The 7 Best Outdoor Cameras

Michael Frank

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Samsung W300 Camcorder

THE SELL: A camcorder as small and simple to use as your cell phone. THE TEST: The 4.4-ounce W300 is compact and easy to grip, so it’s handy underwater. Plus, its fast f/2.2 lens shoots stills and video well in dim light. But onboard image stabilization could’ve been less wobbly and the menu functions less cumbersome. THE VERDICT: The quality won’t live up to your 50-inch flatscreen, but the W300 easily beats out a smartphone.

Pentax Optio WG-2 GPS

Pentax Optio WG-2 GPS camera.
Pentax Optio WG-2 GPS camera. (Courtesy Pentax)

ThE SELL: The biggest still sensor (16 megapixels) for the money. THE TEST: Megapixels alone don’t make great images, but this camera is also paired with extra-sharp glass. Though it captures clear photos, the WG-2 GPS could use simpler menus, and despite a five-foot fall rating, the screen cracked when we dropped it from a kitchen counter. THE VERDICT: Drop-test results notwithstanding, this is the bargain of the bunch.

Olympus TG-1 Camera

Olympus TG-1 camera.
Olympus TG-1 camera. (Courtesy Olympus )

THE SELL: A powerful point-and-shoot for multitaskers. THE TEST: The TG-1 is the only still camera we looked at that shot decent action video. Add to that the precision to capture, say, the hairs on a flower’s stem, plus a user-friendly panoramic mode, and the Olympus is the best performer here. Bummer: four seconds max exposure means no meteor-shower shots. THE VERDICT: Second only to the Canon for easy manual tweaks.

Sony HDR-GW77V Camcorder

Sony HDR-GW77V camcorder.
Sony HDR-GW77V camcorder. (Courtesy Sony)

THE SELL: A slim, rugged ­camcorder that also takes ­stellar stills. THE TEST: The HDR-GW77V is one of the few videocams we actually wanted to shoot still pictures with, thanks to a 20.4-megapixel sensor that ­delivered great results, even underwater. When shooting video, the camera’s Optical SteadyShot kept things smooth whether zoomed in or out. THE VERDICT: A rugged camcorder with optics worthy of a big-screen TV.

Fujifilm FinePix XP150 Camera

Fujifilm FinePix XP150.
Fujifilm FinePix XP150. (Courtesy Fujifilm)

THE SELL: A big sensor combined with next-gen capabilities. THE TEST: The XP150’s reigning feature is called high dynamic range, an in-camera process that merges three bracketed shots into one, with hyperreal light balancing—­perfect for landscapes. The ­camera’s 1/3,200-­second ­shutter speed froze action sports. THE VERDICT: The four-second shutter limitation bummed out long-exposure shooters, but nature photographers will fall in love.

Canon PowerShot D20 Camera

Canon PowerShot D20
Canon PowerShot D20 (Courtesy Canon)

THE SELL: Springs to life fast, so you never miss a shot. THE TEST: Because the D20 is rounded and plump, it tucked and rolled when it hit the deck. It’s the most SLR-like camera here—it has manual overrides—and it goes from off to focused and shooting in less than a second, even after sitting in the freezer all night. THE VERDICT: No other camera is as quick on the draw.

GoPro HD Hero2 Camcorder

GoProHD Hero2 camcorder.
GoProHD Hero2 camcorder. (Courtesy GoPro)

ThE SELL: An adventure-ready helmet cam with new add-ons. THE TEST: GoPros have better image-stabilization tech than any other helmet cam. But until now, you couldn’t see what you were filming. A new plug-in LCD screen ($100) fixes that problem, while a Wi-Fi kit ($100) let us stream real-time footage from our buddy’s kayak on an onshore phone and then upload it to the Web. THE VERDICT: The same great Hero2 and then some.

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