In this rundown of
cameras for ’08, we
provide you with the
details for selecting
the right camera—
with the right
projects and needs.
For a complete guide
to understanding various
refer to “SmartWare Buyers Guide 2006: Digital Cameras”
by Eric Grevstad on
pages 68-72 of the
Feb/Mar 2006, V11N1
issue of Dynamic
As megapixels go, so goes the digital camera industry.
Or so it would seem, based on industry statistics.
According to the Camera and Image Products
Association (CIPA)—a trade group based in Japan—Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras flew off
the shelves at a record pace in the first half of 2007.
Sales of those with eight megapixels or more—a category
that only recently represented the upper limits
of imaging technology—grew by 156 percent.
Overall in the first half of 2007, manufacturers
shipped 42.4 million digital still cameras, a 27 percent
increase from the year before. Of that total,
nearly 3.38 million were DSLRs. That’s just a sliver
of the total pie, but a 75 percent increase over the
first half of 2006.
There are a couple of possible explanations for
this tremendous growth. One is that professional
photographers have at last fully embraced digital
technology, driving demand forward at a record pace.
Except for a few film purists, the pros are finally putting
their film cameras to rest.
Or it may just be that amateurs, hobbyists and
non-photo specialists—many of whom have known
only digital—are no longer satisfied with the creative
control (or in some cases, the lack of control) offered
by an ever-expanding selection of fixed lens point-and-shooters roaming around out there.
Perhaps it’s a combination of both. In any
case, the good news about the high-end cameras
has inspired a healthy selection of DSLRs and SLR
look-alike models (see Sidebars below for a list of cameras
featured in our 2007 Digital Camera Guide). A few
cameras—like the new entry-level offerings from
General Electric and the immersible Olympus Stylus
SW770—remind us that choosing a digital camera
is still a daunting task. As long as there are literally
hundreds of offerings, some with differences so minute
as to be insignificant, choosing a digital camera
will not get any easier.
To find a camera that’s right for you, do your
homework, take your time, compare specs, consult a
knowledgeable camera retailer and talk to someone
who has bought a camera recently. You may find
competitive prices online, but you can’t truly appreciate
the camera/shooter interaction until you’ve held
the camera in your hands.
Remember: In the hands of a visual communicator
like yourself, a digital camera is a tool—one of
many you use to explore ideas and express yourself.
Start with the right tools and you’re halfway there.
1. GE A730
Yes, the internationally known appliance brand is
now emblazoned on a line of digicams from General
Imaging. The A730 is an entry-level option, sporting
an impressive 7.0 megapixel image sensor and
3x optical zoom, but no viewfinder (LCD framing
only) and limited manual control.
2. Canon PowerShot A630
The PowerShot A630 offers a well-balanced design
that is slightly larger than palm-sized, but small
enough to tuck in a pocket. It’s easy enough for
a novice to operate, but offers enough control to
master most common situations. The 8.0 megapixel
sensor is coupled with 4x optical zoom for a 35mm
equivalent focal range of 35mm–140mm. Keep it on
hand for quick, no-hassle reference shooting.
3. Olympus Stylus 770 SW
OK, so you’re not going to play catch with this
little gem. But if you should happen to fumble it,
sit on it or drop in the pool, it just might survive
(which is more than you can say for most). When
it’s done with the underwater tricks, the 770 SW
distinguishes itself with an impressive 7.1 megapixel
image sensor, 3x optical zoom and loads of features
for fun and creativity.
4. Samsung NV20
Like previous NV entries, the NV20 features the
unique Smart Touch interface, which allows for
easy navigation by sliding a finger across buttons
around the 2.5-in. LCD screen. The sharp, ultrathin
body evokes old-school styling, but it’s built to
contemporary standards, with a 3x zoom Schneider
Kreuznach lens, image stabilization and a full range
of automatic and manual shooting modes.
5. Nikon CoolPix P5000
Image quality has always been a priority with Nikon.
This lightweight, but solid, model upholds that fine
tradition. Professional-grade optics, 10 megapixel
image resolution, vibration reduction to dampen
camera movement and a clean, uncluttered design put
the P5000 near the top of the under $500 crowd.
6. Panasonic DMC-LX2
Open wide for a compact with a different view—a
unique 2.8-in. LCD monitor, 10.2 megapixel imager
(16:9 ratio), and 28mm wide-angle lens. Great for
groups, landscapes and stills, though image stabilization
means it’s ready to get in on the action.
Uncluttered controls are packed with functions for
everyday shooting needs.
7. Canon PowerShot TX1
Giving Canon’s well-known ELPH technology a
twist, the TX1’s unique vertical design makes it
ideal for one-hand operation. The 1.8-in. variableangle
LCD monitor is somewhat stingy by today’s
standards, but you can still move in close with the
surprising 10x optical zoom. It’s function and flexibility
from a new angle.
8. FujiFilm FinePix S8000fd
The Fujinon 18x (27mm–486mm equivalent) optical
zoom is one of the largest available on a compact,
fixed-lens SLR. Image stabilization reduces
blurs caused by camera motion, and face detection
zeros in on subjects for optimal focus and exposure
in any light. The 8000fd has the functionality of
larger, pricier models, without the cost or fuss.
9. GE X1
While it’s not likely to dislodge anyone at the top
of the heap, the GE X1 should be a contender in
the category that General Imaging (which licenses
the GE brand) calls “prosumers.” The X1 boasts
advanced image stabilization, 12x optical zoom,
a 2.5-in. LCD screen, face detection, panoramic
stitching and a hefty but comfortable handgrip.
Scheduled to ship in early 2008.
10. Olympus SP-550 UZ
The SP-550 UZ shoots telephoto (up to 18x optical
zoom), wide-angle (28mm equivalent) and macro (as
close as 1cm) with the same optics as “professional”
DSLRs. The 7.1 megapixel imager is supported by
image stabilization, full manual control mode, up to
15 fps burst shooting and ISO 5000 for extreme low
11. Canon PowerShot S5 IS
Here’s a full-featured, 8 megapixel update of the
popular 6 megapixel S3 IS. Of special interest are
the 12x optical zoom (36mm–432mm equivalent),
an optical viewfinder (as well as a variable-angle,
2.5-in. LCD), image stabilization, face detection
and a hot shoe for external flash.
DSLR (DIGITAL SINGLE LENS REFLEX)
12. Pentax K 100D Super
Here’s a full-featured, affordable DSLR with shake
reduction, an effective dust-removal system and full
compatibility with Pentax lenses. Rugged and compact,
the K 100D Super offers professional capabilities
on a tight budget.
13. Nikon D40x
Nikon’s smallest digital SLR packs a lot of power
in its compact frame. Boasting an improved image
processing engine and 10.2 megapixels, the camera
is able to power up in 0.18 seconds and can accommodate
rapid-action shots of up to three frames
per second. The D40x also comes with a versatile
in-camera editing system that allows users to correct
red-eye and brighten pictures.
14. Olympus EVOLT E-410
If the price doesn’t leave you starry-eyed ($899),
the performance of this feature-packed DSLR will.
Billed as the smallest, lightest unit in its class, the
E-410 ships with a 14mm–42mm Zuiko digital
lens and shoots JPEG and RAW formats. The 10
megapixel imager turns out stunning clarity and
color, and a proven effective anti-dust system keeps
things clean. Reviews are good on this promising
15. Sigma SD14 images
There’s ample technology in this camera, which
opens many creative opportunities. The exclusive,
14 megapixel Foveon sensor (the highest resolution
on our list) captures rich, 3D color like no other
DSLR on the market. Where the Sigma SD series
once offered only RAW format, the SD14 now
records JPEG as well. Compose in a large, bright
viewfinder or on a 2.5-in. LCD, with well-placed
controls and built-in flash.
16. FujiFilm FinePix S5 Pro
This DSLR has carved out a niche with portrait
and wedding photographers, but its 12.3 megapixel
resolution, ISO 3200 sensitivity, blazing 1/8000 sec.
top-end shutter speed and Nikkor lens compatibility
make it a performer in almost any situation.