Expert Recommendation

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Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Photos of Children or Pets Under $300
Expert (97 Recommendations and 21 Compliments)
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August 5, 2008
Overview

There are few ultracompacts offering the zoom range needed for portraits in the sub-$300 range, but the Canon SD890 IS fits the bill perfectly, performing well in all the important portrait categories for photos of children and pets.

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My Best In Class Pick
Canon PowerShot SD890 IS

The Canon SD890 IS is one of the higher-end models in Canon’s SD series of ultracompacts, and the only one to offer a versatile 5x zoom lens. Covering a 37-185mm range, the SD890 IS doesn’t quite cover the typical 50-200mm portrait range, but there’s virtually no ultracompact camera on the market that does. The lack of a real wide-angle limits the creative close-up possibilities, however.

The SD890 has about average shutter lag, so it may be a little difficult to react quickly or precisely time your photos. The SD890’s high ISO ability is very good, allowing you to freeze the motion of your kids and pets in low-light without introducing too much noise.

The one drawback of the SD890 is size - at 1.1” thick, it’s a little bulky for an ultracompact camera, although it should still fit fine into most jackets and pants pockets.

Comparison with Fujifilm FinePix J50

Given that it’s more than double the price, it should be no surprise that the Canon SD890 IS completely outclasses the Fujifilm J50. Though they cover the same 5x range, the SD890 IS beats the J50 in every performance category, offering much more responsive shutter lag and high-ISO ability.

Comparison with Nikon Coolpix S550

The SD890 IS beats out the Nikon S550 in every category, from shutter lag to high ISO. The S550’s one advantage is that it’s slightly smaller than the SD890, being a little thinner and significantly lighter.

Pros
  • +
    Covers most of the 50-200mm portrait range
  • +
    Good high ISO performance
Cons
  • -
    Slightly bulky (1.1" thick) for an ultracompact
Canon PowerShot SD890 IS is the Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Photos of Children or Pets Under $300
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot SD890 IS
Specifications
  • Zoom: 5.0x
  • Resolution: 10.0MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.7 - 0.8s
  • Easy to Use: Yes
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Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • 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 SD890 IS
2
Fujifilm FinePix J50
3
Nikon Coolpix S550
Customer Rating
Price $389.00 $124.95 $199.99
Size (W x H x D) 3.8 x 2.3 x 1.1 in 3.8 x 2.2 x 0.9 in 3.6 x 2.1 x 0.9 in
Weight (without batteries) 5.5 oz 4.9 oz 4.2 oz
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
37 mm 37 mm 36 mm
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Max Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
185 mm 185 mm 180 mm
Optical Zoom 5.0x 5.0x 5.0x
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Image Stabilization Available
Yes No No
Battery Life 320 shots 150 shots 200 shots
Important Portrait Features
Shutter lag Average Poor Poor
High ISO quality Good Poor Poor
People/Pet Portrait Rating Good Average Average
2
Fujifilm FinePix J50

The Fujifilm J50 is an entry-level ultracompact camera (0.9” thick) that packs a big (for its size) 5x zoom lens. Covering the 37-185mm range, the J50 falls just short of the typical 50-200mm range but covers it better than most cameras in this class.

Shutter lag on the J50 is a little slow, making it difficult to react quickly or time your photos precisely. The J50’s high-ISO performance is also slightly below average - while you’ll still be able to freeze motion in low-light situations, the images will tend to be noisy and blotchy.

Comparison with Nikon Coolpix S550

The Fuji J50 is a very similar camera to the Nikon S550 - both sport 5x zoom lenses that cover much of the traditional portrait range, but also deliver underwhelming shutter lag and high-ISO performances. The J50 is a slightly better camera, on account of producing slightly less noisy high-ISO images, and being a bit cheaper than the S550.

Pros
  • +
    Covers most of the 50-200mm portrait range
  • +
    Inexpensive
Cons
  • -
    Slow shutter lag
  • -
    Doesn't quite cover the 50-200mm portrait range
  • -
    Slightly below average high ISO
Fujifilm FinePix J50 is one of the Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Photos of Children or Pets Under $300
Where to buy
Fujifilm FinePix J50
  • Best Price: $124
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 5.0x
  • Resolution: 8.2MP
  • Easy to Use: Yes
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3
Nikon Coolpix S550

The Nikon S550 is a small budget camera - at 4.2 oz and 3.6 inches long, it’s smaller than the average ultracompact. Despite its compactness, the S550 manages to pack in a 36-180mm 5x zoom lens, covering most of the typical 50-200mm portrait range.

Performance-wise, the S550 falls short in the most important categories for children and pet photos. Shutter lag is below average, making it difficult to take photos that require precise timing or immediate reaction. The S550’s high-ISO ability is also below average, producing fairly noisy images in low-light situations when you’re trying to freeze your kids’ and pets’ motion.

Comparison with Olympus Stylus 1010

Compared to the Olympus 1010, the S550 is a slightly less versatile camera, covering less range at the long end of the zoom. The 1010 also has a slightly faster shutter lag than the S550. However, the S550’s biggest advantage is its high ISO performance - while not great, it can still produce usable images in low-light, where the Olympus 1010 simply creates unusably noisy messes.

Pros
  • +
    Covers most of the 50-200mm portrait range
  • +
    Slightly smaller than the average ultracompact
Cons
  • -
    Slow shutter lag
  • -
    Noisy high-ISO
Nikon Coolpix S550 is one of the Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Photos of Children or Pets Under $300
Where to buy
Nikon Coolpix S550
  • Best Price: $199
    Amazon See It »
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4
Olympus Stylus 1010

Packing a huge 7x zoom, the Olympus 1010 is one of the most versatile ultracompacts on the market. Its 37-260mm zoom covers the traditional 50-200mm portrait range and more, an impressive feat considering the 1010 is just 1 inch thick. Performance-wise, the Olympus 1010 is a mixed bag - shutter lag on the Olympus 1010 is about average, but its high-ISO performance is abysmal, making it uncapable of freezing the motion of kids and pets in low-light without ruining the picture with noise.

Pros
  • +
    Covers the 50-200mm portrait range, and beyond
Cons
  • -
    Abysmal high-ISO ability
Olympus Stylus 1010 is one of the Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Photos of Children or Pets Under $300
Where to buy
Olympus Stylus 1010
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