Expert Recommendation

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Best Ultra Compact Digital Camera Overall Under $200
By Fotoguy
Expert (27 Recommendations and 7 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
May 12, 2009 Updated: May 13, 2009
Overview

The Canon Powershot SD1200 IS Digital ELPH is an inexpensive–without being cheap–auto-only (with some manual overrides) ultra compact with all the features you need and none of the ones you don’t. Its very small size, good build quality, 3X zoom lens with built-in image stabilization, ten megapixel sensor and sharp, well saturated images makes it the ultimate, carry-everywhere, fit-in-your-pocket, supersnapshot camera. Plus, for the fashion conscious, it comes in six, attractive colors.

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My Best In Class Pick
Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS

The Canon Powershot SD1200 continues the ELPH tradition of a small, moderately priced, easy-to-use, durable, point-n-shoot camera that produces excellent images. It appears to be a replacement as well as an incremental upgrade to the popular SD770, which debuted in March 2008, with apparently the same 10 megapixel sensor, same 6.2-18.6mm f/2.8-4.9 (35-105mm equiv.) 3X zoom lens, optical viewfinder and feature set.

Major improvements include the new DIGIC 4 image processor, Smart AUTO that intelligently determines the proper camera settings based on eighteen predefined shooting situations, and LiveView. As with all upgrades, some of the less useful or used features have been eliminated. The time lapse and compact video modes of the 770 are gone leaving only the 640x480 and 320x240 formats, both at 30 fps, and from the still Shooting Modes: Color Accent, Color Swap, Camera M, and Stitch Assist modes are gone as well.

The SD1200’s image quality seems to be improved over its predecessor’s (due to the new DIGIC 4 processor, I’m sure) with less noise, improved sharpness and better color contributing to better prints right out of the camera, which the camera seems designed by default for. But like all small sensor ultra compacts, even the SD1200, image noise will always be a problem. It’s the nature of the beast. So, for best results, shoot at the lowest ISO possible, 80 or 100 preferably, and use 1600 or 3200 only for emergencies, but otherwise avoid them.

Overall, the SD1200 has more good than bad. The major caveats being the small LCD and, believe it or not, the small size, which can be a problem: too easy to get a finger (or two) in front of the lens or flash. But the small size (and light weight) is an advantage as well, making it easy to slip into a pocket or bag for carrying all the time. So, if you want a no muss, no fuss camera for your snapshots, then the Powershot SD1200 Digital ELPH is highly recommended.

Comparison with Canon PowerShot SD780 IS

The slightly higher priced Powershot SD780 IS Digital ELPH is essentially the same as the SD1200 feature-wise, but has the added advantage of a 12.1 megapixel image sensor, slightly shorter 33-100mm (equiv.) f/3.2-5.8 3X zoom lens, 720p HD video and LiveView. However, it lacks an optical viewfinder.

Pros
  • +
    Price
  • +
    In-the-lens image stabilization
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    DIGIC 4 image processor
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    Face detection
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    Smart AUTO
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    Optical viewfinder
  • +
    LiveView
  • +
    Build quality
  • +
    Battery life
Cons
  • -
    Small LCD
  • -
    Size
  • -
    No HD video
Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS is the Best Ultra Compact Digital Camera Overall Under $200
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS
  • Best Price: $219
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: No
  • Resolution: 10.0MP
More
Want More Opinions? See:
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 SD1200 IS
2
Canon PowerShot SD780 IS
Customer Rating
Price $219.00 $349.00
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Effective Sensor Resolution
10.0 megapixels 12.1 megapixels
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
35mm 33mm
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Max Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
105mm 100mm
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Max Aperture (wide-angle)
2.8 3.2
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Max Aperture (tele-photo)
4.9 5.8
Image Stabilization Type Optical (lens shift) Optical (lens shift)
Min ISO Setting 80 80
Max ISO Setting 1600 1600
Viewfinder Type Optical (tunnel) None
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LCD Screen Size
2.5 inches 2.5 inches
LCD Screen Resolution 230,000 pixels 230,00 pixels
Max Video Resolution 640x480 pixels 1280x720 pixels
Body Material metal metal
Size (W x H x D) 3.4 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 3.4 x 2.2 x 0.7 in.
Weight (with batteries) 4.2 oz. 5.6 oz.
Battery Life 300 shots 300 shots
2
Canon PowerShot SD780 IS

With a 12.1 megapixel image sensor, almost distortion free 5.9-17.9mm f/3.2-5.8 3X zoom (33-100mm equiv.) lens with built-in optical image stabilization, quick autofocus with Face Detection, sharp, well saturated images; 720p HD video, and LiveView, you won’t mind not having an optical viewfinder.

Canon PowerShot SD780 IS is one of the Best Ultra Compact Digital Cameras Overall Under $200
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot SD780 IS
  • Best Price: $349
    Amazon See It »
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

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