How much is thin worth to you when it comes to digital cameras? There's no question that thinner cameras look sexier than their bulkier...

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How much is thin worth to you when it comes to digital cameras?

There’s no question that thinner cameras look sexier than their bulkier competitors. These engineering marvels, under an inch thick, are also easier to tote around, ready at hand in pocket or purse without being in the way. But that added style and usefulness can come with their own trade-offs.

Price, somewhat surprisingly, isn’t the biggest among them. Among the 10 digital cameras we tested, the thinner models cost only about $90 more. For that, you’ll get a camera that not only is noticeably thinner, but is lighter and sleeker, sized to easily slip into a pocket.

Nor is picture quality something that must be sacrificed in a smaller digicam. We cannot report any consistently significant difference in the quality of images from these two categories.

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Batteries, however, can constitute a major compromise. Most ultrathin cameras must employ expensive, proprietary rechargeable batteries that you won’t find outside of camera stores — Sony’s hypersexy Cyber-shot DSC-T7, only 0.6 inch thick even where the LCD cover protrudes, is itself thinner than the rechargeable AA batteries that power its thicker sibling, the DSC-S90. And when one of these unique batteries runs out, you’ll need a spare or ready access to an outlet.

All midrange cameras offer both optical viewfinders (windows to look through that frame the picture) and color display screens, but some ultrasmall models omit the viewfinder. We prefer to have both options, with the display as large as possible. Similarly, many compact models may disappoint more ambitious photographers by not offering manual control of such factors as aperture and exposure times, instead providing simpler, automated scene-specific options.

Usability can and should be the biggest factor in choosing any camera. An electronic device can be too small; just try to punch in a phone number on a new cellphone. Some ultrathin cameras would present a challenge for the large-fingered among us.

This is why digital cameras, like computer keyboards and monitors, should not be purchased without a hands-on trial.