Expert Recommendation

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Best Compact Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Travel and Low Light Photos Under $750
Expert (97 Recommendations and 21 Compliments)
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October 27, 2007 Updated: November 28, 2007
Overview

While moving to a compact body always introduces compromises, the Panasonic TZ3 is one (and perhaps the only) compact camera that nearly matches larger, more expensive travel cameras feature-for-feature. With a large 28-280mm zoom range that includes both a wide-angle (great for landscapes and big landmarks) and a long telephoto range (for portraits and zooming in on small details), the TZ3 is the most versatile camera in this class. Best of all, especially for travel, the TZ3 packs this versatile zoom range into a body that’s half the size of the large, high-end ultrazoom cameras, and does it at half the cost!

The TZ3 is a slightly weak low-light performer, however. Though it does have an image stabilized lens to reduce camera shake blur, the TZ3’s high ISO performance is somewhat poor, and for primarily low-light work, other options (such as the Canon G9) are better cameras.

Travel isn’t all about low-light, however - the best travel cameras need to be sufficiently competent across a wide variety of photography. In this case, the TZ3’s range and versatility across all shooting situations more than makes up for its slight deficiency in a single shooting situation, making it the best overall travel/low-light camera in this class.

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My Best In Class Pick
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3

With compact cameras come compromises, and out of the top choices presented here, there is no clear-cut winner since none of the compact cameras adequately fulfills all of our criteria - 28mm wide angle, telephoto zoom, and low light ability. Depending on which is your greater priority - low light or travel - there are two possible choices.

If travel is your top priority, the Panasonic TZ3 is the camera that comes the closest. It’s the only compact camera on the market that combines both a 28mm wide angle and a long telephoto reach, allowing for the greatest flexibility to capture all of the scenes, from wide landscapes to zoomed-in portraits, that you’re bound to encounter while on travel. The weak point for the TZ3 is its low-light performance - while it has an image stabilization system that works well, its high ISO falls behind that of other cameras. While both of the other leading contenders offer better low-light ability for photos indoors or at night, a flexible zoom range is an advantage in all shooting situations, and this is what makes the TZ3 the best overall travel camera.

If low-light is your top priority, however, the TZ3’s poor high ISO performance makes it a less-than-ideal choice for taking pictures indoors or at night. Of the other options, the F50fd, thanks to its unique SuperCCD design and amazing high ISO performance, is the best low-light performer, but keeping travel considerations in mind, the Canon G9, with its much more flexible 35-210mm (6x) zoom, is a better all-around camera that is competent both in low-light and travel situations.

Ultimately, the recommendation here is the TZ3, as the best overall travel camera. While other cameras are better in low-light, more often than not travel photography encompasses many daylight situations, and here the high ISO or image stabilization abilities of other cameras have no use, while the TZ3’s 28mm wide angle lens or versatile 10x (28-280mm) zoom range offer big advantages over other cameras. Only if your travel plans take you places indoors or at night where you’ll primarily be shooting in low-light, is another camera like the Canon G9 a better option.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 is the Best Compact Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Travel and Low Light Photos Under $750
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3
Specifications
  • Zoom: 10.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 7.2MP
  • Max ISO: 3200
  • Size: 4.1 x 2.3 x 1.4 in.
  • Battery Life: 270 shots
  • Easy to Use: Yes
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Website Reviews (6 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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Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3
2
Fujifilm FinePix F50fd
3
Canon PowerShot G9
Customer Rating
Price $278.68 $549.95
Size (W x H x D) 4.1 x 2.3 x 1.4 in. 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 4.2 x 2.8 x 1.7 in
Weight (without batteries) 8.2 oz 5.5 oz 9.4 oz
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
28 - 280 mm (10x) 35 - 105 mm (3x) 35-210mm (6x)
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Image Stabilization Available
Yes Yes Yes
Storage Media SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card, xD-Picture Card SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card
Battery Type Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable Proprietary Li-ion Rechargeable
Battery Life 270 shots 230 shots 240 shots
Max Usable ISO (subjective) ISO400 ISO800 ISO400
2
Canon PowerShot G9

The Canon G9 is the highest-end camera in the Canon lineup, and is billed as a “luxury” camera, with a solidly-built all-metal body and the same unique control scheme utilizing the thumb-wheel navigation design found in the higher-end Canon DSLRs, making it one of the cameras with the best “feel” and control on the market. The G9 fits into a fairly compact body (1.7in), although, because of its all-metal body, it is a bit heftier than other cameras.

Like other cameras mentioned here, compact sizes force compromises, and in this case the G9 is hobbled by a 35-210mm (6x) lens. While it has the needed telephoto range, it lacks the 28mm wide-angle that is useful for taking pictures of landscapes and landmarks while on travel. The G9 has image stabilization technology and about average high ISO performance, making it a decent, but not great low-light performer. While the embedded flash doesn’t deliver great performance, the G9 does have a “hot shoe” to mount an external flash, which could potentially yield really good low-light results (especially indoors), although this requires some more advanced techniques (beyond simple point and shoot), and isn’t really practical for travel photography.

The G9 lasts about 240 shots per charge, a bit below average and just barely enough to last a day of travel.

Canon PowerShot G9 is one of the Best Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Travel and Low Light Photos Under $750
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot G9
  • Best Price: $549
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 6.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 12.1MP
  • Max ISO: 3200
  • Size: 4.2 x 2.8 x 1.7 in.
  • Battery Life: 240 shots
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (4 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Rated Excellent by CNET.com
3
Fujifilm FinePix F50fd

The Fujfilm F50fd is the flagship camera in Fuji’s Fxx line, which utilizes Fujifilm’s unique SuperCCD sensor design to deliver amazing low-noise, high ISO images that far exceed any other non-DSLR camera on the market. The F50fd is an ultracompact camera, fitting into a 0.9in frame that can easily fit into any pocket or bag.

The F50fd has a fairly standard 35-105mm (3x) zoom lens - covering a somewhat boring range that doesn’t get wide enough to capture landscapes or big landmarks, and doesn’t quite zoom in close enough for portraits or wildlife or architectural details. The big advantage of the Fuji F50fd is its combination of amazing high ISO performance from its SuperCCD sensor, and its inclusion of sensor-shift image stabilization technology, making it by far the best compact camera for low-light photography. The F50fd’s flash is embedded into the body, so it will perform like most other cameras on the market - not such an important factor, considering the F50fd’s incredible low-light abilities means you’ll hardly have to use flash anyway!

The F50fd can take 250 shots on one battery, slightly below average but good enough to last a day of travel for most users.

Fujifilm FinePix F50fd is one of the Best Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Travel and Low Light Photos Under $750
Where to buy
Fujifilm FinePix F50fd
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 12.0MP
  • Max ISO: 6400
  • Size: 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.9 in.
  • Battery Life: 230 shots
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (3 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

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