Expert Recommendation

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Best Compact Digital Camera for Travel and Child Photos Under $300
Expert (5 Recommendations and 1 Compliment)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
October 7, 2008 Updated: October 22, 2008
Overview

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500 is a perceptive compact digital camera which gives its user the control with its hybrid system. It’s packed full of options and extremely quick, enabling the photographer to capture the perfect shot the first time.

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My Best In Class Pick
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500

It’s not much of surprise when Panasonic comes out with something new and exciting; their digital camera line is extensive and as always impressive. However, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500 is undoubtedly a unique design. Many digital cameras produced today have become so advanced that they are fully automatic and give the user very little control. However, there are a range of consumers who although still value the usability of an SLR would prefer the ease of use of a compact digital selection. Most of all, we often don’t have time to adjust the settings on our cameras so it’s important to be able to rely on their judgment. For example, if your family is on vacation to an amusement park and you want to capture the look of exhilaration on the faces of the kids from the car in front of them as the rollercoaster drops down the tracks, you will not have an opportunity to change the settings or for that matter retake the picture. The amazingly sensitive image stabilization feature on the Panasonic DMC-FX500 would address a complicated shot such as this. On the other hand, if you have ever taken a picture and felt as though a different setting would have improved the shot, and you do have the time to adjust the settings it’s nice to have the option to do so. So if a picture was taken on an overcast day, and the image captured is not to standard, despite the “outdoors” setting, the FX500 gives the operator the ability to select both shutter speed and aperture settings based on the atmospheric conditions. In addition, even though the intelligent mode is automatic, it too permits the user to select stabilization and other styles manually. This is really valuable if you are acclimated to shooting in one type of climate but your taking your kids to visit a part of the world you have never taken pictures in before. Fortunately, Panasonic keeps all the interests of the consumer in mind when they created this model, it offers some of the flexibility of a higher standard camera without decreasing the conveniences of a compact digital.

All things considered, this model is an excellent start for a camera of this design. For those photographers who like viewfinders, they may notice that this camera is like many digital cameras these days, it does not have one. Also, for basic controls it has a joystick-like operation, but other options require the engagement of the touch screen function which may take some getting used to for some consumers. On the other hand, the Panasonic DMC-FX500 like other Panasonic models boasts the incredibly sharp Leica lens which produces some beautiful images with very low distortion. However, what may be one of the most impressive features of this camera are the lightning fast shutter and the very high ISO at 6400 which is certainly above average for a compact digital camera and it is excellent for capturing an active child in mid performance. Many camera aficionados will enjoy this selection and hopefully competitors will also start producing additional digital cameras with both manual and automatic capability.

Comparison with Canon PowerShot A720 IS

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500 and the Canon PowerShot A720 IS are both fantastic cameras. The Canon has a slightly more powerful zoom, a view finder, and a lower price however; there are several superiorities which the Panasonic boasts that cannot be ignored. The ISO is significantly higher, and the shutter is incredibly quicker on the Panasonic. Lastly, the flash recycle time is half the time on the Panasonic. Thus, the increase in price seems worth it for the conveniences the Panasonic offers over the Canon.

Comparison with Kodak EasyShare Z1085 IS

It is nice to be surprised by the performance of the Kodak EasyShare Z1085 IS. It may not be as attractive as the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500 but it certainly gives it some nice competition. The Kodak without doubt has higher ISO and a lower price tag. However, in the end the Panasonic is still a cut above with it’s lightening quick shutter and recycle speed. Also, it is difficult to ignore the better quality pictures produced by the Panasonic despite the rich color offered from the Kodak.

Pros
  • +
    3.0 inch LCD
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    High ISO of 6400
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    High Resolution
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    Manual Controls
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    Very Low Shutter Lag
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    Quick Flash Recycling Time
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    Wide High Quality Leica Lens
Cons
  • -
    No Viewfinder
  • -
    Touch Screen
  • -
    Average Zoom
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500 is the Best Compact Digital Camera for Travel and Child Photos Under $300
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500
  • Best Price: $279
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 5.0x
  • Resolution: 10.1MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.6 sec
  • Size: 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.9 in.
  • Battery Life: 280 shots
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Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500
2
Canon PowerShot A720 IS
3
Kodak EasyShare Z1085 IS
Customer Rating
Price $279.00 $400.00 $185.00
Easy to Use Yes Yes Yes
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Effective Sensor Resolution
10.1 megapixels 8.0 megapixels 10.0 megapixels
Shutter Lag Time (pre-focused) 0.01 sec 0.10 sec 0.05 sec
Optical Zoom 5.0x 6.0x 5.0x
Image Stabilization Type Optical (lens shift) Optical (lens shift) Optical (lens shift)
?
Max Aperture (wide-angle)
f/2.8 f/2.8 f/2.8
?
Max Aperture (tele-photo)
f/5.9 f/4.8 f/5.1
Max Shutter Speed 1/2000 sec 1/2000 sec 1/2000 sec
Min ISO Setting 100 80 80
Max ISO Setting 6400 1600 8000
?
Face Detection Available
Yes Yes Yes
?
LCD Screen Size
3.0 in. 2.5 in. 2.5 in.
Flash Recycling Time 5.6 sec 11.0 sec 10.0 sec
Battery Type Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable AA-size (x2) AA-size (x2) or CR-V3 (x1)
Full Manual Exposure Mode Available Yes Yes Yes
Weight (with batteries) 6.2 oz 7.0 oz 7.4 oz
Battery Life 280 shots 400 shots 250 shots
2
Canon PowerShot A720 IS

The Canon PowerShot A720 IS offers allot of features for the consumer, so many in fact that it is at times a little bit confusing. If looking for an effortless camera, this is may not be a good selection. However, with a little patience and the owner’s manual, this is a very valuable camera. There are several helpful automatic features yet, the camera allows the user to have manual control as well. The focus, aperture, and shutter speed can all be selected by the photographer manually. Albeit small, this camera is one of few that actually have a view finder so for those many users who sometimes prefer this option, it is offered. The view finder can be a great alternative when outside on a sunny day while site seeing on an outdoor family adventure and having difficulty seeing the LCD screen clearly because of the glare. Also, even though the camera requires double A batteries it is still very light weight and amazingly efficient with battery life so it’s convenient on family trips. It has rather average ISO but the camera doesn’t handle the higher settings well anyway. The shutter speed is great but the lag time is mediocre and the flash recycle may feel quite inconvenient with a wait time of up to 12 seconds. This means if you don’t get the shot the first time when your using the flash it may take up to 12 seconds before the camera is ready to take another picture. An example of how this might present a difficult shot would be the kids at the night-time Disney parade, by the time the flash recycles another interesting float may have already passed. Obviously, if the flash isn’t being used this doesn’t pose a problem. Therefore, due to flash issues this camera is not the greatest option for low light pictures.

Comparison with Kodak EasyShare Z1085 IS

The Kodak EasyShare Z1085 IS and the Canon PowerShot A720 are very similar selections. The Kodak has slightly better resolution but the Panasonic has slightly better zoom capacity. Otherwise, they are very similar in many ways. However, the Canon has more advanced features and offers more manual control than the Kodak and for the same price.

Pros
  • +
    Long Battery Life For a Two Battery Camera
  • +
    Manual Controls
  • +
    Improved Zoom
  • +
    Price
  • +
    View Finder
Cons
  • -
    Longer Shutter Lag
  • -
    Average ISO
  • -
    Long Flash Recylce Time
  • -
    Poor Low Light Photos
  • -
    Light Weight
Canon PowerShot A720 IS is one of the Best Compact Digital Cameras for Travel and Child Photos Under $300
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot A720 IS
Specifications
  • Zoom: 6.0x
  • Resolution: 8.0MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.5 - 1.2s
  • Size: 3.8 x 2.6 x 1.7 in.
  • Battery Life: 400 shots
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
3
Kodak EasyShare Z1085 IS

After Kodak was founded in 1892 they later coined the slogan “You press the button, we do the rest”, however despite the fact that Kodak paved the way for many film cameras early on, they sometimes struggle to keep up with the digital camera market. Yet even though the Kodak EasyShare Z1085 IS may not be much to look at with it’s incredibly simplistic design, it is an impressive addition to the Kodak family. It has a highly effective image stabilization function and a sensitive face detection mode that really helps to capture a great photograph. This ISO is out of the park at 8000 but the camera speed may not be up to par, at least not enough to compensate for such an aggressive ISO therefore, the end result is an image with a great deal of noise. Like the Canon PowerShot A720 IS, the Z1085 IS has quick enough shutter speed unless the flash is used because the recycle time can result in a 10 second delay. This model does not have a view finder, however it does have a really crisp LCD viewer. Kodak continues to produce a photo that bursts with color and surprisingly captures low light pictures very well. This might be a great selection to take on vaction due to the fairly wide lens and the cameras ability to capture vivid details.

Pros
  • +
    Price
  • +
    Very High ISO at 8000
  • +
    High Resolution
  • +
    Manual Controls (Although Limited)
Cons
  • -
    Average Zoom
  • -
    Slow Flash Recycling
  • -
    Average-Short Battery Life
  • -
    Average Image Quality
  • -
    No View Finder
Kodak EasyShare Z1085 IS is one of the Best Compact Digital Cameras for Travel and Child Photos Under $300
Where to buy
Kodak EasyShare Z1085 IS
Specifications
  • Zoom: 5.0x
  • Resolution: 10.0MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.6 sec
  • Size: 3.5 x 2.5 x 1.5 in.
  • Battery Life: 250 shots
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (1 review)
  • Rated Good by CNET.com

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