Expert Recommendation

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Best Ultra Compact Digital Camera Overall Under $300
By Fotoguy
Expert (27 Recommendations and 7 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
May 3, 2009
Overview

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX37 ultra-compact offers a lot in a little package for a reasonable price. From its excellent Leica zoom lens with built-in image stabilization, Intelligent Multi-metering that really works, Auto scene recognition, and 720p HD video, you’ll get sharp, well-exposed pictures with little effort. And isn’t that what an auto-camera is supposed to do?

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My Best In Class Pick
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX37

What sets the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX37 apart from the competition is its excellent Leica DC Vario-Elmarit 4.4-22mm f/2.8-5.9 5x zoom (25-125mm equiv.) lens. With its impressive 25mm equivalent focal length, it has the extra coverage to meet those situations that most point-n-shoots cannot hope to match. With little or no distortion across the entire range, excellent contrast, plus built-in Mega O.I.S. optical image stabilization, you’ll get razor sharp images even at slow shutter speeds. The lens’ only caveat is some image softening in the corners. However, this would only be apparent, and only if you looked closely, in an extreme enlargement, say 16x20 or larger. In real world use, you’ll never see it.

To ease your shooting burdens, this camera comes with a host of useful features including macro focusing down to two inches, ISOs from 100 to 6400, five preset white balance options, plus manual; shutter speeds from 60 seconds to 1/2000th second, five flash options, +/- 2EV exposure compensation, Intelligent multi-segment metering, a plethora of shooting modes, including Intelligent Auto, which lets the camera pick the mode that best suits the scene conditions; frame rates up to 2.5 per second, five movie resolutions including 720p HD, three still formats (4:3, 3:2, 16:9), and USB 2.0 Hi-Speed for fast image transfers. It, however, lacks full manual control.

All in all, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX37 is a great little camera, and with its reasonable street price, a deal.

Comparison with Nikon Coolpix S610

A lessor zoom range of 28-112mm (equivalent), 4 sec to 1/1500th shutter speeds and sensor-shift instead of in-the-lens image stabilization relegated this fine little camera to alternate, but still recommended, status. It has a very good lens and produces sharp, low noise images, and with Nikon’s exclusive D-Lighting, you’ll get pictures without overly dark shadows or blown-out highlights.

Pros
  • +
    Outstanding lens
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    In-the-lens Image Stabilization
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    Sharp, low noise images
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    Orientation sensor
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    50MB internal storage
  • +
    Price
Cons
  • -
    No manual mode
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    2.5 inch, 230,000 pixel LCD
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    No optical viewfinder
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX37 is the Best Ultra Compact Digital Camera Overall Under $300
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX37
  • Best Price: $249
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 5.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 25mm (40% wider)
  • Resolution: 10.1MP
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Website Reviews (1 review)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX37
2
Nikon Coolpix S610
Customer Rating
Price $249.96 $161.65
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Effective Sensor Resolution
10.1 megapixels 10.0 megapixels
Video Available Yes Yes
HD Video Available Yes No
Max Video Resolution 1280 x 720 pixels 640 x 480 pixels
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
25 mm 28 mm
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Max Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
125 mm 112 mm
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Max Aperture (wide-angle)
f/2.8 f/2.7
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Max Aperture (tele-photo)
f/5.9 f/5.8
Image Stabilization Type Optical (lens-shift) Optical (sensor-shift)
Max Shutter Speed 1/2000 sec 1/1500 sec
Min ISO Setting 100 100
Max ISO Setting 6400 3200
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Viewfinder Available
No No
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LCD Screen Size
2.5 in. 3.0 in.
LCD Screen Resolution 230000 pixels 230000 pixels
Size (W x H x D) 3.7 x 2.0 x 0.9 in. 3.7 x 2.2 x 0.9 in.
Weight (with batteries) 5.1 oz 6.0 oz
Battery Life 310 shots 290 shots
2
Nikon Coolpix S610

The Nikon Coolpix S610 packs a host of features into its slim (22.5mm) body including a 10.1 megapixel sensor with sensor-shift image stabilization, a Nikon 28-112mm (equivalent) 4x zoom lens, and a 3.0 inch 230,000 pixel LCD with anti-reflective coating. Additionally, it has 16 scene modes, Auto Scene Selector, AF modes that recognize faces or tracks movements automatically, ISOs from 100 to 3200, 45 megabyte internal memory, USB 2.0, and Nikon’s exclusive D-Lighting contrast control.

Nikon Coolpix S610 is one of the Best Ultra Compact Digital Cameras Overall Under $300
Where to buy
Nikon Coolpix S610
  • Best Price: $161
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 4.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 28mm (25% wider)
  • Resolution: 10.0MP
More
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