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Top 10 compact digital cameras of 2010

Check out our list of the top 10 compact digital cameras on the market (as of May 2010).
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By Janice Chen, Inactive on
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With the pace and volume of new compact digital camera announcements increasing exponentially, it's hard to get a handle on what to buy at any given moment in time. But with spring models finally rolling out and no big trade shows on the horizon until the fall, now is a good time to take stock of what your digital camera dollar will buy. Check out our list of the Top 10 compact digital cameras on the market today (as of May 2010).
Canon PowerShot S90
By combining a larger sensor with a bright, wide lens (28-105mm equivalent, f/2.0-4.9), the S90 delivers superior image quality and flexibility, along with higher-end features such as manual controls and raw image support. Packaged in a slim, Digital Elph-like body, the S90 is much sleeker and more compact than other enthusiast compact cameras with such a robust feature set.
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Panasonic was smart enough not to mess with a good thing when it introduced the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7, the successor to the very popular ZS3. It retains the ZS3's best features, such as the extra-wide 12x zoom lens and bright, sharp LCD. The main differences are a 2-megapixel resolution bump, improved autofocus speed and image stabilization, and the addition of full manual controls and a built-in GPS receiver.

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Like the ZS7, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2 is a follow-up to an excellent camera from last year, in this case the TS1, Panasonic's well-received entry into the waterproof point-and-shoot market. The TS2 is waterproof to a depth of 33 feet (versus 10 feet for the TS1), shockproof against a drop of up to 6.6 feet (up from 5 feet), and adds freezeproofing down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit (both cameras are also dustproof).

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The most buzzed about feature of the Samsung DualView TL225 is its front-side 1.5-inch LCD (in addition to the big wide-aspect touchscreen on the back). Though the little LCD is a well-implemented differentiator, the Samsung DualView TL225 deserves to be on this list with or without the additional screen. Take the rear LCD, for instance. Not only is it nice and big at 3.5-inches, but with a 1,152,000-dot resolution, it's truly a pleasure to look at. Additionally, the camera takes full advantage of the touchscreen, allowing you to access an intuitive menu system through point-and-swipe gestures as well as tilting motions powered by an internal accelerometer to make menu selections.

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Sony has already come out with a follow-up to the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX1, but while the TX7 is a fine update, at its current price of $400 there are better options for the money. The TX1, on the other hand, has benefited from an $80 price drop. While it's still no bargain, this popular ultracompact shooter is a better value than most, delivering surprisingly decent low-light shots for such a tiny camera (thanks to its use of Sony's superior backside-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor). Plus, features like its nearly effort-free Sweep Panorama mode and intuitive touch-screen menu system are so well implemented that it's hard not to love this camera.

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Yet another update to a strong contender from last year, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR3 is just an incremental update to last year's innovative DMC-ZR1. In fact, you might want to opt for the ZR1 over the ZR3 if you can find it at a good discount, but since the price difference between the two cameras is slight (and the ZR1 is getting harder to find), we included the ZR3 here. Like its predecessor, the ZR3 packs an impressive 25-200mm equivalent, f/3.3-5.9 8x zoom lens into a tiny package that's barely an inch thick. Other standouts are new video features, including the ability to record HD video in AVCHD Lite format as well as Motion JPEG HD-quality video, and the inclusion of a dedicated video record button and a mini-HDMI port.

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Like the DSC-TX1, a nice price drop has helped make the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX1 a competitive offering in a lower price range. Like the TX1, the WX1 delivers relatively good low-light performance in a very compact package. Though it's not as sleek in design as the higher-priced TX1 -- and includes a 2.7-inch standard LCD as opposed to the TX1's 3-inch touchscreen -- the WX1 features a brighter, wider, and longer lens (24-120mm equivalent, f/2.4-5.9) as well as the easy-to-use Sweep Panorama mode and 720p HD video recording.

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The price on the Canon PowerShot SD940 IS is right and Canon has managed to cram a ton of great features into a tiny package. The SD940 uses a wide-angle 28-12mm equivalent (f/2.8-5.9) 4x zoom lens, but has managed to drop the size of the camera down to just 3.5x2.2x0.8 inches and a touch over 4 ounces. Both still image and HD video quality is admirable and there's even a mini-HDMI output.

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The entry-level Nikon Coolpix L22 is a budget friendly 12-megapixel shooter with a 37-134mm equivalent 3.6x optical zoom lens. Despite its $130 price tag, the L22 offers up a large 3.0-inch LCD as well as three-way image stabilization and ISO 1600 capability. There’s an Easy Auto mode with an automatic scene selector (with only six scene modes), and the camera is also powered by AA batteries, which is convenient in a pinch, though you should probably invest in a set of NiMH or Lithium rechargeables after the included alkalines run out.

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The Canon PowerShot A490 achieves its low list price of $110 by limiting some features -- for example, it uses only a 5-point autofocus system, includes fewer scene modes (13) than its higher-end brethren, and its 2.5-inch 115,000-dot LCD is smaller and lower-resolution than most of today's current cameras (including the Nikon L22's 3.0-inch, 230,000-dot screen). And like the L22, it uses AA batteries. But where the A490 doesn't scrimp is on image quality. In fact, the A490 probably delivers the best image quality you'll find in a comparably priced camera, so if you're not as concerned with bells and whistles (and fancy colors since the A490 only comes in silver), this is one of the best values you're going to find.

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