Expert Recommendation

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Best Ultra Compact Digital Camera Overall Under $200
Expert (97 Recommendations and 21 Compliments)
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December 21, 2008
Overview

In the budget range of ultracompacts, options start to become a little limited. While it doesn’t particularly excel at any single category, Canon’s SD890 offers a solid balance between features and image quality that lets it competently handle just about any photographic situations.

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My Best In Class Pick
Canon PowerShot SD890 IS

Like most of the budget cameras in Canon’s SD line are more or less vanilla ultracompacts that don’t feature too much more than solid all-around quality and a somewhat bland featureset. The SD890 breaks the mold slightly by offering a 37-185mm (5x) zoom range, making it a bit more versatile than the average budget ultracompact camera. While the 37mm wide-angle isn’t ideal for things like landscapes or shooting in cramped street corners or building interiors, the 185mm telephoto end is just about long enough for close-ups of medium-range sports, or to cover the traditional portrait range, for example.

In terms of high-ISO performance, the SD890 is a bit above average. The SD890 also features an image-stabilized lens, which reduces camera shake blur. While low-light images will still be somewhat grainy, they still retain more detail than the average budget camera and are definitely still usable for small prints or to post online.

Speed-wise, the SD890 is a little below average, so precisely timing photos or focusing on fast-moving subjects is somewhat problematic. The SD890 can take photos continuously at 1.2 frames per second, which is about average but not really fast enough to be used for taking bursts of photos.

Comparison with Fujifilm FinePix F60fd

The choice between the F60 and SD890 is image quality versus versatility - the SD890 is overall a more capable camera that can perform decently in low-light situations, while also featuring a wider-ranging 5x zoom lens that is just adequate enough for medium-range telephoto subjects. If you are planning to shoot mostly in low-light situations, though, the F60 is capable of producing much cleaner low-light photos thanks to its sensor.

Comparison with Nikon Coolpix S600

The SD890 has the S600 beat by a large margin in the image quality department, making it the better choice unless you really value having a 28mm wide-angle over everything else (which might be the case if you want to do travel photography exclusive in good daylight situations, for example).

Pros
  • +
    Image stabilization
  • +
    185mm telephoto
  • +
    Above-average high-ISO
Canon PowerShot SD890 IS is the Best Ultra Compact Digital Camera Overall Under $200
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot SD890 IS
Specifications
  • Zoom: 5.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: No
  • Resolution: 10.0MP
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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 F60fd
3
Nikon Coolpix S600
Customer Rating
Price $389.00 $229.95 $189.00
Size (W x H x D) 3.8 x 2.2 x 1.1 in. 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 3.5 x 2.1 x 0.9 in.
Weight (without batteries) 5.5 oz 5.7 oz 4.6 oz
Max Shooting Speed (burst) 1.2 frames/sec 2.5 frames/sec 1.2 frames/sec
Max Consecutive Burst Frames Unlimited 3 frames 10 frames
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
37 mm 35 mm 28 mm
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Max Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
185 mm 105 mm 112 mm
Optical Zoom 5.0x 3.0x 4.0x
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Image Stabilization Available
Yes Yes Yes
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Max Aperture (wide-angle)
f/3.2 f/2.8 f/2.7
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Max Aperture (tele-photo)
f/5.7 f/5.1 f/5.8
Battery Life 320 shots 230 shots 190 shots
High ISO quality Average Good Poor
Shutter lag Average Average Good
Travel Rating Average Poor Average
Fast Action Rating Average Poor Unusable
People/Pets Portrait Rating Good Average Poor
Low-light Rating Average Good Poor
2
Fujifilm FinePix F60fd

The Fuji F60fd is a part of Fuji’s flagship of F-series ultracompacts featuring the unique SuperCCD sensor that provides significantly better high-ISO performance than just about any non-SLR on the market. Combined with its sensor-shift IS system, the F60 is just about the best low-light performer available, save for its older brother, the Fuji F100fd, and Panasonic’s high-end LX3.

Aside from its low-light ability, however, the F60fd is a fairly typical camera, featuring a 35-105mm (3x) lens which isn’t particularly wide or versatile. Autofocus and shutter lag performance are about average on the F60fd. The F60fd has a moderately useful burst mode that can snap three photos at 2 frames per second, but otherwise has an almost useless 0.5 frames per second mode for continuous shooting.

Comparison with Nikon Coolpix S600

The choice between the F60fd and Nikon’s S600 lies between the F60fd’s much better high-ISO performance and the S600’s more versatile 28mm wide-angle lens. If you plan to shoot exclusively in daytime situations, then high-ISO may not be much of a factor and the S600 would be a more capable camera.

Pros
  • +
    Best-in-class high-ISO
  • +
    Image stabilization
Cons
  • -
    Limited 3x (35-105mm) zoom range
  • -
    Burst mode only for 3 frames at a time
Fujifilm FinePix F60fd is one of the Best Ultra Compact Digital Cameras Overall Under $200
Where to buy
Fujifilm FinePix F60fd
  • Best Price: $229
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: No
  • Resolution: 12.0MP
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
3
Nikon Coolpix S600

At the very budget end of Nikon’s S-series is the S600. While most of its specs and performance are so-so, it’s one of the few cameras in this price range to offer a 28mm wide-angle lens (28-112mm 4x zoom to be exact), which makes it a very capable camera for wide landscape shots or large landmarks. The 112mm long end is typical for an ultracompact, and provides enough versatility to cover many everyday scenes, but doesn’t zoom close enough for real telephoto applications like sports or wildlife photography.

The S600 does have an IS system, but low-light performance is below-average due to its poor high-ISO performance, which tends to produce blotchy, noisy photos in low-light situations. Speed-wise the S600 is a bit above average with autofocus and shutter lag, making it easier to precisely time shots or track fast-moving subjects. The S600 takes photos continuously at 1.2 frames per second, which isn’t really fast enough to use as a burst mode.

Pros
  • +
    Image stabilization
  • +
    28mm wide-angle
Cons
  • -
    Poor high-ISO
Nikon Coolpix S600 is one of the Best Ultra Compact Digital Cameras Overall Under $200
Where to buy
Nikon Coolpix S600
  • Best Price: $189
    Amazon See It »
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