Expert Recommendation

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Best Ultra Compact Digital Camera for Interior Photos Under $1000
Expert (88 Recommendations and 32 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
September 27, 2008
Overview

With an ultra wide-angle view from a sharp lens, a good zoom range, and a well-built compact body, the Panasonic FX500 is the best-in-class ultra compact digital camera for photographing interiors, producing images with class-leading minimal distortion.

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My Best In Class Pick
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500

Interior photography invariably requires a wide-angle view. Unfortunately with wider angle views comes increased barrel distortion (inward bending of straight vertical objects near the corners) because of optical design constraints. Panasonic’s partnership with Leica, the leading lens manufacturer, has produced a camera that meets these requirements. It has a 25mm (focal length equivalent to that on a 35mm film camera) ultra wide-angle Leica DC lens with minimal barrel distortion.

The camera produces images with class-leading low barrel distortion (merely 0.3%, which approaches zero as you zoom in) at the widest angle view zoom setting.

The camera also offers full-featured manual controls and a useful Aperture Priority mode (i.e. one can set the lens aperture while the camera decides on the other parameters). Frequently, small f/8 settings are used to improve the depth of field, which is a required feature for photographing interiors to have a sharp focus everywhere.

The Intelligent Exposure function automatically controls the ISO sensitivity. It increases the exposure of only the darkened areas because of backlighting (e.g sunlight coming through windows, etc.) or insufficient flash lighting to capture the scene as you see it by suppressing the extreme brightness and darkness in the picture. The overall image quality is good.

Comparison with Ricoh GR DIGITAL II

The Panasonic FX500 produces less barrel distortion and provides a wider angle view. The Ricoh GR Digital II has a fixed focal length lens while the Panasonic FX500 has a 5x zoom lens, making it more versatile. The Ricoh GR Digital has useful features like a RAW mode and a Hot-Shoe for mounting an external flash.

Comparison with Ricoh Caplio GX200

The Panasonic FX500 is much cheaper and has much lower barrel distortion. However, if one has time and will to use a photo editor like Photoshop to correct barrel distortion, the Ricoh GX100 is the better option as it has a RAW mode and a Hot-Shoe for mounting an external flash.

Pros
  • +
    Good image quality
  • +
    Low barrel distortion in images
  • +
    Full manual controls
Cons
  • -
    No RAW mode
  • -
    High image noise
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500 is the Best Ultra Compact Digital Camera for Interior Photos Under $1000
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500
  • Best Price: $279
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Specifications
  • Zoom: 5.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 25mm (40% wider)
  • Resolution: 10.1MP
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Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500
2
Ricoh GR DIGITAL II
3
Ricoh Caplio GX200
Customer Rating
Price $279.00
Size (W x H x D) 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 4.2 x 2.3 x 1.0 in. 4.4 x 2.3 x 1.0 in.
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Sensor Size
6.0 x 4.4 mm 7.4 x 5.5 mm 7.6 x 5.7 mm
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Effective Sensor Resolution
10.1 megapixels 10.1 megapixels 12.1 megapixels
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Shutter Lag Time (including auto-focus time)
0.6 sec 0.7 - 1.3 sec 0.5 sec
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
25 mm 28 mm 24 mm
Optical Zoom 5.0x 1.0x 3.0x
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Image Stabilization Available
Yes No Yes
Auto Focus Assist Light Available Yes Yes Yes
Aperture Priority Mode Available Yes Yes Yes
RAW mode No Yes Yes
External Flash Connection Available No Yes Yes
Battery Life 280 shots 370 shots 350 shots
Image Quality
Barrel Distortion (%) 0.3% (lower than average) 0.6% (lower than average) 1.4% (higher than average)
Corner to corner sharpness Good Good Good
Dynamic Range Average Average Average
Image Noise Average Average Average
Fine details in image Good Good Good
2
Ricoh GR DIGITAL II

This is premium ultra compact camera from Ricoh. It features a fixed 28mm focal length wide-angle lens.

The camera offers full manual controls, including a RAW mode. The RAW mode is a desirable feature for photographing interiors because one can remove color cast (artificial lighting can cause superimposition of unsightly blue, orange, or even green color casts on image) by adjusting the white balance (process of removing unrealistic color casts) later during the image conversion to a more popular image format (e.g. JPG or TIFF) with the supplied software.

Comparison with Ricoh Caplio GX200

Less barrel distortion in images. Cheaper.

Pros
  • +
    Good image quality
  • +
    Low barrel distortion in images
  • +
    Full manual controls including RAW mode
Cons
  • -
    Costly
  • -
    No optical image stabilization
  • -
    Fixed focal length lens
  • -
    High image noise
Ricoh GR DIGITAL II is one of the Best Ultra Compact Digital Cameras for Interior Photos Under $1000
Where to buy
Ricoh GR DIGITAL II
Specifications
  • Zoom: 1.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 28mm (25% wider)
  • Resolution: 10.1MP
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3
Ricoh Caplio GX200

This is the top of line offering from Ricoh. The camera features a 24mm ultra wide-angle 3x zoom lens. It also offers full manual along with Aperture/Shutter priority modes and a RAW mode. However, the high barrel distortion (1.4%) mars this otherwise good camera for shooting interiors.

Pros
  • +
    Good image quality
  • +
    Full manual controls
Cons
  • -
    High barrel distortion in images
  • -
    Very costly
  • -
    High image noise
Ricoh Caplio GX200 is one of the Best Ultra Compact Digital Cameras for Interior Photos Under $1000
Where to buy
Ricoh Caplio GX200
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 24mm (46% wider)
  • Resolution: 12.1MP
More
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