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Golf Life: The Digital Camera Crew

Digital technology ages like dogs: One calendar year feels like about seven. If you're like me and bought your first digital camera way back in, say, 2002, it's a whole new, much improved world. For one, the techno gods have just about solved the pestering problem of "shutter lag"—the second or so delay between when you press the button and when the picture is taken. Gone too are heft (every model here will fit as comfortably as a cell phone in your pocket and won't compete for space in your golf bag) and tiny viewing screens (replaced by much bigger and clearer ones). Other luxuries, such as rapid-fire picture taking and the ability to record short movies with sound, are standard features on all of these models. Your old camera is for the dogs.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T33 $450*
800-222-7669; sonystyle.com
Specs Resolution: 5.1 megapixels
LCD screen: 2.5 inches
Optical zoom: 3x
Weight: 5.3 oz.**
Comments Like holding a small stainless-steel (wide-screen) TV set in your hands. Longer but thinner (a mere .88 inches) than the other cameras here, the brand-new T33 features a non-protruding Carl Zeiss 3x zoom lens (a big deal to those in the know). Starts up quick, and shutter lag is almost nonexistent. It has no viewfinder, although the new anti-reflection LCD works adequately in bright light.
Bottom Line The thinnest and most design-driven of the lot—beautiful to look at and chock-full of features. A work of art; the iPod of digital cameras.

Fujifilm FinePix F440 $300
800-800-3854; fujifilm.com
Specs Resolution: 4.1 megapixels
LCD screen: 2 inches
Optical zoom: 3.4x
Weight: 5.3 oz.
Comments One of the smallest profiles here, with a square shape resembling a deck of cards. The effective grip on the front also conveniently serves as the on-off switch. The F440 has sharp color and simple controls and is a good bet for those for whom going digital is still a bit scary. Gotten over your fears?Manual Mode lets you adjust exposures yourself. A momentary shutter lag exists.
Bottom Line Best Value A high-quality, do-everything ultracompact digital that can be found for as little as $225 online.

Konica Minolta DiMAGE X50 $449
201-574-4000; kmpi.konicaminolta.us
Specs Resolution: 5 megapixels
LCD screen: 2 inches
Optical zoom: 2.8x
Weight: 4.4 oz.
Comments A non-protruding zoom lens not only keeps things slim but decreases start-up time. Slide the lens cover to turn the X50 on and you're ready to go in half a second, the quickest start of the lot. Buttons are kept to a pleasant minimum. There are five modes, and the camera will automatically choose the right one for your shot, making the X50 a cinch to operate. A Marine Case is sold separately.
Bottom Line The easiest of all the choices here to use. A perfect starter digital camera that you may never grow out of.

Canon PowerShot SD300 Digital ELPH $400
800-652-2666; usa.canon.com
Specs Resolution: 4 megapixels
LCD screen: 2 inches
Optical zoom: 3x
Weight: 4.6 oz.
Comments If size matters most, here's one of the littlest, at just 3.4x2.2x.94 inches. Thirteen shooting modes include Underwater (All Weather Case sold separately) and Stitch Assist (for panoramic shots). Fast Frame Rate Movie Mode can catch your golf swing and play it back clearly in slow motion. Controls look more complicated than they are. Very slight shutter lag.
Bottom Line Best Overall Take this camera anywhere. The ELPH will not disappoint—especially on the golf course.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX7 $500
201-348-7000; panasonic.com
Specs Resolution: 5 megapixels
LCD screen: 2.5 inches
Optical zoom: 3x
Weight: 4.8 oz.
Comments Finally—shutter lag is all but gone. Optical Image Stabilization compensates for shaky hands and helps on close-ups. Manual settings are abundant for serious photogs, who will also appreciate the Leica DC lens. Amateurs will like the Simple Mode. There is no viewfinder, and while the giant LCD monitor is nice, it can be hard to see clearly in very bright light.
Bottom Line A slim, feature-packed 5-megapixel machine. Wish it had a viewfinder for easier use on the ski slopes and at the beach.

*MANUFACTURERS' SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICES; OFTEN AVAILABLE FOR LESS AT STORES AND ONLINE.
**WEIGHT INCLUDES BATTERY; ALL OTHERS DO NOT.

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