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HIQ Compact Cameras or rise of the Super Compacts.

Forget Megapixels and think Megapixels per cm2.
As the megapixel race is coming to an end, the new race begins. The race for Megapixels per cm2. This time it’s not the largest number that wins, but the smallest… Megapixels per cm2, is a way of measuring sensor density, the higher the density the more problems arise, which then requires the cameras to do more processing to make an acceptable image.

Enter a new breed of compact cameras, the HIQ High Image Quality Compact Camera. These are small pocketable (some just) cameras, that have larger sensors and lower sensor densities than regular compacts. You’ll get better quality photos, at the expense of features like 10x Zoom and touch screen controls.

Below is a bunch of these cameras, I’ve added the #1 selling camera from Amazon and one of the latest DSLRs.

Canon A1100IS
#1 Compact
Panasonic LX3 Canon S90 Fuji F200EXR Ricoh GR
Digital III
Leica X1 Nikon D3x
Price $99 $499 $430 $299 $699 $1,995 $8000
Megapixels 12.1 10.1 10 12 10 12.2 24.5
Sensor Size 1/2.3 " 1/1.7 " 1/1.63 " 1/1.6 " 1/1.7 " 1 " 1.4 "
MP/cm2 43 24 23 25 23 3.3 2.8
Weight 5.3 Oz/150g 9.3 Oz/265g 6.9 Oz/195g 6.2 Oz/175g 7.3 Oz/208g 10.8 Oz/306g 44.4 Oz/1.2 kg
Wide Angle 35 24 28 28 28 24 -
Zoom (Optical) 4x 2.5x 3x 3x 0x 0x -
Aperture F2.7-5.6 F2.0-2.7 F2.0-4.9 F3.3-5.1 F1.9-9.0 F2.8 -
Longest Shutter 15 secs 60 secs 15 secs 8 secs 1 sec 30 secs unlimited
Quickest Shutter 1/1600 1/2000 1/1600 1/1500 1/2000 1/2000 1/8000
Auto Bracket n/a 3 shots +/- 3.0 3 shots +/- 0.3 unknown unknown 3 shots +/- 3.0 2-9 shots +/- 5.0
RAW format n/a Yes Yes n/a Yes Yes Yes
Movies 640 x 480 1280 x 720 640 x 480 640 x 480 640 x 480 n/a n/a
Continuous 1.1 fps 3 fps 0.9 fps 1.4 fps unknown 3 fps 7 fps
App. Batt. Life 140 330 220 230 370 260 4400
Flash Range 13′ 27′ 21′ 14′ 9′ unknown unknown

From this table, you’ll notice that the more money you spend, the better the pixel density. The Expensive Nikon D3x having a score as low as 2.8 (thanks to it’s huge sensor) and the cheaper Canon having the score of 43 (the smallest sensor). The weight also seems to match the money with the Canon being the lightest and the Nikon being the heaviest.

It’s kind of hard to compare these pocket photographic rockets, and come out with a winner. The Canon S90 is the newest, Canon owners and Panasonic owners are duking it out in forums over which is better! Image Quality wise they both look good to me. Each camera has it’s own advantages and disadvantages.

For me I’m completely bias, I already own the Panasonic LX3. I like doing landscape photography, macro, night shots, HDR and the occasional home video. The features on the LX3 (some via a recent FREE software update) make it better for those purposes in my mind*. Although I will admit, I’d love the size and weight of the S90. And I love the idea of a rotational ring controlling the manual focus.

Note: for those who don’t like the LX3′s lens cap, visit the following site to see how you can attach a lens cap that’ll open when the camera is turned on! Ricoh LC1 auto lens cap on Leica D-Lux 4 and Panasonic LX3

Image comparing the size of the Panasonic LX3 and Canon S90, courtesy of Koekjeman

Link to dpreview’s comparative review, comparing a HIQ Compact Camera (Panasonic LX3) against some regular compact cameras.

*The Panasonic LX3 has a lens ring on the front, which allows for an additional Wide Angle Lens, a Macro tube (gets you closer, whilst being further away), many different filters and Zoom lens. The longer shutter time really helps with night time photography (including night time HDR). The shorter shutter speed will help with HDR during the day, and the wider Auto Bracket helps to capture a wider range of light for HDR. The faster continuous speed will help minimize the delay between each exposure, better for HDR. The HD video is a nice bonus. The wider Auto Bracket and an High Dynamic mode were added in the recent FREE update for the Panasonic LX3.

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2 Responses to “HIQ Compact Cameras or rise of the Super Compacts.”

  1. Point and shoot RAW - The Photo Forum - Photography Discussion Forum Says:

    [...] [...]

  2. JamesH Says:

    There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also.

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