The Best Compact Cameras

These 10 cameras are great for the casual photographer, and most have nice image quality for an affordable price.

Canon PowerShot A590 IS

For a bargain-bin price of $150, the Canon PowerShot A590 IS has a lot of features: 8-megapixel resolution, 4X optical zoom, optical image stabilization, face detection (which recognizes faces in the frame and optimizes the autofocus accordingly) and a smaller-but-serviceable 2.5-inch LCD screen. And conveniently it runs on two AA batteries.Despite its rock-bottom price, the A590IS scored significantly higher in our image-quality assessments than point-and-shoots that cost more than twice as much and have higher megapixel counts. In particular, PC World judges noted superior colors and flash exposures in subjective tests. Check Latest Prices

Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS

You'll get fast start-up, focus, and shooting speed on this sleek Canon compact camera. In our lab tests, the PowerShot SD1100 scored higher on overall image quality than nearly all of its competitors. However, in this new PowerShot SD1100 model, Canon shaved 3mm off the wide-angle end of the 3X optical zoom, so you can't take wide-angle shots. Check Latest Prices

Fujifilm FinePix F50fd

The Fujifilm FinePix F50fd may look dull, but its looks are only shell-deep. Though it weighs more than most of the units in this roundup, it also has a larger-than-average LCD panel, at 2.7 inches, and a higher resolution (12 megapixels) than most. And--a rarity in a point-and-shoot--the F50fd offers aperture- and shutter-priority modes. In image-quality tests, the FinePix F50fd received high marks for sharpness. Fujifilm gave the FinePix F50fd all the latest gee-whiz digital camera features too, including image stabilization. Check Latest Prices

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2

This Panasonic Lumix compact camera takes very accurate exposures and lets you snap photos in wide-screen format. The Lumix DMC-LX2 earned excellent scores in nearly all of our image-quality tests. Most shots--even magnified enlargements--looked sharp, and the camera earned our top score for exposure quality. Check Latest Prices

Nikon Coolpix S210

The small and solid 8-megapixel Nikon Coolpiz S210 is very straightforward to use, and isn't short on good looks. The S210 is available in an array of understated brushed-metallic colors. Priced at $180, this 0.7-inch-wide camera fits easily in the palm of your hand. Like many other Nikon point-and-shoots, the S210 was extremely easy to use, even without reading the manual. Reaching some settings, such as video and scene modes, took a few button presses, however, which may slow users down a bit. Check Latest Prices

Casio Exilim EX-Z80

About the length and width of a credit card and just 0.5 inch thick, the Casio Exilim EX-Z80 fits into a pocket with the ease of a flip phone. Encased in a combination of sleek brushed metal and matching faux-metal plastic, the EX-Z80 is available in a range of metallic colors. And at 8 megapixels, it produces acceptable prints at 8 by 10 inches, with nice colors but a bit of blur. The EX-Z80 records .mov files in YouTube's preferred H.264 format, optimized for online viewing. The software even includes a special YouTube video uploader. By and large, movies came out quite well, particularly at higher quality settings. Check Latest Prices

HP Photosmart R937

Apple's iPhone has made big color touch screens fashionable. But with its ease of use and good image quality, the HP Photosmart R937 may be the coolest touch-screen toy you could carry. It features a huge 3.6-inch LCD that is touch-sensitive, making the Photosmart R37 a breeze to operate. In PC World Test Center evaluations, images looked bright and colorful; the scores for sharpness and distortion, however, were roughly average. One note: Late last year, HP said it planned to find a licensee to manufacture and distribute its digital cameras. Check Latest Prices

Canon PowerShot A460

The sophisticated and durable-looking Canon PowerShot A460 has a 4X optical zoom, whereas most cameras at this price level have only a 3X zoom. The A460 starts up quickly, in 2 seconds, and offers both an eye-level viewfinder and a bright 2-inch LCD screen. A simple mode dial lets you select full auto, manual (still automatic, but with some user settings), scene modes, and movie mode. The PowerShot A460 earned an overall image quality score of Good from the PC World Test Center, with roughly average ratings for color and exposure accuracy. Check Latest Prices

Canon PowerShot SD870 IS

The Canon PowerShot SD870 IS has an alluringly large 3-inch LCD and a wide-angle zoom, which starts at 28mm (35mm equivalent), a focal length to warm the heart of any ardent landscape photographer. A sibling to two other Digital Elph models PC World has reviewed--the PowerShot SD950 IS and the PowerShot SD850 IS--the SD870 shares many of this trio's fine features, including a nicely organized exposure system that groups key controls into one simple-to-use, easy-to-read screen. Check Latest Prices

Canon PowerShot A470

The 7.1-megapixel PowerShot A470, an inexpensive compact camera, performed as well as several far more expensive compact models. In PC World tests, the PowerShot received a Very Good image quality score. The PowerShot A470 lacks a viewfinder, so you have to rely on the 2.5-inch LCD screen. But you also get 14 shooting modes--plenty to keep a casual photographer entertained. Check Latest Prices

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