back to article 2008's top three compact cameras

Summer holidays and Christmas celebrations - the two times when we most want to take pictures. And, for many of us, nothing beats the convenience of a compact. So which small snappers got us excited this year? Nikon Coolpix S710 Nikon Coolpix S710 We're very impressed with this smart, little, 14.5-megapixel Nikon. It’s a …


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  1. Slartybardfast
    Thumb Down

    CoolPix the best - You must be joking

    I've had one of these and it's not the "best" by a long chalk. I've recently sold mine and gone for a low pixel count but better camera model.

    Have a look here for a better review of the coolpix and good cross model comparisons.

  2. Sir Runcible Spoon

    which camera is quick?

    Ok, so I'm about to upgrade my old Canon Powershot S30 - and even though it's only 3.2MP it still takes a great picture.

    Teh only reason I want to upgrade is that it takes forever to take a picture usually. The auto-focus winds in and out and you have to wait until the viewing rectacle turns green before it will snap the shutter - sometimes you can't get a 'lock-on' at all !!

    So, what statistic or feature is it that determines how fast you can actually take a picture on these cameras so I can compare and contrast...any ideas? ta.

  3. Stef

    megapixels isn't the be all and end all

    The title says it all really. Megapixels is a bit of a false scale when comparing compacts. The tiny size of their sensors mean that increasing the MP means smaller pixels, which means noisy images, which in turn means crap photos.

    Considering that 6MP will produce a 10x8 inch print at photographic quality having a 14mp sensor on a compact is a bit like saying that this Robin Reliant has a Porche engine.

    Fat lot of good it will do you...

    I'd go for the ixus80, smaller sensor = less noise, and because it is DigicII you can play with the open source firmware upgrade giving you tons of options. Like shooting in RAW.

  4. Jared Earle

    Panasonic make good cameras, surprisingly

    While I shoot with a Canon SLR these days, every time anyone asks me for a compact recommendation, the Panasonics always seem to sneak onto every list. Mostly, it's the optics. The features and software on most modern cameras are good enough for most people and the sensors and optics are what set them apart. Almost universally, the Lumixes have the fastest lenses (lowest F-number possible) making up for their weaknesses in low-light.

    If you're looking for a non-SLR camera, always make sure the Panasonic is on your short-list. I had an FZ20 before I went SLR and it's still in my camera bag as a superb backup due to the amazing Leica optics.

    It's the glass, stupid.

  5. Jamie Kitson


    Thanks for the link, could have done with it a week ago though ;)

  6. Mark
    IT Angle

    Megapixel mania

    As the first post has indicated, with the pissy little sensor chip on compacts (about 1.5 gnat's cocks in size) a pixel count in the 14m range will just not do. This thing has a pixel density of 35MP/cm sq. That is absolutely nuts.

    Panasonic have already given up on the megapixel race stating there are no effective returns past 10MP in compact cameras - they're about the only honest manufacturer.

    To compare, a 24.5MP Nikon D3X SLR has a pixel density of just 2.8MP/cm sq. I'll leave it to the reader to decide which one gives shitty noise filled pictures and which one doesn't.

    Before anyone points out the difference in price it's the inherent stupidity we're comparing here. If the compact had a sensible pixel count of around 8MP it'd give much better pictures. Unfortunately retailers sell to average Joe based on the big numbers. The Canon or the Panasonic would be the best bet.

    IT angle? Sometimes it's like everything is targeted at the pointy haired boss.

  7. Mark
    Dead Vulture

    re. CoolPix the best - You must be joking

    Well, it's a camera review from El Reg. What did you expect?

  8. Anonymous Coward

    CoolPix the best - You must be joking

    Do reviewers take any more pics than of the coffee mug on their desks? If you get out more you see that sometimes you need a wide-angle and sometimes you need a zoom, and often you're holding something less useful than two sticks.

  9. The Avangelist

    I don't Believe it!

    What's going?

    Reg roundup of tech and haven't found a way to wedge the iPhone in? My eyes must be completed fucked. I guess I only have a 1.2MP retina.

  10. Anonymous Coward


    I bought a £35 6 mega pixel Sanyo camera from Asda recently.

    It's awesome. has SDHC capability, 3x optical zoom. Comes with a pouch and two batteries. Flash. Pictures are suprisingly good, and video isn't to bad either. and if I loose it I can buy another one that's probably even better a few months down the line! Admitidley no face detection to work out how to turn off ;)

    £250, your having a laugh! I bought a Canon S5 IS powershot for £220 for the heavier work.

  11. Andy Baird

    Viewfinder differences

    It's worth noting that only one of these cameras--Canon's Ixus 80 IS--has an optical viewfinder. The Nikon and Panasonic models, good cameras though they are, rely entirely on the LCD screen for composing pictures. That's a growing trend, for the understandable reason that it's cheaper to leave out the optical viewfinder. But it can be a problem if 1) you take pictures in bright sunlight, and 2) if you're over 40 or farsighted. That's why I chose the Canon, even though the others take just as good pictures. (Yes, there's noise with any camera this small... but that's what Noise Ninja is for.)

  12. bart


    Thank you for reminding me of how technology is often pushed backwards because of consumer driven marketing, in this case with respect to digital cameras. Marketing so effective that it becomes increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to persuade many people that MP count is but one of many factors, one that takes a distant back seat to sensor size. I'm glad to see how many commenters here get that, but the general public never had a chance.

    Raw images off my old 1.2 MP Canon a50 still have superior quality to contemporary cameras with many times the resolution, yielding superb 4x6 prints that are indistinguishable (in terms of resolution - even hard to see with a loop) from my 8 MP a630 or or even my DSLR. Typically, on 4x6, the a50 actually outperforms the a630!

    Another misused concept is that of image stabilization. Some cameras with increased image gain amplification to "achieve" higher "ISO" ratings are being touted as having this feature, which is technically incorrect, alongside other cameras that have far more superior optical stabilization. Either way, consumers are led to believe that stabilization will magically eliminate blur from most if not all shots, even from subjects in motion within the frame, when in reality stabilization of any kind can at best only deliver a bit over 2 stops extra latitude before image motion overtakes shutter speed to an objectionable degree.

    Decreasing pixel density (say 3-6 MP on a 1/1.8" sensor) would yield several stops better exposure, and when combined with current processing technology would make possible compacts that completely blow today's crap out of the water.

    Advertising could just as easily center on quantifiable standards for overall image quality, perhaps something akin to Imatest's, that would still differentiate cameras in order to sell them, but also give the consumer a solid rule of thumb for guiding purchase decisions. But the damage has already been done, and gets worse with time, so that such standards may not ultimately be accepted by the general consumer at all, or at least without considerable effort.

    What was that about RMS watts?


  13. Anonymous Coward

    The lenses?

    Other comments have adequately covered the issue of the meaningless Megapixel count. I'd like to talk about lenses. For those who actually take pictures of people, the range of the zoom at the wideangle end of the range is important. Wider is better. I'm guessing from the lenses I see on both these cameras and on consumer video cameras that zooms that go from just below normal to telephoto are easier and cheaper to design and build than ones that go wider at the short end. But it makes a difference, so I look for the zoom with the widest angle. Given that these are probably all using the same size (if not identical) sensor, you can probably judge this simply by looking for the lowest focal length at the short end.

  14. David Gosnell

    Re: viewfinder differences

    However, if the Canon's anything like ours, the accuracy of the optical viewfinder leaves a lot to be desired (erring on the side of capturing a lot more picture than expected, which is the better way to be inaccurate but is a waste of those increasingly poor quality megapixels), and this seems a pretty common problem on digital compacts. Another reason for dropping the optical 'finder is that as zoom lengths chase the megapixels, it becomes increasingly difficult to reflect that in the preview. Bigger superzooms tend to use electronic viewfinders to get as close to the best of both words as possible, and should have exactly 100% coverage.

  15. Michael J Evans

    I bet the Canon has no power level indicator

    Does this Ixus along with some or all of the other Ixus models also not have a battery level indicator? A small irritation which every reviewer strangely fails to mention, usually through incompetence. I had an Ixus 800 which I tossed after a few months because not knowing how much charge was left forced my to buy and carry around spares. I thought this was a one off oversight but a work colleague bought a recent model a few weeks ago and brought it in to play with. I asked did it have a power level indication and he was somewhat dismayed to find that it didn't. Again, you'll be hard pressed to find it mentioned in any reviews.

    Would you buy a car without a petrol guage? So why do Canon think it's clever and desirable to omit a power level indicator? Bloody idiots.

  16. David Gosnell

    Re: I bet the Canon has no power level indicator

    The LCD screen shots on

    clearly show a battery indicator, so should be nothing to worry about - though there's probably no alternative display should you choose to shoot with the LCD off, and it's not half as pretty as some of Samsung's.

    By the way, the SD1100 and 80 are the same camera, just branded for different markets for reasons best known to Canon.

  17. Kamal Hashmi

    re which camera is quick?

    Well Sir Runcible, you've hit the nail on the head - the one number missing in almost all reviews is the shutter lag. This is because most of the reviewers are techie nerds who don't buy cameras for their girlfriends or wives (or boyfriends) .... ;-)

    I, however, had to buy my wife a digital camera recently(ish) when her 35mm compact finally crapped out. First I bought her a fancy one that got good marks in all reviews. She hated it. Almost all her pics came out blurred or with the kids heading out-of-frame. And she doesn't like to have to piss around with dials and buttons - she'd have been using my ancient SLR otherwise.

    She wanted a new film camera. I couldn't find one (you try it - the alien conspiracy has got rid of yet another useful working device in favour of a harder to use one). While looking I managed to buy an 2nd hand fisher-price 35mm binocular viewfinder kids camera for our children - excellent value, much better than their new digital one, even 4 year-olds can take good pics with it.

    Anyway, to cut a long story short, I found the URL below:

    And ended up buying a Canon Powershot which she likes. Her old bells-and-whistles digital camera will be on ebay soon.


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