Previous page Next page

Prosumer Camera Group Test Q4 2008

December 2008 | By Simon Joinson

Holidays '08 Compact Camera Group Test
Group 4: Enthusiast digital compacts

Since the introduction of the affordable digital SLR a few years back industry observers have been predicting the demise of what used to be called the 'prosumer camera'; the highly specified compact with features aimed at the more serious photographer. A few years ago you could easily pay $700 for a top end compact; today that will buy you a decent SLR with a kit zoom, and it became obvious that the serious compact sector had to adapt or die - fortunately the manufacturers chose the former option.

Thanks to to falling prices and a significant diversification (giving us the option of models which are very compact, or have more exotic zooms, or SLR-like controls) the enthusiast compact market is in surprisingly rude health. These cameras are designed to appeal to the SLR user wanting something more portable for those days they don't want to lug their main camera around, or for anyone who simply can't justify the expense of an SLR kit but can't accept the compromises demanded by a standard point and shoot compact.

The biggest challenge faced by the manufacturers of this kind of product is that, whilst adding a few more controls or a more serious body - or even a bigger zoom - isn't too difficult, there's only so much they can do to improve image quality over models considerably further down the line, some of which will have very similar electronics (including the sensor) inside. We're all still waiting for larger sensors in compacts (Sigma's DP1 being the first, and only attempt so far) - until they arrive, if ever, the cameras in this group are the nearest you're going to get to a genuinely compact SLR alternative.

The test cameras

The very top end of the compact market is very sparsely populated; there are very few cameras that can claim to be genuine 'SLR replacements'. We therefore decided to add a few of the new breed of 'compact super zoom' cameras to the mix; not all of these cameras offer full photographic control, but all offer a considerably more versatile zoom range, something that might actually prove to be more useful to the creative photographer.

  • Canon Powershot G10
  • Kodak Easyshare Z8612 IS
  • Nikon Coolpix P6000
  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3
  • Ricoh Caplio R10
  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5
  • Canon Powershot SX110 IS

Note: there are several cameras in this group that have already had full reviews - you'll find the links in the relevant sections of this article, and several will be reviewed in full in early 2009. There are a couple of cameras that could have been included but which weren't due to constraints of time (getting the product before the testing started) and to keep the number manageable. These have also been previously reviewed (links below):

Key Spec compared

As we've discovered over the years the bare specification of a camera tells us precious little about how good it is, but it does at least give us a starting point for our comparison. Obviously this is a pretty varied bunch and which spec matters to you will depend on your own needs and priorities; zoom range, photographic controls, viewfinder type and so on.

Viewfinder
Canon G10 • 1/1.7" CCD
• 14.7 MP
80-
1600
28-140mm
F2.8-4.5
Lens • 3.0"
• 460k
Optical M,A,S
• 640x480
• 30fps
$430
Kodak Z8612 IS • 1/2.5" CCD
• 8.1 MP
80-
3200*
36-432mm
F2.8-4.8
Lens • 2.5"
• 230k
None A,S
• 640x480
• 30fps
$150
Nikon P6000 • 1/1.72" CCD
• 13.5 MP
64-
6400*
28-112mm
F2.7-5.9
Lens • 2.7"
• 230k
Optical M,A,S • 640x480
• 30fps
$430
Panasonic LX3 • 1/1.63" CCD
• 10.1 MP
80-
6400
24-60mm F2.0-2.8
Lens • 3.0"
• 460k
None M,A,S • 720p
• 24fps
$430
Ricoh R10 • 1/2.3" CCD
• 10.0 MP
80-
1600
28-200mm
F3.3-5.2
CCD • 3.0"
• 460k
None   • 640x480
• 30fps
$300
Panasonic TZ5 • 1/2.33" CCD
• 9.1 MP
100-
6400
28-280mm
F3.3-4.9
Lens • 3.0"
• 460k
None   • 720p
• 24fps
$240
Canon SX110 IS • 1/2.3" CCD
• 9.0 MP
80-
1600
36-360mm
F2.8-4.3
Lens • 3.0"
• 230k
None A,S • 640x480
• 30fps
$220

Click the price to check the latest price from one of our affiliate retailers
*highest ISO settings only available at reduced resolution
† highest ISO settings only available in Hi Auto mode

Previous page Next page

Comments