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Latest digital cameras put to the test

June 18, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Do you love taking photos, but feel overwhelmed when it comes to buying a digital camera? Or maybe you're looking for present for Father's Day, or something for the recent graduate in your family.We teamed up with Consumer Reports to test out 77 digital cameras, including one that claims to be shockproof even if you drop it from five feet above the ground.

The Olympus Stylus Tough-6000 claims it is "shockproof up to five feet." Testers dropped it that distance a few times onto a concrete floor.

"The Tough-6000 still worked," confirms Elias Arias from Consumer Reports. "Now, we don't know how it would do in a lot of falls or harder falls. But if you're clumsy, you may want to consider it."

Consumer Reports tested everything from subcompacts and compacts to super zooms and SLRs. What's new? Some cameras now make it easier to wirelessly transfer photos or video directly to your computer.

There was another welcome finding.

"We were pleasantly surprised to find that several of these point-and-shoots did rather well in low light without a flash," said Arias. "And that's not the case with most point-and-shoots."

A child's birthday party is a classic challenge. Testers take photos of a standard test chart to help determine low-light capability without a flash, and then a computer analyzes the results.

When all the tests were done, the Nikon Coolpix S610 ($220) had the best low-light performance of point-and-shoots. It's a subcompact, so it's very portable.

But if low-light shooting isn't a priority, consider the Canon PowerShot A590 ($110). It's a compact, so it offers longer battery life. And it's a best buy you can purchase online.

Consumer Reports also found a camera to recommend with improved wireless capability. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3 ($500) can download pictures and video directly to your computer.

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