Top five mid-zoom travel compacts 2013
We list the top five mid-zoom, travel compact cameras on the market:
The mid-zoom compact camera market - or travel compacts as they are commonly known - has gone from strength to strength over the past few years, with all of the major manufacturers keen to get a foothold in this increasingly popular market.
This means that it's now possible to buy a mid-zoom compact camera for just a few hundred pounds. The basic premise of a mid-zoom compact - or travel compact if you like - is that it provides a powerful zoom range (typically 20x, or 25-500mm in 35mm terms), but does so within a small, portable body. This gives you the ability to carry the camera with you at all times and shoot landscapes and large objects without having to step back too far, but also to fill the frame with faraway objects. Other common traits of travel compacts include GPS for geotagging your images with and, more recently, built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, which allows you to post your faraway adventures from anywhere you can access wireless signal without having to use a computer.
This flexibility has made mid-zoom compact cameras extremely popular. Mid-range travel compacts are an especially good investment if you're off on holiday with plenty of sightseeing planned, but are just as usfull for regular day-to-day shooting with. With that in mind, here are our top 5 mid-zoom compact cameras of 2013...
Best travel compact for: the digital darkroom enthusiast looking for a travel compact that can shoot Raw
The F900 EXR is a feature-packed 20x travel zoom that boasts Raw image capture, integrated GPS and Wi-Fi connectivity and what Fuji claims is the "fastest AF system in a compact camera".
Built around a 16.1MP backside-illuminated CMOS EXR sensor and Fuji's proprietary dual-core EXR image processor the F900 EXR further benefits from a 25-500mm optical zoom on the front and a 3-inch/920k-dot LCD display on the back. The maximum continuous shooting speed is a very healthy 10fps and, last but not least, the F900 EXR also offers 1080p Full HD movie recording along with a number of high-speed movie recording options (that play back in slow motion).
The F900's EXR sensor, which is unique to Fuji cameras, means that the camera's sensor can be optimised to shoot specifically in low-light conditions and high-contrast situations where regular sensors might struggle to capture such a wide dynamic range without sacrificing highlight or shadow detail. In addition you can also take full manual control over the camera, or fall back on a generous range of automated shooting modes. Overall, the Fuji F900 EXR is yet another highly versatile and competent camera.
Review score: 91%
Best travel compact for: anyone looking for a well-round and generously featured travel compact with built-in Wi-Fi connectivity
The Canon SX280 HS succeds the SX260 HS that was released last year as Canon's flagship travel compact and brings with it a number of notable upgrades, including built-in Wi-Fi connectivity for easy uploading of your images on the move, an updated DIGIC 6 image processor and 1080p Full HD movie recording at 60fps (the SX260 HS's top Full HD movie setting is 24fps).
Elsewhere though, the SX280 HS continues where the excellent SX260 HS left off. On the front you get the same 20x optical zoom that offers a 35mm focal range equivalent of 25-500mm,while on the back there's a 3-inch, 461k-dot LCD display to compose and review your images with. In the image quakluty stakes the SX260 HS is built around the same 12.1MP backside-illuminated 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor found in its predecessor. Thanks to the improved image processor, the newer model adds an extra step of sensitivity to a maximum ISO 6400 (the SX260 HS only extends to ISO 3200). Continuous shooting is faster too, with a maximum of 3.8fps (compared to 2.4fps) in regular use, or 14fps in the dedicated High-Speed Mode.
Image quality is very good with accurate light metering, punchy colour and impressive noise control at higher sensitivities. Sadly, there's no Raw image capture, however, you do get full manual controls, along with built-in GPS functionality and a range of built-in digital filters.
Review score: 91%
Best travel compact for: those photographers in need of a fast focusing, highly specified travel compact with built-in Wi-Fi connectivity and touch-screen control
The Lumix TZ40 takes over from the hugely popular TZ30 as the flagship model within Panasonic's well-regarded travel compact range. The new model retains the same 20x optical zoom of the TZ30, which provides a focal range of between 24-480mm in 35mm terms. Elsewhere though, the new model sees quite a few upgrades and additions. Chief among these is the addition of Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity, along with an improved 3-inch/920k-dot LCD display on the back. As with its predecessor, the TZ40 offers some useful touchscreen functionality, including Touch Shutter and Touch Focus.
Internally, there have been a number of small but significant changes. Most important is the sensor; whereas the TZ30 was built around a 14.1MP MOS sensor with a sensitivity range of ISO 100-3200, the TZ40 gets an all-new 18.1MP MOS sensor that extends an regular sensitivity to a maximum of ISO 6400. Both cameras still offer an extended 'High Sensitivity' mode though, which allows you to shoot at up to ISO 6400. Both models also offer a top continuous shooting speed of 10fp at full resolution.
Constructed primarily from metal the TZ40 feels well-built and is easy to use. Last but not least the TZ40 also benefits from Panasonic's ‘light-speed' autofocus technology, which means super snappy focusing, 1080p Full HD video recording, built-in GPS functionality, a one-touch panorama mode and a good range of digital filters. Image quality impresses too, with plenty of options available to help shape the look of your processed JPEGs.
Review score: 91%
Best travel compact for: anyone looking for an especially small and portable travel compact that still packs a 20x optical zoom and built-in Wi-Fi connectivity
The WX300 is a new compact from Sony and while it doesn't get the same 'HX' prefix of Sony's dedicated travel compacts, it's nonetheless an interesting model that could be well worth considering. The main reason for this is that the WX300 is, in the words of Sony, the "world's smallest and lightest digital camera with a 20x optical zoom", The lens is a 'Sony G' lens too, which essentially means its the company's highest quality glass. It offers a focal range of bewteen 25-500mm in 35mm terms with a maximum aperture of f/3.5 at 25mm. As with most of the models listed here the WX300 also gets built-in Wi-Fi connectivity for wireless sharing, however there's no GPS so if geotagging your images is important to you, you'll probably want to look elsewhere.
Internally, the WX300 employs an 18.2MP Exmor R CMOS sensor that's backside-illuminated for enhanced performance in low light. There are no manual exposure modes or Raw capture, although the WX300 does offer Sony's iAuto scene recognition mode that generally delivers excellent results, alongside a Superior Auto mode that can take multiple images with a single button press and then blend them together into a single image as and when the camera thinks it will improve the overall result.
Elsewhere the WX300 gets 1080p Full HD video recording, Sony's own Sweep Panorama technology and a range of built-in digital filter effects. Build quality, as with most Sony cameras is very high too. We're still waiting on a final review score for the newer Sony HX50 with it's 30x optical zoom, however the WX300 is a tidy little number in its own right.
Review score: 85%
Best travel compact for: those looking for a fully automatic but generously featured travel compact with built-in Wi-Fi connectivity and a bit more zoom reach
The Nikon S9500 replaces the S9300 as Nikon's flagship travel compact, bringing with it a number of useful upgrades. Chief among these is integrated Wi-Fi connectivity and a more powerful 22x optical zoom that offers the 35mm focal range equivalent of 25-550mm. The new lens also offers improved macro capabilities that let you shoot as close as 1cm away from your subject. Last but not least the S9500 comes with a 3-inch OLED display on the back that's brighter and more saturated than the regular LCD display of the S9300, although resolution has been reduced to 641k-dots (compared to 921k-dots of the S9300's monitor). It's still more than sharp enough for day-to-day use however.
Internally, the S9500 is built around a new 1/2.3-inch backside-illuminated CMOS sensor with 18MP of effective resolution - a slight increase over the 16MP sensor found in the S9300. While the S9500 doesn't offer Raw shooting or any manual shooting modes, it does come with a range of useful automatic modes including an Automatic Scene Seelection mode, dedicated Night Landscape and Night Portrait modes, a Backlighting mode and a number of built-in effects. Speaking of effects, it's worth noting that its only possible to use the camera's built-in digital filters post capture, rather than at the time of capture.
Rounding things off are 1080p Full HD video recording along with a range of high-speed movie capture modes, an Easy Panorama mode for ultra-wideangle shots, built-in GPS for geotagging your images with and an Auto HDR mode. All in all, while the S9500 probably isn't the best travel compact option for more advanced users it does remain a solid choice for those looking for a fully automatic travel compact brimming with handy features.
Review score: 87%