The popular Best Digital Cameras feature article has been updated and revamped for 2009. Select models ahead of their peers were selected in the ultra-compact, small ultra-zoom, large ultra-zoom (bridge), entry DSLR, advanced DSLR and pro DSLR categories. See all the winning models here.
In previous years, cameras were selected by size but it seems that the market is consolidating into roughly three sizes now: ultra-compact, bridge and DSLR. There were very few models that would count as compact introduced this year, the biggest producer of them is Canon with its Powershot A, G and 3-digit SX series. It does make economical sense as ultra-compacts and compact cameras have been using the same sensors for the last several years. The advent of smaller and thinner optics allowed to give high-power zoom to ultra-compact while larger ultra-zoom are now enjoying extremely long reaches of up to 26X of optical zoom, reaching 676mm.
At the same time, DSLR cameras continue to appear with more features but most importantly a broader range of prices. These are highly profitable as DSLR buyers become lens buyers. This made is split the DSLR size last year into 3 categories which we did again this year. This gives DSLR choices in the $500-1000, $1000-2000 and $2000+ price ranges.
The uncovered category this year is the small interchangeable lens camera. There are only two such models available and they share the same sensor. The choice between the Olympus EP-1 and the Panasonic GF1 comes down to built-in stabilization vs built-in flash, respectively, and design preferences. They also share the lens mount. A second Olympus Micro-Four-Thirds camera, the EP-2 is scheduled around next month. This is a minor upgrade though which essentially adds a connector for an accessory viewfinder (EVF).