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Best Digital Cameras of 2010

Introduction

Here are the best digital cameras of 2010. Chose one as a gift or for yourself. The winning cameras were selected among the top models in their class. Compared to last year, two new categories were added: Advanced-Compact and SLD. Both of these categories have considerably grown recently, even though not all major brands offer such models.

For each digital camera type, the best overall model available was selected, emphasizing on image quality above all else. Alternate choices are presented when a model in the same category shows a significantly different feature set without drastically compromising on image quality. DSLR cameras are divided into sub-categories relative to their target market.

The digital cameras shown below are outstanding models in their respective categories. They are chosen for outstanding image quality, feature set, performance and value relative to cameras in the same category. If none of these models suit your needs, see our buying guide's model pages. If you are not sure which category would suite you better, consult the Choosing Basics section of the buying guide.

Ultra-Compact

Making digital cameras this small requires compromises. Choosing among them means deciding which compromises we can accept. In return, we get a camera which can unobtrusively be taken anywhere and more photo opportunities. The most drastic compromises are found in ultra-compact digital cameras.

Note No new ultra-compact was able to improve in terms of image quality over last year's winner, which takes the spot as best ultra-compact camera for 2010.

Top Pick

Fujifilm Finepix F200 EXR

12 Megapixels12 MegapixelsStabilization: Compensates for tiny involuntary movements of the camera.Stabilization: Compensates for tiny involuntary movements of the camera.VGA Video: 640 x 480 or more but less than 1280 x 720.VGA Video: 640 x 480 or more but less than 1280 x 720.Manual Controls: Both fully-manual (M) and semi-automatic modes (T and V).Manual Controls: Both fully-manual (M) and semi-automatic modes (T and V).Custom White-Balance: Specifies exactly what should be white to the camera.Custom White-Balance: Specifies exactly what should be white to the camera.Action Photography: Shutter speeds of 1/1500 or more.Action Photography: Shutter speeds of 1/1500 or more.Night Photography: Reaches shutter-speeds longer than 4 seconds.Night Photography: Reaches shutter-speeds longer than 4 seconds.Spot MeteringSpot MeteringAccepts Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) and SD memory.Accepts Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) and SD memory.Accepts xD memory.Accepts xD memory.Neocamera detailed reviewNeocamera detailed reviewDiscontinued: No longer produced by the manufacturer. May still be in stock or found used.Discontinued: No longer produced by the manufacturer. May still be in stock or found used.

The Fuji Finepix F200 EXR combines a wide-angle 5X optical zoom lens, image stabilization, ultra-high ISO and a 12 megapixels SuperCCD EXR sensor which features a revolutionary design.

The image quality of this digital camera is so fantastic that it even outperforms pretty much every fixed lens camera. This one is clearly the low-light and dynamic-range champion in this category and by a wide margin at that.


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What you will like
Fantastic image quality suitable for large prints
Excellent low-light capabilities at high-ISO
Extremely good dynamic range
Very good lens sharpness
Speedy focus, zooming and shutter-lag
Very good LCD visibility
Limited manual controls in an ultra-compact
What you may not like
Interface is twisted and complex feature interactions
No physical aperture, so no control over depth-of-field
Poor average battery life using proprietary battery

Advanced Compact

Travel-Zoom

Small ultra-zoom digital cameras are plentiful. With sizes varying between ultra-compact and compact, these models pack at least 8X optical zoom. Just a few years ago, this was only possible with much larger models. Inevitably the size of the lens determines the compromise between focal-length and optical quality, although sensors are roughly the same now across most fixed-lens cameras from a given company.

Top Pick

Fujifilm Finepix F300 EXR

12 Megapixels12 MegapixelsUltra-Zoom: At least 10X optical zoom.Ultra-Zoom: At least 10X optical zoom.Stabilization: Compensates for tiny involuntary movements of the camera.Stabilization: Compensates for tiny involuntary movements of the camera.720p HD Video: 1280 x 720 resolution or more but less than 1920 x 1080.720p HD Video: 1280 x 720 resolution or more but less than 1920 x 1080.Manual Controls: Both fully-manual (M) and semi-automatic modes (T and V).Manual Controls: Both fully-manual (M) and semi-automatic modes (T and V).Custom White-Balance: Specifies exactly what should be white to the camera.Custom White-Balance: Specifies exactly what should be white to the camera.Action Photography: Shutter speeds of 1/1500 or more.Action Photography: Shutter speeds of 1/1500 or more.Night Photography: Reaches shutter-speeds longer than 4 seconds.Night Photography: Reaches shutter-speeds longer than 4 seconds.Spot MeteringSpot MeteringAccepts Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) and SD memory.Accepts Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) and SD memory.Neocamera detailed reviewNeocamera detailed reviewDiscontinued: No longer produced by the manufacturer. May still be in stock or found used.Discontinued: No longer produced by the manufacturer. May still be in stock or found used.

This is the ultra-zoom version of the excellent F200 EXR. It packs a slightly smaller 12 megapixels sensor and an amazingly versatile 15X ultra-wide optical zoom lens instead. High ISO and dynamic-range performance are superb, matching its predecessor while offering more advanced functionality including 720p HD video recording. The lens quality is truly impressive with some corner-softness but virtually no distortion, vignetting or chromatic aberrations.

The bonus ace of the Fuji Finepix F300 EXR is its hybrid autofocus system which lets it use contrast-detection or phase-detection, giving it the ability to focus extremely quickly. Under most well-lit circumstances this system works so well that only DSLRs can focus faster.


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What you will like
Fantastic image quality suitable for large prints
Excellent low-light capabilities at high-ISO
Extremely good dynamic range
Class-leading autofocus speed
Speedy all around
Very good LCD visibility
What you may not like
Interface is twisted and complex feature interactions
No physical aperture, so no control over depth-of-field
Poor average battery life using proprietary battery

Single Lens Direct-View

SLD cameras are interchangeable lens cameras designed to give DSLR-like image quality and the convenience of changing lenses using a smaller form-factor. Image-quality is kept high by using the same sensors as entry-level DSLRs and size is reduced by removing the space required to provide an optical reflex viewfinder. The result is either a mirrorless digital camera or one with a translucent mirror. These cameras depend on Live-View for framing, hence the name SLD.

Top Pick

Sony Alpha SLT-A55

16 Megapixels16 MegapixelsElectronic View FinderElectronic View FinderHigh ISO: ISO 6400 or more is available at full-resolution.High ISO: ISO 6400 or more is available at full-resolution.Stabilization: Compensates for tiny involuntary movements of the camera.Stabilization: Compensates for tiny involuntary movements of the camera.Level: Measures camera tilt and helps to keep the horizon level.Level: Measures camera tilt and helps to keep the horizon level.Continuous DriveContinuous DriveFull 1080p HD Video: 1920 x 1080 resolution or more but less than 4K.Full 1080p HD Video: 1920 x 1080 resolution or more but less than 4K.Manual Controls: Both fully-manual (M) and semi-automatic modes (T and V).Manual Controls: Both fully-manual (M) and semi-automatic modes (T and V).Custom White-Balance: Specifies exactly what should be white to the camera.Custom White-Balance: Specifies exactly what should be white to the camera.Action Photography: Shutter speeds of 1/1500 or more.Action Photography: Shutter speeds of 1/1500 or more.Night Photography: Reaches shutter-speeds longer than 4 seconds.Night Photography: Reaches shutter-speeds longer than 4 seconds.Hotshoe: Allows external flash units to be attached.Hotshoe: Allows external flash units to be attached.Spot MeteringSpot MeteringDepth-Of-Field Preview: Improve perception of DOF before shooting.Depth-Of-Field Preview: Improve perception of DOF before shooting.Live-View: Lets DSLR cameras use the rear LCD as an EVF.Live-View: Lets DSLR cameras use the rear LCD as an EVF.Built-In GPSBuilt-In GPSAccepts Secure Digital Extended Capacity (SDXC), SDHC and SD memory.Accepts Secure Digital Extended Capacity (SDXC), SDHC and SD memory.Accepts Memory Stick Duo memory.Accepts Memory Stick Duo memory.Neocamera detailed reviewNeocamera detailed reviewDiscontinued: No longer produced by the manufacturer. May still be in stock or found used.Discontinued: No longer produced by the manufacturer. May still be in stock or found used.

The Sony Alpha SLT-A55 is an introduction to the future of ILCs. It features a 16 megapixels sensor behind a translucent mirror which gives it unique class-leading capabilities. Having a translucent mirror lets it focus and meter constantly, even during exposure and particularly during video-recording. The SLT-A55 can shoot continuously at 10 FPS and record video with full-time phase-detection autofocus, promising to keep up with more action than any other SLD and even most DSLRs. Movies can be recorded in full 1080p HD video resolution.

Ergonomics of the diminutive A55 are rather good considering its size. The most comfortable aspect is its superb EVF with Eye-Start sensor. This EVF is exceptionally large, bright and very sharp with a resolution equivalent to 1.4 megapixels. It shows a true exposure-priority live-view display with 100% coverage and phase-detection autofocus. The A55 is also the first ILC to have a built-in GPS.


Buy From Amazon.com
What you will like
DSLR Image quality in small body
Built-in image stabilization
Excellent EVF with heads-up display
Excellent Live-View implementation
Continuous AF during video recording
Continuous AF during continuous drive
10 FPS in a compact body
Dual-axis digital-level
What you may not like
Limited external controls
Entry-level feature set
Low battery-life
Sensitive translucent mirror
Possible internal flare

Entry-Level DSLR

DSLR cameras show top image quality, speed of operation and versatility. As such, all DSLR cameras are great photographic tools. While you cannot go wrong with any DSLR, some are better than others. Moving from a fixed-lens type of camera, results from a DSLR cannot fail to impress. The most important differences between DSLR cameras are features and lens choices. Note that all DSLR cameras have full manual controls, custom white balance, various metering modes, high-ISO, continuous drive and a flash hot-shoe.

Top Pick

Pentax K-x

12 Megapixels12 MegapixelsSingle Lens ReflexSingle Lens ReflexHigh ISO: ISO 6400 or more is available at full-resolution.High ISO: ISO 6400 or more is available at full-resolution.Stabilization: Compensates for tiny involuntary movements of the camera.Stabilization: Compensates for tiny involuntary movements of the camera.Continuous DriveContinuous Drive720p HD Video: 1280 x 720 resolution or more but less than 1920 x 1080.720p HD Video: 1280 x 720 resolution or more but less than 1920 x 1080.Manual Controls: Both fully-manual (M) and semi-automatic modes (T and V).Manual Controls: Both fully-manual (M) and semi-automatic modes (T and V).Custom White-Balance: Specifies exactly what should be white to the camera.Custom White-Balance: Specifies exactly what should be white to the camera.Action Photography: Shutter speeds of 1/1500 or more.Action Photography: Shutter speeds of 1/1500 or more.Night Photography: Reaches shutter-speeds longer than 4 seconds.Night Photography: Reaches shutter-speeds longer than 4 seconds.Hotshoe: Allows external flash units to be attached.Hotshoe: Allows external flash units to be attached.Spot MeteringSpot MeteringDepth-Of-Field Preview: Improve perception of DOF before shooting.Depth-Of-Field Preview: Improve perception of DOF before shooting.Runs on standard AA batteriesRuns on standard AA batteriesAccepts Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) and SD memory.Accepts Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) and SD memory.Discontinued: No longer produced by the manufacturer. May still be in stock or found used.Discontinued: No longer produced by the manufacturer. May still be in stock or found used.

This entry-level DSLR pushes the limits among its class with 4.7 FPS continuous shooting and a top 1/6000 shutter-speed. It does miss the older K200D's weather-sealing but keeps use of AA batteries and adds 720p HD video recording. It also has the largest viewfinder among its peers.

A new CMOS sensor design gives the Pentax K-x an ISO range up to 12800, although the last two stops are quite noisy, it does match its peers in the ISO 100-3200 range.


Buy From Amazon.com
What you will like
Excellent ISO performance with a wide range
Class leading shutter speed and continuous drive
Well-rounded feature set including stabilization
Excellent ergonomics and simplicity
Use of convenient AA batteries for extra portability
Excellent value for its image quality and feature set
What you may not like
Small selection of lenses compared to Canon and Nikon

The good news is that Pentax recently announced the Pentax K-r
Pentax K-r
which should perform very similarly in terms of image quality while being able to shoot continuously at 6 FPS. It also adds the ability to use both standard AA and Lithium-Ion batteries. Unfortunately we have not seen it yet to confirm this.

Advanced DSLR

The Advanced DSLR category finally breaks previous years' tie with the arrival of the Pentax K-5. The K-5 is not only the richest DSLR in terms of features but also produces images of outstanding quality, beating all non-full-frame DSLRs in terms of image noise, retention of details and dynamic-range. Its speedy drive is still not the fastest but has improved enough over the K-7 to be highly competitive.

Top Pick

Pentax K-5

16 Megapixels16 MegapixelsSingle Lens ReflexSingle Lens ReflexHigh ISO: ISO 6400 or more is available at full-resolution.High ISO: ISO 6400 or more is available at full-resolution.Stabilization: Compensates for tiny involuntary movements of the camera.Stabilization: Compensates for tiny involuntary movements of the camera.Automatic Level: Corrects for some degree of tilt to keep the horizon level.Automatic Level: Corrects for some degree of tilt to keep the horizon level.Continuous DriveContinuous DriveFull 1080p HD Video: 1920 x 1080 resolution or more but less than 4K.Full 1080p HD Video: 1920 x 1080 resolution or more but less than 4K.Manual Controls: Both fully-manual (M) and semi-automatic modes (T and V).Manual Controls: Both fully-manual (M) and semi-automatic modes (T and V).Custom White-Balance: Specifies exactly what should be white to the camera.Custom White-Balance: Specifies exactly what should be white to the camera.Action Photography: Shutter speeds of 1/1500 or more.Action Photography: Shutter speeds of 1/1500 or more.Night Photography: Reaches shutter-speeds longer than 4 seconds.Night Photography: Reaches shutter-speeds longer than 4 seconds.Hotshoe: Allows external flash units to be attached.Hotshoe: Allows external flash units to be attached.Spot MeteringSpot MeteringDepth-Of-Field Preview: Improve perception of DOF before shooting.Depth-Of-Field Preview: Improve perception of DOF before shooting.Weatherproof - Seals protect from dust, humidity and light splashing.Weatherproof - Seals protect from dust, humidity and light splashing.Accepts Secure Digital Extended Capacity (SDXC), SDHC and SD memory.Accepts Secure Digital Extended Capacity (SDXC), SDHC and SD memory.Neocamera detailed reviewNeocamera detailed reviewDiscontinued: No longer produced by the manufacturer. May still be in stock or found used.Discontinued: No longer produced by the manufacturer. May still be in stock or found used.

The new 16 megapixels sensor in the Pentax K-5 brings unprecedented level of image quality to cropped-sensor DSLRs, challenging even larger full-frame cameras on many fronts. Plus, the K-5 keeps all the fantastic and unique features of the K-7 including built-in stabilization, automatic horizon correction, 100% coverage viewfinder and the best weatherproof protection among ILCs.

This DSLR now features an extended ISO range that reaches 51200 plus a dual-axis digital-level, 7 FPS continuous drive and full 1080p HD video recording in standard 16:9 aspect ratio.


Buy From Amazon.com
What you will like
Extremely low image-noise
Class-leading dynamic-range
Built-in stabilization works with all lenses
Automatic horizon correction, corrects up to 2° of tilt
100% Coverage Viewfinder
Class leading weather-resistance
Innovative exposure modes, program line
Digital white balance preview
Excellent usability features
What you may not like
Status screen does not turn off automatically
LCD flush with left side
Small selection of lenses compared to Canon and Nikon

Professional DSLR

DSLR cameras top image quality, speed of operation and versatility. As such, all DSLR cameras are great photographic tools. While you cannot go wrong with any DSLR, some are better than others. Moving from a fixed-lens type of camera, results from a DSLR cannot fail to impress. The most important differences between DSLR cameras are features and lens choices. Note that all DSLR cameras have full manual controls, custom white balance, various metering modes, high-ISO, continuous drive and a flash hot-shoe.

Top Pick

Nikon D3S

12 Megapixels12 MegapixelsSingle Lens ReflexSingle Lens ReflexHigh ISO: ISO 6400 or more is available at full-resolution.High ISO: ISO 6400 or more is available at full-resolution.Level: Measures camera tilt and helps to keep the horizon level.Level: Measures camera tilt and helps to keep the horizon level.Continuous DriveContinuous Drive720p HD Video: 1280 x 720 resolution or more but less than 1920 x 1080.720p HD Video: 1280 x 720 resolution or more but less than 1920 x 1080.Manual Controls: Both fully-manual (M) and semi-automatic modes (T and V).Manual Controls: Both fully-manual (M) and semi-automatic modes (T and V).Custom White-Balance: Specifies exactly what should be white to the camera.Custom White-Balance: Specifies exactly what should be white to the camera.Action Photography: Shutter speeds of 1/1500 or more.Action Photography: Shutter speeds of 1/1500 or more.Night Photography: Reaches shutter-speeds longer than 4 seconds.Night Photography: Reaches shutter-speeds longer than 4 seconds.Hotshoe: Allows external flash units to be attached.Hotshoe: Allows external flash units to be attached.Spot MeteringSpot MeteringDepth-Of-Field Preview: Improve perception of DOF before shooting.Depth-Of-Field Preview: Improve perception of DOF before shooting.Weatherproof - Seals protect from dust, humidity and light splashing.Weatherproof - Seals protect from dust, humidity and light splashing.Accepts Compact Flash memory.Accepts Compact Flash memory.Discontinued: No longer produced by the manufacturer. May still be in stock or found used.Discontinued: No longer produced by the manufacturer. May still be in stock or found used.

The Nikon D3S is without a doubt the low-light champion. By keeping its 12 megapixels resolution, the D3S can remain usable with a reduction in print-size at ISO 51200. Ultra-clean images up to ISO 6400 make this professional DSLR a must have for event photographers where reaching fast shutter-speeds is a top priority. Its fast 9 FPS continuous drive at full-resolution and fast 3D-tracking autofocus system reinforces this digital camera's position for high-speed action.

As expected from a high-end model like this one, this DSLR includes a 100% coverage viewfinder and weather-seals to protect it against the elements. It can also record 720p HD video and has a digital-level and dual compact-flash memory slots which can work to provide a longer uninterrupted shoot or on-the-fly backups.


Buy From Amazon.com
What you will like
Extremely low image noise, clean images up to ISO 6400 and even usable ISO 51200
Class-leading continuous drive up to 11 FPS in cropped mode
Fast 51-point auto focus with 3D subject-tracking
Large 100% coverage viewfinder
Ultra-sharp 3" LCD with 920K pixels
Built-in digital level
Great ergonomics and superb build quality
What you may not like
Poor automatic white-balance in artificial light
No built-in flash
Quite heavy and bulky
By on 2019-12-10

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