The vast majority of compact cameras are so simple and automated that you can use them in your sleep. But these five cameras are more-complex animals. Though they're still easy to use, they come loaded with higher-quality lenses, bigger sensors, RAW shooting, full manual controls, unique modes, and image quality that might please even pro shooters.
These high-end point-and-shoots are a bit bigger and pricier than a typical pocket camera, but they're also a lot more powerful. They're the perfect step-up cameras for novices who want to experiment with manual controls, and they make useful on-the-go cameras for DSLR owners who don't want to lug bulky gear everywhere they go.
Despite being similarly fine-tuned for high-end performance, these high-end models are quite different from one another: The Canon PowerShot G12 and the Nikon Coolpix P7000 have bulkier, button-heavy bodies with DSLR-like controls; the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 has very fast autofocus, an ultra-wide-angle lens, and manual video controls; the Samsung TL500 backs up its ultra-wide-angle lens and ultrawide F1.8 aperture with an adjustable OLED screen; and the Canon PowerShot S95 offers features and performance that no rival of similar size can match.
Long story short: You can't go wrong with any of these models; they represent the top tier of the point-and-shoot world. Their subtle differences may sway your buying decision one way or another, so read our reviews for each camera to learn which of them is the best fit for you.
Our comparison chart lists the five cameras in our roundup by overall ranking, reports how each model performed on four criteria (exposure, color, sharpness, and video quality) that we assess in our PCWorld Labs tests for digital cameras, and provides features and specifications for each model (including optical zoom lens size, video resolution, LCD screen size, and battery life). All five cameras are 10-megapixel models. To view the complete chart, click the thumbnail image at left.
We also broke out the scores for video quality, exposure quality, sharpness, and color separately, so you can see at a glance how well the individual cameras did on each of these measures. To see ranked minicharts for each of these criteria, click the thumbnail image at left.