Photograph courtesy Fujifilm
At last, a great-looking retro camera that shoots as good as it looks. Fujifilm’s X100 is the runaway camera of the year, thanks to its 1950s rangefinder styling. But this is one digital model that backs up its pretty facade with dynamite performance. Photos produced by the 12.2-megapixel CMOS sensor are stunningly true to life, with the strong color accuracy, great skin tones, and a minimum of noise even in low-light situations. The metal body feels rugged but not heavy, the flash results look natural and blend nicely with ambient light, and the viewfinder displays all the settings you need. Oh, and the operation is nearly silent. Its best application might be for travel shooting, where being unobtrusive counts. Keep in mind its fixed focal length lens (f/2, 35mm equivalent) can’t be swapped for a telephoto ($1,200; www.finepix-x100.com).
Photograph courtesy Nikon
It has to be said: What took you guys so long? Nikon was the second-to-last major camera manufacturer to make a rugged point and shoot, but the very tough Coolpix AW100 was it worth the wait. The Nikon is packed with high-quality specs, including full HD video at 1080p, and it cranks out top-shelf images in challenging conditions. It’s drop-proof from five feet, waterproof to 33 feet, and freeze-proof to 14ºF. ($380; www.nikonusa.com)
Photograph courtesy Olympus Imaging America Inc.
The first versions of the compact Olympus E-P series performed as if they had a Celica engine in a Corvette body, but no more. The E-P3 is a hot rod under the hood. Critically, its autofocus is blazingly fast—it evaluates focus 120 times a second—and combined with 3.0 frames per second shooting rate you get a compact camera that’ll grab action like a much bigger DSLR. There’s a new built-in flash, too. And with the Micro Four-Thirds format, you can swap lenses for a bigger zoom or better light gathering, depending on whether you want to pull in the big game or shoot after sunset—the versatility is incredible ($900;www.olympus.com).