Point & Shoots Steal the Thunder

Point & Shoots Steal the Thunder

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It’s no secret that sales figures for point-and-shoot digital cameras have taken a hit to the solar plexus. And you probably know that most marketing mavens attribute this to the emergence of wildly successful iPhones and high-tech smartphones with enhanced still and HD video capability that are now threatening to overpower the entry-level P&S camera segment.

However, instead of meekly capitulating to these ubiquitous do-everything marvels, camera manufacturers are striking back by unleashing an amazing new array of high-performance point & shoots with features and performance parameters that the most advanced cell phone cameras can’t match. Perhaps even more important, these cameras span the entire price/feature gap with street prices ranging from under $200 to over $1,000 for some enthusiast-aimed cult status models. In terms of features per dollar, or perceived value by consumers, many of the hottest new point & shoots offer an astonishing amount of camera for the money. Indeed, that is clearly the strategy camera makers have chosen to adopt in contesting this fiercely competitive market niche.

                           Defining Features: What Sets Them Apart?
For starters, the majority of cameras showcased in our “2012 Cool and Hot P&S Camera Roundup” deliver resolution of 14 megapixels and up, with several models providing 16MP and 18MP sensors. Many provide extended zoom ranges in incredibly compact, lightweight form factors, and all shoot HD video, with a majority offering Full HD at 1080p. Other defining features vary with the specific models, but they include built-in image stabilization, 3.0-inch LCD monitors, built in Wi-Fi and GPS, sizzling burst rates, panorama and 3D modes, extended ISO ranges, smart auto mode and an array of luscious color options to enhance personal pride of ownership.

In other words, quite apart from being effective combatants in the anti-cell-phone wars, these are cameras that are enticing in their own right and are clearly aimed at refreshing the entire category by providing dealers with a swifter-running revenue stream.

                     2012 Cool and Hot Point & Shoot Camera Roundup
Canon PowerShot Elph 530 HS. With sophisticated minimalist styling in the iconic Elph tradition, this slender (3.4×2.1×0.8-inch), lightweight (5.7 ounce) 10.1MP beauty packs a punch with a 12x, 28-336mm equivalent optical zoom lens, a 3.2-inch high-res touch-screen LCD, built-in Wi-Fi, six different image stabilization modes, and face ID, which optimizes focus on the faces the photographer chooses. It can also shoot Full HD 1080p video with stereo sound, and its smart auto function is claimed to cover 58 shooting situations. $349.99. usa.canon.com

Pentax Optio VS20. This elegant high-res 16MP compact measures only 4.4×2.4×1.5 inches, but it provides an impressive 20x (28-560mm equivalent) optical zoom range and a second vertical shutter-release button with zoom lever for portrait-oriented shooting. An intelligent zoom function extends its range to an amazing 144x to cover the focal length of a 4032mm super-telephoto lens without compromising image quality. Its vertical shutter release and zoom lever provide stability at long optical zooms and a comfortable grip, while a vertical tripod socket adds stabilized vertical support. It also offers 720p HD video capability, ISO settings to 6400, manual focus and a 3.0-inch LCD. $249.95. pentaximaging.com

GE E1410SW. In its Power series, this perky little critter from General Imaging has a 14.4 megapixel Aptina A-Pix CMOS sensor and a 10x, 28-280mm f/3.2-5.6 zoom lens, yet it’s only 0.7-inch thick, can capture sharp multi-burst photos and features a 3.0-inch LCD. Other features include: built-in optical image stabilization; 10-fps full-res bursts; enhanced light sensitivity; HDR capture; and Full HD video capture. It’s available in black, brown, red and champagne. $159.99. general-imaging.com

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1. Featuring a 16.1MP CCD sensor and a 10x Leica DC Vario-Elmar 25-250mm equivalent lens incorporating four aspherics for enhanced image quality, even during video recording, this svelte (3.9×2.4×0.9 inches) classic has a 3.0-inch intelligent LCD that automatically adjusts its brightness. It also provides new miniature effect and panorama shot modes and can capture 720p HD video with stereo sound, provides intelligent auto mode plus creative and auto retouch functions. It comes in black, blue, red and silver. $179.99. panasonic.com

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX200V. Aimed at adventure shooters who demand high performance in a slim (3.7×2.3×0.63-inch) form factor, this striking 18.2 megapixel waterproof, dustproof machine provides a 5x, 26-140mm Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens, a big 3.3-inch OLED touch screen, full-res 10-fps bursts, optical SteadyShot image stabilization with active mode to combat camera shake, sweep panorama, ISO 12,800, photo creativity effects and a range of automatic functions. It can also shoot Full HD 1080p video at 60p. Its GPS and compass record location data and camera direction as movies and photos are captured, and a GPS log lets users track a photographic journey and later view the path and images on a map or on Google Earth. $499.99. sony.com

Fujifilm FinePix F770EXR.
This sleek camera has an improved ½-inch 16 megapixel EXR-CMOS sensor engineered to deliver superior image quality and performance, especially in low light. It uses a new Fujinon 20x wide-angle long-zoom lens (25-500mm) and adds intelligent digital zoom to effectively double zoom capability. Its feature set also includes a 3.0-inch high-contrast LCD, EXR auto mode with motion detection to virtually eliminate subject blur in all lighting conditions, ISO settings to 12,800, 0.16-sec autofocus, full-res 8-fps shooting, Full HD 1080p movie capture, GPS and a landmark navigator that locates places of interest. Added benefits are RAW shooting and its pro focus mode, which is created by using Fujifilm’s Multi-Frame technology. This mode is perfect for portrait or nature photography, where professional results are needed quickly with minimal adjustment to the camera and without using a PC. $379.95. fujifilmusa.com
 
Kodak EasyShare Wireless M750. Its signature feature is built-in Wi-Fi that allows users to share images via any wireless network by just pressing the “share” button. And if there’s no network available, the free EasyShare camera app on an Android, Apple or BlackBerry device lets users share photos through Facebook, e-mail or Kodak Gallery—no hot spot required. This 16MP cutie also lets users tap, swipe or drag photos with ease using its bright 3.0-inch capacitive touch-screen LCD. It also provides a Retinar 5x optical zoom lens, a dedicated HD video button and smart capture mode. And it offers creative capture modes plus intuitive ways to automatically back up images and movies. It comes in silver, teal and red and is compatible with Eye-Fi wireless cards. $169.95. kodak.com

Olympus Tough TG-320.
As its name implies, this attractively slim compact (3.8×2.5x 0.89) is one tough cookie that’s not only submersible to 10 feet but can also survive a 5-foot drop to hard ground and is usable in temperatures down to 14º F. It has a 14MP image sensor, a 2.7-inch LCD monitor, a 3.6x wide-to-medium telephoto 28-102mm equivalent lens, 720p HD video recording capability with HDMI output for direct TV viewing, and ISO settings from 80-1600. Other features include: dual image stabilization; intelligent auto mode; 3D capture; and magic art filters. It’s available in blue and red. $179.99. olympusamerica.com

Samsung WB850F Smart. Aptly named with smart styling and a cutting-edge feature array, this nicely contoured 16.2MP, 4.3×2.5×1.0-inch compact provides an impressive 21x Schneider-Kreuznach 23-483mm equivalent zoom lens—Samsung’s best yet—with dual image stabilization. Plus there’s a 3.0-inch AMOLED monitor for crisp, saturated viewing and composition. Its BSI CMOS sensor technology is said to reduce image noise and distortion, even in low light, and it also delivers Full HD 1080p video capture at 30 fps with a Creative Movie Maker utility. Other features include Wi-Fi, an auto backup function and built-in GPS, including MapView. $379.99. samsung.com

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX50. Sleek and straightforward, this fashionable 16.2MP compact measures 3.6×2.1×0.75 inches and has a 5x, 28-140mm equivalent Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens, SteadyShot with active mode and a 2.7-inch 460,000-dot LCD. It provides Full HD 1080p video capture at 60 fps as well as background defocus, 3D still image, 3D sweep panorama and multiple auto modes, including superior auto to prevent missed shots in challenging conditions. Face detection, smile shutter and a range of in-camera picture effects round out its features. $199.99. sony.com

Nikon Coolpix P510. It resembles a compact DSLR but this 16.1MP all-in-one ultrazoom with a back-illuminated CMOS sensor does it all with one fantastic lens—a remarkable 42x, 24-1000mm equivalent optical zoom that works in conjunction with Nikon’s built-in VR optical stabilization. Other high-end features include: a 3.0-inch, vari-angle 921K LCD; 7-fps bursts at full resolution; Full HD 1080p video with stereo sound; GPS with geotagging; 20 scene modes; easy 360º panorama mode; and a unique high ISO monochrome mode (ISO 12,800 equivalent). There’s a lot more, including a range of special and filter effects. $429.95. nikonusa.com

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