High 5: Wide Compacts
A slew of wideangle compact cameras let you get the whole picture, no matter how big it is.
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1. Canon SD870 IS Digital Elph
Reprising the 28-100mm range of the SD800 IS, this new Canon wide-angle flagship ($400, street) adds more resolution (now 8MP), and improved lens-based Image Stabilizer (it now has a panning mode, like Canon IS lenses for EOS SLRs). To top it off, there’s a 3-inch LCD, DIGIC III processor that promises faster startup and capture, and redeye fix in playback. (www.usa.canon.com)
2. Fujifilm FinePix F480
Fuji gives the f/2.8-5.6 lens of the 8.2MP F480 a streeeetch to a full 4X optical range, a 28-112mm equivalent. It has a pretty big 2.7-inch LCD, sensitivity to ISO 800, dual card compatibility (xD and SD), and — a rarity at this price — a rechargeable Li-ion battery, which helps keep the camera to less than an inch thick. Video is a little chintzy at 320×160 with sound, but the price ($180, street) is killer. (www.fujifilm.com)
3. Nikon Coolpix P50
Using an Expeed processor for faster operation, the 8.1MP Coolpix P50 ($230, estimated street) also has ISOs up to 2000 for low-light shooting. Besides the 2.4-inch LCD, it has an optical viewfinder, which we like for holding the camera steady and viewing in bright light. Lens is a 28-102mm equivalent f/2.8-5.6. Pix need more fix? There is in-camera redeye correction, and D-lighting to bring up shadows in contrasty shots. (www.nikonusa.com)
4. Olympus FE-290
Olympus also gave its new wide-angle FE-290 ($250, street) a full 4X optical zoom range with the 28-112mm equivalent f/2.7-5.4 lens. The 7.1MP camera has a big, 3-inch LCD, which comes in handy for the Perfect Shot Preview that lets you see the effects of various adjustments (like white balance or exposure comp) before you shoot. You can also put up to nine photos in the My Favorites internal memory for show-arounds. (www.olympusamerica.com)
5. Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX55
As with all Lumixes, the FX55 ($350, street) has lens-based image stabilization to keep shots steady. The 8.1MP camera packs a 28-100mm f/2.8-5.6 lens, the latest Venus III processor to keep up speed and keep down noise, and a 3-inch LCD. Don’t know what scene mode to use? Intelligent Scene Selector automatically selects the right one! The FX55 is also the speed champ here with an ISO 6400 setting. (www.panasonic.com)