Most compact digital cameras are able to make panoramas of mountaintop views. You would take several photos, then use the camera’s software to stitch them together.
But a number of affordable fixed-lens cameras now feature the wide-angle lenses that used to be reserved for expensive SLR models. These lenses give better results than stitching images together. (When shopping for a fixed-lens, wide-angle camera, look for a focal length of 24 to 35mm, that’s the equivalent of the focal length of a wide-angle lens on a standard 35mm camera.)
A great example of such a camera is the Fujifilm FinePix S4500 ($260). It has a 24mm lens, so it can pull in much wider chunk of any scenic vista you encounter on the trail. At 1 pound, 3.1 ounces, it weighs a lot more than a typical compact camera (which can weigh less than a third of that). But it also has a big optical zoom function, so it can pull in closely on distant subjects. This combination of being able to capture wide landscapes—or a huge group of friends in one shot—as well as shoot tight close-ups of birds or other animals makes the 14-megapixel FinePix a worthwhile addition to your pack.