1st Place: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1
One of the biggest changes in the digital camera market this year has been the introduction of the new Mirrorless System Camera (MSC) format and particularly the Micro Four Thirds format developed by Panasonic and Olympus. Half-way between a compact camera and a digital SLR, these new cameras are growing in popularity, to the extent that next year we'll probably have to introduce a new award category to distinguish them from the super zoom cameras that have traditionally been regarded as "bridge cameras".
There have been several new cameras in this category launched in 2009, including the Panasonic GH1, the stylish Olympus Pen E-P1, and the Samsung NX, which is still unreleased, but should be available by the time you read it.
The stand-out model though is the stunning Panasonic Lumix GF1, a fantastic camera not much bigger than a large compact but with all the control, versatility and image quality of a full-sized DSLR. The only bad thing I can say about the GF1 is that it has replaced the superb LX3, which will not now be updated.
2nd Place: Fujifilm FinePix S200EXR
Good super zoom cameras have been somewhat thin on the ground this year, but of the few that have appeared there are a couple that really stand out. The new Fujifilm S200 is the spiritual successor to the fantastic FinePix S9600, one of my favourite super zoom cameras ever.
A digital camera is only as good as its lens, and the S200 features a superb new f/2.8-f/5.3 manual zoom lens with a focal length range equivalent to 30.5-436mm (14.3x zoom) and advance optical image stabilisation. It is also Fuji's first super zoom to feature its new EXR sensor technology, giving it superb low-light performance. A bridge camera is supposed to be an alternative to an SLR, and the S200 is exactly that.
3rd Place: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38
Panasonic's superb FZ series is a regular fixture in any super zoom awards line-up, and the FZ28 took first place in our awards last year. Its successor the FZ38 is also a worthy award winner, although this year it has had to surrender the top slot to its own team-mate the GF1.
The FZ38 has a list of features that make it the yardstick by which all other super-zooms are judged, including an 18x zoom image-stabilised lens, 720p HD video recording with stereo audio, and class-leading performance and image quality. It's not certain yet if the FZ38 is to be the final model in this long-running and extremely popular series, but if it is then at least it goes out on a high note.