Expert Recommendation

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Best Compact Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Action Photos Under $750
Expert (97 Recommendations and 21 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
November 18, 2007 Updated: December 1, 2007
Overview

With a long 38-380mm (10x) lens, one of the fastest continuous shooting modes found in a consumer camera, and decent high ISO performance, the Sony H3 is an extremely capable fast action camera. In the relatively new market of ultrazoom compact cameras, the H3 combines all the features useful for a fast action camera, and rivals even the larger and more expensive ultrazooms on the market, and does it in a portable 1.9 in. body that can be taken just about anywhere.

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My Best In Class Pick
Sony Cybershot DSC-H3

Just 6 months ago, there would be very few choices in this category - the Panasonic TZ3 was the only reasonably compact camera that had a long zoom range that was capable of zooming in on fast action or sports. With the popularity of Panasonic’s TZ series, more mainstream companies like Canon and Sony sat up to take notice, and as a result we have an influx of quality cameras to choose from.

While the TZ3 and SX100 are solid cameras, fast action is all about long lens reach and speed, where the TZ3 has below-average high ISO and a shorter zoom lens, and the SX100 has a slower continuous shooting mode. Here the Sony H3 excels, combining decent high ISO performance for freezing fast action, one of the top continuous shooting modes to capture quick series of shots, and the longest zoom lens in this class to get those up-close fast action and sports photos, making it the best fast action in this class.

Sony Cybershot DSC-H3 is the Best Compact Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Action Photos Under $750
Where to buy
Sony Cybershot DSC-H3
  • Best Price: $499
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 10.0x
  • Resolution: 8.1MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.3 - 1.4s
  • Burst Speed: 2.0 fps
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (3 reviews)
  • 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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Sony Cybershot DSC-H3
2
Canon PowerShot SX100 IS
3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3
Customer Rating
Price $499.95 $699.95
Size (W x H x D) 4.2 x 2.7 x 1.9 in 4.3 x 2.8 x 1.8 in 4.1 x 2.3 x 1.4 in.
Weight (without batteries) 9.3 oz 9.4 oz 8.2 oz
Max Shooting Speed (continuous) 2fps unlimited 1.2 fps unlimited 2.9 fps for first five, 2.1 fps unlimited
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
38 - 380 mm (10x) 36 -360 mm (10x) 28 - 280 mm (10x)
Storage Media Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick PRO Duo SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card
Battery Type Proprietary Lithium Ion AA-size (x2) Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable
Battery Life 330 shots 400 shots 270 shots
Max Usable ISO (subjective) ISO400 ISO400 ISO400
Autofocus Rating Average Average Average
Fast Action Rating Superb Good Average
2
Canon PowerShot SX100 IS

The Canon SX100IS is the miniature cousin of Canon’s popular Powershot S-series of ultrazoom cameras. With a 36-360mm (10x) zoom lens, the SX100IS can zoom in up close for fast action and sports photos, yet still fits inside a small 1.8 in. body that can be easily taken anywhere.

The SX100 has average high ISO ability, which can freeze the subject motion of fast action in daylight situations (possibly with some noise), but isn’t really capable of producing anything but a blurry or noisy mess in low-light situations.

The SX100 can take photos continuously at 1.2 frames per second for an unlimited number of photos - about average for this class, but not really enough to make a difference (in between that 0.8 second, the peak action will have already come and gone). Like all non-SLR cameras, the SX100 uses a ‘contrast detection’ autofocus system which can keep up with fast motion in daylight situations, but is simply too slow to focus reliably in low-light.

Canon PowerShot SX100 IS is one of the Best Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Action Photos Under $750
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot SX100 IS
  • Best Price: $699
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 10.0x
  • Resolution: 8.0MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.5 sec
  • Burst Speed: 1.1 fps
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3

With a 28-280mm (10x) zoom lens, the TZ3 is one of the most versatile cameras on the market, and at only 1.4 in. thin, it’s also one of the smallest ultrazooms around. The 280mm long end won’t be able to zoom in quite as close as other cameras like the SX100 or H3, but it’s still quite capable of taking those close-up fast action or sports photos.

Panasonic cameras have long been known for poor high ISO performance, and while the TZ3’s high ISO isn’t unusable, it is slightly below average. The TZ3 can produce some slightly noisy photos in daylight situations, but you can pretty much forget about freezing fast action motion in low-light situations.

The TZ3 can shoot continuously at 2.9 frames per second for the first five photos, matching the speed of even consumer-level SLRs. The TZ3 also has a “no limit” mode that can continously shoot at 2.1 frames per second for an unlimited number of photos. These two modes make the TZ3 one of the fastest cameras on the market and will allow you to shoot quick bursts of photos and pick out the best shots or moments of peak action afterward, greatly increasing the number of ‘keepers’ you end up with. Using the slower ‘contrast detection’ autofocus, the TZ3 can keep up with subjects in daylight situations, but won’t be of much use in low-light situations.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 is one of the Best Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Action Photos Under $750
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3
Specifications
  • Zoom: 10.0x
  • Resolution: 7.2MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.4 - 0.8s
  • Burst Speed: 3.0 fps
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (6 reviews)
  • Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

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