Liked: Samsung SL820
, Casio Exilim FC100
, Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1 Didn't like:
None of these cameras can do true double-duty work as a camcorder, but the Samsung SL820 comes awfully close. It offers 720p video and is one of only two cameras here that allow optical zooming while video is recording (the Panasonic DMC-TS1 is the other) -- even if it does unfortunately mute the audio while doing so to drown out the noise of the motor. But, at all other times it captures (relatively) great sound to match the video.
And of course we can't talk video without highlighting the FC100, with its bevy of high-speed video modes that are plenty fun to experiment with. Unfortunately, once you're done experimenting you'll realize that the resolution and quality is too low to be of much use, as you can see in the compilation video above, with the skinny 1000fps segments getting stretched such that their subjects are barely recognizable. At high-speeds it is a fun toy, but not the high-quality, high-speed shooter we were hoping for. At a rather more normal 30 fps, however, the 720p video here is good, but a bit murkier than the Samsung, and the lack of zooming while filming is a drag.
So, there you have it: lots and lots of pictures with lots and lots of cameras. None of the contenders were complete disappointments, but the Kodak M380
impressed the least
. It did well in a few situations, but its overall performance was sub-par. That contrasts with its brother, the Z915
, which took consistently excellent shots, but is just a little too big to be a the sort of camera we'd want to take along everywhere. If you have unusually large pockets, though, buy with confidence. For those with small pockets (and pocketbooks) who aren't too hung up on image quality the Nikon S220
is a great little camera, while on the most expensive side the TS1
offered generally average picture quality -- impressive considering it's the only camera here you can not only take to the beach but right down into the water.
The rest were closely matched, but we liked the pictures coming from Samsung's SL820
most consistently. This was a surprise, as it's not the marque we'd have guessed would come out on top before we started testing, but it delivered the most consistently crisp, well-focused shots of the group, offers the highest quality video by a long shot (only Casio's EX-FC100
compares), and feels bulletproof in the hand. Sure, it's a little on the hefty side, but it's still comfortably pocket-sized, is quite a looker, and was the one that we found ourselves reaching for when it came time to take a few holiday snaps on our own.Update:
The initial version of this review didn't give proper credit to the Panasonic DMC-TS1's video capture, which not only also shoots 720p video, but allows optical zooming while doing so.