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2006.12.05

The Best Cameras of 2006

For all those holiday shoppers looking to buy a new digital camera, Neocamera just posted its The Best Cameras of 2006 feature. These are cameras with outstanding image quality in their respective category.

For each category, there is a top pick based on photographic performance: the quality of its image, its speed of operation and its usability. Those are the most important things when judging a camera. However, not every camera, even one with superb image quality, fits the needs of everyone. That is what Neocamera is about, matching a camera to your needs.

With each top pick, there are alternate choices. These are all excellent (in green boxes) or good (in yellow boxes) cameras which provide features that the top pick does not have. The assumption is that it is not a camera’s features, but its performance, that determines its greatness. However, a camera’s features determine if it satisfies specific needs.

In the ultra-compact category, the Fuji Finepix F30 is complemented by a camera with a wide-angle lens, the Canon Powershot SD800, a waterproof camera, the Pentax Optio W10 and a camera with full manual controls, the HP Photosmart R967. The aternate choices are all great cameras, but we would no say that they are second or third best, they simply complement welll the F30’s feature set. If we had to pick a second best ultra-compact digital camera, we would probably pick the Fuji Finepix F10, but that camera does not bring anything significant compared to the F30.

One thing that readers may notice is the dominance of Fuji in the non-SLR categories. No, we are not sponsered by Fuji! Starting with the introduction of the Fuji Finepix F10, Fuji has made quite a comeback and produced a sensor, called SuperCCD HR, which gives outstanding image quality. It is a combination of technology and software which has given Fuji a lead in terms of image noise and high-ISO performance. Had we produced a list of top-cameras two years ago, Fuji would have been much less present. Other manufacturers, specially Canon, are closing the gap though.

The introduction of high-ISO sensitivities in small cameras is a welcome one. Increasing ISO limits allows more possibilities than increasing megapixels. More megapixels allow larger print sizes and more cropping, but higher ISO enables photography in places previously reserved for DSLR cameras. This is why we see more and more cameras with ISO sensitivities up to 1600 and beyond. The current champion of high-ISO for fixed-lens cameras is Fuji. In the DSLR world, Canon dominates with both cropped and full-frame sensors. Since every other DSLR, except for Olympus and Panasonic, uses Sony sensors, differences amount to noise-reduction algorithms.

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