Nikon CoolPix P330
High-quality compact cameras are becoming a more important tool in photographers' kits as they gradually incorporate more features, putting nearly as many manual shooting options as DSLRs into casual clickers' pockets. With its latest entry into this market, the CoolPix P330, Nikon has managed to jam a number of these new features into what is essentially the attractive body of a previously released shooter. The compressed tech is impressive: The P330 has a quick lens, a large sensor, and a powerful zoom.
The speed of the lens – the maximum aperture is F1.8 – is impressive, provided you're photographing something fairly close. Glamour shots of, say, classic (parked) cars turn out great thanks to a 1/1.7-inch sensor, which teams up with a 12.2-megapixel chip to capture extreme detail. But, as with most compact cameras, zooming in leads to blur if the subject is on the move (not so with DSLRs). The P330 can also shoot in Raw mode, a pro-quality feature that lets serious photographers make deep edits in Photoshop, making this camera the ideal Robin to a heftier SLR's Batman.
Small enough to fit in your pocket, the cigarette pack-size camera is attractive, with a squared-off body adorned by easily manipulated knobs that allow beginning shooters to toggle quickly to automatic, shutter, and aperture priority modes. These modes are ideal for capturing the sort of action or low light images similarly pocketable smartphone cameras tend to render in a granular blur. The 5x zoom and the impressively large display work well in tandem, making shooting anything from a distant boat to a grazing mountain goat easy. Bottom line: This is an easy-to-use camera for shooters that care about quality, but don't want to lug around a DSLR or spend the day futzing around with their equipment. [$380; NikonUSA.com]