Digital Cameras

8/23/2008 So how to pick one? New tests at the labs dig deeper to find the cameras that have the most to offer for the best price.

If you've ever tried to capture a toddler's smile, you know how many shots you can take before you get the perfect picture.

Julie Schiltz, mother of toddler, says "So I'm there for like hours trying to get the right shot, and I have to delete all the pictures because their face is all crazy or someone's turning away."

While many cameras offer face recognition, a handful now have "smile technology." Consumer Reports tests this feature to see if it delivers. Using this "smile wall," testers check each camera to see how good it is at recognizing a grin. Turns out smile recognition works pretty well!

Paul Reynolds, Consumer Reports, says "We think it's a very cool feature. You set the smile mode, select the face, press the shutter, and the camera actually waits until the person smiles to take the photo."

The delay when you press the shutter is another important consideration. You want a camera that responds quickly so you don't miss the moment.

Testers time how long it takes each camera to snap a shot. Picture quality test and since real life isn't always perfectly lit, a camera that can handle bright and low light is key. In a new test, Consumer Reports assesses how well a camera captures variations in brightness in a single picture.

"If you're taking a photo that has bright light and dark shadows in it, this test will show how well the camera will capture the extremes of light in the same image," says Reynolds.

Consumer Reports found several great options, including the $280 Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-T70. It has a very quick shutter response and a big LCD display, along with smile recognition.

If you want to spend a little less, Consumer Reports says the Canon Powershot A720 I-S is another good choice. It lacks some bells and whistles, like smile technology, but you'll get a viewfinder and very good image quality for the bargain price of $180.

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