1st Place: Ricoh CX2
There have been so many good cameras launched this year that choosing one for this award was by no means easy. After much consideration, however, we've picked one that stands out from the crowd for its combination of innovative technology, fantastic build quality, exceptional performance, superior picture quality, great handling and trend-defying features.
The Ricoh CX2 is the perfect all-rounder, featuring a high-speed 10-megapixel CMOS sensor, a new high quality 10.7x zoom lens, sensor-shift image stabilisation, a superb 3in monitor as sharp as that of a top DSLR, and a clever control interface that allows all of its features to be accessed quickly and easily.
We've no doubt that some people will complain that it doesn't have the HD video recording that every other manufacturer seems to think is a vital feature, but we'd rather have a camera that's good at taking photos than one that's trying to be a camcorder too. Perhaps winning this award will convince Ricoh to put a bit more effort into marketing its superb cameras, so more people can enjoy them.
2nd Place: Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ7
No doubt many people thought that the Lumix DMC-TZ7 would be in the number one spot, and we have to admit it is a very close second to the Ricoh CX2, but Panasonic is just going to have to be content with second place this year. The TZ7 has been a massive success for Panasonic, and has become the benchmark for all other long-zoom compacts.
With stylish design, fantastic build quality, excellent performance and outstanding image quality, the TZ7 gets pretty much everything right, including its class-leading HD video mode with stereo sound. If you're looking for a feature-packed but easy to use zoom compact it's certainly one of the best on the market.
3rd Place: Canon PowerShot S90
The success of last year's winner of this category, the Panasonic Lumix LX3, has shown that there is a ready market for advanced high-spec compacts with the emphasis on versatility and picture quality, and this has prompted Canon to re-launch its long-dormant S series.
The new S90 features a superb f/2.0 lens, a full range of manual controls and the kind of build quality for which canon is justly famous. If you're a keen photographer looking for a compact camera with the same creative control as your DSLR, the S90 is the best choice from this year.