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Panasonic G1

One of the most prominent parts of the effort to make small but powerful cameras came when Olympus and Panasonic developed the Micro Four Thirds standard for cameras that live halfway between point-and-shoots and bulkier SLRs. The standard combines the relatively large and high-quality image sensors of the companies' single-lens reflex cameras with smaller bodies and lenses.

The first Micro Four Thirds model is Panasonic's DMC-G1, which costs about $670 with a 14-45mm lens. Panasonic and Olympus both plan other models for 2009.

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Olympus' Micro Four Thirds concept camera

Olympus has been showing off this compact Micro Four Thirds camera. Micro Four Thirds lenses are interchangeable, as shown here, and lenses from Panasonic and Olympus full-fledged Four Thirds SLRs can fit on with an adapter.

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Olympus gets compact

Olympus' Micro Four Thirds model is smaller than Panasonic's G1, in part through use of a smaller lens. It's only a prototype, but don't be surprised if Olympus' real cameras are similar.

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Casio's high-speed EX-FH20

Casio's EX-FH20 can shoot video at 420 frames per second at a resolution of 224x168 or 1,000 frames per second at 224x56. That's not a lot of pixels, but super slow motion nevertheless can be entertaining to see.

The $600 camera also can shoot a burst of 40 still images per second at its full 7-megapixel resolution.

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Casio EX-FS10

The $350 EX-FS10, announced in January, is one of Casio's lower-end cameras that brings high-speed abilities. It can shoot as many as 30 frames per second at full resolution. Casio is bringing its high-speed technology from the high end to more affordable models.

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Nikon's GPS-enabled Coolpix P6000

The $500 Nikon Coolpix P6000 stands out for its built-in GPS system, which can stamp photos with location data gleaned from satellites.

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The competition: Canon's G10

Canon's PowerShot G10, with 15 megapixels, a sturdy construction, and a price of about $410, is the latest in Canon's G line of high-end compact cameras. For the most part, its features are conventional, but it has plenty of bells and whistles for advanced photographers. Its sensor also is larger than that of most point-and-shoot cameras, though still smaller and therefore less light-sensitive than SLR sensors.

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Micro Four Thirds in detail

The Micro Four Thirds standard forsakes the mirror of traditional SLRs that directs light through the viewfinder. Instead, the light goes directly to the image sensor.

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Four Thirds vs. Micro Four Thirds

The Micro Four Thirds design means camera bodies and lenses both can be smaller compared to SLRs. This shows how much smaller the G1 is to a Panasonic SLR.

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