The development in the compact digital cameras segment was quite a mixed bag. However, the most significant launches were the ones you wouldn’t have thought could be possible to produce—the Canon PowerShot G1X and the Sony Cyber-shot RX100, both sporting a large sensor. Next comes the travel-zoom segment that saw a good number of additions, the most significant offering being premium models offered by Canon and Fujifilm. Based on our hands-on experience with these cameras, we have compiled our G.O.T.Y. 2012: Digital Cameras list. Let’s start with the winners!
Digital Camera of the Year: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100
Want an ultra-compact camera that’s almost as capable as an entry-level DSLR? Get the Sony RX100. We’re not kidding you! The camera is deceivingly small for anyone to believe it packs a 1-inch sensor that has a resolution of 20 megapixels. Coupled with Carl Zeiss optics that goes as low as f/1.8 at the wide end (28 mm), the RX100 can yield extremely shallow depth of field—similar to what you get with the standard 18-55 mm kit lens bundled with entry-level DSLRs. Other striking features include support for RAW, high resolution 1228K-dot LCD screen, fully manual mode, full HD video recording and a rugged aluminium shell. If you’re considering buying a DSLR and you don’t intend to invest in additional lenses, the Sony RX100 makes more sense because of its pocketable form. It’s an excellent low light performer and thanks to the large sensor, you can comfortably shoot at up to ISO 1600 without worrying about too noisy results. The 3.6x zoom lens that extends to 100 mm at the telephoto end might sound restrictive, but the option to crop out portions of 20 megapixel photos should be a relief. Between an entry-level DSLR (fitted with the 18-55 mm kit lens) and the Sony RX100, our pick is the latter, hands down!
The ultimate shooting weapon
Like the Sony RX100, the G1 X too boasts a large sensor. However, at 1.5-inch, the sensor is larger than that of the RX100. Of course, a larger sensor and greater focal range translates to better photo quality and more versatility. The G1 X would have easily been a winner had the Sony RX100 not existed. As for us, the RX100 is a winner because of its pocketable form. Also, the RX100 sports a much better lens—at the wide end, the G1 X goes to f/2.8, whereas the RX100 goes further down to f/1.8. But if you don’t want to compromise on the image quality and you’re fine with carrying the extra bulk, then you shouldn’t look beyond the G1 X. Other aspects in which the G1 X is better than RX100 are handling, faster shutter and hot-shoe for external flash. In short, it’s an all-round enthusiast-class digital camera for professionals. It’s also nice to have as a more portable, secondary camera in addition to a DSLR. It’s priced higher than entry-level DSLRs, but again, like we’ve said for the RX100, the G1 X too is a better pick than a budget DSLR fitted with the kit lens.
Enthusiast-class in all respects
Second Runner Up: Nikon CoolPix P310
The Nikon CoolPix P310 is the way to go if you want the features of Sony RX100 minus the large sensor and support for RAW. It features a sensor measuring 1/2.3-inches, which is the same as most compact point and shoot cameras available in the market. The key feature of the P310 is its bright f/1.8 lens that starts from 24 mm and stretches to 100 mm. This, along with the semi and fully manual modes give you great flexibility while shooting. The P310 is special because it packs all the goodness in pocketable form. And even more special because it’s priced quite affordably at Rs 16,500 (current average market price). It’s the only model in its price bracket to feature a bright lens and fully manual controls. It would have been even a greater bang for your buck had it featured support for RAW. But nevertheless, it’s a camera to reckon with if you’re looking for an enthusiast-class digital camera on a tight budget.
Pocket and budget friendly
There are some digital cameras that didn’t make it to the top 3 listing, but they certainly deserve a mention because they offer a good blend of features, performance and value. You might want to consider these if you’re looking from a ‘value for money’ perspective.
If GPS is an important parameter for you, then the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS is the best travel zoom digital camera you can buy. Else, you can consider the SX240 HS, which simply is the SX260 HS minus just the GPS. Both the cameras feature a similar design—they are just about pocketable and feature a 20x zoom lens that lets you capture good amount of details in distant objects. Apart from its commendable telephoto capabilities, the SX260 HS also captures excellent wide angle and macro shots—the lens starts from 25 mm and extends to 500 mm. The fully manual modes and effect filters give you good flexibility and make shooting fun.
A feature-rich travel zoom
The F660 EXR too is a travel zoom digital camera that’s targetted at those who want serious shooting capabilities without having to carry too much bulk. At the heart of this camera is a 1/2-inch CMOS sensor with an effective resolution of 16 megapixels. At 24 mm (35 mm equivalent), the lens is wide enough to capture a broad field of view from short distances. You won’t have to stand too far from a subject to shoot full-length portraits or large groups of people. Capturing distant scenes is effortless too, with the lens extending to 360 mm, which translates to 15x optical zoom. It’s not as feature rich and fun to use as the Canon SX260 HS and SX 240 HS, but if you’re looking for a travel zoom for under Rs 15,000, buy the F660 EXR and you won’t regret.
Great value for money
That’s our G.O.T.Y 2012 for digital cameras. Do let us know which models in this range made it to your list. We’d love to know just which of 2012’s big launches left their impression on you.
Check out our other G.O.T.Y 2012 award lists here.
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