Expert Recommendation

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Best Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Child, Action, and Low Light Photos Under $400
Expert (88 Recommendations and 32 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
December 1, 2007 Updated: December 20, 2007
Overview

Equipped with the tremendous reach (18x zoom) and the fast response times of the Panasonic FZ18, you can freeze that tennis ball from a safe distance. It comes with useful features like an AF assist lamp and an auto-bright LCD (brightness increases as background light decreases) for fast focusing and easy framing in low light. The camera has an Auto Mode with lots of Scene Modes for easy operation by novice users. For advanced users, it has full manual modes and supports a RAW image format. The camera is snappy enough to take blur-free shots of fast moving kids & pets.

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My Best In Class Pick
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18

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 H7 lags behind the other two on image quality as it uses excessive compression (typical image size of 2.2MB to Canon S5IS’s 3.8MB) smearing out fine details from the images, more so at higher ISOs (poor low light performance). 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 along with the Sony H7, it too suffers from fringing problems. (Refer to reviews at DPREVIEW, one of the top camera reviewing site.)

The Panasonic FZ18 has tremendous reach (18x zoom, best in class) and has minimal distortion or fringing problems. The image quality is good at high ISOs, especially if one shoots in RAW mode and converts them to JPGs using an image-editing program. The camera has fast focusing and shot-to-shot speeds. Surprisingly the lens is brighter (wider Maximum Aperture at tele-end) than Sony H7, even though it has a larger zoom range.

The Panasonic FZ18 is my “Top Pick”.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 is the Best Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Child, Action, and Low Light Photos Under $400
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

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18
2
Canon PowerShot S5 IS
3
Sony Cybershot DSC-H7
Customer Rating
Price $999.95 $649.00
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Effective Sensor Resolution
8.1 million pixels 8.0 megapixels 8.1 million pixels
Shutter Lag Time (pre-focused) 0.1 sec 0.08 sec 0.06 sec
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Shutter Lag Time (including auto-focus time)
0.5 sec 0.5 sec 0.5 - 1.0 sec
Power to First Shot Time 1.7 sec 1.7 sec 2.4 sec
Continuous Shooting Speed (single shot mode) 0.9 frames/sec - 0.6 frames/sec
Max Shooting Speed (continuous) 2.0 frames/sec 1.5 frames/sec 2.0 frames/sec
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
28-504 mm 36 mm 31 - 465 mm
Optical Zoom 18.0x 12.0x 15.0x
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Image Stabilization Available
Yes Yes Yes
Manual Focus Available Yes Yes Yes
Auto Focus Assist Light Available Yes Yes Yes
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Max Aperture (tele-photo)
f/4.2 f/3.5 f/4.5
Shutter Priority Mode Available Yes Yes Yes
Viewfinder Type Electronic Electronic Electronic
Battery Life 400 shots 450 shots 280 shots
High ISO performance Average (Raw mode helps) Good Below Average
2
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 in that mode (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 Child, Action, and Low Light Photos Under $400
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
3
Sony Cybershot DSC-H7

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 battery (proprietary) life of 280 shots per change.

Sony Cybershot DSC-H7 is one of the Best Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Child, Action, and Low Light Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Sony Cybershot DSC-H7
Specifications
  • Zoom: 15.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 8.1MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.5 - 1.2s
  • Burst Speed: 2.0 fps
  • Max ISO: 3200
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More

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