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Take it with you

July 17, 2008 - Dave Hecei
How many times have you been out somewhere and said, "I wished I had my camera with me." Well, here is the answer to the problem, an ultra compact (UC) digital camera. This is not a new class of camera, but there are some models out now that are so good, they can easily be used as your secondary camera, in place of a DSLR, or maybe even as your main camera.

What makes it an ultra compact? First is the lens. The cameras that I am talking about have lenses that do not extend from the body of the camera. These models still have optical zooms, usually in the 3 to 5x range, but since the lens does not extend it cannot get jammed if dropped. This is usually the main failure of point and shoot cameras, the extended lens gets damaged. There are a few standouts in the UC category. Fuji, Nikon, Olympus, and Samsung have new models with some amazing features. Fuji, who started out with the Z1, now has the Z100D, an 8 megapixel model with 5x zoom and a 2.7 inch LCD display. It shoots great photos, but can also take decent video. Most all Fuji digitals use the xD memory cards, which like the Sony Memory Stick, is not very popular and harder to find. The Z100D uses both xD and SD/SDHC memory cards. The Fuji also has electronic image stabilization and automatic face detection.

The Nikon S52c is a 9 megapixel model with a 3x optical zoom and optical image stabilization. It has a huge 3 inch LCD display and uses SD and SDHC memory cards. One of the great features of the Nikon is the built in WiFi networking allow automatic photo uploading without a computer. The S52c can also record TV quality video with sound limited only by the size of the memory card. Nikon makes some great lenses and this model has one of them. The S52c has a super macro mode that allows it to focus as close as 1.6 inches.

The new Olympus 850 SW is advertised as the ‘rugged’ ultra-compact. Olympus states that it can withstand a drop from up to 5 feet and has all covers sealed to make it waterproof. It can actually take photos underwater down to 10 feet. The 850 SW is an 8 megapixel camera with a 3x optical zoom lens. It has the usual face detection system, but also has plenty of shooting modes and metering modes, including spot metering. It can shoot in a motor drive mode up to 6.9 frames per second for 10 frames. It can also VHS quality video at the standard 30 fps. The 850 SW uses the xD memory cards.

The cream of the crop is the newest model, so it’s not shipping yet. The new Samsung NV-9 is a deluxe all metal ultra compact digital camera. It will have a 10.2 megapixel sensor with a 5x optical zoom lens that has both optical and electronic image stabilization. It will have a 2.7-inch LCD display, plus unique dual gauges on the top for memory use and battery power. It has the standard features of the other Ucs, plus it can also be used as a personal media device. The NV-9 can play back MP3 music files and downloaded video files, like movies, podcasts, or TV shows.

Some of the advanced features of the NV-9 include the now standard face detection system, but expands on this with a ‘blink’ mode (camera will shoot extra shots if it detects someone with their eyes closed), ‘smile’ mode (camera fires when it detects a smile), and ‘beauty’ mode (facial skin tone is automatically retouched for brighter and smoother skin). No pricing is available on the NV-9 yet, but expect it to be premium.

Check out these and other Ultra-Compact models at your nearest dealer. UCs are super small so you can take them everywhere. Plus, these models have the quality and features to take great photos.


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The newly announced Samsung NV-9


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