Summary

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1st Place: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS10

Panasonic is best known for its expensive high-end cameras such as the TZ series of long-zoom compacts and FX series of luxury ultra-compacts, as well as the FZ super-zoom cameras and the G-Micro range of compact system cameras. However its range extends to a number of budget models too, and the pick of the bunch is the outstanding FS10. It offers 12-megapixel resolution, a 4x zoom 28-140mm lens, HD video and optical image stabilisation, with excellent performance and decent image quality. The slim and compact body is all metal and finished to Panasonic's usual high standard, and looks a lot more expensive than it really is. In fact, it can now be had for around £100, having dropped in price by nearly £40 since first reviewed. Value for money doesn't get much better than this.

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2nd Place: Samsung ST70

About seven years ago Samsung set out to carve itself a bigger share of the digital camera market, and has succeeded beyond anyone's expectations. It is now one of the major manufacturers, challenging established brands such as Canon, Sony and Panasonic in the compact camera market. The secret of its success is its ability to produce high-quality cameras and market them at knock-down prices, and a prime example of this is the ST70. With a slim and stylish all-metal body, a good quality 5x zoom lens, a 14.2-megapixel sensor, excellent performance and outstanding value for money it is the epitome of the good budget compact, and a worth winner of an award in this category.

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3rd Place: Casio Exilim EX-Z550

Casio is one of the longest-established digital camera manufacturers, and has a well-earned reputation for innovation and value for money. The Exilim EX-Z550 is the latest in a long line of quality ultra-compacts, and offers many features not often found at its budget price point. A 4x zoom lens with 26mm wide angle, sensor-shift image stabilisation, and great easy-to-use interface and HD video, all wrapped in an attractive all-metal body in a range of colours make the Z550 a lot of camera for the money.

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