Expert Recommendation

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Best Digital Camera Overall Under $400
Expert (88 Recommendations and 32 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
December 13, 2008 Updated: December 15, 2008
Overview

Equipped with a tremendous reach (20x zoom), a sharp lens, and a 10 Megapixel resolution sensor, the Canon SX10 IS is a versatile camera with many useful features to satisfy demanding users. With a unique swivel LCD and the ability to zoom during movies, it is also a camcorder and camera rolled into one.

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My Best In Class Pick
Canon PowerShot SX10 IS

This PowerShot SX10 IS is the latest upgrade in Canon’s highly successful “S” series of super-zooms with a unique swivel LCD. The camera is equipped with a wide-angle 20x zoom lens with tremendous reach to capture that moon shot and give you a closer view of the snowy peaks. At the other end of zoom it provides a lively wide-angle view of landscapes and lasting memories of family gatherings.

Despite such an ambitious zoom range, the lens keeps distortion in check and retains good corner-to-corner sharpness. And more. Equipped with the latest DIGIC IV processor, it has managed to strike a good balance between noise and detail under low light conditions, producing more blur-free & pleasing indoor shots than ever. The camera features full manual control options & a hot shoe for mounting an external flash, making it a great camera for everyone in the family.

‘The camera offers a superb movie mode and can be safely considered as a camera & camcorder rolled into one, which is a great convenience when traveling.

The swivel LCD is great for shooting landscapes when using a tripod or taking over-the-head shots of tourist attractions at crowded places.

Other useful features are:

  • Face detection Adjusts exposure based on faces in the scene and removes red-eye automatically.
  • Face Self-timer function Camera automatically triggers the shutter shortly after a new face enters the frame.
  • Motion detection technology Combining inputs from its Face Detection Technology, the optical Image Stabilizer, changes in scene brightness and changes from frame to frame, it raises ISO to freeze action.
  • i-Contrast boosts brightness and retains detail in dark areas

Battery life is great and image quality is good. There is hardly anything to complain about. Overall great value for money.

But for missing RAW mode it would have been a trendsetter of sorts for Canon and an overwhelming favorite.

Comparison with Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28

The Canon SX10 IS is more versatile with its swivel LCD, has better low light performance, and has a larger zoom range. However, the Panasonic FZ28 is to be lauded for including a RAW mode.

Pros
  • +
    Good image quality with corner to corner sharpness
  • +
    Best in class zoom range
  • +
    Swivel LCD
  • +
    Ability to zoom while recording movies
  • +
    Great feature set
  • +
    Uses AA size batteries
  • +
    Good image quality and high ISO performance
Cons
  • -
    No RAW mode
Canon PowerShot SX10 IS is the Best Digital Camera Overall Under $400
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot SX10 IS
Specifications
  • Zoom: 20.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 28mm (25% wider)
  • Resolution: 10.0MP
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (3 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
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Canon PowerShot SX10 IS
2
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28
3
Canon PowerShot SX110 IS
Customer Rating
Price $519.99 $667.00 $549.99
Size (W x H x D) 4.9 x 3.5 x 3.4 in. 4.6 x 3.0 x 3.5 in. 4.4 x 2.8 x 1.8 in.
Weight (with batteries) 23.4 oz 14.7 oz 10.7 oz
?
Sensor Size
6.0 x 4.5 mm 6.0 x 4.4 mm 6.0 x 4.5 mm
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Effective Sensor Resolution
10.0 megapixels 10.1 megapixels 9.0 megapixels
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Shutter Lag Time (including auto-focus time)
0.5 - 0.6 sec 0.2 - 1.2 sec 0.6 sec
Max Shooting Speed (continuous) 1.4 frames/sec 1.1 frames/sec 1.2 frames/sec
Video Zoom Available (while recording) Yes Yes No
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
28 mm 27 mm 36 mm
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Max Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
560 mm 486 mm 360 mm
Optical Zoom 20.0x 18.0x 10.0x
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Max Aperture (wide-angle)
f/2.8 f/2.8 f/2.8
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Max Aperture (tele-photo)
f/5.7 f/4.4 f/4.3
Max Usable ISO (subjective) 1600 800 800
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Viewfinder Available
Yes Yes No
Battery Type AA-size (x4) Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable AA-size (x2)
Image Quality
High ISO performance Best in class good good
Image Processing Quality Best in class Good Very good
Lens Quality very good best in class very good
2
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28

The latest super-zoom from Panasonic, the FZ28 packs an 18x zoom lens and a 10 megapixel resolution sensor in a compact and lightweight body. The lens produces minimal distortion; however at default settings, images are a bit soft and lacking biting sharpness.

For easy operation, it also offers an Intelligent Auto Mode, where the camera sets the appropriate scene mode by automatically selecting it from the most frequently used scene modes, such as Portrait, Scenery, Macro, Night Portrait and Night Scenery.

For advanced users, it offers full-featured manual controls and the option to shoot in RAW image format. RAW images contain more data and require post processing on computers to convert them to popular JPG format. One can use image editing techniques before JPG conversion to maximize image quality.

Comparison with Canon PowerShot SX110 IS

The Panasonic DMC-FZ28 has a higher and more versatile zoom range, an eye-level viewfinder, a better movie mode, and a RAW mode.

Pros
  • +
    Good lens
  • +
    Rich feature set catering to novice and advanced users
  • +
    Good battery life
  • +
    RAW mode
Cons
  • -
    Image processing could do with less noise reduction
  • -
    Default contrast is a bit too high
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28 is one of the Best Digital Cameras Overall Under $400
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28
Specifications
  • Zoom: 18.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 27mm (30% wider)
  • Resolution: 10.1MP
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (3 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
3
Canon PowerShot SX110 IS

This is the latest Canon super-zoom camera in the value category. The camera packs in 10x zoom in a compact body. Despite its small price tag, it offers full manual modes, including Aperture/Shutter priority.

The image quality is good with pleasing colors and fine details. High ISO performance is above average.

Other useful features are

  • Face detection Adjusts exposure based on faces in the scene and removes red-eye automatically.
  • Motion detection technology Combining inputs from its Face Detection Technology, the optical Image Stabilizer, changes in scene brightness and changes from frame to frame, it raises ISO to freeze action.

The camera runs on ubiquitous AA sized batteries which along with its compact size makes it good travel camera too.

Comparison with Nikon Coolpix P80

The Canon SX110 IS has better image quality and is smaller.

Pros
  • +
    Compact size
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    Good image quality
  • +
    Manual modes
  • +
    Uses AA batteries
Cons
  • -
    Lacks eye-level viewfinder
  • -
    Wide-end of zoom lens could have been wider
Canon PowerShot SX110 IS is one of the Best Digital Cameras Overall Under $400
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot SX110 IS
Specifications
  • Zoom: 10.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: No
  • Resolution: 9.0MP
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (4 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
4
Nikon Coolpix P80

The P80 marks Nikon’s entry into the super-zoom category. It offers an 18x zoom lens with a wide-angle view and class-leading resolution.

The camera comes with many useful features like Face-priority auto-focusing (i.e. Face Detection), In-Camera Red-Eye Fix, and D-Lighting (to brighten up details in shadows).

However the images appear to be over-processed, with rough edges and noise reduction artifacts.

Comparison with Sony Cybershot DSC-H50

The Nikon Coolpix P80 has a wider angle and higher zoom lens and less fringing problems.

Pros
  • +
    Rich feature set
Cons
  • -
    Image processing could do with less noise reduction
  • -
    Poor battery life
Nikon Coolpix P80 is one of the Best Digital Cameras Overall Under $400
Where to buy
Nikon Coolpix P80
Specifications
  • Zoom: 18.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 27mm (30% wider)
  • Resolution: 10.1MP
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (1 review)
5
Sony Cybershot DSC-H50

The Cyber-shot DSC-H50 super zoom is the top of the line camera from Sony. It features a large 3-inch tilting (up & down) LCD screen so you can shoot comfortably from nearly any position, at low and high angles.

Other helpful features include a new D-Range Optimizer (DRO) plus a mode that applies a high image correction algorithm to retrieve more picture details in bright highlights and dark shadows.

However, image quality suffers from higher distortion (bending vertical straight edges) caused by lens and color fringing problems. Even though noise control options are available, the lowest setting still applies excessive noise reduction, which results in images which are devoid of fine details, especially at higher ISOs.

Pros
  • +
    Good zoom range
  • +
    Good movie mode
  • +
    Rich feature set
Cons
  • -
    Color fringing problems
  • -
    High distortion
  • -
    Images lack fine details
Sony Cybershot DSC-H50 is one of the Best Digital Cameras Overall Under $400
Where to buy
Sony Cybershot DSC-H50
Specifications
  • Zoom: 15.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 31mm (13% wider)
  • Resolution: 9.1MP
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

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