Compact Cameras Get Faster, Smarter, Thinner

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At a Glance

Trim triplets (from left to right): Sony's DSC-T7, Nikon's S1, and Casio's EX-Z750 don't hold back on features.
Trim triplets (from left to right): Sony's DSC-T7, Nikon's S1, and Casio's EX-Z750 don't hold back on features.

Small cameras sometimes sacrifice features such as full manual controls and comfortable, one-handed operation to attain their tiny size. But Casio's Exilim EX-Z750, Nikon's Coolpix S1, and Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-T7 all achieve a fairly good balance between features and size. Despite their diminutive dimensions all three shipping cameras provide a 2.5-inch LCD; 3X optical zoom; and attachable port extenders for USB 2.0, video-out, and power. Still, though I found aspects of each camera to like, in the end none of the models blew me away.

Hands-On Testing

In my informal tests each camera started up in roughly 1 second, and each took a snapshot almost instantly after I pressed the shutter. Each needed a second or less, depending on image size, to store the photo before becoming ready to capture another shot. The 5.1-megapixel Sony T7 was a smidgen faster than the others at most tasks.

Image impressions: In this still-life test shot, Nikon's S1 (left) struck a terrific balance between rich colors and spot-on lighting exposure. Photos from Sony's DSC-T7 (middle) and Casio's EX-Z750 (right) looked good, but colors were off in some spots, and the Casio had trouble reproducing the white background.
Image impressions: In this still-life test shot, Nikon's S1 (left) struck a terrific balance between rich colors and spot-on lighting exposure. Photos from Sony's DSC-T7 (middle) and Casio's EX-Z750 (right) looked good, but colors were off in some spots, and the Casio had trouble reproducing the white background.
In our PC World Test Center shots, the 5.1-megapixel Nikon S1 captured the most accurate colors. The Casio EX-Z750 produced the sharpest photos overall, thanks in part to its 7.2-megapixel resolution. The Sony DSC-T7 lagged a bit behind on most tests; in our flash photo, for example, its reproduction was overexposed. Like many other point-and-shoot units we've tested, all three struggled with focusing in low-light conditions.

In battery tests the Casio captured 446 photos on one charge, for a total shooting time of 4 hours, 5 minutes. The Nikon came in next at 205 shots (1 hour, 30 minutes), and the Sony trailed with 150 pics (1 hour, 23 minutes).

Nikon's Clever Coolpix S1

The 4.5-ounce Coolpix S1 is Nikon's first ultraslim camera, measuring about 0.75 inch thick. Nikon did a good job of outfitting it with photography tricks that help you take better pictures.

While Casio and Sony each include red-eye reduction in their camera's flash, Nikon promises that its model will automatically detect and remove red-eye errors before processing an image. Indeed, the flash portraits I took with the S1 came out red-eye-free.

Other nice features: The camera autodetects blurriness immediately after you take a shot and pops up a message asking if you want to keep the image. It also lets you lighten dark photos by applying a technique called D-Lighting. This feature worked pretty well on one of my dimly lit shots, brightening the scene overall but also introducing minor artifacts.

Though the S1's $380 initial investment seems reasonable, you'll have to spring for an SD Card, as the camera ships sans media and includes a paltry 12MB of internal storage.

Casio's Easy Exilim EX-Z750

Besides having the highest resolution of the three, the EX-Z750 surpasses the Nikon and the Sony in ease of use, thanks to an intuitive menu system plus well-placed buttons and controls. The camera is comfortable to handle, and (unlike the other two models) it includes an optical viewfinder for framing shots, in addition to the LCD.

Casio also offers a few useful photo-enhancement functions on the EX-Z750. For example, it has an on-camera editing feature that adjusts the brightness or white balance of saved photos. In addition, it has a ton of scene modes--30, to be exact--including one for office-focused photography such as shooting whiteboards.

The $450 EX-Z750 has only 8.3MB of on-board memory, and it ships without a starter SD Card or MultiMediaCard. Tip: If you're looking for a comparable 7-megapixel camera, check out the similarly configured Canon PowerShot SD500.

Sony's Stunning Cyber-shot DSC-T7

The 4.7-ounce Cyber-shot DSC-T7 is a head-turner. At just 0.625 inch thick, it's one of the slimmest cameras I've seen. It sports a sturdy metal body and nice details, such as well-made levers and a substantial cover for the battery housing (most cameras have flimsy rubber covers that fall off or break easily).

But the $500 DSC-T7 does have its share of design flaws. Its slimness, combined with the positioning of several buttons on the left, made the camera somewhat awkward to hold and use at times. And because the navigation buttons are on the left and the shutter is on the right, I was unable to operate the camera with one hand, which was frustrating. I could never get a comfortable grip on the camera, and I ended up smudging the LCD with my fingerprints on more than one occasion.

The good news: The DSC-T7 comes with both a 32MB Memory Stick Duo and a compact battery charger. (The Casio and Nikon models recharge their batteries inside the camera when you seat them in the included cradles.)

After shooting with these cameras, I'm hard-pressed to give any of them a glowing recommendation--all three had niggling issues. I would seriously consider buying the Casio EX-Z750 or the Nikon Coolpix S1. However, if I had my way I would combine the vibrant image quality of the Nikon, the intuitive menus and sharp photos of the Casio, and the sturdy housing and svelte design of the Sony to make the perfect tiny camera.

Casio Exilim EX-Z750


A solid choice if you're searching for a user-friendly camera.
Price when reviewed: $450
Current prices (if available)

Nikon Coolpix S1


Edges out the other models by delivering colorful photos.
Price when reviewed: $380
Current prices (if available)

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T7


Those wanting to score style points need look no further.
Price when reviewed: $500
Current prices (if available)

This story, "Compact Cameras Get Faster, Smarter, Thinner" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
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