Expert Recommendation

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Best Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Travel and Low Light Photos Under $750
Expert (97 Recommendations and 21 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
October 20, 2007 Updated: December 21, 2007
Overview

The Pentax K100D is a well-rounded SLR-type camera that is simply a complete package when it comes to travel photography. With both image stabilization technology and incredible high ISO performance, the K100D is the best low-light camera in this price range, and excels at taking flashless photos at night and indoors. Equipped with a Tamron 18-200 lens, the K100D also covers the essential 27-300mm range most useful for travel photography. If you’re concerned about weight or size, however, this may not be your best option.

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My Best In Class Pick
Pentax K100D (Body Only)

All of the cameras covered here make for very competent travel and low-light cameras. All have the wide-angle lenses needed to capture landscapes and landmarks, and all three cameras pack in a large zoom range that can zoom in for portraits, fine detail, or wildlife. For low-light photography (also encountered often in travel), all three cameras perform well because of their great high ISO capabilities, but the Pentax K100D is just a cut above the rest because of its in-camera image stabilization system, which the D40 and Rebel XT lack.

Pentax K100D (Body Only) is the Best Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Travel and Low Light Photos Under $750
Where to buy
Pentax K100D (Body Only)
Specifications
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 6.1MP
  • Max ISO: 3200
  • Size: 5.1 x 3.6 x 2.8 in.
  • Battery Life: 300 shots
  • Easy to Use: No
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (6 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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Pentax K100D (Body Only)
2
Nikon D40 (with 18-135mm Lens)
3
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT (Body Only)
Customer Rating
Price
Size (W x H x D) 5.1 x 3.6 x 2.8 in. 5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in 5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in.
Weight (without batteries) 19.8 oz 16.0 oz 17.0 oz
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Sensor Size
23.5 x 15.7 mm 23.7 x 15.6 22.2 x 14.8 mm
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
27-300mm (11x) 27-203mm (7.5x) 29-320mm (11x)
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Image Stabilization Available
Yes No Yes
Storage Media SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card CompactFlash Card, MicroDrive
Battery Type AA-size (x4) or CR-V3 (x2) Proprietary Lithium Ion rechargeable Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable
Battery Life 300 shots 470 shots 400 shots
Max Usable ISO (subjective) ISO3200 ISO3200 ISO1600
2
Nikon D40 (with 18-135mm Lens)

The Nikon D40 is Nikon’s entry-level SLR camera, and is one of the most beginner-friendly SLRs on the market. Like all of the other SLRs on the market, the D40 has a fully automatic mode that allows it to be used just like any point and shoot camera, so don’t be daunted by all the buttons and manual controls.

Equipped with a Nikon 18-135mm lens, the D40 will provide a 27-203mm zoom range, covering the most useful range for travel photography perfectly. The 18-135 lens has a f/3.5-5.6 aperture range, which is typical for a lens in this range.

Having a large sensor like all SLRs, the Nikon D40 has very good high ISO, although the images are not quite as clean as those from the class-leading Canon cameras. The images are still perfectly usable even at the maximum ISO setting, however, especially for viewing images on the computer or just making small prints. The D40 doesn’t have any image stabilization built into the body, however, and the recommended 18-135mm lens doesn’t have IS either. The good high ISO ability makes the D40 a very competent camera in low-light, but the lack of any image stabilization system keeps it from being the best low-light performer in this class.

The Nikon D40 has an effective pop-up flash (although flash photos will still have harsh and flat lighting), and also has a hot shoe that can be used with dedicated external flashes, such as the $108 Nikon SB-400.

The D40 uses a proprietary Nikon battery, which lasts 470 shots on one charge (CIPA standard), which should be plenty for a typical day or two of travel.

Note: While great for beginners, the Nikon D40 (and D40x) cameras are not autofocus-compatible with certain types of Nikon lenses, such as large aperture “prime” lenses. This isn’t an issue for beginners and the travel recommendation here, but for consumers who may want to explore more advanced and creative photography in the future, the D40 is not a good choice.

Nikon D40 (with 18-135mm Lens) is one of the Best Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Travel and Low Light Photos Under $750
Where to buy
Nikon D40 (with 18-135mm Lens)
Specifications
  • Zoom: 7.5x
  • Image Stabilization: No
  • Resolution: 6.1MP
  • Max ISO: 3200
  • Size: 5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in.
  • Battery Life: 470 shots
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (6 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
3
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT (Body Only)

In the Digital SLR world, Canon cameras have long been known to be the king of low-noise sensors. Even when used at the highest ISO settings, the noise on images would be drastically lower than that of other cameras, and while competing cameras have improved on their sensor designs and noise reduction algorithms, the nearly 3-year old Canon Rebel XT 350D is still the best high ISO camera in the market at this price range (or the entire sub-$2000 price range, in fact).

While the Rebel XT (and the other cameras mentioned here) are digital SLR-type cameras, don’t be alarmed or scared by their apparent complexity. For all of their manual controls and buttons, all SLR cameras can be set to an “automatic” mode which allows the user to just point and shoot like any compact camera, letting the camera determine all of the correct settings, and allowing even complete novices to take advantage of the low-light advantages offered by SLRs.

While the Rebel XT usually comes with an 18-55mm kit lens, for travel photography it’s a better idea to buy the body only and purchase the $330 Sigma 18-200mm lens separately. The Sigma 18-200 will provide a 29-320mm zoom range, which will cover just about any kind of photographic situation you might encounter while traveling.

The Sigma 18-200mm lens doesn’t have any image stabilization, however, so while the Rebel XT has the best high ISO performance of any camera in this price range and is an extremely competent low-light camera, it’s not quite the best in class.

The aperture range on the Sigma 18-200 lens is f/3.5-6.3, fairly typical for this range. The Rebel XT has both an effective pop-up flash (although non-flash photos will still generally be better), and a hot shoe that is compatible with many external flashes, such as the $120 Canon 220EX.

The Canon Rebel XT uses a proprietary Canon battery, which lasts 400 shots on one charge (CIPA standard), which should be plenty for a typical day (maybe two) of travel.

Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT (Body Only) is one of the Best Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Travel and Low Light Photos Under $750
Where to buy
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT (Body Only)
Specifications
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 8.0MP
  • Max ISO: 1600
  • Size: 5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in.
  • Battery Life: 400 shots
  • Easy to Use: No
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (5 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Excellent by CNET.com

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