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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX1

The WX1 is one of Sony's higher-end compact cameras featuring a Sony G wide-angle lens and a backside-illuminated CMOS sensor for improved low-light photos. It was well priced when it first came out, but now it's an excellent deal. Unfortunately, it takes Memory Stick Pro Duo memory cards unlike the 2010 models that take SDHC cards and Memory Sticks.

Starting price: $349.99

Now: $241.95

The good: Well-designed; several fun, useful features; good low-light and overall performance.

The bad: Mixed photo quality.

The bottom line: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX1 is a great, fast-performing snapshot camera that falters on photo quality.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Sarah Tew/CNET
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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX1

The TX1 is the ultracompact linemate to the WX1, featuring the same Exmor R sensor. It was pricey and frankly it still is, but it's worth the money.

Starting price: $379.99

Now: $279

The good: Well designed; several fun, useful features; improved touch-screen interface.

The bad: Mixed photo quality.

The bottom line: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX1 is a first-rate ultracompact party companion that excels at snapshots, but those expecting superb photo quality for its price should pass on it.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Sarah Tew/CNET
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Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1

The ZR1 features a wide-angle lens with an 8x zoom in a body that's only an inch thick. It is also one of the company's first compact models with the new Power O.I.S image stabilization and improved shooting performance. The price puts it in line with Sony's 2010 W370, but the ZR1 has a longer zoom and now a slightly lower price.

Starting price: $279.99

Now: $191.64

The good: Simple to use; nice design; excellent performance, photo quality.

The bad: No shutter speed, aperture controls.

The bottom line: With a wide-angle, megazoom lens, a quick AF system, and generally high-quality snapshot photos, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1 is a standout compact megazoom.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Sarah Tew/CNET
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Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1

For a rugged camera, the TS1 struck an excellent balance between durability and size. It was, however, expensive at nearly $400. The price has dropped significantly since its replacement, the TS2, was announced. If you want a pocket camera that can hold up to a day at the beach, a hike in the woods, or a stroll on city streets, the TS1 is definitely worth checking out at its reduced price.

Starting price: $399.95

Now: $241.95

The good: Well designed; very good performance, photo, and video quality.

The bad: Soft photos.

The bottom line: A full-featured waterproof/shockproof pocket point-and-shoot, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1 is a near-perfect rugged camera for everyday use.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Sarah Tew/CNET
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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FP8

Though I'm still not a fan of the design, the FP8 is a very nice camera--especially for $200. It features a 28mm-equivalent wide-angle lens with a 4.6x zoom, excellent shooting performance for its class, and it's easily pocketable.

Starting price: $299.95

Now: $199

The good: Small and lightweight; fast start-up and low shutter lag in good lighting; simple operation; great battery life.

The bad: Overcautious auto ISO; internal lens leads to fingers in shots; photos look slightly overprocessed.

The bottom line: The Lumix DMC-FP8 lives up to Panasonic's speedy performance claims; its photo quality isn't bad, either.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Sarah Tew/CNET
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Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3

One of 2009's most popular cameras on CNET, the ZS3 offers an interesting combination of features, including a 12x zoom lens and 720p AVCHD video capture, in an attractive, compact body. It's been replaced in Panasonic's lineup by the ZS7, which now carries the ZS3's original price tag of $400. The ZS3 is now priced to move, as is its linemate, the ZS1.

Starting price:

Now: $299.95

The good: Long and wide-angle zoom lens in a compact body; 720p movies; lens can zoom during movie capture.

The bad: Very few manual controls.

The bottom line: As long as you don't want much in the way of manual features, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 is a very nice camera that can handle a variety of shooting situations.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Sarah Tew/CNET
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Canon PowerShot SD940 IS

The SD940 IS is a camera so small you'll want to take it everywhere. Like most Canon PowerShots, its shooting performance is a tad slow, but its photo quality is better than you'll get from much of the competition. And now that it's $100 less than it was at launch, it's a bargain, too.

Starting price: $299.99

Now: $199

The good: Very small; simple operation; very good photo, HD movie quality; HDMI out.

The bad: No optical zoom in Movie mode; mixed shooting performance.

The bottom line: One of the best ultracompacts available, the Canon PowerShot SD940 IS nonetheless falls short of greatness in performance and photo quality.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Sarah Tew/CNET
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Canon PowerShot A1100 IS

Though it's not as good of a deal as others on this list, the A1100 IS started out at a low price. It's the last remaining A-series compact with an optical viewfinder and AA-size batteries. If those features appeal to you, you should grab one before they're gone for good.

Starting price: $199.99

Now: $129.99

The good: Viewfinder; simple operation; inexpensive; excellent photo quality for the money.

The bad: Mixed shooting performance; short battery life.

The bottom line: Aside from a couple performance quibbles, the Canon PowerShot A1100 IS provides a good point-and-shoot experience with great pictures as a result.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Sarah Tew/CNET
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Canon PowerShot SD780 IS

The SD780 IS is similar in build to the SD940 IS with one very big difference: it has an optical viewfinder. Like the SD1100 IS, it's likely to be the last of its kind, so get one while the getting's good.

Starting price: $279.99

Now: $179.95

The good: Very small; simple operation; very good photo and HD movie quality; HDMI out.

The bad: No optical zoom in Movie mode; generally soft photos; mixed shooting performance.

The bottom line: If you need an ultracompact camera for your pocket or purse, strongly consider the Canon PowerShot SD780 IS.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Sarah Tew/CNET
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Canon PowerShot SD980 IS

Canon's first attempt at a PowerShot with a touch-screen interface, the SD980 IS can be operated by either the screen or with physical controls. It's also a full-featured snapshot camera outside of the screen making its current price very attractive.

Starting price: $329.99

Now: $249.99

The good: Small; good lens specs; appropriate mix of touch and button controls; HDMI output; excellent photo color, exposure.

The bad: Wide-screen LCD size misleading; touch-screen interface not for everyone; no optical zoom while recording movies.

The bottom line: The Canon PowerShot SD980 IS is a very good touch-screen camera for those on the fence about using a touch-screen camera.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Sarah Tew/CNET
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Nikon Coolpix S70

Judging by the user reviews for the S70, you either love it or want to find a Nikon executive nearby so you can personally smash him in the face with it. One thing is clear, though: its $400 cost made its average point-and-shoot photo quality difficult to swallow. A lot of the cost seemingly went to the snappy touch-screen interface and high-style design (and probably Ashton Kutcher's wallet). Its reduced price might make its issues more forgivable--or maybe not.

Starting price: $399.99

Now: $249

The good: Zippy, well executed touch-screen interface; great tap-and-shoot feature; attention-getting design.

The bad: Leisurely performance; battery charging done in camera might bother some; tricky to hold.

The bottom line: The Nikon Coolpix S70 has a top-notch touch-screen interface and eye-catching design, but you're definitely paying for them.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Sarah Tew/CNET
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Samsung DualView TL225

The TL225 on the surface looks extremely gimmicky; a camera with a small, front-facing touch screen for framing up self portraits, showing a timer countdown, and playing animations to get the attention of small children. The thing is, it works. Really, really well. For a generation of people who like to be in front of the camera rather than behind it, it's a great solution. And now you can get it for about $100 less than it started at.

Starting price: $349.99

Now: $249

The good: Large automatic shooting feature set; responsive touch-screen navigation; unique dual-screen design.

The bad: Adapter needed for HDMI output; microSD card requirement might irk some; touch-screen interface not for everyone; battery charges in camera; whole screen not used for framing shots at full resolution.

The bottom line: The technology-packed Samsung DualView TL225 is the ultimate ultracompact for those who like to be in front of the camera more than they like being behind it.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Sarah Tew/CNET
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Compact cameras for advanced photographers