|Sony RX100; Canon PowerShot G1 X; Fujifilm X100|
I'm the first to admit that I'm a camera snob. I love my DSLRs, and I had a history of shunning point-and-shoot cameras—even the more sophisticated ones—because they always came up short for me in terms of performance and image quality. Ironically, the camera that really made me start to reexamine my attitude to point-and-shoot cameras was the one in my iPhone. Even though I'm a camera snob who prefers a DSLR in most shooting situations, I find myself reaching for my iPhone more and more to use as a camera. Between Hipstamatic and Instagram, I'm able to create some interesting effects and send off-the-cuff photos to friends, and because the iPhone is always in my pocket, it means I always have a phone with me.
As fun as the iPhone and the apps are, they aren't a perfect solution, and I've found myself seeing something in between the big DSLR and the iPhone. This has prompted me to take a new look at point-and-shoot cameras. I'm talking about fixed-lens, pocket-sized, portable units that can produce a photograph for an 8x10- or 11x14-inch print as easily as they can make a web-resolution snapshot.
Recently, I've become enamored of a trio of interesting cameras, the Sony Cyber-shot RX100, the Canon PowerShot G1 X and the Fujifilm FinePix X100. My biggest gripe with point-and-shoot cameras has always been the small sensor size, and these three cameras all feature sensors that are considerably larger than most point-and-shoots. In the case of the Fujifilm FinePix X100, it's a full APS-C-sized sensor. Here's a quick breakdown on these cool compacts.
Canon PowerShot G1 X. Canon's top compact model, the G1 X features a big 1.5-inch (18.7x14.0mm) 14.3-megapixel CMOS sensor, a DIGIC 5 processor and 14-bit RAW capability. The built-in 28-112mm (35mm-camera equivalent) ƒ/2.8-5.8 zoom lens covers landscape and general shooting needs. A 3.0-inch 922K-dot vari-angle LCD monitor makes it easy to do odd-angle shots and video (the G1 X can do 1080/24p, 720/30p and 480/30p, with stereo sound, including 720/30 in computer-friendly Apple iFrame format). ISOs from 100 to 12,800 and in-camera HDR provide the ability to handle any outdoor situation. Dimensions are 4.6x3.2x2.6 inches and it weighs 17.3 ounces. Estimated Street Price: $799.
Fujifilm FinePix X100. A big (23.6x15.8mm) 12.3-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor and 23mm ƒ/2 Fujinon lens (equivalent to 35mm on a 35mm camera) that were designed to complement each other combine with a Fujifilm EXR processor with two CPUs in Fujifilm's top all-in-one compact digital camera to deliver excellent image quality. The camera also offers a versatile hybrid viewfinder that combines a reverse Galilean optical unit with a 1,440K-dot EVF, and a beautifully finished retro design with dials for shutter speeds and exposure compensation, and an aperture ring on the lens. The X100 can do 720/24p video with stereo sound, and features a Motion Panorama mode. Dimensions are 5.0x2.9x2.1 inches and weight is 14.3 ounces. Estimated Street Price: $1,199.
Sony Cyber-shot RX100. Sony's top compact model, the RX100 features a 20.2-megapixel one-inch (13.2x8.8mm) CMOS Sony Exmor sensor and a Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* 30-108mm (35mm-camera equivalent) ƒ/1.8-4.9 zoom lens. It can shoot RAW or JPEG images at ISOs from 125 to 6400, as well as 1080/60p and 60i AVCHD video and 1440x1080 and 640x480 MP4 video at 30 fps. A 3.0-inch 1,229K-dot LCD monitor, easy Sweep Panorama mode, optical image stabilization and Dynamic Range Optimizer are high on its list of useful features for outdoor photography, along with a variety of special Picture Effects. Dimensions are a very compact 4.0x2.4x1.4 inches and weight is 8.5 ounces. Estimated Street Price: $649.