Radical evolution. That's the best way to describe how digital cameras are improving. This year's crop of digicams and DSLRs are smaller, faster, and cheaper than everyet are also decked out with big, bright screens. But that's not all. In addition to upgrading the basics, these cameras are also crammed with luxe features, like face recognition, image stabilization, and smart flashes. Intelligent design indeed.
Panasonic DMC-LX2 $500 panasonic.com
1. The LX2 is one of the rare pocket digicams that offers the manual exposure control and instant shutter response required by serious photographers. Add a proven image-stabilization system, a high-res movie mode, an ultraclear LCD screen, plus sharp Leica optics, and the LX2 is a clear standout in every way.
2. While shutter lag and lethargic autofocusing plague many pocket-size digicams, the LX2 responds quicklyaided by a nearly instantaneous high-speed autofocus mode that helps to capture truly candid moments. Like control? Manual mode allows for quick shutter-speed and aperture adjustments.
3. Not only does the LX2 have both a wide-angle lens and viewfinder, but it can take photos with a 16:9 aspect ratio (like a wide- screen TV). It's also one of the few pocket cams able to capture uncompressed RAW files, which for the photo geek means complete post-processing freedom.
4. The LX2's internal image stabilization pulls double duty, steadying the live LCD image for easier framingin both still and movie modeand creating sharper final images. Even at 1/15 of a seconda shutter speed that would usually result in blurI was able to handhold perfectly sharp natural-light portraits.
5. Megapixels are just part of the equation when it comes to sharp images. What really sets the LX2 apart is its 4x Leica zoom lens. Combined with the 10.2-meg sensoralready high-resolution for a pocket camit produced razor-sharp, 11-by-14-inch prints that rival those from much more expensive DSLRs.