Camera News
by Brad Soo on November 25 2009

Thanksgiving is this week, so for those celebrating, I hope you’ve got turkey ready. For those rushing out to get Black Friday deals, be sure to check out some of our digital camera recommendations so you make the right choice! Here’s a list of cameras you may want to consider this Thanksgiving/Black Friday 2009! I’ve picked one recommendation, each from several possible categories, so we’ve got everyone covered here!

DPInterface top cameras for Thanksgiving/Black Friday 2009

Entry-level digital SLR – Canon Rebel T1i AKA EOS 500D, Nikon D3000 and Olympus E620

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It’s a tie between three digital SLR models here! If you’re just stepping into the digital SLR world, you can’t go wrong with either the Canon Rebel T1i (also known as the EOS 500D) or Nikon D3000 or Olympus E620. All three are fairly easy to use, responsive and fast, have full manual controls and there are plenty of lenses to choose from for each brand. Now it’s up to you to choose. Here’s a sneaky tip for those who can’t decide: You might wanna find out what SLR brand most of your friends/family are using and join them, so you can borrow their lenses and accessories!

DPI full review: Canon Rebel T1i AKA EOS 500D
DPI full review: Olympus E620

Compact “mini-SLR” – Panasonic Lumix GF1
If you think a digital SLR is too ‘old school’ or bulky, but still want the flexibility of one, consider the Panasonic Lumix GF1. It may look a whole lot like a prosumer camera but don’t be fooled – the GF1 supports interchangeable lenses (just like an SLR), external flash units and has full manual controls. Performance was generally snappy and image quality was good, with autofocus speeds and image output rivaling that of conventional digital SLRs.

The Panasonic GF1 makes for a good camera to start with, as well as a backup/travel camera for existing SLR owners… in fact, I liked the camera so much that I bought one myself. And things to watch out for? Well, the built-in flash is fairly flimsy, the continuous shooting rate is slower than the new 4 FPS standard on entry-level SLRs and lenses and accessories are a little pricey in the Micro Four Thirds system. The camera doesn’t have a built-in viewfinder either, and the external EVF accessory costs extra.

Full review to come.

Full-size ultra-zoom camera - Canon PowerShot SX20 IS

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Perhaps you’re not ready to commit yourself to an SLR system, or maybe you just want a camera with lots of zoom that doesn’t weigh 10 lbs… either way, the Canon PowerShot SX20 IS is a camera that I can recommend whole-heartedly. The SX20 features a 20X zoom lens with optical image stabilization, a 2.5 inch LCD that you can flip out and rotate for angled shots, very good performance and image quality. One of the SX20’s strongest points is its 720p movie mode, where you can record stereo sound along with video, and operate zoom/focus/wind filter.

There’s little to complain about the camera that’s probably the best in its class: there are several minor lens-related image quality flaws such as color fringing, distortion and edge softness (something you’ll find in cameras with such ambitious zoom ranges) and some trivial annoyances (ie tripod mount not in-line with lens). Something worthy of note is the SX20 produces marginally better image quality than its predecessor, the SX10, despite cramming in more megapixels. You might want to pick the old SX10 or expensive SX1, however, if continuous shooting speed is your main concern.

Check out what other people have to say about the Canon SX20 as well as a professional opinion in the DPI full review of the Canon PowerShot SX20…

Ultra-compact/stylish camera - Canon PowerShot SD940 IS Digital ELPH aka Digital IXUS 120 IS

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Small, stylish and still very capable, the Canon SD940 Digital ELPH, also known as the Digital IXUS 120, is worth checking out. Packing 12 megapixels, a 2.7 inch LCD, wide-angle lens and 720p HD video recording capabilities, the SD940 Digital ELPH has got you covered from almost any angle. To top things off, both casual-snapping performance and image quality were above average as well. Just don’t expect any manual controls (besides long shutter and white balance) or high continuous shooting speeds here. You might also consider keeping long fingernails in order to operate the camera’s tiny mode switch.

DPI full review of the Canon SD940 ELPH/IXUS 120…

Touchscreen camera – Nikon Coolpix S70

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Want a touchscreen digital camera? How about multi-touch and gesture support like on the iPhone and on his Boom Boom Pow music video? Enter the Nikon Coolpix S70, a 12 megapixel point-and-shoot camera with 5X optical zoom and a huge 3.5 inch touchscreen. The touchscreen itself is a selling point as the Coolpix S70 boasts one of the best touch-based UI’s (user interface) in the camera world, and its OLED screen is super responsive. Unlike competing touchscreen models, the Coolpix S70 only needs a light tap or swipe to respond… and did I mention it has multi-touch support?

Just about all commonly used camera settings are available in the ring of icons surrounding your image, so you almost never have to enter the camera menu. However, the Coolpix S70 has some downsides, including low screen resolution (what a pity), lack of manual controls and get ready… lack of buttons and space to hold the camera! It’s also pretty inept for low-light situations with so-so screen visibility, slow aperture range and muddy image quality at high ISO.

DPI full review of the Nikon Coolpix S70…

”Gadget fun” camera – Nikon Coolpix S1000pj

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It may be slightly larger than your average digital camera and come at a premium price, but at least the Nikon Coolpix S1000pj will still fit into normal pants pockets. Not to mention you’ll be the coolest person in town, touting the world’s only digital camera with a built-in projector. The Coolpix S1000pj is fairly easy to use, with help tooltips and all, plus it comes with an impressive bundle which includes a wireless remote control and projector stand.

The only kinks here are the lack of HD video recording, lack of manual controls and limited burst mode. Its image quality and performance are nothing to boast about either (though they’re right on par with some competitors. If you’re looking for a camera with flashy projector over form and function in mind, go ahead and pick up the Coolpix S1000pj (preferably with a spare battery for the power-sucking projector).

DPI full review of the Nikon Coolpix S1000pj…

Affordable rugged camera – Olympus Stylus Tough 6010 AKA MJU Tough 6010

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If you’ve got the funds to spare or don’t care about camera size, then you would go for the Panasonic TS1/FT1 or Canon D10 respectively. But for those wanting a cheap and rugged camera, the Olympus Stylus Tough 6010 is a decent candidate. The camera is waterproof, shockproof and most importantly, freezeproof, so the Stylus Tough 6010 is likely to survive in case you leave it in the cold outside this winter. The 6010 is purely a point-and-shoot camera with no manual controls but there are plenty of bells and whistles to be found, such as Magic Filters, beauty mode and the like. Performance here has improved since the old Stylus 6000, though things are still ‘average’, even after the speed boost.

There are a few things I didn’t like about the Stylus Tough 6010, including its cluttered control layout, above average image softness and crummy low-light performance. The camera takes both microSD/microSDHC and xD-Picture cards, but you MUST use the latter if you want to use the camera’s rather pedestrian VGA movie mode. Otherwise, frame rate and recording time will be limited by the camera (for reasons unknown). If you can live with the compromises of the Olympus Stylus Tough 6010, then you can escape with a ruggedized camera that’s priced at around the same as a regular camera…

Olympus Stylus Tough 6010/Mju Tough 6010 review…

Compact super-zoom camera – Fujifilm FinePix F70 EXR
The FinePix F70 EXR comes from Fujifilm’s successful F-series and inherits the impressive high ISO traits of its predecessors. This time, Fujifilm decided to build a compact, super-zoom camera and the FinePix F70 EXR packs a 10X optical zoom lens into a sleek little package that fits into your pocket. Image quality is wonderful thus far, even at high ISO speeds – and I wouldn’t expect any less from Fujifilm’s bloodline of unique image sensors.

The camera has full manual controls, elaborate face detection and portraiture suite, including a faux-bokeh mode called Pro Focus to simulate the shallow depth-of-field output of digital SLRs. The F70’s weaknesses? Well, there aren’t many… performance could’ve been better, HD movie recording would’ve been nice (hey, we’re entering year 2010 here, not 1910) and please, more buffer. Continuous shooting speed was above average, though the number of pictures you can take in a row was very, VERY limited. Looking for a compact camera with lots of zoom and excellent image quality? This is it.

Full review to come.

Prosumer camera – Canon PowerShot G11
Well, to be frank, the G11 takes the crown here almost too easily due to the lack of competition in the prosumer category. The PowerShot G11 attempts to make a ‘G-series comeback’ for the umpteenth time, and FINALLY, the flip-out and rotate LCD is back. The camera sports less megapixels than its predecessor (a good thing) and now promises better image quality instead. I’ve spent time with the mini-me version of the G11 – the PowerShot S90, which apparently shares the same 10 megapixel sensor, and Canon’s promise is true: image quality is much better than previous cameras and the competition.

The G11 wants to be able to appeal to every camera user as it has plenty of point-and-shoot features, a full suite of manual controls and is even expandable using a teleconverter, external flash and many other accessories. However, the camera may seem daunting to new users at first, due to the vast amount of buttons and dials all over the place. Some downsides I have observed so far include the VGA movie mode (for a camera this price, how about some HD capabilities?!) and slow burst rate.

Canon G11 vs G10 and S90 comparison

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