I’m very happy with my Nikon D300 but I also need a smaller camera for hiking and for family outings when I don’t want to carry a heavy DSLR and lens. Are there any really fast/versatile cameras with built-in lens that would satisfy a serious photographer? I would want all the modes, overrides and RAW capture that you get with a DSLR? A.B.
In truth, no such camera is fully competitive with a DSLR in terms of versatility — especially in Continuous Drive speed — but there are three models that you should definitely check out while shopping. I have tested all three and found that they’re packed with advanced features, including numerous modes and overrides plus a RAW capture mode.
The 14.7 megapixel Canon Powershot G10 with 28-140mm f/2.8-4.5mm lens and traditional controls, is the largest/heaviest of the trio but the most versatile in terms of the zoom range. The continuous drive speed of 1.3 fps (or 0.8 fps in RAW capture) is quite fast for a high resolution digicam. SuperFine JPEGs made at ISO 80 to 200 are suitable for 12×16″ prints that can be used as wall decor. ($450)
The 13.5 MP Nikon Coolpix P6000 ED lens, also provides a comprehensive feature set. Continuous Drive mode at 0.9fps is available, but only in JPEG capture mode. Images made at ISO 64 to 200 look great and exhibit very high resolution; they’re suitable for very good 11×14.7″ prints. This model is very compact/lightweight and includes a built-in geo-tagging (GPS) device. ($400)
Also shirt-pocket size, the full-featured 10.1 MP Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 with a Leica 24-60mm f/2-2.8 lens, is surprisingly fast at 2.5 fps in JPEG or RAW capture. While higher resolution might make it more attractive, this camera features larger pixels for superior quality at ISO 800. My best ISO 80 to 200 photos made very good 11×14.7″ prints. This would be my first choice in a high-grade digicam if the lens extended to at least 110mm but it should certainly satisfy those who love wide angle image-making. ($430)
All three of the cameras target experienced photographers, with a wealth of automatic and manual features including RAW capture mode, a high-grade lens with image stabilizer and compatibility with an optional external flash unit. One of these models would be a fine choice for a DSLR owner who also needs a smaller — but very versatile — camera that can produce images of very good to superb quality.
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