Digital Crave

CNET names the best compact digital cameras

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Some consumers believe digital cameras are obsolete. As smartphone cameras improve the frugal consumer might see a compact digital camera as a redundant purchase. Market numbers agree – digital camera sales were down a staggering 30% in 2012. However, BuyVia says there is still room for a digital camera in your life - which is not surprising considering they have the name "buy" in their title – but it depends on who you are and what you want to do.

"Even though smartphone cameras are improving, they still haven’t caught up to digital cameras in certain areas," writes BuyVia.

Some of the benefits of digital cameras include better picture quality, better video quality, less shutter lag, more lens options, better low light capabilities, better flash and larger storage capacity. These qualities may appeal to parents of small children, action photographers, nature photographers, bloggers, and athletes - or people shooting athletics. As such, here are the top 11 compact digital cameras – rated on a 5-star scale – according to CNET.

1. Fujifilm FinePix F900EXR
4 stars

"If you crave a compact megazoom that gives you a lot of control over your results, look no further than the Fujifilm FinePix F900EXR."
CNET likes this camera because it has features targeted at the hobbyist photographer – manual controls, direct access to settings, and raw capture. Its performance and picture quality are excellent. On the down side, getting used to Fujifilm's EXR sensors takes a little getting used to. The menus and controls also take some adjustment.

Cyber-shot DSC RX100

2. Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II
4 stars

"The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II's combination of looks, speed, flexibility, and photo quality makes it a great choice for enthusiasts who can afford the price tag."
This Sony camera delivers excellent photos, speedy performance, and a broad feature set in an attractive, compact package. However, CNET noted the camera "tends to clip bright highlights more than we typically see, and the slippery body lacks a grip." The lack of a manually triggered macro mode might put off some fans of close-up photography.

Canon Powershot

3. Canon PowerShot SX280 HS
4 stars

"Wi-Fi connectivity and a new processor help make Canon's PowerShot SX280 HS one of the top compact megazooms available. But you'd better load up on batteries."
CNET likes the Canon PowerShot SX280 HS for its shooting modes for every type of photographer from casual to advanced; a useful long zoom lens with excellent image stabilization; and overall excellent photo and video quality for a compact megazoom. However, they're not kidding about stocking up on batteries. The battery life is short, especially if you use the Wi-Fi and GPS features or movie capture.
"The flash isn't in a great location, and there are no easy panorama or HDR shooting options."

Cyber-shot HX50V

4. Sony Cyber-shot HX50V
4 stars

"Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-HX50V is an excellent compact megazoom suitable for snapshooters and enthusiasts, though the latter might be turned off by some aspects of the camera."
Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-HX50V is the smallest, lightest camera with a 30x zoom. CNET likes its large assortment of shooting options, direct control over exposure compensation, and excellent photo and video quality for its class. A Multi Interface Shoe lets you attach a flash, mic, or electronic viewfinder. "Despite the additional manual controls and Multi Interface Shoe, the HX50 lacks a couple of things enthusiasts value: a large sensor and raw capture. The flash, mic, and viewfinder accessories are expensive. A slow lens limits its usefulness indoors."

Cyber-shot RX100

5. Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100
4 stars

"The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100's compact, elegant design, generally excellent photo quality, bright, fast lens, and speedy performance make a great package if you don't mind spending a little more money."
CNET likes this camera for its speed, good looks, and pretty pictures. However, they say the camera tends to clip bright highlights and the slippery body lacks a grip – like other Sony cameras. "The lack of a manually triggered macro mode might put off some fans of close-up photography."

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS30

6. Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS30
4 stars

"A fully loaded travel zoom that's fun to use, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS30 has a lot to offer both advanced and casual snapshooters."
CNET says the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS30 offers a lot of features in a compact body including a 20x zoom lens, 3-inch touch screen, Wi-Fi for remote control of the camera as well as easy sharing, high-speed and full HD movie capture, and GPS. Photo quality and shooting performance are very good for its class. However, "the power and Wi-Fi buttons are too easy to accidentally press. There's no raw capture option. Battery life can be short if you do more than just take photos. Photos look soft and have visible noise/artifacts when viewed at full size even at its lowest ISO."

Cyber-shot DSC RX1

7. Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1
4 stars

"With a terrific lens and a great full-frame sensor, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1 delivers the best photos we've seen from a fixed-lens camera. But that doesn't come cheap." CNET's highlights include great photo and good video quality in a camera with a nicely functional and fluid shooting design. On the down side, the camera lacks a viewfinder, autofocus is sluggish, and there's no focus peaking in video mode.


8. Fujifilm X20
3.5 stars

"The Fujifiilm X20 is a great choice for people looking for a well-designed photographer's camera, but the basic feature set and disappointing video might not be for everyone." CNET says A new sensor lets the Fujifilm X20 deliver better photo quality than its predecessor, and tweaks to the design improve the shooting experience significantly. On the other hand, "the lens-twist-to-turn-on is getting old fast, and the feature set provides just the basics. Plus the video quality disappoints."

Fujifilm X100S

9. Fujifilm X100S
3.5 stars

"A great enthusiast compact for manual-focusing fans." CNET likes the Fujifilm X100S because it produces excellent photos, and an updated viewfinder adds to the camera's increasingly streamlined shooting design. What they don't like is the lens, which has a few quirks, as does the autofocus system.

Cyber-shot WX300

10. Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX300
3.5 stars

"If you miss having a zoom lens, but don't want to add too much bulk and weight to your travels, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX300 is a very good choice." The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX300 has built-in Wi-Fi, a fantastic battery life. and a large variety of auto shooting options. "The camera's weight and size can make it difficult to keep steady when using the zoom lens, the screen is difficult to see in bright sun, and the lens has small apertures at both ends, making the zoom best suited for daytime, outdoor use."

Fujifilm XF1

11. Fujifilm XF1
3.5 stars

"The Fujifilm XF1 is one of the nicest-looking point-and-shoots available and it performs well, too. But its photos and features might not please some enthusiasts." This is a good-looking camera that's a lot of fun to shoot. CNET says it has a fast f1.8 maximum aperture and captures in raw and raw plus JPEG. It also has a healthy selection of shooting options and a good control layout. However, "some of its best photos come at the cost of control and resolution. The lens gets much slower when zoomed in. There's no option to add an external flash or viewfinder."

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