Expert Recommendation

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Best Compact Digital Camera Overall Under $1000
Expert (88 Recommendations and 32 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
December 27, 2008 Updated: July 27, 2009
Overview

Equipped with a class-leading high resolution sensor, a sharp 5x zoom lens with a wide angle view, and many useful features, the Canon PowerShot G10 is a versatile camera that delivers great images for all occasions. Thanks to Camera’s DIGIC IV processor, the images at higher ISOs are cleaner than ever and with minimal artifacts. With its optical viewfinder, you won’t miss the action.

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My Best In Class Pick
Canon PowerShot G10

The Canon PowerShot G10 is the latest flagship premium compact camera from Canon. Within its tough magnesium alloy body, the Canon G10 houses a class-leading resolution sensor, making good quality large prints possible. Its razor sharp lens delivers fine details to take full advantage of its stupendous resolution. Its optical viewfinder facilitates live tracking of moving subjects. It is also helpful when shooting on bright sunny days when it is a bit difficult to frame the scene by viewing your subjects on a washed out rear LCD screen.

Equipped with the latest DIGIC IV processor, it has managed to strike a good balance between noise and rich detail under low light conditions in a better way then its predecessor. Consequently the low light image quality (high ISO performance) is one of the best among compacts. It also mean that one can bring out previously unnoticed detail in dark areas, like shadows – more effectively by using the camera’s i-contrast feature or with image editing programs.

It offers a RAW mode too. By shooting in RAW format one can get better image quality later during the image conversion to a more popular image format (e.g. JPG or TIFF) after applying noise reduction using the supplied software (or third party software, e.g. Noise Ninja). The camera’s dedicated ISO dial, hot-shoe and manual modes will delight advanced users while novice users will feel equally at home with its Auto mode and tons of scene modes.

Other useful features are:

  • Face detection Adjusts exposure based on faces in the scene and removes red-eye automatically.
  • Motion detection technology Combining inputs from its Face Detection Technology, the optical Image Stabilizer, changes in scene brightness and changes from frame to frame, it raises the ISO setting to freeze the action.
  • High resolution LCD with wide viewing angle

The camera easily gets the top spot due to best in class resolution, superb lens quality, rich feature set and versatile zoom range.

Comparison with Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 has a brighter lens and has an ISO 3200 option at full resolution, but overall the Canon G10 is a more versatile and preferable digital camera because of its higher reach (zoom range), higher resolution, better noise reduction, and the availability of an optical viewfinder.

Comparison with Nikon Coolpix P6000

The Canon G10 has a higher reach (zoom range) and sharper lens, better noise reduction, faster performance and the availability of an external battery charger in a kit.

Pros
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    Best in class resolution
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    Sharp lens
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    Good image quality (punchy images straight out of camera)
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    Optical viewfinder
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    Rich feature set
  • +
    Well built
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    Good high ISO performance
  • +
    RAW mode and aperture/shutter priority modes
Cons
  • -
    Smaller pixel size (as compared to LX3's)
Canon PowerShot G10 is the Best Compact Digital Camera Overall Under $1000
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot G10
Specifications
  • Zoom: 5.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 28mm (25% wider)
  • Resolution: 14.7MP
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (3 reviews)
  • 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
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Canon PowerShot G10
2
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3
3
Nikon Coolpix P6000
Customer Rating
Price $879.00 $402.09 $649.00
Size (W x H x D) 4.3 x 3.1 x 1.8 in. 4.3 x 2.3 x 1.5 in. 4.2 x 2.6 x 1.7 in.
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Sensor Size
7.6 x 5.7 mm 7.9 x 5.9 mm 7.6 x 5.7 mm
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Effective Sensor Resolution
14.7 megapixels 10.1 megapixels 13.5 megapixels
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Shutter Lag Time (including auto-focus time)
0.3 - 0.7 sec 0.4-0.6 sec 0.6 sec
Max Shooting Speed (continuous) 1.4 frames/sec 1.1 frames/sec 0.5 frames/sec
Max Video Resolution 640 x 480 pixels 1280 x 720 pixels 640 x 480 pixels
Max Video Frame Rate (max resolution) 30 frames/sec 24 frames/sec 30 frames/sec
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
28 mm 24 mm 28 mm
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Max Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
140 mm 60 mm 112 mm
Optical Zoom 5.0x 2.5x 4.0x
Min Focus Distance (not macro) 19.7 in. 19.7 in. 19.7 in.
Min Focus Distance (macro) 0.4 in. 0.4 in. 0.8 in.
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Max Aperture (wide-angle)
f/2.8 f/2.0 f/2.7
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Max Aperture (tele-photo)
f/4.5 f/2.8 f/5.9
Max ISO Setting 3200 (reduced resolution after 1600) 6400 (reduced resolution after 3200) 3200 (reduced resolution after 1600)
Max Usable ISO (subjective) 1600 1600 800
Aperture Priority Mode Available Yes Yes Yes
Shutter Priority Mode Available Yes Yes Yes
Full Manual Exposure Mode Available Yes Yes Yes
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Viewfinder Available
Yes Yes (optional) Yes
External Flash Connection Available Yes Yes Yes
Battery Life 400 shots 380 shots 260 shots
2
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 is the latest top-of-the-line offering from Panasonic. This camera is equipped with a sharp and bright wide-angle zoom lens with the widest aperture in its class. The lens gathers double the light at the wide end of the zoom range than other cameras. This in turn results in quicker focusing and less noise in images as the camera chooses lower ISO setting more often. You get more blur-free shots too as the camera can choose relatively fast shutter speeds.

With this model, Panasonic has commendably steered clear of the megapixel race and instead tried to improve upon the image processing to yield better quality images than its predecessor. However the high ISO (ISO 800 & above) images from the LX3 still suffer from splotchy artifacts from the noise reduction, but it manages to retain enough fine details to give higher resolution cameras a blushing.

The Panasonic LX3 includes the option to save images in RAW format, which will allow you to get even better results later during post processing.

The unique sensor design offers optimum resolution for various image aspect ratios (e.g. 16:9 - good for landscapes, 4:3 - for portraits, etc.). During playback you will love viewing these on a high resolution 3” LCD screen. It also offers an HD movie mode.

However with its small zoom range it is less versatile than its rivals.

Comparison with Nikon Coolpix P6000

The Panasonic LX3 features faster operation and focusing, supports ISO 3200 options, and has better high ISO performance.

Pros
  • +
    Bright lens (best in class)
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    Rich feature set & full manual controls including a RAW mode
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    Cleaner high ISO images possible (by shooting in RAW mode and post processing)
Cons
  • -
    Lacks optical viewfinder
  • -
    Small zoom range
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 is one of the Best Compact Digital Cameras Overall Under $1000
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3
  • Best Price: $402
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 2.5x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 24mm (46% wider)
  • Resolution: 10.1MP
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
3
Nikon Coolpix P6000

One of the top DSLR manufacturer, Nikon is trying hard to make its mark among high quality compact cameras too. The Nikon P6000 is their latest top of the line camera.

The pricing at launch, zoom range and host of manual controls (RAW mode, Aperture/Shutter priority/Manual modes, hot-shoe for external flash, etc.) suggest that it is aimed to compete directly against the Canon G10. Nevertheless it falls well short of it on image quality, especially at higher ISOs. Even at ISO400 the heavy noise reduction and consequent loss of fine details relegates it behind the lower resolution Panasonic LX3.

Nevertheless image quality is good at lower ISOs and the lens is sharp. The auto-focus performance too has improved over its predecessor. The RAW shooting (shot to shot time) is slower than average though.

Other notable features are:

  • D-Lighting (automatically boosts shadow details, rescuing underexposed images caused by excessive backlight or insufficient flashlight.)
  • Distortion Control ( corrects for the barrel distortion that occurs at wide-angle zoom settings at the peripheries of an image.)
  • Built-in GPS (adds shooting Location info alongside image data)

Annoyingly there is no external battery charger supplied with camera. The battery is charged in-camera instead. So even if you have extra battery, you won’t be able to use the camera while the battery is on charge (in camera that is).

Pros
  • +
    Good resolution
  • +
    Sharp lens
  • +
    Full manual controls including RAW mode
  • +
    Optical viewfinder
Cons
  • -
    Poor high ISO performance
Nikon Coolpix P6000 is one of the Best Compact Digital Cameras Overall Under $1000
Where to buy
Nikon Coolpix P6000
  • Best Price: $649
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 4.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 28mm (25% wider)
  • Resolution: 13.5MP
More
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