Nikon Coolpix 880
TECHNOBABBLE: 3.3 megapixels means potential for big, juicy, saturated shots. Four image-quality options and three image-size options means you can store anywhere from five killer portraits to 162 mediocre images.
Insofar as a high-end digital camera can be deemed simple, the pocket-size 880 keeps things relatively uncomplicated. Because its buttons aren’t much different from those on a low-tech point-and-shoot, the Coolpix doesn’t take long to master. If you tell it to do so, the camera will preset f-stops and shutter speeds (it also has an auto flash) in
just about any environment. Santa Monica scenics are crisp from your retina to the horizon; stealthy owls, flatly lit beaches, party shots, even fireworks shows…they all get special treatment at the touch of a button. The lens zooms to 2.5x (roughly 38mm to 95mm). If you get the idea to set up a shot yourself, you can switch to manual and see what
you’re made of. You can even take pictures in good old black-and-white mode.
Canon PowerShot S100 Digital Elph
TECHNOBABBLE:2.11 megapixels and an eight-meg memory card yield anywhere from four to 46 shots; chances are, with this camera, you’ll meet in the middle and get a respectable “roll” on every card. A “stitching” function lets you take panoramas in several slices and then paste them together seamlessly.
What you get here is the digital version of Canon’s “analog” Elph, the one you see in the hands of stealthy photojournalists. It weighs 6.7 ounces, has a 1.5-inch viewfinder, and is equipped with just enough buttons to get the pointing and shooting done right. Without so much as opening the manual, you’ll find the Elph is good to go, particularly in
the auto mode, which sets up every shot in every kind of light. You won’t get SLR-quality pictures here, but everything from a stand of aspens to a passing roadie is rendered as clear as it would be by any point-and-shoot. Keep it within the realm of avid recreation, and the Elph will not disappoint.
TECHNOBABBLE:2.11 megapixels, enough to accurately document a weekend of peak bagging. Four image-quality options and two image-size options allow for as many as 27 images on the eight-meg memory card.
The EI-200 has all you’ll need, if not more, to be a recreational shooter cyberphoto collector: disposable-camera simplicity, built-in flash, autofocus, and special exposure modes. Like any respectable automated snapshot camera, it adjusts shutter speed and aperture according to conditions. Set the EI-200 for action while skiing with your
self-destructive former college roommate Bill, and you’ll get a blur-free midair image just before he tears his ACL and drives his teeth into the ice. (You can set up pastoral-landscape shots just as easily.) A microphone on the back lets you make “audio captions” for each photo, should you wish to call color midflight–or send a report to Billy Big
Air’s claims adjuster.
Olympus Camedia E-10
TECHNOBABBLE:4.0 megapixels, 32-meg memory card, and four image-quality settings, the lowest yielding up to 397 shots. Crafted from sturdy die-cast aluminum and loaded with brainy features, the E-10 is as top-shelf as they come. Because it’s full-size, the E-10’s buttons aren’t wristwatch-computer tight, and operating
it right out of the box is eminently doable. You’ll soon be time-lapse shooting the desert sky (it’ll snap interval shots for 24 hours) or taking zoomed-in close-ups of rainforest flora (the zoom goes to 4x). Want more options? The E-10 also accepts four of Olympus’s aftermarket conversion lenses.