Well, been looking for a high end compact camera. When I was on film, used a Yashica which was compact, but had a great fixed focus lense and excellent quality. There really isn’t a good answer yet for digital. What do you need for a prosumer that is different from a point-and-shoot. Well, the ideal list is pocketable since the whole point is that you don’t have your point and shoot, good quality blowups to say 11×17 (which is to say 8MP or so), high ISO and low noise which usually comes from a big AP-sized sensor, full manual controls for aperture and shutter priority, RAW output so you can tweak, great optics even if it means less (or no) zoom and finally image stabilization to get those really low light shots. The low light is important because no compact. In short, no camera has all this, but here are the current choices:

* “Ricoh GX200”:http://dcviews.com/_ricoh/gx200.htm is sort of with RAW and full manual, but it isn’t fast enough only good to ISO 200 because it uses a tiny sensor.
* “Sigma DP1”: has all the features and a huge sensor so it has great image quality and low noise, but terribly slow from shot to shot so pretty unusable if you have to wait 7 seconds between shots.
* “Canon G9”:http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/canonG9/ which has full manual modes, but still has a small sensor and is really too big. It shoots RAW and really “best quality”:http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/canong9/page7.asp is at ISO 200. Above ISO 100, the noise reduction in JPEG is really big, so you want to shoot RAW. And with a small sensor, its exposure latitude is small.
* “Canon SD950 IS”:http://dcviews.com/_canon/sd950.htm but it doesn’t have manual controls although it does have image “stabilization”:http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SD950IS/SD950ISA.HTM. It is really more of the top end of the point-and-shoot family. For instance it has “face detection”:http://www.steves-digicams.com/2007_reviews/canon_sd950.html. It is noisy above ISO 200 which is common for these small sensor (usually about 0.5″).

Three years ago settled on the Fuji F10 (and “F11”:http://dcviews.com/reviews/Fuji-F11/Fuji-F11-review.htm) which were only 6MP but had excellent low light performance. Great photos at ISO 400 which is pretty much impossible for most point and shoot today. Low light performance is really important because the flashes on small cameras just looks so bad and the lenses are slow. This camera is big and now obsolete, so what is a person to do.

The prosumer point and shoot has only a few choices with enough manual controls like aperture priority and low noise to be useful. The Canon Sureshot G9 is good but is kinda big. The Canon IS 890 is 12MP and decent quality at ISO 200. The “Sigma DP1”:http://www.photographyblog.com/reviews_sigma_dp1_2.php has terrific image quality and low noise up to ISO 400 is amazing, but it takes 7 seconds to shoot a single RAW image. It does use a Foveon image sensor, so it is nominally 5MP, but they market it as 14MP. With these small cameras megapixels aren’t nearly as important as low noise and a good lense. In this case Sigma is a fixed 24mm equivalent, so a little limited. But like my old Yashica which also has a fixed lense, really worth it. The tiny zooms are really amazing technological achievements, but I’d rather have a fast fixed focus for a compact camera.

The “Ricoh GX200”:http://www.photographyblog.com/reviews_ricoh_gx200_2.php doesn’t come to mind as a mainstream model. But it does do RAW and is now 12MP. Also has an electronic view finder option. Also has anti-shake too. The main drawback is that it is only good quality to ISO 200. It actually produces DNG files which is pretty cool. Also is has a 24-72mm effective lense, so it can take decent wide angle (more important than you think).

The sad thing is that it uses a standard sensor (the Fuji F10 does not nor does the Sigma DP1). You really want a big sensor to take care of noise. I really the Sigma DP1 was decent. Main issue with that camera is that it is simply so slow in taking photos.

I’m Rich & Co.

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