Expert Recommendation

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Best Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Action and Low Light Photos Under $750
Expert (88 Recommendations and 32 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
October 31, 2007 Updated: December 3, 2007
Overview

Equipped with a twin zoom lens kit, effectively covering a 10.7x zoom range, the Nikon D40 delivers class-leading low light performance and fast response times to freeze that long jumper in flight. Its optical viewfinder makes it easier to follow fast-moving sports action. The camera also has an Auto Mode with lots of Scene Modes for easy operation by novice users.

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My Best In Class Pick
Nikon D40 (with 18-55mm and 55-200mm Lenses)

All these cameras offer an Auto Mode plus a lot of Scene Modes for novice users. Experienced photographers will find the Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority manual modes useful.

The Sony H9 lags behind the other three on image quality as it uses excessive compression (typical image size 2.2MB to Canon S5 IS’s 3.8MB), smearing out fine details from images, more so at higher ISOs. Additionally, its images suffer from more frequent fringing problems (i.e. unnatural purple/red halos around high contrast edges).

The Canon S5 IS has good performance, but like the Sony H9 it too suffers from fringing problems. (Refer to reviews at DPREVIEW, one of the top camera reviewing sites.)

The Panasonic FZ18 has tremendous reach (18x zoom) and has minimal distortion or fringing problems. The image quality is good especially if one shoots in RAW mode and converts them to JPGs using image-editing programs.

The Panasonic FZ18 is my top choice among non-DSLR cameras.

Nevertheless, the Nikon D40 is class apart with excellent performance (faster focusing & negligible shutter lag), an optical viewfinder, and much better image quality (especially at higher ISOs). Even ISO3200 setting yields usable images! With twin kit lens, it is a terrific value too.

Overall, the Nikon D40 is my “Top Pick”.

Nikon D40 (with 18-55mm and 55-200mm Lenses) is the Best Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Action and Low Light Photos Under $750
Where to buy
Nikon D40 (with 18-55mm and 55-200mm Lenses)
Specifications
  • Zoom: 11.1x
  • Image Stabilization: No
  • Resolution: 6.1MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.3 sec
  • Burst Speed: 2.5 fps
  • Max ISO: 3200
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (6 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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Nikon D40 (with 18-55mm and 55-200mm Lenses)
2
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18
3
Canon PowerShot S5 IS
Customer Rating
Price $999.95 $649.00
Size (W x H x D) 5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in. 4.6 x 3.0 x 3.5 in 4.6 x 3.1 x 3.1 in.
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Sensor Size
23.7 x 15.6 mm 5.8 x 4.3 mm 5.8 x 4.3 mm
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Effective Sensor Resolution
6.1 megapixels 8.1 million pixels 8.0 megapixels
Shutter Lag Time (pre-focused) 0.10 sec 0.1 sec 0.08 sec
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Shutter Lag Time (including auto-focus time)
0.3 sec 0.5 sec 0.5 sec
Power to First Shot Time 0.4 sec 1.7 sec 1.7 sec
Continuous Shooting Speed (single shot mode) - 0.9 frames/sec -
Max Shooting Speed (continuous) 2.5 frames/sec 2.0 frames/sec 1.5 frames/sec
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
27 mm 28-504 mm 36 mm
Optical Zoom 11.1x 18.0x 12.0x
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Image Stabilization Available
No Yes Yes
Auto Focus Assist Light Available Yes Yes Yes
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Max Aperture (tele-photo)
f/5.6 f/4.2 f/3.5
Max ISO Setting 3200 1600 1600
Shutter Priority Mode Available Yes Yes Yes
Viewfinder Type Optical Electronic Electronic
Battery Life 470 shots 400 shots 450 shots
High ISO performance Excellent Average (Raw mode helps) Good
2
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18

The latest superzoom from Panasonic, this camera packs class leading 18x zoom lens and 8.1 megapixel resolution sensor in a compact body. It has an Intelligent ISO Mode (auto-boosting the ISO to freeze action) and full manual control options (e.g. Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Raw Mode, etc.) for additional versatility. The camera has an Image Stabilization feature to help avoid blurry pictures because of camera shake. The life of the proprietary batteries is approximately 400 shots/charge.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 is one of the Best Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Action and Low Light Photos Under $750
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18
Specifications
  • Zoom: 18.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 8.1MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.4 - 0.5s
  • Burst Speed: 3.0 fps
  • Max ISO: 6400
  • 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
3
Canon PowerShot S5 IS

This camera is the latest upgrade in Canon’s highly successful “S” series of super-zooms with a unique swivel LCD. It has an 8 megapixel resolution sensor and a 12x optical zoom lens (equivalent to 36-432mm on a 35mm camera). It has a Normal Continuous Shooting Mode in which it takes approximately 1.5 shots/sec and supports a live view on the LCD (good for action photography as one can follow the subject uninterrupted).The camera has an Image Stabilization feature and full manual control options. The battery life is approximately 450 shots/charge (using 4 AA-size NiMH batteries).

Canon PowerShot S5 IS is one of the Best Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Action and Low Light Photos Under $750
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot S5 IS
Specifications
  • Zoom: 12.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 8.0MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.5 sec
  • Burst Speed: 1.5 fps
  • Max ISO: 1600
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (5 reviews)
  • Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
4
Sony Cybershot DSC-H9

This super zoom is the top-of-the-line camera from Sony. The camera has 8.1 megapixel resolution and 15x zoom lens (equivalent to 31-465mm on a 35mm camera). It also supports full manual modes (e.g. Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, etc.). Sony quotes a battery (proprietary) life of 280 shots per change.

Sony Cybershot DSC-H9 is one of the Best Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Action and Low Light Photos Under $750
Where to buy
Sony Cybershot DSC-H9
  • Best Price: $1299
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 15.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 8.1MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.5 - 1.0s
  • Burst Speed: 2.0 fps
  • Max ISO: 3200
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (5 reviews)
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

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