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Consumer Reports digital camera tests reveal four standout brands for Point-and-Shoot: Canon, Casio, Panasonic and Samsung

Posted Sunday, June 21, 2009

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Advice on How to Choose the Best Point-and-Shoot

Yonkers, NY — Consumer Reports latest testing of 54 point-and-shoot digital camera models found four brands continue to perform better than others year after year, according to Consumer Reports first ever analysis of point-and-shoot brands regularly tested. Canon, Casio, Panasonic, and Samsung offer the best chance of getting a superior performer, even if the camera was not tested by Consumer Reports. By contrast, Olympus has been the brand least likely to be a top performer.

Consumer Reports found many models at a bargain price, even a few outside of the four leading brands, including the Nikon Coolpix S610 ($220) which is the only point-and-shoot tested that performed very well when handled in low light without a flash. The subcompact Pentax Optio M50, is small enough to fit in a pocket and has a 5x zoom for only $120. For SLRs, the Canon EOS Rebel XSi ($700) with a lens, is one of just two basic SLRs that produced excellent image quality.

“Our testing found digital cameras are more reasonably priced and stronger in performance,” said Paul Reynolds, electronics editor at Consumer Reports. “For under $150 shoppers can purchase a point-and-shoot from a reliable brand that will provide good overall photos for all their needs.”

Newer Point-and-Shoot Models Advance in Features

Subcompact and compact cameras now have added features that older models do not have. More cameras are making shooting easier with features like the ability to recognize certain types of scenes such as portraits as opposed to landscapes. In a recent survey of more than 8,000 subscribers to ConsumerReports.org, many point-and-shoot owners said they found certain features especially useful including image stabilization to help stabilize a shaky hand, as well as wireless capability that allows for transfer of images without a wire and touch-screen display to minimize the need to fiddle with buttons and dials.

Face detection and video recording create additional usefulness for point-and-shoots. Face detection helps the camera make focus and exposure of faces the top priorities, while video recording improvements add high def capabilities, which are showing up on some point-and-shoots and SLRs.

Consumers who want a pocket-sized camera should go with a subcompact, the Nikon Coolpix S610, $220, has the best low-light performance without a flash and wide-angle capabilities. The Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS Elph ($150) is very versatile and has a very short next-shot delay. For a pricier option that can easily and quickly upload both stills and video to online sites via Wi-Fi, there is the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3 ($500).

There are a number of strong options for point-and-shoots under $150 such as the Canon PowerShot A590 IS ($110) designated a CR Best Buy for its battery life, very short next-shot delay, optical image stabilizer, viewfinder and excellent dynamic range. The Canon Powershot SD1100 IS Elph ($150) is also a good option for its versatility and very short next-shot delay.

How to Choose the Right Point-and-Shoot

  • Select the right type. For portability, subcompacts are strong options and should be comparable to a compact in price and performance, though many compacts have better battery life. For sports or nature photography, superzooms, while often heavier and bulkier, are best.
  • Match performance to your needs. Consider image quality – for action shots consumers should look for higher scores for first-shot delay and next-shot delay. For landscape or group portraits, a wide-angle capability and dynamic range are useful.
  • Downplay megapixels. Seven or eight megapixels are enough for most consumers. If printing poster-size shots or doing major cropping, higher-resolutions are recommended.
  • Consider features. A viewfinder helps with shooting in bright light, manual controls and RAW-file capability provide greater control over image, and a swiveling LCD is best for shooting above the heads of crowds.
  • Size up the design. Consider a camera’s tactile qualities. Some consumers may find that sleekness sacrifices usability. And some larger models have handgrips to help steady the camera.
Avoid Common Goofs with a Point-and-Shoot

Consumer Reports National Research Center surveyed 8,250 ConsumerReports.org subscribers, which revealed many failed to make the best use of their newest point-and-shoot:

  • 66% of consumers did not regularly clean the camera’s lens which minimizes the risk of focusing problems and blurry areas on pictures.
  • 28% used a shirtsleeve, household tissue or canned air. Camera lenses should be cleaned gently with a microfiber lens cloth and lens-cleaning fluid so as to not scratch or damage surface.
  • 39% of consumers did not know whether or not their cameras had scene modes, image stabilization, face detection, or burst mode, all of which can make shooting easier and improve photos.
The full report on digital cameras is available in the July 2009 issue of Consumer Reports, which is available wherever magazines are sold. The full story is also available online at www.ConsumerReports.org.

Consumer Reports has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor appearing on this newspaper's web site.
 
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Consumer Reports digital camera tests reveal four standout brands for Point-and-Shoot: Canon, Casio, Panasonic and Samsung
For under $150 shoppers can purchase a point-and-shoot from a reliable brand that will provide good overall photos for all their needs.
 
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