Expert Recommendation

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Best Compact Point and Shoot Digital Camera Overall Under $500
Expert (53 Recommendations and 31 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
October 27, 2009 Updated: October 29, 2009
Overview

In the search for a quality camera that doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles of a DSLR, but can hold it’s own in any shooting situation, my first choice by a longshot is the Canon PowerShot G11.

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My Best In Class Pick
Canon PowerShot G11

Whether you just want to travel light, or you really need to get that shot without a lot of fanfare, the Canon PowerShot G11 has the features you are looking for.

This 10MP camera with the Digic 4 Imaging sensor has alot of tools to capture the image the first time, when sometimes the first time is all you get.

Consider an ISO of 3200 that can be boosted up to 12,800 at 2.5MP. A small sacrifice in pixels when shooting in dark places (which may not even be necessary because of the dual anti-noise system that gives you back at least 2 stops of sensitivity). In other words, you have options.

And to make sure you are getting the best image possible, Canon has included a host of automatic features that give you the freedom to focus on the event and not the camera. You get face detection, a face detection timer so you can get in the shot and be counted, an optical image stabilizer, blink detection and intelligent contrast correction.

It seems that Canon know’s their stuff and they want you to have it too. That’s why I make the G11 my top pick.

Comparison with Leica C-LUX 3

Although the Leica C-LUX 3 comes in at half the weight of the G11, I’m not ready to give up an optical viewfinder or a hot shoe. After all, these cameras are chosen as alternatives to a heavier and bulkier DSLR, without losing the attributes I require in the field. And the Leica may be faster on the draw, 2.5 FPS versus the G11’s 1.1 FPS but doubling the ISO before the image gets noisy tilts me towards the Canon G11.

Comparison with Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3

The LX3 challenges the G11 in many ways. It’s lighter weight, gets more fps, has a bigger LCD and even has an optional viewfinder you can purchase separately. Both cameras have threaded lens barrels for optional lenses and a hot shoe for external flash. But Panasonic did an interesting thing to set themselves apart from the Canon, they offered an aperture range on their Leica lens at F2.0 and 24mm wide angle coverage. Even though the LX3 has double the fps as the G11, you lose half the zoom (Canon- 5x, Panasonic- 2.5x).

Pros
  • +
    High ISO
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    Digic 4
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    Viewfinder
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    Photo effects
  • +
    Swivel LCD
Cons
  • -
    Low fps
  • -
    Heavier than comparable models
Canon PowerShot G11 is the Best Compact Point and Shoot Digital Camera Overall Under $500
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot G11
  • Best Price: $509
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 5.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 28mm (25% wider)
  • Resolution: 10.0MP
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (3 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
Best badge
Canon PowerShot G11
2
Leica C-LUX 3
3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3
Customer Rating
Price $509.00 $402.09
Camera Format Compact Ultra Compact Compact
Weight (with batteries) 13.2 oz 5.1 oz 9.3 oz
Easy to Use Yes Yes Yes
Colors Black Black, Silver Black, Silver
Body Material Metal and Plastic Metal Metal
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Sensor Size
7.6 x 5.7 mm 6.0 x 4.4 mm 7.9 x 5.9 mm
Video Available Yes Yes Yes
Optical Zoom 5.0x 5.0x 2.5x
Image Stabilization Type Optical (lens shift) Optical (lens shift) Optical (lens shift)
?
Max Aperture (wide-angle)
f/2.8 f/2.8 f/2.0
Max ISO Setting 1600 1600 6400
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Face Detection Available
Yes Yes Yes
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Viewfinder Available
Yes No Yes
External Flash Connection Available Yes No Yes
Max Shooting Speed (burst) 1.1 frames/sec 2.5 frames/sec 1.9 frames/sec
Sensor Raw Format Available Yes No Yes
2
Leica C-LUX 3

Stylish and sleek, this 5.2 oz beauty with it’s metal body is not only a fashion statement when you take it out of your purse or jacket pocket, but will get the shot you want with a minimum of fuss.

As one of the few cameras that can claim optimum quality in the automatic mode, the C-LUX 3 makes it easy for you to trust the camera to make intelligent choices so you can get the shot spontaneously.

Leica accomplishes this with their VARIO-ELMARIT 4.4-22 mm f/2.8-5.9 ASPH lens, OIS image stabilizer, AF face detection, AF tracking and automatic contrast compensation. This is one time you literally point and shoot and leave the decisions up to the camera.

Sporting a 2.5” LCD with 230,00 pixels, you can frame and shoot your image confidently, even boosting the illumination for dimly lit or overbright situations. Perfect for reviewing photos or videos with your friends.

Leica has proved their value to the world, let them prove it to you.

Comparison with Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3

Twice as light as the LX3 and double the zoom, C-LUX 3 is a stylish and easy-to-operate camera that will produce best-quality images while making you look good at the same time.

Panasonic has been a leader in ultrazoom lenses, which surprises me when I find that the LX3 has only a 2.5 zoom. Other features of this camera make up for the lack of zoom, and since this camera is being recommended as an alternative to carrying your DSLR, a lot of zoom may not be the main purpose of owning it.

Pros
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    Lightweight
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    Stylish
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    Automatic
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    Bright LCD screen
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    Pocketable
Cons
  • -
    Low ISO at full sensitivity
  • -
    No video zoom
Leica C-LUX 3 is one of the Best Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras Overall Under $500
Where to buy
Leica C-LUX 3
Specifications
  • Zoom: 5.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 25mm (40% wider)
  • Resolution: 10.1MP
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3

When a camera with the robust features of a DSLR and the portability of a compact are what you are looking for, the LX3 is worth considering.

Offering both auto and manual focus, a Leica lens with an aperture of 2.0 (wow!) and an optional viewfinder, this 9.3 oz. workhorse will never leave your side, or let you down.

The LX3 has a lot of controls right at your fingertips, allowing you to make artistic choices in a flash without a lot of flipping around in menus. And speaking of flash, the LX3 has a pop up flash reachable to 5.9m with the type of controls you have come to expect: Auto, auto red eye, forced on, forced off and synchro.

Now, if exploring your camera and flipping around in menus doesn’t scare you off, the LX3 has some functions that will give you options not usually available in most compacts. A film mode that allows you to shoot in 6 color and 3 monochrome settings, giving you the freedom to be creative. Shoot in Raw and get 3 different images to compare and select. There is also a multiple exposure feature that let’s you combine up to 3 images for even more creative inspiration.

It’s nice to know that compact camera makers are still working to achieve a solid, high quality and accessible alternative to the DSLR.

Pros
  • +
    2.0 lens
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    Film mode
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    3" LCD with 460,000 dot res.
  • +
    Leica lens
Cons
  • -
    2.5x zoom
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 is one of the Best Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras Overall Under $500
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3
  • Best Price: $402
    Amazon See It »
Recommended with
  • Panasonic DMW-VF1 External Optical Viewfinder
    $134.11 @ Amazon.com
Specifications
  • Zoom: 2.5x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 24mm (46% wider)
  • Resolution: 10.1MP
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (4 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

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