TRAVEL COMPACTS

 travel compact

Six of the best HI-ZOOM compacts perfect for summer holidays

With the British summer proving to be something of a washout once again, the chances are that you ll be considering a spot of travelling and escapism to end this summer.

You ll probably have a compact camera you turn to when travelling light, or even be considering using your mobile phone for picture-taking opportunities.

However, the travel compact market has been one of the main growth areas in compact development in recent years, with manufacturers trying to outdo each other and succeeding in producing some excellent cameras, that not only otter great performance but also provide good value for money.

What makes a decent travel compact? A key feature is not only a large fully-retractable zoom, but also a versatile focal range which not only allows you to focus on distant subjects but wideangle images as well. The large focal range mustn t, however, arrive at the sacrifice of compact size as the last thing you want is to be lugging a large camera around. Full HD video capture is also an attractive option, while a well-specified LCD screen can prove useful in bright light conditions.

Here are six which offer these features, along with much more.

CANON

POWERSHOT SX200 HS

SCORE 88%

anon s PowerShot series has long been the home of fully-featured compact cameras with manual control, and many recent models have been aimed specifically at the travelling photographer. The SX260 HS is the latest in a long line of popular SX models, and could well be the travel compact for you.

The SX260 HS features a 20x optical zoom covering a focal range of 25-500mm-enough versatility for your standard selection of travel photography situations. The lens also features Canon s  Intelligent IS  image stabilisation.

The model features a 12.1MP CMOS sensor that is accompanied by Canon s  HS  technology and Canon s DIGIC 5 imaging engine, with full HD video capture complete with stereo sound also on offer. A 460k-dot, 3in PureColor II G LCD screen also features.

GPS technology also makes an appearance which tags EXIF data with location information that can then be pinned to a map in supplied Map Utility software.

As well as featuring simple capture through easy auto and scene modes, full manual control is also on offer.

PROS Image quality, compact size, stereo sound capture CONS Slow in use, poor pop-up flash position

FUJIFILM

 

FINEPIX F770EXR

SCORE 87%

The FinePix F770EXR sits at the top of the manufacturer s F range of traveller compacts. With the latest refresh, the F range welcomes three new models, with the F770EXR the best specified of the trio.

The compact features the largest sensor of the compacts in this round-up, measuring 1/2in and with a resolution of 16MP. The model s EXR tag isn t merely for show, as the F770 features Fujifilm s innovative EXR sensor technology which can benefit the wide range of shooting situations presented on your travels. Furthermore the F770EXR is the only model in this round-up to support Raw image capture, something which will no doubt be of interest to the more advanced photographer.

Outside of the impressive sensor, the F770EXR offers much of the versatility needed to be a successful travel compact. There s a 20x optical zoom which covers a wideangle of 25mm, running through to 500mm for tele captures.

A 3in LCD screen occupies a fair amount of real estate on rear of the camera, although the mode dial, which sits at a jaunty angle, aids ease of use and quick selection of the various scene and auto modes, as well as a full set of manual controls.

PROS Nice build, sleek design, fast processor CONS Clunky interface, lacking in filters, difficult in use

PANASONIC

LUMIX TZ30

SCORE 90%

Panasonic s TZ series has long been the first stop for those looking for a quality travel compact, managing to create the perfect combination of versatility, quality and excellent images. The TZ30 is the latest in the series, and it picks up where its predecessor, the TZ20, left off.

The model features a 20x optical zoom that covers a truly versatile focal range of 24-480mm, and this is supported by Panasonic s Power O.I.S. optical image stabilisation.

The TZ30 also features a newly developed 14.1 MP sensor, as well as the same  Light Speed  AF system that s found in Panasonic s CSCs.

The model s 3in, 460k-dot LCD screen distinguishes itself through the implementation of impressive touchscreen technology, with functions such as touch shutter and tap to focus.

Panasonic s Intelligent Auto shooting mode is present, along with a host of scene modes and full PASM capture controls. The model also offers GPS technology and HD video capture at 30fps. All that s really lacking from the specification is Raw capture, although it s not alone in that regard in the travel compact category.

 travel compact

PROS Excellent image-stabilisation system, good touchscreen implementation

CONS Lack of Raw capture, battery life could be better

OLYMPUS

SZ-31MR

SCORE 87%

Olympus has put a serious focus on compacts to take on your holidays. Its  Traveller  series now features three ranges-namely the SH, SP and SZ series-and each features at least one newly released model.

The SZ-31 MR sits atop the Traveller range, and features the largest focal range of our six selected travel compacts. The model offers a 24x optical zoom covering a focal range of 25-600mm in equivalent terms. You do pay a price for this optical prowess however, with the SZ-31 MR being slightly more bulky than similar models.

At the core of the SZ-31 MR sits a 16MP backlit CMOS sensor complete with two TruePic V processors. The model s LCD measures 3in with a resolution of 920k dots and offering touchscreen functionality.

Outside of the core features, the SZ-31 MR offers all the extras needed in a travel compact.

An iAuto setting and several scene modes are present, although manual control only extends to a Program mode. The SZ-31 MR is also lacking in GPS functionality, something which could prove a sticking point.

PROS High-speed shooting functionality, good battery life, good colour reproduction

CONS Underpowered flash, image quality issues

NIKON

COOLPIX S9300

SCORE 86%

 CMOS sensor

The S9300 sits in Nikon s  Style  range. Despite that moniker it manages to cram in a reasonable amount of substance as well, something that makes a good combination for a travel compact.

Although the model s 18x optical zoom is the smallest out of this sextet, it still covers a substantial and versatile focal range of 25-450mm in equivalent terms. The optics include Nikon s ED glass and are supported by lens-shift VR technology.

The model houses a 16MP CMOS sensor complete with Nikon s EXPEED C2 processor, aimed at delivering clear shots in a variety of lighting conditions. The sensor is also capable of movie capture at full 1080p resolution.

The model s 3in LCD screen boasts a 921 k-dot resolution, which places it in the top bracket for such displays. The model also features a similar GPS tagging functionality to that found on a host of other travel compacts. The S9300 is lacking in manual control over shooting settings, with Nikon instead entrusting control of camera shooting settings to the camera itself, with the model s mode dial offering access to auto, scene modes, effects and other shooting settings.

PROS Good LCD screen, nicely designed

CONS Sluggish in use, lack of advanced functionality or manual

SONY

CYBER-SHOT HX20V

SCORE 85%

If you re looking for a compact full of cutting-edge technology, then the Sony range is often a good place to start. Its Cyber-shot series has long played host to interesting and unique features, and the HX20V is no different It features an 18.2MP Exmor R CMOS sensor at its heart, which is paired with Sony s BIONZ processing technology. There s also a 20x optical zoom lens covering 25-500mm in equivalent terms, which includes Sony s own G-series optics, while the focal range can be extended to 40x magnification through Sony s Clear Image technology.

The rear of the camera houses a 3in LCD screen with a resolution of 921 k dots. It also features Sony s Xtra Fine TruBlack technology for improved performance in the no-doubt difficult or strong direct lighting conditions you ll encounter on your travels.

With regards to useful travel technology, the HX20V features Sony s proprietary Sweep Panorama functionality-in both 2D and 3D modes-as well as Handheld Twilight shooting modes, Intelligent Auto capture and even GPS tagging functionality.

PROS Design, fast focus speed, general usability CONS Issues with exposures, lack of Raw capture

SUMMARY

There is a certain commonality between this sextet of travel compacts. All of them have similar hi-zoom focal ranges, ample LCD screens and are available within a similar price range. Furthermore, their test scores are all within just 5% of each other, all receiving a WDC recommendation. So, what distinguishes them from one another?

If you re after the longest focal range, the Olympus SZ-31 MR leads the way, although it s the bulkiest of these compacts and the lack of GPS tagging may prove a frustration for the seasoned traveller. If a slim body is vital, the Nikon S9300 is the most svelte, although it compromises the tele-end of the zoom. While the Sony HX20V arguably offers the most in terms of gadgetry, if you re looking for a complete package in a travel compact then the Panasonic TZ30 stands out. It offers a combination of high-tech functionality as well as manual shooting for the advanced user. Throw in GPS, HD movie capture and an impressive touchscreen, and it s not hard to see why it scored highest when originally tested.

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