When it comes to digital cameras, there’s a time and place for function, and one for fashion instead. Case in point: The hefty five-pound DSLR cameras you see pros muscling around at press conferences and football games are the tools of the trade for shooting magazine covers and Pulitzer award winners. But when it’s time for a night out on the town? That’s when you leave the big guns and tripods at home. Whether club hopping or twirling around a ballroom, the ideal point-and-shoot digital camera needs to fit the tiniest suit pockets and handbags, fire up at a moment’s notice, and, most of all, look good doing so. Here are a few of our favorite models that fit the bill.
Asking the waitress to take a picture works for those big group shots, but let’s face it: Most of your night-out photos are self-portraits taken at arm’s length with fingers crossed that you actually manage to make it in the frame. Unless you want to whip out a QuikPod at Privé (which we suspect your friends will frown upon), the process can result in some dodgy snapshots. Happily, Samsung solves this problem with the TL225, a digital camera with an outward-facing screen so you can actively frame up your shot while standing in front of the camera as you’re taking it. Our only question: Why did it take so long for someone to think of this? Of course, a 3.5-inch rear touchscreen, 5x optical zoom and 12.2-megapixel sensor don’t hurt, either.
Fuji FinePix Z37$150
Fuji breaks the decidedly rectangular digicam mold with its curvaceous, candy-colored Z37. This spritely 10-megapixel shooter offers 3x optical zoom and scene recognition auto and face detection, as well as more fun-focused features, like a “micro thumbnail” mode that tiles 100 different photos onto the 2.5-inch LCD. Thickness of just 19.1 millimeters and a sliding cover that protects the lens when not in use also make it easy to pocket on the go.
Canon SD780 IS$250
No part of Canon’s SD780 IS goes untouched by color, which helps it radiate attitude from case to lens barrel, giving the camera a distinctly stylized look. Black and silver make perfectly conservative choices, or you can instead go with the eye-popping red and gold combination to make a statement. Inside, the 18.4mm-thick camera boasts a 12.1-megapixel image sensor, optical image stabilization, and Canon’s powerful Digic 4 processor. It also offers a 2.5-inch LCD, 3x zoom, and the ability to shoot high-def 720p video clips.
Who needs buttons? Nikon’s trendsetting S70 strips off all the clicky controls in favor of a mesmerizing 3.5-inch OLED touchscreen instead. As with an iPhone, you can swipe to scroll, pinch to zoom, and even tap an area of the screen to focus on it. Sporting an incredibly clean industrial aesthetic, the camera’s outside packs a dual-texture design with a patch of faux leather or diamond-print material accenting the metallic case. And your pictures will look just as good too, as the S70 offers a 12.1-megapixel sensor, 5x zoom with optical and electronic image stabilization, and ISO speeds all the way up to 6400, plus the ability to capture HD videos.
The optics in most digital cameras typically force you to choose between an eagle-eye zoom, or a wide angle for capturing the whole picture in tight indoor spaces. Not so with Olympus’ 12-megapixel Stylus-7010, which offers both 7x optical zoom and a wide-angle lens, all wrapped up in one exceptionally slick package. The versatile shooter also delivers a 2.7-inch LCD, optical image stabilization, and even the ability to stitch three side-to-side shots together in the camera to create instant panoramic images.
Sony’s T-series has always been known for incredibly slim dimensions, and this particular model is no exception. At just 15mm deep, it’s one of the most slender cameras in our roundup, ensuring the device gets neatly swallowed up in whatever pocket your decide to deposit it in. Like the Nikon S70, it also forgoes buttons in favor of a 3.0-inch touchscreen, making it possible to thumb through all the camera’s sophisticated features through an intuitive touch menu system. Specs include a 12.1-megapixel sensor, 3x optical zoom, and Super SteadyShot image stabilization.
One of the least expensive shooters of the bunch comes to the table at less than half the price of many competitors, but still packs many of the same core features. Besides a 10-megapixel sensor, 3x optical zoom, and optical image stabilization, Kodak’s M1093 IS offers a giant 3-inch LCD and the ability to shoot 720p HD video, functions typically only found on cameras further up the price scale. And it’s all wrapped up in a 21mm-thick case dressed in any of three sharp metallic colors.
Casio’s FC100 redefines fast. The amazing little camera (which, at 22mm thick, is barely any heftier than Casio’s “card cameras”) can shoot still photos in bursts at up to 30 frames per second, and low-res movies at up to an unheard of 1,000 frames per second. (Not quite fast enough to capture a bullet’s impact, but more than enough to catch your friend’s fumbling drink spill in agonizing detail, over and over.) It also offers a 9.1-megapixel sensor, 2.7-inch LCD, and of course, HD movie capture capabilities.
Don’t miss a single spontaneous shot with Panasonic’s DMC-FP8, which goes from powered off to snap-ready in under a second, and autofocuses even faster. The camera does it all thanks to a folding optical design, with a lens that doesn’t protrude at all from the slim 20mm-thick body. A zoom factor of 4.6x and a 12.1-megapixel sensor may seem standard compared to other cameras in this roundup, but Panasonic also claims its Power OIS (optical image stabilization) system doubles the blur reduction of previous implementations. It also captures 720p HD video, and the button array on the rear has been LED-backlit for easier nighttime operation.
When the nightlife gets a little crazy and your friends leave their fragile digicams at home, Pentax’s W80 is up to the task. The waterproof, coldproof, shockproof 12.1-megapixel shooter will keep on snapping under 16 feet of water, in temperatures down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit, and after drops from over three feet. More importantly, its slim body and colorful case won’t crimp your style when you’re not showing it off by jumping into a hot tub with it or burying the gizmo in the snow. Who said tough can’t be sexy? It also includes more civilized perks like a 5x optical zoom, 720p HD movie capture, and digital shake reduction.
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