Recommended Cameras: Compacts

This is the first part in a 3-part series of recommended cameras.

First we will look at compact cameras – aka point-and-shoot cameras. I could just tell you to get a Canon S100 and be done with it, and you’d be happy. But I’ll go into a bit more detail…

Overall Winner: Canon Powershot S100 (review) $400

Canon S100 – the only compact camera you’ll ever need!

The undisputed champion of all small sensor compact cameras! Well, that’s my opinion anyways. Why?

  • class leading ISO performance in a reasonable 12 megapixel sensor
  • front control ring (programmable for key settings)
  • customizable shortcut button
  • rear control dial (also can be programmed)
  • small form factor, very pocketable
  • durable body and construction with a nice finish and decent grip
  • HD movie recording at the press of a button in any mode

More than just these bullet points – the S100 just works. It’s easy to use for a beginner, and there’s plenty of room to grow for anyone who wants to explore photography further. I had the preceding S90 for 2 years (review), and recommended that camera to at least 5 people who bought it. The verdict? They all loved it, unequivocally. There’s also something to say about a camera that I dropped at least 10 times from waist high on the ground, and kept on shooting, proudly wearing its scars. The front control ring is one of my favorite things about the camera, allowing you quick access to a few key controls, my favorite being white balance trim. With a price tag of about $400, it’s not the cheapest compact on the block, but you get your money’s worth.

Underwater Compact: GoPro ($199 to $299)

GoPro HD Hero 2 Surf Edition

Summer is fast approaching, and there’s another undisputed king in this category: GoPro. Forget about the models from the traditional camera makers. With the recent signing of the likes of Kelly Slater, and video quality steadily improving, GoPro is here to stay. The HD Hero 2 is awfully enticing, with everything from full 1080p HD video to 120fps video to 10fps continuous still shooting. And they are ridiculously cheap. The Hero 2 packs the following features:

  • 11MP Sensor for stills
  • Full 170º, Medium 127º, Narrow 90º FOV in 1080p
  • 120 fps WVGA/60 fps 720p/48 fps 960p video/30 fps 1080p video
  • Full 170º and Medium 127º FOV Photos
  • 10 fps continuous shooting
  • 1  Photo per 0.5 Sec Timelapse Mode

Superzoom Compact: Canon SX260 HS ($299)

Canon PowerShot SX260 HS

Everyone wants the longest zoom. And compacts are packing zooms longer than ever nowadays. The Canon SX260 HS packs a powerful 20x zoom into a pocket sized body, ranging from and insane 25mm to 500mm. Superzooms used to start around 35mm, so it’s nice to see them getting wider and wider, as 25mm is a true wide angle (though not ultrawide). Additionally, it has a smart-sensing IS mode depending on the situation, good set of manual controls should you wish to explore further, a wide array of creative filters for in-camera processing, built-in GPS, full HD video recording, and perhaps most importantly, a proven track record on image quality. With a current price tag of about $299, it’s also affordable.

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