converters.
AP verdict: best compact camera for extreme conditions
Ricoh GR Digital IV
Street price around £400
The Ricoh GR series has been around since the company’s film models over 15 years ago – a series famed for its high-quality lenses.
Now in its fourth digital version, the slim-line camera is still a popular choice, especially for street photographers.
The fixed 28mm f/1.9 lens gives sharp results, and images are recorded using a 10-million-pixel CMOS sensor.
Key to the handling of the camera is its 1.23-million-dot VGA LCD screen, which makes use of a white pixel for every red, green and blue pixel, providing a display brighter than most other screens and ideal for use in bright daylight.
Other key features include sensor stablisation, dual-axis in-camera level, and hybrid AF system.
AP verdict: best compact camera for sharp lens