Your mobile phone may take adequate photos, but it can’t compare to the varied functions a camera offers. We test these six compact cameras.

Clockwise, from top left: Canon Ixus 220 HS, Sony Cyber-shot W570, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT10,
Nikon Coolpix S2500, Olympus TG-310 and the Fujifilm Finepix Z90


1. GREAT FIND: CANON IXUS 220 HS, $399

Specifications: 12.1 megapixels, 2.7-inch screen, 24-120mm lens, 5x optical zoom.

WHAT WE LOVE

  • It felt comfortably solid in our hands despite its compact size.
  • The auto mode was a breeze to use, and we were delighted with the photo quality; the shots were sharp with good contrast. 
  • The camera’s ultra-wide angle makes it great for group and landscape shots.

WHAT COULD BE BETTER: It could have been more intuitive to use; there were too many steps to access the functions that we wanted.

VERDICT: 8.5/10. A solid design that delivered sharp photos, with a wide-angle lens.


2. OUR FAVOURITE: SONY CYBER-SHOT W570, $329

Specifications: 16.1 megapixels, 2.7-inch screen, 28-140mm lens, 5x optical zoom.

WHAT WE LOVE

  • The camera’s auto mode: We felt that it was the best of the six cameras in this review. Shots turned out sharp and bright, with vibrant colours.
  • Easy to use: Taking basic shots was intuitive.
  • Multifunctionality: There were other functions such as in-camera editing functions for red-eye and cropping, and a toggle to switch between panorama, photo and video modes.

WHAT COULD BE BETTER: Zooming in and out would have been easier if the zoom buttons were on the top instead of at the back of the camera.

VERDICT: 9/10. Great pictures; its high resolution meant prints could be enlarged without losing detail.


3. BEST VALUE: NIKON COOLPIX S2500, $199

Specifications: 12 megapixels, 2.7-inch screen, 27-108mm lens, 4x optical zoom

WHAT WE LOVE

  • Compact, with the most ergonomic buttons of the six — easy to press and well placed; we liked the audible clicks when we pressed on them.
  • Good photos and videos in less than ideal lighting: The pictures and videos taken with the camera turned out well, even in low-light conditions.
  • The screen was also one of the best: It displayed clear, crisp images.

WHAT COULD BE BETTER

  • There were too many modes for a basic user. We didn’t understand some of the otpions and had to refer to the manual.
  • Macro function is less than ideal. The biggest grouse: it was hard to take tight, close-up shots of food. The focus range of the macro function started from 8cm, and our shots would turn out blurry if we moved the camera any closer.

VERDICT: 7.5/10. Limited macro function, but good picture and screen quality, and ergonomically sound.


4. FUJIFILM FINEPIX Z90, $269

Specifications: 14 megapixels, 3-inch screen, 28-140mm lens, 5x optical zoom.

WHAT WE LOVE

  • The large touchscreen: It was the only camera with a big touch screen. The interface was fairly intuitive, and the menu was easy to navigate.
  • Picture quality was good, and it had the most powerful flash of the six. Just slide the lens cover open to switch it on.
  • Convenient button placement: Unlike the other cameras, the button to toggle between photo and video modes was located on the top, instead of at the back of the camera, saving space for a larger screen.

WHAT COULD BE BETTER

  • Outdoor shots: The colours of our outdoor shots were not as saturated as we would have liked.
  • The shutter: At times, the shutter clicked when we touched the screen to focus.
  • The screen: To preview images clearly, we had to clean fingerprints off the screen.

VERDICT: 8/10. Sleek, with a sensitive touchscreen.


5. PANASONIC LUMIX DMC-FT10, $399
Specifications:
14.1 megapixels, 2.7-inch screen, 35-140mm lens, 4x optical zoom

WHAT WE LOVE

  • The picture quality: Images came out crisp, with vibrant colours.
  • The preview screen: The screen was bright and clear, and displayed images realistically.
  • It’s waterproof and shockproof: This Panasonic camera is waterproof up to a depth of 3m and shockproof against a fall of up to 1.5m.

WHAT COULD BE BETTER

  • Compactability: It was the bulkiest camera of the six, and there were more angles than curves in its design.
  • User-friendliness: Accessing the functions might be a bit confusing for a basic user; it took me a while to get used to navigating the options, with several steps to get to the mode I wanted.

VERDICT: 8/10. Sturdy and took excellent photos.


6. OLYMPUS TG-310, $368

Specifications: 14 megapixels, 2.7-inch screen, 28-102mm lens, 3.6x optical zoom

WHAT WE LOVE

  • Most of the functions were accessible with a single button. The controls were so straightforward and easily navigable we wondered if there should be more menu buttons.
  • The camera is shockproof and waterproof: Like the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT10, it’s shockproof for up to a height of 1.5m and waterproof to a depth of 3m — good for pool shots.
  • 3-D photo functionality: It took 3-D photos, but we needed a 3-D-ready screen to view them.

WHAT COULD BE BETTER

  • Compactability: It’s sturdy but a little bulky.
  • Camera buttons: The rubber buttons took some effort to press.
  • Photo quality: The photos taken were decent, but the photo quality was not as good as we had expected in terms of sharpness and colour.

VERDICT: 7.5/10. Tough, waterproof and family-friendly.

*All cameras are available at major electrical stores. All product and pricing information was correct at the time of the magazine’s publication. We advise readers to check with the store for the latest availability and pricing information.

This article was originally published in SimplyHer May 2011.