Much has been said on the subject of the ever-increasing megapixel resolution of digital compact cameras, most of it not terribly flattering. The general consensus of opinion is that cramming ever more photocells onto already overcrowded sensor chips results in increased image noise, reduced dynamic range and poor low-light performance. While there have been a number of very good super-powerful compact cameras, in general the overall increase in sensor resolution across the market has not produced a corresponding increase in picture quality. There's very little advantage in image quality from a 10 or 12 megapixel camera over an 8 or 9 megapixel camera.
That kind of logic doesn't deter the camera manufacturers though. Bigger numbers on the box mean more camera sales, and that's all that matters. As a result we have cameras like this Samsung L310W, which sports a whopping 13.6 megapixels on a 1/1.72-inch CCD sensor, making it one of the highest-resolution compact cameras on the market. Currently selling for around £160 it offers more megapixels-per-pound than just about any other camera on the market. It follows in the footsteps of other high-spec, low-cost Samsung compacts such as the L210.
Several other major manufacturers have added super-powerful compacts to their range. Canon has its new 14.7-megapixel IXUS 980 IS (£250), Nikon has the impressive 13.5MP CoolPix P6000 (£315, review next week), Panasonic has its 14.7MP Lumix FX150 (£220), and Sony has the 13.6MP Cyber-shot W300 (£190). Samsung has managed to undercut them all with the L310W and the similarly-specified NV100HD (£175)
As well as its stupendous resolution, the L310W offers a 28mm-equivalent wide angle on a 3.6x zoom lens, optical image stabilisation, 3200 ISO maximum sensitivity and a 2.7-inch monitor. It also has the usual list of advanced features, including face, blink and smile detection, plus the added bonus of USB battery charging, a handy feature that means you only have to take your laptop charger with you when you go on holiday.