Monday, June 15, 2009

$200 Range Digital Camera Guide

Compact Super Zoom Cameras-These cameras have versatile 10x zooms and can fit in your pocket, but they are larger than ultra compacts.

Sony DSC-H20 $220.
Reason to buy: 10x zoom long telephoto lens, low light shooting, manual controls.

Pros: Good Image quality, low image noise up to ISO 800 for low light shooting, full manual control options, largest telephoto end of lens: 10x 38-380 mm lens (the smaller the first number--wide angle-- the wider pictures it can take, the larger the second number--telephoto-- the farther the zoom can reach.), 720p video, very good image stabilization, 3" screen, fast burst shooting, full manual controls, comparatively strong pop up flash.
Cons: Largest and heaviest in group, 4.25 x 2.75" x 1.85" 9.8oz, widest angle is by far smallest of group, requires Sony memory sticks

Panasonic TZ5 $220.

Reason to buy: Best wide angle lens with 10x zoom for good telephoto shots. 720p Video. Gorgeous high resolution display.

Pros: Great outdoor photo quality, 10x 28-280 lens for very wide shots and second largest telephoto range, great image stabilization,720p video with zoom while shooting video, 3" beautiful high resolution screen (2x more pixels than others), fits in pocket even if larger than ultra-compacts. TZ5 wins super zoom comparison test.
Cons: Larger and heavier than ultra-compacts 4.07" x 2.33" x 1.44" 7.5oz. (but smaller and lighter than HS20), needs flash for low light shooting, noisy over ISO 400, few manual controls(but very good auto modes).

Ultra Compacts: Smallest cameras available, but 5x zoom max

Panasonic FX500 $200.

Reason to buy: Ultra wide angle lens, 720p video, touch screen, full manual control option.

Pros: 5x zoom is top for category, 720p video, large 3" touch screen--touch area to auto focus and tracks that area (ie moving child), touch area to zoom on playback, touch full manual controls, ultra wide 25-125mm lens, good outdoor image quality, great image stabilization, compact 3.7" x 2.2" x .9" 6.2oz., Quick Menu function keeps most-used features a button press away.
Cons: 25mm ultra wide angle means can't zoom in as much on distant objects, indoor images somewhat noisy for 8x10 prints over 200 ISO.

Personal Update: I just decided to purchasd this camera as an upgrade to my Fuji F20. It doesn't have the 10x zoom that I really wanted or great high ISO performance, but the combination of the wide angle lens, manual controls, great image stabilization, and 720p video made it the best choice for me as someone looking for a prosumer type camera in a small package. If I didn't want manual controls, I would have gone with the Fuji F100.

Fuji F100 $165 after $100 rebate.

Reason to buy: best low light/low noise shooting, wide angle lens, price

Pros: 5x zoom, by far least image noise of any camera, unusable up to 800 ISO without much image noise so good for low light compared to other ultra compacts, very good picture quality, wide angle 28-140mm, wide dynamic range feature (allows more shadow detail in high contrast images), very low price after rebate, manual white balance allows perfect white balance with a white sheet of paper to determine WB.
Cons: Image stabilization works but not as effective as others. Requires rebate for price. Slightly smaller screen that others, long delay night shots hampered by ISO restrictions.

Canon SD790 $190.

Reason to buy: Outdoor image quality, Canon name and quality.

Pros: Best outdoor image quality in ultra-compact group(slight win over F100), very good image stabilization, 3" screen, Canon quality and name, good price
Cons: 480p video max, small focal range with 3x zoom 35-105 lens (no wide angle and smallish telephoto), 100-200 ISO shooting only for low image noise photos

I will probably add more later feel free to add any suggestions. I did not include any small Sony or Casio ultra compact cameras as I hate the tiny shutter button on them (see links below if you want to do research on those brands). There are many reviews of each of these cameras. Some good review sites i use are,,,,, and You can fins some good, but less in depth reviews at

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