Expert Recommendation

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Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Travel Photos Under $200
Expert (88 Recommendations and 32 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
July 25, 2008 Updated: August 7, 2008
Overview

The Canon SD1100 IS is the best ultra compact and affordable digital camera for travel photos. It will delight you with great images that are rich in detail. It is one of the few ultra compacts with an optical viewfinder. It also has a great battery life.

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My Best In Class Pick
Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS

Canon is the pioneer of the digital camera revolution and is the market leader. Canon SD1100IS is the image-stabilized version of the highly successful Canon SD1000. The optical image stabilization helps avoid the blurring of pictures from camera shaking. The camera produces images with minimal processing artifacts, rich colors and lot of details in auto mode. Its optical viewfinder (OVF) will help you in live tracking subjects and will also help in extending the battery life (i.e. one can switch off LCD). OVF also helps when shooting with a stable conventional posture. The camera comes with other useful features like Face detection” and “AF point zoom (enlarged view on LCD to confirm focus)”. This responsive camera starts up in less than a second and can keep shooting every second thereafter. The camera received a “Recommended” rating at DPREVIEW one of the most popular camera reviewing sites and has got rave reviews from others. In nutshell, SD1100IS produces good quality images, has great battery life (with LCD off) and is always ready for shooting on the go. Great camera for travel.

Comparison with Nikon Coolpix S520

The Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS delivers sharper images, is more responsive, has a higher resolution LCD screen, and has a greater battery life, in large part because of the availability of an optical viewfinder.

Comparison with Sony Cybershot DSC-W120

The Canon SD110 IS has better low light performance & image quality (better corner sharpness, more fine details in images), and better LCD (higher resolution).

Pros
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    Good corner to corner sharpness in images
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    Good image quality (good colors, minimal processing artifacts)
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    Above average low light performance (in its class)
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    Optical Image Stabilization
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    Optical view-finder
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    High Resolution LCD (230K pixels)
Cons
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    Pricey
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    Wide end of the lens could have been more wider
Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS is the Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Travel Photos Under $200
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.0x
  • Resolution: 8.0MP
  • Size: 3.4 x 2.2 x 0.9 in.
  • Battery Life: 240 shots
  • Easy to Use: Yes
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Website Reviews (3 reviews)
  • 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 SD1100 IS
2
Nikon Coolpix S520
3
Sony Cybershot DSC-W120
Customer Rating
Price $344.99
Size (W x H x D) 3.4 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 3.7 x 2.1 x 0.9 in. 3.5 x 2.3 x 0.9 in.
Easy to Use Yes Yes Yes
Max Image Resolution 3264 x 2448 pixels 3264 x 2448 pixels 3072 x 2304 pixels
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Shutter Lag Time (including auto-focus time)
0.4 - 0.8 sec 0.7 sec 0.5 - 1.0 sec
Power to First Shot Time 1.0 sec 1.9 sec 1.8 sec
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
38 mm 35 mm 32 mm
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Max Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
114 mm 105 mm 128 mm
Optical Zoom 3.0x 3.0x 4.0x
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Image Stabilization Available
Yes Yes Yes
Auto Focus Assist Light Available Yes Yes Yes
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Max Aperture (wide-angle)
f/2.8 f/2.8 f/2.8
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Viewfinder Available
Yes No Yes
Battery Type Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable
Battery Life 240 shots 180 shots 420 shots
Image Quality
Low light (High ISO) Performance Good Good Below Average
Lens Quality (Sharpness) Very Good Good Average
Fine details Good Good Average
2
Nikon Coolpix S520

Slowly Nikon has started making inroads in this class of cameras with the launch of S series (S200 & image stabilized S500) last year. This camera is the second incarnation of the initially launched S500. The camera starts up in less than a second and can keep shooting every second thereafter. Ironically this newer version has less resolution LCD than the previous one! The camera comes with useful features like Face-priority AF (i.e. Face Detection), In-Camera Red-Eye Fix, D-Lighting (to brighten up details in shadows). The camera produces images with lot of details and good colors. The build quality is good (metal body). But the average battery life, lack of an optical viewfinder and high close focus distance mars this otherwise excellent camera.

Comparison with Sony Cybershot DSC-W120

The Nikon Coolpix S520 has better low light performance & image quality.

Pros
  • +
    Good image quality
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    Good resolution
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    Optical image stabilization
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    Well built
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    value for money
Cons
  • -
    No Optical viewfinder
  • -
    Lower resolution LCD (153K pixels)
Nikon Coolpix S520 is one of the Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Travel Photos Under $200
Where to buy
Nikon Coolpix S520
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.0x
  • Resolution: 8.0MP
  • Size: 3.7 x 2.1 x 0.9 in.
  • Battery Life: 180 shots
  • Easy to Use: Yes
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3
Sony Cybershot DSC-W120

Sony is one of the leading manufacturer of compact cameras. This is their entry level model in the W series of cameras, which come with optical viewfinders. The camera has lot of things going for it viz. 4x wider (than normal) angle zoom, fast operation, good build quality and good resolution. However the camera produces images with a slight blurring in the corners and applies high noise reduction, especially at higher ISOs (i.e. low light image quality is not that good.).

Comparison with Nikon Coolpix L15

The Sony DSC-W120 has better build quality, is smaller, is more responsive, and has a longer battery life as it has an optical viewfinder. However on image quality, the Nikon Coolpix L15 is a tad better, especially in low light.

Pros
  • +
    wider angle 4x zoom (32-128mm)
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    Optical viewfinder
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    Image stabilization
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    Well built
Cons
  • -
    Lacking corner sharpness
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    Excessive noise reduction at high ISOs.
Sony Cybershot DSC-W120 is one of the Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Travel Photos Under $200
Where to buy
Sony Cybershot DSC-W120
Specifications
  • Zoom: 4.0x
  • Resolution: 7.2MP
  • Size: 3.5 x 2.3 x 0.9 in.
  • Battery Life: 420 shots
  • Easy to Use: Yes
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Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
4
Nikon Coolpix L15

This image-stabilized ultra-compact from Nikon runs on AA batteries!!. This is a great feature to have while traveling as you can use off-the-shelf alkaline batteries to keep it running. The camera produces images with lot of details and good colors. However build quality is not that good (plasticky body).

Comparison with Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS5

The NIkon Coolpix L15 has better image quality (sharpness and fine details)

Pros
  • +
    runs on AA batteries
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    good image quality
  • +
    image stabilization
Cons
  • -
    Plasticky body
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    No optical viewfinder (poor battery life)
Nikon Coolpix L15 is one of the Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Travel Photos Under $200
Where to buy
Nikon Coolpix L15
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.0x
  • Resolution: 8.0MP
  • Size: 3.6 x 2.4 x 1.2 in.
  • Battery Life: 330 shots
  • Easy to Use: Yes
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5
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS5

Panasonic has been first digital camera manufacturer to introduce optical image stabilization in all of its cameras. It has recently started new FS series of digital camera to cater to budget conscious customers. The FS5 is equipped with a wide-angle 4x zoom lens and high resolution sensor (10 Megapixels). The rich feature set includes Face-Detection and Intelligent AUTO mode (It automatically sets the appropriate scene mode according to the picture you are about to take). However this new model disappoints on image quality. The images are not sharp and are devoid of fine details (probably due to high noise reduction applied even at base ISO).

Pros
  • +
    Wide angle view
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    High resolution sensor
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    Bit more zoom (4x) than normally available in this class of cameras.
Cons
  • -
    Poor image quality (lacking sharpness and fine details)
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS5 is one of the Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Travel Photos Under $200
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS5
Specifications
  • Zoom: 4.0x
  • Resolution: 10.1MP
  • Size: 3.7 x 2.1 x 0.9 in.
  • Battery Life: 300 shots
  • Easy to Use: Yes
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