A great compact digital camera combines intuitive auto settings with comprehensive manual controls. PC Advisor tests eight big-name models to find the right one for you.
Digital cameras used to be luxury items; these days, we take it for granted that we'll be able to record every special occasion with photos, video or both. Even the cheapest digicam now has a video-recording mode, while cheap flash-memory camcorders also allow you to snap still photos.
Cameraphones have caught up with compact cameras in terms of the nominal amount of detail they capture, but compacts have made great strides of their own. If you want to capture consistently great shots in all lighting conditions, there's no substitute.
The continuing popularity of digital cameras means the features that were once found only on high-end models are now de rigueur on any new model, regardless of its price tag.
Image stabilisation, burst mode, face recognition, large ISO ranges, support for RAW files and extensive manual controls are almost prerequisites. Automatic modes and presets are fine but, once you've got to know your camera, you'll want to experiment and find out what it can really do.
The models we've selected for our group test this month all offer strong point-and-shoot features. Beyond this, they distinguish themselves from one another in how they deal with challenging conditions, such as taking sharp shots in low light or when the subject is moving rapidly.
How well they fare when the zoom is maxed out is also important, as is the ability to capture fine detail at close quarters: macro photography demands far more than simply cramming in additional megapixels.
- The best compact cameras, tried and tested
- Digital cameras: how we tested
- Digital camera reviews
- Digital cameras: the conclusion
NEXT PAGE: how we test