Expert Recommendation

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Best Ultra Compact Digital Camera Overall Under $300
Expert (53 Recommendations and 31 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
January 4, 2010 Updated: January 5, 2010
Overview

Whether heading out on vacation or into the next room for that all important shot, the Canon PowerShot SD980 IS with its sleek styling and solid construction is my Best in Class pick for your next camera. And now you can add even more fun to the equation with the new touch screen feature that gives you an interactive way to control how the final image is going to turn out.

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My Best In Class Pick
Canon PowerShot SD980 IS

For those who are fans of the Canon line of compact digital cameras, purchasing the SD980 IS will be a step in the right direction.

And for those who know little about Canon’s expertise when designing and building a great compact camera, prepare to be impressed.

Starting with a sleek and stylish metallic body that comes in four different colors, the SD 980 IS features a 12mp imaging sensor with optical image stabilization, a 5x optical zoom lens that opens up to a wide 24mm (good for landscapes and crowd shots), Smart Auto for the best shot parameters every time and HD video recording.

And now, for an even simpler and more fun experience, the SD980 IS comes with a 3.0” LCD screen that doubles as a touch screen. With the touch screen you will be able to pinpoint your autofocus spot, select a shooting mode or operate the flash all with only a touch of your finger. And when viewing your photos, you can simply shake the camera to advance to each photo and tilt it to speed up the scroll.

For a responsive compact digital camera that puts you in control, with a little bit of fun, the Canon SD980 IS is the right camera at the right price, and at the right time.

Comparison with Casio EXILIM EX-G1

Although the ruggedness of the EX-G1 is a nice feature for a butterfingers like me, I still like image stabilization and the wide angle and zoom of the SD980 IS. The EX-G1 doesn’t have HD video.

Comparison with Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1

There are a lot of similarities between these cameras but I will always lean towards the Canon because of the Digic IV processor.

Pros
  • +
    24mm wide angle
  • +
    Digic IV processor
  • +
    HDMI connection
  • +
    HD video
Cons
  • -
    No viewfinder
Canon PowerShot SD980 IS is the Best Ultra Compact Digital Camera Overall Under $300
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot SD980 IS
  • Best Price: $220
    Amazon See It »
Recommended with
  • Canon PSC-1050 Deluxe Leather Case in Black for the Canon PowerShot SD780 and SD940 + 4GB Digital Camera Accessory Kit
    $34.95 @ Amazon.com
Specifications
  • Zoom: 5.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 24mm (46% wider)
  • Resolution: 12.1MP
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 SD980 IS
2
Casio EXILIM EX-G1
3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1
Customer Rating
Price $220.09 $298.00
Camera Format Ultra Compact Ultra Compact Ultra Compact
Size (W x H x D) 3.9 x 2.1 x 0.9 in. 4.1 x 2.5 x 0.8 in. 3.9 x 2.1 x 1.0 in.
Weight (with batteries) 5.3 oz 5.4 oz 5.6 oz
Easy to Use Yes Yes Yes
Colors Silver, Gold, Purple, Blue Red, Black Black, Silver, Blue, Red
Body Material Titanium Stainless Steel Metal
Weatherproof No Yes No
?
Effective Sensor Resolution
12.1 megapixels 12.1 megapixels 12.1 megapixels
Max Shooting Speed (continuous) 0.8 frames/sec 3.0 frames/sec 2.0 frames/sec
HD Video Available Yes No Yes
Optical Zoom 5.0x 3.0x 8.0x
?
Image Stabilization Available
Yes No Yes
Max ISO Setting 1600 3200 1600
?
Face Detection Available
Yes Yes Yes
?
Viewfinder Available
No No No
?
LCD Screen Size
3.0 in. 2.5 in. 2.7 in.
Flash Range (tele-photo) 2.9 - 4.9 ft 1.6 - 3.6 ft 3.3 - 9.5 ft
Battery Type Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable
2
Casio EXILIM EX-G1

If your idea of a great overall camera includes the promise that it won’t break on impact or become disabled when splashing down in the water, then the Casio Exilim EX-G1 should be your top pick when deciding to make your next camera purchase.

Built with a shock-resistant, waterproof and dustproof outer shell, the EX-G1 has a 12.1mp high resolution sensor, a 3x zoom lens that doesn’t extend out to keep it safe and dry within it’s protected body and a 2.5” LCD screen.

Smart enough to make the necessary calculations in the blink of an eye, the Intelligent AF and Best Shot shooting modes make getting the best exposure one less thing that you have to worry about. And the Interval Shooting feature will ensure that you get the best shot even when your hands are too busy to keep snapping.

And for video, when you want to quickly make the switch from still images, just press the dedicated movie button located conveniently on the back of the camera where your thumb usually is. In fact, most of the controls are on the backside of the camera and easily reached and activated with a quick flick of the right thumb.

So, whether you are a casual snapper in your own backyard, or the rugged outdoors type who is constantly pushing the limits in mother natures backyard, the EX-G1 was designed to go the distance and supply you with great shots everytime.

Comparison with Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1

The difference between these two cameras is obvious. The EX-G1 is the more rugged of the two but the ZR1 has a wider angle and awesome optics.

Pros
  • +
    Shockproof, waterproof and dustproof
Cons
  • -
    No viewfinder
  • -
    No HD video
  • -
    Nov image stabilisation
Casio EXILIM EX-G1 is one of the Best Ultra Compact Digital Cameras Overall Under $300
Where to buy
Casio EXILIM EX-G1
Recommended with
  • Action-Ready Carrying Case for Casio Exilim EX-G1 Super Slim Shooter ***Includes Mini-Tripod***
    $8.99 @ Amazon.com
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: No
  • Resolution: 12.1MP
More
Want More Opinions? See:
3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1

As camera manufacturers continue to strive to create features that set them apart from the competition, Panasonic has come up with an improvement that doesn’t feel like just another gimmick that adds nothing to the cameras basic operation. Not only is the camera size ultra compact, but the 25mm ultra wide angle LEICA DC VARIO-ELMAR lens with its powerful 8x optical zoom has the smallest lens elements yet. Just 0.3mm, the spherical and aspherical lenses allow the ZR1 to remain slim and ultra compact while producing brilliant images from 25mm to 200mm.

While building on the success of the TZ series of cameras, Panasonic adds a 12.1-megapixel high resolution CCD with Intelligent Auto mode and an even more powerful OIS (Optical Image Stabiliser). Taking clear tele-photos without a tripod has never been so easy.

And speaking of Intelligent Auto, the ZR1 can track a subject by simply locking the focus and panning with them as they move about. A nice feature when you know exactly what you are after and have the patience to wait for the perfect shot. There is also Face Recognition that will remember faces that appear frequently, but that does feel a little gimmicky.

For image processing and speed, the ZR1 relies on the Venus Engine V to ensure that contrast, shadows and luminence are optimum while allowing you to shoot at up to 10fps (in High-speed Burst mode) with a superfast shutter release speed of 0.007 seconds.

Images can be shot at the 16:9 size for wide screen viewing in HD and viewed on the 2.7” LCD screen, along with HD video. Zoom will also work while shooting video.

Pros
  • +
    OIS
  • +
    IA
  • +
    Fast
Cons
  • -
    No viewfinder
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1 is one of the Best Ultra Compact Digital Cameras Overall Under $300
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1
Recommended with
  • Sleeve Case (Red) and Tripod for Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1 Digital Camera Silver
    $12.68 @ Amazon.com
Specifications
  • Zoom: 8.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 25mm (40% wider)
  • Resolution: 12.1MP
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (1 review)
  • Rated Excellent by CNET.com

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