A favourite from Fujifilm, the X100T is one of the best performing low-light compacts, thanks to its SLR-size APS-C sensor. This is not a camera for everyone, since it comes with a fixed 23mm f/2.0 lens, which is a 35mm equivalent. But, that’s what also makes it the most appealing camera for street photography. Featuring a retro design that is reminiscent of the Leica M-series, the X100T comes with a 16.3-megapixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor, a speedy EXR II processor, a spiffier AF system, 1080/60p full HD video recording, a speedy 6fps in burst-mode shooting, easy-to-use manual controls, Wi-Fi and Fujifilm’s own special colour array design for excellent colour quality. Price: $1299
Canon G1 X Mark II
With a 1.5 inch, 12.8-megapixel high-sensitivity CMOS sensor and a bright and powerful 24-120mm f/2.0 – f/3.9 lens with optical image stabiliser and a circular, 9-blade aperture for stunning blurred backgrounds, Canon’s G1 X Mark II is much more than a capable point-and-shoot. It also features 31 focus points for speedy and accurate AF, a capacitive 3.0-inch tilt-type touch panel LCD, dual control rings on the lens barrel for fast control of exposure and focus, Wi-Fi with NFC and an optional high-resolution electronic viewfinder. Price: Rs 58,995
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III
With the DSC-RX100 III, Sony has created the most advanced compact camera in the market, featuring 1.0-inch sensor that is larger than most compact cameras and is also responsible for the camera’s top-notch image quality and low-light performance. Other features include a 25-point autofocus system, built-in electronic viewfinder, an F1.8-2.8 Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T lens with 24-70mm range, full HD video recording, built-in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity, continuous shooting at up to 10fps at full resolution, support for the raw format, full manual controls and a control ring that surrounds the lens body, allowing users to adjust exposure, zoom and other functions. Price: Rs 54,990
Fujifilm has been at the forefront of innovations in the compact camera market, and the retro-chic X30 is one of our favourite compacts. Featuring a 12-megapixel 2/3-inch X-Trans CMOS II sensor; a 4x, 28-112mm, f/2.0-2.8 zoom lens with a manual zoom ring; large optical viewfinder; 1080p movie recording; hybrid auto focus system; 12fps burst shooting and plenty of scene modes for no-fuss photography, the X30 will delight with its sharp and bright images. For enthusiasts, the camera offers a considerable array of manual controls too. Price: $599
Sony Cyber-shot RX1R
Sitting pretty on top of Sony’s Cyber-shot line-up is the RX1R, a full-frame sensor-toting fixed lens ultra compact that even professionals will approve of. The RX1R offers a 24.3 megapixel 35mm Exmor CMOS sensor, a Carl Zeiss Sonnar T35mm F2 prime lens, Full HD recording, continuous shooting at up to 5fps at full resolution, a built-in pop-up flash, intuitive manual controls with aperture and focus mode dial, blazing fast autofocus and image quality that rivals the best of DSLRs in the market.
Price: Rs 1,79,990
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100
Panasonic’s LX series has been a bestseller most of the last decade and now Lumix fans have something to cheer about. The new LX100 is literally a wish list of all you want from an enthusiast compact camera. It features a Micro Four Thirds sensor with 24-75mm f/1.7-2.8 Leica lens, an electronic viewfinder (EVF), 4K video shooting, high speed AF, high speed burst shooting at 11fps with the mechanical shutter and 40fps with the electronic shutter, aperture and control rings and integrated Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity. Price: $899
Olympus Stylus SH-1
Olympus brings the retro-chic looks of its PEN series to Style SH-1, complete with an aluminium alloy frame, albeit in a much smaller form. The Olympus SH-1 is a 16-megapixel ultra zoom compact camera with a 25-600mm (24X zoom) f/3-6.9 lens, built-in Wi-Fi, high-speed video recording for slow-motion playback, a time-lapse movie mode, 5-axis image stabilisation system to compensate for camera shake in stills and a hybrid electronic stabilisation system for 1080 60p HD video. Price: Rs 28,490
Canon PowerShot G7 X
Canon’s powerhouse compact, the G7 X features a 20-megapixel, back-illuminated, 1” type CMOS sensor with 4.2x Optical Zoom 24 – 100mm, f/1.8 – f/2.8 lens; 1080/60p video recording; 9-blade aperture diaphragm for beautiful bokeh effect; built-in Wi-Fi and NFC; the DIGIC 6 image processor; a tilting, 3-inch touchscreen; 31-point AF; intelligent image stabilisation; full manual controls; and a lens control ring. Price: Rs 44,995
Fujifilm’s X range is probably the most versatile of all ultra compacts. And, although XQ1 entered the market last year, it is an impressive camera. Featuring a 12-megapixel 2/3-type X-Trans CMOS II sensor, a fast 4x, 25-100mm, f/1.8-4.9 zoom lens with optical image stabilisation and a control ring, 1080p recording at 60fps, Wi-Fi connectivity, an integrated manual pop-up flash, a full range of auto modes and manual controls, it makes for a truly impressive pocket camera. Price: $259
Why the current crop of premium compact cameras are better than their predecessors.
Sensor is the soul of the digital camera. The size of sensor determines how much light it uses to create an image. A larger sensor means more light can be captured, hence better quality photos in a low-light situation. Smartphones do not have the space to accommodate large sensors and will not be able to compete with the current crop of compact digicams on picture quality, detail and low-light performance. But, it’s the premium compact cameras with larger sensors, which were earlier found only in DSLRs, that are changing the game. These cameras are bringing pro-level image quality to devices that are small enough to fit in your pocket.
Higher optical zoom and faster lenses
Your smartphone may let you zoom in on a subject but, mind you, that is digital zoom. In other words, it’s an enlargement of your photo and the more you zoom, the more pixelated it gets. If you want the ability to take photos of a subject that is further away from you while retaining the image quality, you need an optical zoom and hardly any phone offers that as of today. Unlike their predecessors, the newer breed of premium compacts come with high-speed lenses (f2.0 or faster), which are great for taking photos in low-light shooting situations.
Faster shutter speed
If you want to take photos of your child’s soccer game or your day at the F1 racetrack, you can put away that smartphone where it belongs — in your pocket. Shutter speed is what makes the difference between a great image and a blurry shot. Some phones do offer a burst mode, but if you want something that will keep up with your running kids and give you sharp images, you need a camera capable of faster shutter speed. And, high-speed burst shooting. The newer breed of high-end compacts will offer you DSLR-like capabilities in shutter speed.
More controls and features
The new premium compacts offer fantastic shooting versatility that your smartphone or regular compact camera cannot compare to. You have a full array of manual settings, a range of focus and metering modes, raw mode, built-in viewfinders and/or the option to add one, articulating LCD screens, control rings around the lens giving you DSLR-like results from a camera you can fit in your pocket.
Things to consider when evaluating high-end compacts
It’s not the megapixels but the size of the sensor that matters. A larger sensor means more light can be captured, hence better quality photos in a low-light situation. Buy the largest sensor you can afford in the smallest size possible.
Look for lenses with fast apertures and optical image stabilisation to help you take sharper images even in low light. Remember, the smaller the f-number, the wider the aperture and faster the lens.
The higher this number, the better the camera is capable of shooting in low light.
Electronic viewfinder (EVF)
If you will be taking a lot of videos, an EVF is very useful as you can’t simultaneously view and record video using an optical viewfinder.
More and more cameras are coming into the market with built in Wi-Fi. Imagine being on a trip and still being able to transfer pictures you’ve just taken.
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