Photography seems to be an area that’s just growing and growing at the moment. Despite a change to the entire industry in the early 90s and the fear that cameraphones would eat into the market, this segment, where gadgets meet art, has exploded. With more of us looking to post photos online, quality is becoming an issue and users are seeking out the very best as well as the most convenient cameras to own.
Although no camcorders made it into our final five, one good reason seems to be that shooting video is becoming a function we’re all expecting even on our DSLRs but you can read all about that as you take a closer look at the nominees for the Best Camera of the 2010 Pocket-lint Gadget Awards.
Canon EOS 550D
It may have just 50 more in its name than the Canon EOS 500D but this 18-megapixel DSLR has been likened to the professional grade 7D rather than the entry level camera from where it came. Despite the pixel cram, it suffers no noise issues until well over ISO 800 level where one would really expect this kind of thing to start creeping in anyway. It can rattle off shots at up to 3.7fps, including 6 RAW, with 37 photos possible in a single burst. The two best additions to the 550D, though, have to be the fantastic 1040-dot, 3-inch display on the back, which will give wonderfully accurate previews of you shots, and the Full HD video shooting functionality that includes AF and Face Tracking too. You can even jump it up to 50fps for faster motion capture if you're willing to drop to 720p resolution. All in all, this is an excellent, well-priced camera that will appeal to those who just want to shoot on auto and those who want a little power under the hood as well. Lots to get excited about.
Unlike the Canon EOS 550D, the Nikon D3100 is very much an entry-level creature. It too features Full HD video recording - a first for Nikon - as well as all the friendliness that one would expect of a family camera. Sadly, it doesn't have the vari-angle screen of the D5000 but there's still the Guide Mode which will explain in plain English detail on the rear LCD what each of the controls and options do. So, this really is a model that can teach a beginner what enthusiast photography is all about. It has a typically good ISO range, although there is a grain that begins to creep in from 400 onwards. All the same, the Nikon D3100 came precariously close to scoring full marks in our review. It was only the relatively high price and the fact that image sharpness could do with an extra “lick of paint” so to speak (add a better lens, however, and that’s resolved) that ever so marginally held it back. But that’s just nit picking as, frankly, the D3100 is hands down the best entry-level DSLR available today, bar none.
Canon PowerShot S95
Starting where 2009's fantastic Canon PowerShot S90 left off, it was always unlikely that the S95 would be anything short of superb. All of the excellent features found on its older brother - the f/2.0 lens, the awesome control ring, the aspect selection - are present and correct but now there's a few important tweaks to appease all would be buyers. This tiny powerhouse will shoot 720p HD video at 24fps and do all sorts of interesting tricks like HDR shooting and creative filters such as Fish-eye, Miniature and Colour Swap modes as well. Like the Nikon D3100 it's noise free up to ISO 400 but the real strength of this compact is that it approaches the shooting power of a DSLR in something that's no bother to carry around. It also happens to be simple enough to use for a beginner while offering an excellent manual mode to keep the enthusiast happy. Expect to see it under a few Christmas trees this year.
Just because Panasonic and Olympus had their Micro Four Thirds hybrid camera system, that wasn't going to stop Korean tech giant and camera Johnny-come-lately Samsung from proving that they've got what it takes as well. As it turns out, Samsung certainly has. The NX10 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera proving that you can get something like the picture power of a DSLR with more of the convenience of a compact. In fact, one major area where this snapper can lord it over its rivals is that it actually has the same size sensor as you'd find in a DSLR camera. It also has a flash and viewfinder built in rather than having to rely on an EV only and the purchase of expensive add-ons. It'll shoot well up to an impressive ISO 800 and the only weakness that it's got is that the 720p video mode isn't as snappy as it could be. Still a fantastic buy for those looking for more than just a compact.
Fujifilm FinePix Z800EXR
Of course, if just a compact is all you're looking for, then the Fujifilm FinePix Z800EXR is where it's at. Point and press it may be - and it does come with all the suspect image quality that the category drums up - but this 12-megapixel, 5x optical zoom little brother to the co-announced 15x zoom F300EXR is feature festooned and brings some serious bang for buck power. For less than £200 you get a quality built all metal chassis, a massive 3.5-inch LCD in widescreen aspect and all sorts of non-art and actually useful picture shooting modes - HDR, low noise, Motion Panorama and assortment of colour intensities. Sure, it's not a high end snapper like the others in the list but let's hear it for the camera of the people.
So, which of these famous five do you think is the best? Let us know in the comments and don't forget to cast your vote for the Pocket-lint Awards.