WHAT IS A DIGITAL COMPACT?

When film cameras were popular you had SLR, Rangefinder and compact cameras. A film compact is as the name suggests, a compacted version of a professional camera. Like their film counerparts, as it’s name suggests, at it’s simplest a digital compact is a basically a digital camera with a fixed lens, as opposed to an interchangeable one.. Usually, it’s it’s small enough to fit in a pocket, or clutch handbag, and  has a variable focal length lens (Optical Zoom  of usually 3 -5 X magnification) as well as digital zoom, but the cheapest models have fixed focal lengths, and no Optical Zoom facility, though they will also have a digital zoom of 4 or 5 X ‘Magnification’. Digital zoom is usually achieved by cropping the picture and adding pixels to increase it’s size back to that of the sensor size.  This will often lead to a noticeable reduction in image quality.

At it’s extreme, a digital compact can be a large bridge camera with a large optical zoom between 10 and 50 X magnification, and with many manual features.  These models are called Compact because they are more compact than a Digital SLR

A Digital Compact is not classed as a professional  camera,  and the lenses can’t be changed. It’s not to be confused with a Compact System Camera, with interchangeable lenses. Compact System cameras are often seen as portable professional  cameras, and though many would disagree, the images they produce are as good if not better than a Digital SLR.

Point N Shoot.co.uk will not be featuring DSLR and Compact system Cameras for two reasons: the price of cameras and lenses start at £300 each upwards (up to £10,000), and the people who typically use them will use Adobe Photoshop for editing their images. This £600+ software, is the best on the market, but is aimed at professionals ane experienced users. The digital photography magazines are aimed fairly and squarely at this market. By way of contrast, compact camera users will spend around £100-£150 on a camera that they expect to do everything they need in a convenient easy to use camera, The typical digital camera magazine rarely caters for compact users.

DIGITAL COMPACT CAMERA TYPES

Compact Digital Cameras come in many different guises. From small ultra compact models, to large bridge models, there’s several  different types to choose from. They broadly fall into the following ranges.

ENTRY LEVEL or BEGINNERS CAMERAS.

These are the typically the cheapest cameras you can buy. Fixed Zoom models typically have a high street price starting  at around £25.00 - £30.00, whilst £40 - £45.00 upwards will buy you an optical zoom model. Typical features include 3 – 5 X Optical zoom, 2.5 inch or larger screen, Face, Smile and Blink detection, Panorama mode, Selectable ISO exposure and focus, basic on camera editing and  up to 20 or more scene modes (See Digital Camera Terms Explained). They will have a fully automatic mode, and slightly more advanced modes where some settings can be changed for better image quality. They usually give good results most of the time, though depending on the situations (e.g. low light, museums, night shots or close ups) may require use of a  scene mode (optimised for a particular situation) so you might need to set the camera according to the conditions to get the best results. Suitable for all beginners, even children from age 10 upwards and Wags can use them. All entry level cameras will take video at TV quality 480p resolution, with many now capable of 720 HD quality.  Some entry level cameras have complicated menu systems, which mean changing the advanced settings can be difficult so look at the reviews to decide how suitable a particular model is for you.  A typical compact is similar in size to a 20 cigarette packet, or a credit card.

ULTRA COMPACT

These models are generally smaller than the average compact camera, and are often stylish. They’re usually as feature packed as a typical entry level compact, they are either ultra slim, or small enough to fit in a purse.  Whilst an entry level camera may not be overly stylish, ultra compacts usually are, often with a minimalist amount of dials and controls, and command a higher price tag. If style over substance is important to you then you should consider an ultra compact model.

SPORTS/WATERPROOF/UNDERWATER/RUGGED

Many manufacturers now have underwater cameras in their ranges. Waterproof models can generally be used in the rain, though if you’re going swimming an underwater model is required. These can usually be used at depths of up to 3 metres (10 feet). Prices start from around £50 upwards  Many, like the Fuji and Pentax offerings can also withstand drops up to 1.5 metres (5 Ft).

 

ADVANCED COMPACTS

If you desire more control over your camera, then an advanced compact may be the camera for you. What makes a camera an advanced model differs from manufacturer to manufacturer: It could be Manual controls like Aperature, and Shutter priority, or innovative new features like Samsung’s  180 degree Vertically swivelling screen, or their front LCD models, large (up to 10 x ) zoom,  touch screens, full 180p video recording, GPS location tagging or even models with built in projectors from brands such as Agfa, GE, and Nikon. If any of these bells & whistles are important to you, then you should consider an advanced compact.

BRIDGE or PROSUMER MODELS

A bridge (also called prosumer as in professional consumer) camera bridges the gap between a digital SLR or Compact System camera, and a point and shoot model. Much larger than an average compact, they offer many of the features of professional models like full manual modes, with large zoom lenses. Often called Superzooms, they typically feature Optical Zooms of between 15 – 50 X magnification, and usually look like smaller versions of SLR cameras with a chunky hand grip and a 3” or larger screen.  They will need a large case for protection. Prices start at around £100.00. Whereas SLR and Compact system users will need to carry around heavy cameras and interchangeable lenses, a 30x zoom bridge model  means you get near Digital SLR performance, without the burden of carrying or changing lenses. Features vary between models, the more expensive ones giving you more features, such as RAW file formats used by DSLR and manual focusing. The most expensive bridge models cost over £300.00, and you can get interchangeable lens cameras for this price, albiet with fewer features. It's a trade off between features and the ability to change lenses, but with a high end bridge camera you never need to carry extra lenses or change them. 

 

 

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