Best advanced compact camera 2010

by Enche Tjin on October 5, 2010

Advanced compact cameras category consists of compact cameras that has manual exposure control, optional RAW file recording, has better image quality compared to regular compact camera (but not better than DSLR cameras), and has better built-quality and handling.

Photographer chooses advanced compact camera often because they want some degree of creative control but does not want to carry the bulk of DSLR or interchangeable lens camera system.

This year we have several new advanced compact cameras, some are improvement over last year model (Canon G12, S95 and Panasonic Lx5) and we also has two new advanced compact cameras design: Nikon P7000 and Samsung EX1/TL500.

How does this new kids on the block compete with Canon and Panasonic? Here are the best advanced compact cameras in 2010:

1. Samsung EX1 / TL500 – Best advanced camera in 2010

Introduced earlier this year, Samsung TL500 is a new compact camera designed from the ground up. At a glance, it is a combination of best seller Panasonic Lumix LX3 and Ricoh G200. What is great about TL500 is its lens. TL500 lens is very bright/fast lens (has a big maximum aperture) 24-72mm f/1.8-2.4. It has the brightest lens compared to all advanced compact camera in 2010.

Samsung TL-500 is the best advanced compact in 2010 - image by uber gizmo

Samsung TL-500 is the best advanced compact in 2010 - image by uber gizmo

This bright lens makes shooting in low light condition easier than other compacts. You will also get higher image quality compared to other compact cameras because you will be less rely on increasing ISO in low light condition.

TL500’s built quality and control is also very good. It has back round dial, up and down button and front dial. It also has high quality AMOLED swiveling LCD screen, which is better than most if not all advanced camera up to date.

The weakness of Samsung EX1 is the size. It is too big to be pocket-able,  and its zoom range is quite limited. You will have difficulty in shooting far away subject like birds or sports. TL500 also does not have any optical viewfinder or electronic viewfinder.

Overall, Samsung is a great compact camera, but it does not come from high profile brand like Canon, Panasonic, Nikon or Sony, but it surpasses the quality of more popular brand. Find and try it yourself if you have chance.

The good and bad

  • + 24-72mm f/1.8-2.4 by Scneider-Kreuznach is a very high quality lens
  • + AMOLED swiveling LCD screen. It resists glare under bright light.
  • + Plenty dials and buttons for fast and easy control
  • + Selling at $350, it is a good value for money
  • + Sturdy metal construction
  • - Quite big for compact camera
  • - Limited zoom range
  • - No optical or electronic viewfinder option

2. Canon G12

Canon G12 is successor of very successful Canon G-series camera. It has all the good things of Canon G11 (the best advanced compact in 2009) plus some improvements: 720p video, front dial, improved image stabilization system and slightly faster continuous shooting 2 fps vs 1.1 fps.

Canon-G12

Canon G12 is quite big for a compact camera, but it has many great body-control that you only find in advanced DSLR cameras. In addition, it has swivel LCD screen that differentiate it will another compacts. Swivel LCD screen is helpful for many situation, for example for overhead shooting or low angle.

G12 also has optical viewfinder which is quite small (80% frame) and not very accurate, however, it might be useful in some condition, for example in bright light situation or when you want to keep the camera steady when shooting in low shutter speed.

My only complain about G12 is the size and perhaps price. Because it is just released, the starting price will be a bit high. If you are in budget, I recommend geting Canon G11 which is almost similar to Canon G12 in term of image quality and body handling.

The good and bad

  • + Excellent body handling (many dials and dedicated buttons)
  • + Excellent image quality
  • + Versatile zoom lens 28-140mm f/2.8-5.6
  • + Good image stabilization
  • + Optical viewfinder
  • + Swivel LCD screen
  • + Good overall performance
  • - Size is almost as big as camera with bigger sensor such as micro four thirds system camera
  • - Price is a bit high because it is recently announced

3. Panasonic LX5

Panasonic LX5 is successor of best selling and highly acclaimed Panasonic LX3. Like Samsung TL500, it has high quality lens with big maximum aperture. LX5 body and button is made from metal. Therefore, it is very sturdy. LX5 has an improved hand grip and has many dedicated switches and buttons so you can change setting faster and easier.

Unique to LX5 it has multiple aspect ratio switches (1:1, 4:3, 16:9 and 3:2). LX5 also has memory zoom, that let you quickly zoom to popular focal lengths such as 24, 35 and 50mm. Like it’s cousin Panasonic GF1, LX5 has socket for optional electronic viewfinder.

panasonic-lx5-lumix

Panasonic Lumix DMC LX5 - image from Wired UK

In term of performance, LX5 auto focus is very fast, almost as fast as beginner DSLR cameras and almost twice as fast as already fast LX3.

Although we appreciate many improvement in LX5, some weaknesses are not addressed yet, such as annoying (although protective) lens cap, lens zoom slowly and not so accurate white balance especially under artificial light.

Overall, LX5  is a very capable cameras for any given situation and is a worthy successor of LX3.

The good and the bad

  • + Bright and high quality lens 24-90mm f/2-3.3
  • + Very fast auto focus speed
  • + Study metal construction
  • + Good body design with useful switches and popular jog dial
  • + Optional electronic viewfinder
  • - Manual lens cap
  • - Inaccurate color / white balance especially under artificial light
  • - I feel the current street price of $459 is too high, $400 is ok

4. Canon S95

Like Canon G12, S95 is an upgrade from popular Canon S90. The improvement include 720p movie recording, better finishing for comfortable grip, and improved image stabilization that is noticeable in close-up photography. Image quality and feature wise, S95 is not very different with Canon flagship G12. It is very capable even in low light situation. Its zoom lens (28-105mm) is a bit shorter, but at the wide end, it has bright f/2 maximum aperture.

canon-powershot-s95

The tiny S95 - image by Pocket Lint

Unlike other advanced compact cameras above, S95 is very pocket-able.You can slip in your pocket easily, while with other advanced compact cameras, you need at least a spacious jacket pocket or pouch to carry them. I think that is a great selling point of S95. As a result of its minimalist design, S95 does not has hot shoe, so you can’t attach external flash or other accessories to it.

Unique to S95 design, you can use the lens barrel to change various popular setting such as ISO, aperture, WB, and my favorite: focal length.

Although S95 is small, it is easy and fast to change setting (though back round dial, lens dial and quick shortcut menu. For people who are looking for the smallest and pocket-able compact, S95 or it’s predecessor S90 might be the only one available in the market.

The good and the bad

  • + Excellent image quality
  • + Versatile zoom lens with big maximum aperture in the wide end
  • + Very small and very pocket-able
  • + Very good control and handling (thanks to innovative lens ring dial)
  • + Improved hybrid image stabilization
  • - No hot shoe for external flash/accessories
  • - Lack of hand grip
  • - Macro/close up limited to 5 cm
  • - No optical nor electronic viewfinder

5. Nikon P7000

Nikon P7000 is the latest Nikon attempt to enter the advanced compact camera market. Previously, Nikon released P6000, but it is a lot less popular compared to Canon G-series. At a glance, P7000 has many similarity to Canon G series camera. It has many dedicated dials/buttons, a small optical viewfinder and multipurpose zoom lens. It also has memory step zoom like LX5 and S95.

nikon-p7000

Nikon P7000 - image from Photography Blog

P7000 might be more interesting for Nikon DSLR shooters, because it is compatible with many Nikon speedlite/flash so that you can practice lighting with compact camera, instead of carrying bulky DSLR camera.

As a new product designed from the ground up, Nikon P7000 is very good. However it still has some weaknesses such as no swivel LCD screen, inaccurate optical viewfinder (like Canon G12), slow RAW file recording, and image quality is not as sharp as most cameras listed in this page.

The good and the bad

  • + Versatile zoom lens 28-200mm f/2.8-4.5
  • + Compatibility with Nikon speedlite and Nikon creative lighting system
  • + Great body control, almost similar to DSLR camera
  • + High resolution LCD screen
  • - Slow overall performance / speed  especially RAW recording
  • - Image straight-out from the camera is noticeable soft (not sharp)
  • - Price is a bit high
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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

kamera-gue October 6, 2010 at 12:26 am

I hope Samsung will make a successor of TL500, with HD movie capability and slight longer end of lens (maybe 90mm f/2.8).

Enche Tjin October 6, 2010 at 8:48 am

Olympus is planning to get the one that you wish for.

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