Buying advice
‘Small is beautiful’ runs the adage, so it’s easy to see why makers aim to make compacts with the power of a traditional digital SLR, but not the palaver.

With the exception of the Panasonic GF1 – which has interchangeable lenses and so, in theory, more flexibility – we can’t claim that any of the cameras betters the average digital SLR for image quality. Yet the likes of Canon’s G11, Ricoh’s GR Digital III and Sigma’s DP2 certainly narrow the gap.

So to our recommendation. While we eventually triumphed over the DP2’s quirks and got some narrow-depth-of-field results to be proud of, the sluggish autofocus, stiff shutter-release button and high price scuppered its chances. If you want a similarly high-performance tool, try Ricoh’s GR Digital III, which is easier to start using, and more reliable.

If a fixed lens sounds too limiting, but you have £500 to spend, then the choice is between the Canon and Panasonic. We’d prefer the latter, if users didn’t then have to spend extra on compatible lenses. The Canon offers a good comprehensive package, with the advantage of the rotating and tilting rear LCD and ‘proper’ optical viewfinder to fall back on.

Coming tops for value are Fujifilm and Kodak. Both cameras promise and deliver more than expected from their compact class and price points. If you don’t need all the manual bells and whistles of the more expensive options, they’re sound buys. However, the F70EXR just pips the Z950 to the post for its overall combination of looks, design and performance.

Ultimately, our pick of the bunch is the Canon G11. We found it to be the most able tool for creatives who want to carry a camera with them that’s capable of taking shots good enough for professional digital artworks.