The Canon PowerShot G15 (*Est. $460) is the closest you'll get to a pocket-sized digital SLR (single-lens reflex) camera, reviews say. "A joy to use," rave the tough critics at DPReview.com, who give the G15 a rare Gold Award.
Small enough to slip into a jacket pocket, the G15 still manages to shoehorn in a bunch of big-camera features. You'll get an optical viewfinder, a hot shoe for an external flash and plenty of real button controls (for less menu-fiddling). The solid metal body boasts ample rubberized grips -- a welcome relief for reviewers tired of toying with tiny, flimsy cameras. Snappy responses make the G15 a pleasure to use, and it can shoot up to 10 full-resolution frames per second (fps).
Photos look sharp, with beautifully blurred backgrounds, thanks to a 12-megapixel sensor and the brightest lens in its class, says Ben Keough at DigitalCameraInfo.com. Even zoomed all the way out to 5x, a wide f/2.8 aperture lets in lots of light. In dim light, the G15 "betters even some of Canon's own DSLRs," in Keough's tests.
Only two real flaws emerge in tests: The full 1080p HD video mode offers almost no manual control, and the Canon G15 can't shoot panoramic photos. You can find both features on the runner-up Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 (*Est. $465) along with similarly fast speed and fine photos.
Unfortunately, you'd have to sacrifice some zoom (the Panasonic's is only 3.8x) and the optical viewfinder. It seems less sturdy than the Canon in a couple of reviews, too. DPReview.com testers find the battery/memory compartment door "flimsy," and one Amazon.com owner fears that some of the top buttons "could be bumped off." DPReview.com downgrades the Panasonic LX7 to a Silver Award, and reviews overall prefer the Canon.