Review: High-End Compact Cameras

Want to shoot pro-quality photos without forking over a month’s salary? These high-end compacts have built-in lenses with specs so tasty they could make Terry Richardson drool all over his white walls.

1. Samsung TL500

The 3X wide-angle lens on Samsung’s flagship compact boasts a fast f/1.8 aperture that lets so much light hit the 10-MP sensor, it’s practically blinding. We captured gorgeous close-ups of flowers with lush, blurred backgrounds for a professional look; just don’t forget to use a superfast shutter speed in bright daylight or your highlights will be obliterated. In candlelit portraits, our subject’s face was sharp and evenly illuminated.

$450, samsung/p>

Rating: 8 out of 10

2. Canon PowerShot SD4000 IS

Canon was able to cram a nice f/2.0 lens into the SD4000’s slender and stylish body, making this a great camera for a night on the town. We got surprisingly sharp portraits of singers and musicians in tricky lighting at a rock concert. It was also rock-solid when shooting HD video, with decent stereo sound. Unfortunately, you’d miss all the action by the time you change settings on this annoyingly menu-driven compact.

get-gadget Built-in stabilizer helps keep the 10-MP images sharp. Great macro mode for close-ups of flowers, bugs, and set lists.

TIRED Image size shrinks to 2.5 megapixels in high-speed (8.4 fps) mode. Snazzy beveled edges cause camera to fall over on flat surfaces.

$350, canon/p>

Rating: 8 out of 10

3. Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX75

The good news? This 14.1-MP monster has a bright f/2.2 lens. The bad news? It has no manual controls to let you fully exploit the lens’s potential. Despite high-end components, this is an idiot-proof automatic model meant for the camera-phobic. Getting the lens to open to maximum aperture was a crapshoot, and we had no luck defocusing the background in our close-up shots of flowers.

get-gadget Helpful 24-mm to 120-mm focal range does right by everything from landscapes to long-distance candids. 3-inch LCD touchscreen. Records HD video in space-saving AVCHD Lite format.

TIRED Fully automatic functionality reduces creativity. Noisy low-light images. Dull design.

$300, panasonic/p>

Rating: 6 out of 10

4. Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX5

This pipsqueak paparazzo is outfitted with a 5X zoom seemingly made for a bigger model. The G-series lens—the moniker Sony uses for its top digital SLRs—is capable of opening up to f/2.4, but you have little control over it. The WX5 does offer one great noob-friendly feature—a Background Defocus mode that sets the lens to a wide aperture so you can focus attention on your subject.

get-gadget 3D Sweep Panorama automatically stitches together a 3-D-like image to show off on a compatible TV. HDR mode blends multiple shots into one with picture-perfect exposure.

TIRED Small body and buttons make it hard to shoot with. Weakest of the bunch in image quality.

$300, sony/p>

Rating: 5 out of 10

See Also:

  • Trickle-Down Features Color Panasonic’s Gateway Shooter
  • Olympus’ Little Retro Point-and-Shoot Costs Big Bucks
  • Jill-e Clutch Bag: Tote Your Compact Camera in Style
  • Fuji Introduces Compact 3-D Camera for Consumers
  • Nikon’s Stages Compact Comeback with Flash-Friendly P7000
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