Expert Recommendation

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Best Digital Camera Overall Under $350
Expert (97 Recommendations and 21 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
January 12, 2009 Updated: February 12, 2009
Overview

Canon’s SX10 is a complete all-in-one camera that promises a lot in the way of features and specs, and also delivers in terms of performance, too. Its huge 28-560mm (20x) lens can easily cover just about any situation one might encounter, and image quality is one of the best among non-DSLRs.

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My Best In Class Pick
Canon PowerShot SX10 IS

The Canon SX10 is an ultrazoom camera from Canon’s long-running S-series. Featuring a whopping 28-560mm (20x) lens, the SX10 has one of the largest zoom capabilities in the market. It’ll easily cover just about any photographic situation you might encounter, from wildlife or far-away players in sports with its big 560mm telephoto, to panoramic landscapes or creative close-up portraits with the 28mm wide-angle.

The Canon SX10’s high ISO performance is good - using a lighter approach to noise reduction, the SX10’s images are somewhat grainy but also retain more detail than most cameras. Coupled with an image-stabilized lens to reduce camera shake, the SX10 is a good performer for low-light situations,

The SX10’s shutter lag and autofocus performance are both very fast - there’s minimal delay in locking onto your subjects and snapping off a shot, which is a huge help for unpredictable and quick-moving subjects like kids, animals, or fast action sports. The SX10 can continuously shoot at 1.4 frames per second, which isn’t really fast enough to be a useful burst mode.

Comparison with Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28

The FZ28 and SX10 are both extremely capable cameras - both provide good image quality, large zoom ranges featuring both long telephoto and wide-angle ranges, perform well in low-light situations, and have quick shutter lag and autofocus performance. The FZ28 provides a few interesting features that the SX10 does not - namely, 720p HD video recording, fast 2.5fps continuous shooting (very useful for fast action), and RAW capture. Overall, the SX10 wins out because of its slightly better image quality, but if you’re interested in making movies, shooting lots of fast action, or having greater control over processing your images, the FZ28 is worth a look as well.

Comparison with Sony Cybershot DSC-H50

While both ultrazooms are very capable cameras, the SX10 is just plain better than the H50 in most areas, including better high-ISO performance, more versatile zoom range, and faster shutter lag and AF performance.

Pros
  • +
    Great high-ISO
  • +
    Image stabilization
  • +
    Fast shutter lag, autofocus
  • +
    28mm wide-angle
  • +
    Huge 560mm telephoto
Cons
  • -
    Slow 1.4fps continuous shooting
Canon PowerShot SX10 IS is the Best Digital Camera Overall Under $350
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot SX10 IS
Specifications
  • Zoom: 20.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 28mm (25% wider)
  • Resolution: 10.0MP
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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
Sony Cybershot DSC-H50
Customer Rating
Price $519.99 $667.00
Size (W x H x D) 4.9 x 3.5 x 3.4 in. 4.6 x 3.0 x 3.5 in. 4.6 x 3.2 x 3.4 in.
Weight (without batteries) 19.8 oz 13.0 oz 14.6 oz
Max Shooting Speed (burst) 1.4 frames/sec 3.5 frames/sec 1.6 frames/sec
Max Consecutive Burst Frames Unlimited 3 frames Unlimited
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
28 mm 27 mm 31 mm
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Max Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
560 mm 486 mm 465 mm
Optical Zoom 20.0x 18.0x 15.0x
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Image Stabilization Available
Yes Yes Yes
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Max Aperture (wide-angle)
f/2.8 f/2.8 f/2.7
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Max Aperture (tele-photo)
f/5.7 f/4.4 f/4.5
Battery Life 600 shots 460 shots 300 shots
High ISO quality Good Good Good
Shutter lag Good Good Average
Travel Rating Superb Superb Good
Fast Action Rating Good Superb Good
People/Pets Portrait Rating Superb Superb Good
Low-light Rating Good Good Good
2
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28

With a whopping 27-486mm (18x) lens, Panasonic’s FZ28 is as versatile as any other camera out there, and can easily adapt from a wide-angle shot of a sweeping scenic vista, to a zoomed-in close-up of a bird or wild animal passing in the distance. In addition, the FZ28 comes packed with a ton of features, such as fast 2.5fps continuous shooting mode for fast action situations, RAW format capture for more advanced photographers, and even 720p HD video recording.

The FZ28 is a decent low-light performer; high-ISO performance is good, though not quite the best in its class, and its highly effective image stabilization system helps to combat camera shake.

Shutter lag and autofocus performance are also good and should work fine in most situations with good lighting.

Comparison with Sony Cybershot DSC-H50

While the H50 doesn’t perform too much worse than the FZ28, the Sony simply can’t compare to the FZ28’s extensive featureset, especially for more advanced photographers or fast action photographers.

Pros
  • +
    Good high-ISO
  • +
    Image stabilization
  • +
    Fast shutter lag, autofocus
  • +
    27mm wide-angle
  • +
    Huge 486mm telephoto
  • +
    720p video recording
  • +
    Fast 2.5fps continuous shooting
  • +
    RAW capture
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28 is one of the Best Digital Cameras Overall Under $350
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
Sony Cybershot DSC-H50

As Sony’s flagship ultrazoom camera, the H50 is a highly capable camera that can adapt to many situations, though its featureset doesn’t quite push the envelope like many competitors. Its 31-465mm (15x) lens, while providing a huge zoom range capable of covering most scenes, is neither as wide or as long as other cameras like Canon’s SX10 or Panasonic’s FZ28.

The Sony H50 has slightly above average high ISO ability - while its high ISO images are slightly blotchy, they do a good job of freezing motion without too much noise. The H50 also features an image stabilization system to reduce camera shake.

The H50 has about average shutter lag, so you may have some difficulty precisely timing your shots. The H50 can shoot continuously at 1.6 frames per second, which isn’t particularly fast, but can be a little helpful for taking bursts of shots and choosing the best one afterwards.

Comparison with Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ4

While the TZ4 caters to a different type of market, it’s quite an adept camera for all-around photography. Image quality, especially using high-ISO in low-light, isn’t as good as the H50, the TZ4 performs well in every area, and comes in a significantly smaller, lighter, and cheaper package. If you don’t mind size or cost at all, however, the H50’s better low-light image quality makes it a better overall performer.

Pros
  • +
    Above-average high-ISO
  • +
    Image stabilization
  • +
    Huge 465mm telephoto
Cons
  • -
    Not very useful 1.6fps continuous shooting
Sony Cybershot DSC-H50 is one of the Best Digital Cameras Overall Under $350
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
4
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ4

At 7 ounces and 1.4 inches thick, the Panasonic TZ4 is a lightweight compared to the other full-size offerings like Canon’s SX10 and Sony’s H50. Despite the compact size, however, the TZ4 is as capable as handling a huge variety of photo situations as well as any other camera on the market. Its 28-280mm (10x) lens doesn’t provide the longest zoom, but is just enough to capture close-ups of wildlife, architectural detail, or fast action sports, and its 28mm wide angle is perfect for cramped interiors or large landscapes or landmarks.

For speed situations, the TZ4 is also one of the fastest-performing cameras around. Shutter lag and autofocus are both above-average, making it a bit easier to precisely time shots as well as track around moving subjects, which is important for unpredictable subjects like kids or pets or sports players. The TZ4 can also shoot at a speedy 3 frames per second, allowing you to fire off a burst of shots and then choose the best one later, which can significantly improve your keeper rate.

The TZ4 does have a weak point though, and that’s low-light performance. The TZ4 does feature an image-stabilized lens to help combat camera shake blur, but its high-ISO quality is just below-average, producing noisy/blotchy images if you want to freeze moving subjects in low-light situations.

Pros
  • +
    Image stabilization
  • +
    28mm wide-angle
  • +
    Very fast 3fps continuous shooting
  • +
    Small, light, cheap
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ4 is one of the Best Digital Cameras Overall Under $350
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ4
Specifications
  • Zoom: 10.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 28mm (25% wider)
  • Resolution: 8.1MP
More
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