The low down: Best Digital Camera 2009

Day 3 of our Vodafone Pocket-lint Gadget Awards 2009 nominees round-up means it's camera time. With these little devils getting more and more sophisticated, it's hard to keep up with just what it is that makes the best in show these days.

So, before you head over to the voting page to mark your choices, here's a little run down of the pick of the crop this year.

Olympus Pen E-P1

 

Type
Micro Four Thirds

Release date
16/06/09

Price
£520

PL review rating
9/10

The E-P1 is basically the most beautiful camera around. It's got a stunning retro design with not a clunky part or poor piece of thought put into it anywhere. It will turn heads and and then make them green with envy. Of all this, there is no doubt. Sadly, the contest is not one of looks alone but, fortunately, Olympus has done an excellent job making this Micro Four Thirds system an excellent picture taker too.

The lack of viewfinder and flash - both of which have to be strapped on - are frankly a pain in the arse, but the rest of what you get is top quality. It has a healthy ISO of up to 6400 with little noise at the top end, it takes 720p HD video, even in widescreen if you ask it too, and the standard 17mm lens is nothing short of magnificent. With all the technology of the Olympus E range tucked away in the casing, this camera has all the power and quality of a DSLR and all the fun and convenience of a compact. The only other downside is that it does cost a fair whack too.

 

Canon PowerShot S90

Type
Compact
Release date
19/08/09
Price
£329
PL review rating
9/10

Bringing together the sort of manual control found on the new G11, with dimensions closer to a typical compact, the Canon PowerShot S90 has proved an irresistible appeal to those looking to get a little more from their pocket camera. Lurking under that matte black exterior is the same sensor as you'll find in the G11, again with the DIGIC 4 processor, and all Canon's usual technologies.

The lens offers you an impressive F2.0 max aperture which, when combined with image stabilisation, means it’s a contender for better low light shooting, which you can even take to ISO speeds of up to 12800 so long as you can handle the drop to 2.5-megapixel resolution. Sitting around the bottom of that 28-105mm (35mm equiv.) lens is the new Control Ring, which is also one of the key and most exciting features of the camera which allows easy change of settings, with a "Ring Func." Button on the top to let you program it just how you like.

Fantastic flexibility and superb control at an increasingly reasonable price.

 

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1

 

Type
Micro Four Thirds

Release date
02/09/09

Price
£584

PL review rating
9/10

 

The Lumix GF1 is a direct competitor to the Olympus Pen, but where the latter has that Parisian 60s chic, Pansonic's offering is more akin to Soviet minimalism. It's an Eastern Bloc of a chassis. Apart from that, what you get inside is very similar. There's the 12.1 effective megapixels from a 13.1-megapixel LiveMOS sensor, 720p HD video shooting and an excellent pancake lens.

There's a nice bit of one-upmanship in that it does have an in-built flash but you still have to rely on the EV to compose your shots. While we're at it, the 3-inch LCD display is a better quality too. What you don't get are the gorgeous looks and quite the same sense of desire, but shooting is as fantastic as ever proving just how hot the competition is this year.

 

Fujifilm FinePix 200EXR

 

Type
Compact

Release date
04/02/09

Price
£170

PL review rating
8/10



The FinePix F200EXR is a 12-megapixel compact that offers a Fujinon 5x, 28-140mm wide angle optical zoom lens and a 3-inch 230,000 dot LCD. All sounds pretty normal for a compact, and on the surface it is. The real genius behind this snapper is that it's next to impossible to take a bad picture on it. The reason is because of the EXR system, which takes two pictures at different exposure settings every time you press the button and superimposes them onto one another so you get the best shot possible, and it works bloody well.

 

The only real issues with this FinePix are that it's not very pretty and that the system starts to crumble at high ISOs when you'll get speckles on your shots. It does have an intelli-flash and and excellent auto selection mode and between all the features you'll find that you rarely get disappointed. A real bargain for £170.

 

Nikon D5000

 

Type
DSLR

Release date
14/02/09

Price
£449 & £50 cashback

PL review rating
9/10

 

As the only DSLR on the shortlist, the Nikon D5000 has got some representing to do. It sits above the D60 but below the D90 in the Nikon range, with a feature set culled from the latter, but priced towards the former.

It has a 12.3MP CMOS sensor and a new tilt, turn, swivel 2.7-inch LCD and with 720p HD movie capability it is, well, a cracker. The idea behind the model is that it's a camera for all the family. It's got all the manual and exposure controls an enthusiast would want, lots of nice friendly menus and diagrams for the keen learner and all the point and press functionality for children, so long as you can trust them not to drop it in the sea.

The swivel screen is the first for Nikon and adds the fun feel to this DSLR plus with the inclusion of the £50 cashback offer this Christmas, it's excellent value for money.

 



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