back to article Ten... pocket compact cameras

When it comes to quick pics, the expedience of a phonecam can't be overestimated, yet the image quality expectations frequently are. With this in mind Reg Hardware has rounded up the smallest and cheapest compacts produced by all the usual suspects from the photography world. Here are ten cameras that will not only take decent …

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What would be useful

Is a comparison of these actual cameras vs the best of the phone cameras (I believe the Nokia N8 is the current top of the tree?).

Now that would give credence to the 'camera phones not good enough' statement. Judging by some of the example shots in the review. the N8 would beat them....(I don't have an N8 btw, but have seen some very good images from one)

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A good craftsman...

can make anything with even the basest of tools ;)

To be fair, the N8 is pretty impressive and camera phones have come a long way; these days, I'm quite happy to snapshots random things on my Desire HD, tweak the results and punt the image over to Facebook.

But camera-phones are (currently) fundamentally limited by the physical restrictions of their design (no optical zoom, limited flash range, heavy drain on phone battery) and are a relatively expensive - and secondary - feature, so tend to be underspecc'd, in much the same way as PC manufacturers tend to skimp on memory and hard-drive space.

In many ways, the N8 is the exception - but it comes at a significant cost; 9 months after launch, it's still priced over £330 (Carphone have it on PAYG at £429). Meanwhile, my Canon Ixus 200 HS has equal or better specs (24mm lens, 5x optical zoom, 1080p video recording, etc) and started at £199 when it was launched in March; 4 months later, it's now down to £169 on Amazon.

To be fair, the day someone figures out how to cram optical zoom onto the back on a mobile phone, the pocket-compact camera days will be officially numbered. But we're a long way off that yet...

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Boffin

Alternatively useful: a comparison of cheap WATERPROOF cams.

You know, with the holiday season an' all that?

Or as a second choice, combinations of cheap compacts + suitable waterproof covers (and compare the photo results of that setup).

/sunglasses

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Phone Cameras

In perfect conditions a phone camera may look like it comes close but full size photos in anything but and the difference becomes obvious. You cannot cheat the laws of physics and the pinhole lens and microscopic sensor are the limiting factor unless you want a phone as thick as a camera etc.

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It's slightly out of the suggested price range [*]

But I can highly commend the Canon Ixus 220 HS - 5x optical zoom, 12 megapixels, 28mm lens and 1080p video at 25fps and a solid metal casing - it's quite happily sat in my pocket alongside house/car keys without taking damage. Like the 115 HS, it has the newfangled CMOS sensor; unlike the 115 HS, you can zoom while recording with audio enabled (though the camera does apply some sort of audio-noise filter while zooming; it's not particularly obtrusive, but can be noticable - e.g. when recording live music).

Oh, and on holiday, I managed to get over 400 photos and a few video clips from a single battery charge (and around 200 from the cheap 3rd party batteries I picked up from Ebay - you get what you pay for!). Admittedly, this was pretty much all daylight photography, so I wasn't using the flash much, but it's still pretty impressive!

[*] RRP is £200 - though Canon were doing a £20 rebate when I bought it (which arrived surprisingly quickly in the post); a quick look on Amazon shows it's available for £169 now - and probably less elsewhere...

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Whoops

24mm lens, not 28mm. Wider-widescreen ;)

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Nikon S8000

£130 in Argos.

Sweet!

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I do have an N8..

And my 10mp Sony compact is now gathering dust.

True, it wont ever replace my SLR/DSLR cameras, or my much loved medium format Rolleicord but with the Camera Pro app & a little practice in finding its foiballs the N8 does everything I need it too. Fits in my pocket better than any compact too, haz memory card, does HD (720p 30fps) video with better sound than my older dedicated video cameras & kicks out very nicely detailed 4000x3000 image files that are prefect for the social aspect of my photography.

The important thing to remember with any camera is the glass in front of the film/sensor, thats your differentiator right there. No amount of pixels will do you any good if their looking through the bottom of a bottle.

The tripod mount is the only thing I miss for my long exposures & timelapse stuff, will probably get one of those Gorrilapod sucker things at some point, still surprised no 3rd party plastic mfr has made one yet but Im sure they will eventually.

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Sensor

Sure, the glass is a big factor, but so is the sensor. It doesn't matter how good your lens is if it's focusing the light onto a microscopic CCD. The N8 is remarkably well-endowed in this department with its 1/1.83" sensor.

Now if only Nokia had embraced Android, or some manufacturer of Android phones had taken as much care over their imaging hardware as Nokia have. :)

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Meh

As I've said before...

...I think we can give up on the phone makers ever giving decent lenses across the board so the hardware will always have a limit.

However, there is one improvement they could make in the software and thats lower the compression applied to the shots. I dont need a phone that can take 700 blurry pics but I would like to be able to take maybe 50 nice ones. Let us set the compression setting maybe?

I often wonder if manufacturers just use the firmware to differenciate between their range. The hardware internally stays the same across the range.

The cheapest cam gets 60% compression and a little noise applied, the next gets 50%...40%

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Headmaster

Nikon S9100

Just picked up a Nikon Coolpix S9100 with 1080p video, mini-HDMI out, 18x optical zoom, for £169. Waiting for the 45MB/sec SDHC 32GB memory (£67) to arrive today.

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Boffin

PAL/NTSC again

It records 720p HD video as MP4 files at 29.97fps ....., although 25fps would be nice

no.no.no.

Almost always for all but cinema type stuff, more temporal info is better. 25fps should have died a death when we moved to HD, as should interlaced (though Sony annoyingly still use the bloody thing randomly on some cameras and not others*)

stu

*my Sony A55V shoot AVCHD 25fps** progressive (in interlaced AVCHD container), whereas my HX9V shoots it at 50i true interlaced....arggggg... die interlaced video. DIE!!!!

**Sony are still one of the arseholes that insist on selling 'PAL' cameras to PAL markets, even though there is no such thing as PAL in HD and LCD tvs. does my fucking head in but gave up trying to source a 'NTSC' model...

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Well, I like cinema type stuff

So give me 24fps. But I agree wholeheartedly about the evils of interlacing. It's ugly and stupid and has no place in the 21st century. Just kill it with fire.

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