cameras are built to take great party pictures under tough
conditions—and what’s more fun and abusive than a band’s 26-city tour?
So after we tested these shooters ourselves, we solicited a second
opinion from our fave rock jesters, Art Brut. They lugged the cameras
on the road and shot photos of backstage, barroom, and house party
debauchery. (Some pics contained material not suitable for
Casio Exilim EX-V8, $300
a full inch thick, the V8 is stockier than its competitors, but the
added bulk also gives this cam an edge: A 7x optical zoom was by far
the most powerful in our test and helped avoid a fuzzy, beer-goggle
effect when fully zoomed. The V8’s 8.1-megapixel image quality was
terrific, but its 2.5-inch LCD screen wasn’t. Operation is simple,
especially the “Best Shot” mode, where you select from 34 scenes and
let the camera take care of the settings. Prefer moving pictures?
There’s a YouTube preset that records in the optimal resolution and
compression for online sharing. Bundled software allowed us to make
direct, easy uploads. (Sorry, Mom!)
Art Brut: “We didnt use the YouTube feaure. The dumb things we do always end up there. That keg stand was ironic!” says singer Eddie Argos. “It could use an ‘on’ button instead of a sliding lens cap,” adds bassist Freddy Feedback.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX55K, $350
We were underwhelmed with the Lumix’s middle-of-the-road size and weight (5.1 oz). Plus it’s equipped with a tiny four-direction switch that makes navigation annoying. So why were we impressed? Because pictures are the priority. The 8.1-megapixel camera boasts a 28 mm lens from hallowed optics maker Leica, and it shows. The images are sharp and vivid, whether pulled back to fit in additional scenery (the Lumix offered the widest angle in our test) or zoomed in all the way to 3.6x. The face detection, which can recognize up to 15 people within the same frame, was the best of the test, and we found the three-inch screen ultra crisp.
AB: “Can we keep this one? Proper lens, sharp photos. It’s a bit slow to act between shots, though. I tried to take pictures of the boys on a roller coaster,” Feedback says. “But by the time the camera refocused, they were gone!
Nikon Coolpix S51C, $330
This wi-fi-enabled 8.1-megapixel shooter offers a solution to picture-sharing blue balls. After you’ve snapped some scandalous behavior in a dark corner of a club or funeral, you won’t have to wait until you get to your computer to share it. The digicam picks up any open wireless connection so you can instantly share and store photos online. At less than an inch thick and just 4.4 ounces, the S15c was hands down the best-looking camera in our lineup. Its 3x zoom won’t score you any paparazzi gigs, but we found the cam’s crisp three-inch screen, impressive image stabilization, and superb low-light shots make it an easy, versatile performer.
AB: “The best looking camera of the bunch, and it was very easy to use. Its built-in wi-fi feature would be ideal for us to send photos to family while on the road. Not that we worked out how to do it,” Feedback says.
Olympus Stylus 790 SW, $300
This rugged model is waterproof, freezeproof, and shockproof, making it perfect for Winter X Games athletes or your mentally unstable gun-nut uncle up in Anchorage. The 7.1-megapixel camera has a 2.5-inch LCD screen, 3x optical zoom, and enough features to confound. There’s face detection, shadow adjustment, and Perfect Shot Preview, which shows what adjustments, like white balance and zoom, will make to the picture you’re about to take. But the photos weren’t the strongest in the bunch: While colors were accurate, images were slightly soft. Still, the next time we go snorkeling in the Arctic, we’re shoving this one in our Speedos.
AB: “We were curious if the cam would hold its claims, so we dropped it in beer, froze it, and found a cop who offered to shoot it for us. Fair play to the camera, it stood up to its promise. The cop backed off on his, though,” Feedback tells us.