Sharpshootin' 8-megapixel pieces-is one right for you?
Cameras: Canon PowerShot Pro 1, Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2, Nikon Coolpix 8700, Olympus Camedia C-8080, Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F828
Seemingly overnight, the electronic-view- finder (EVF) camera became the hottest category in enthusiast digital cameras. And now that these eight-shooters have arrived, it's starting to positively sizzle. For good reason. The 8-megapixel rigs offer tremendous advantages to the serious shooter:
• Pixel power: These five cameras all deliver excellent resolution (our highest rating), plus extremely high to excellent color accuracy ratings. If their $1,000 price point puts you off, consider that the minimum entry fee for an 8MP digital SLR is currently $4,500-without lens.
• Lens power: 8MP EVFs sport zoom lenses in the 5X to 8X range, with high-speed apertures like f/2 and f/2.8 being the norm. (This feat is possible due to the smaller-than-35mm sensor size, which allows for a larger zoom ratio with a smaller optic.) An f/2 interchangeable SLR optic with a 28-200mm range, if it existed, would cost a fortune and would be at least five times larger and heavier.
• Framing accuracy: Because the EVF shows the image as seen through the lens by the imager, these cameras have excellent framing accuracy-90 to 98 percent, as tested by our lab-that puts many optical SLR viewfinders to shame. You can also view camera menus and review images in the finder without using the higher-drain LCD monitor.
• Composing: You can view and frame at eye level, or switch to a real-time LCD monitor. And because these five cameras have tilting LCDs (or, in the case of the Sony, an articulated body/lens), waist-level, low-angle, and high-angle viewing is easy.
• Advanced features and capabilities: All provide RAW capture, high-speed burst rates, selectable (and sometimes movable) AF points, and extensive control over exposure. All can take accessory flash units for more power and flexibility. Some provide higher-quality video (VGA 640x480-pixels at 30 fps) than digital compacts.
So what's not to like? A number of things, actually. The major two are lens limitation and viewfinder clarity. As good as it may be, the lens you get is all the lens you get, save for a few front-mounting auxiliary optics (see chart for details). And even the best EVFs show some grain and jumpiness, particularly compared with the crystal-clear, real-world view through an optical prism finder. (We compare the pluses and minuses of EVFs and SLRs on the next page).
So, is a top-gun EVF for you? If you're looking for a compact camera, maximum all-in-one lens power, sharp imaging, and lots of control-for about a grand-you bet!