Expert Recommendation

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Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Travel, Child, and Low Light Photos Under $400
Expert (97 Recommendations and 21 Compliments)
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November 3, 2007 Updated: November 28, 2007
Overview

Despite having a tiny 0.8in frame, the Sony T200 packs in a lot of camera. With an impressive 5x, 35-175mm zoom range, the T200 is one of the most versatile cameras in this size class that can handle the wide variety of scenes encountered on travel. The long telephoto end of the zoom range also makes it an ideal camera for portraits of young children and pets. In terms of low-light ability, its average high ISO ability and image stabilization systems make it about as good as most of the better cameras on the market, which is to say great for static, non-moving subjects, but not quite capable enough for moving subjects (especially fast-moving children and pets) in low-light.

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My Best In Class Pick
Sony Cybershot DSC-T200

With compact cameras, it’s hard to find cameras with the kind of quality and features needed to accomplish your photographic goals. Indeed, one would need to bend the laws of physics to achieve the massively versatile 18x zooms that we’d like for travel photography, or produce quality high ISO images for low-light use.

As such, there isn’t any particular camera that is a clear standout over the others. The Fuji F50fd has the best low-light abilities, which also makes it the only camera that can effectively take flashless pictures of fast-moving children and pets in low-light. On the other hand, it has the most limited zoom range, making it less than ideal for both travel and for portraits, which usually utilize the long end of the zoom range. The Panasonic FX33 on the other hand, has a 28mm wide-angle lens which makes it useful for travel photography, but can’t freeze the subject motion of children or pets, and lacks the long zoom range that’s ideal for portraits. The Sony T200 is perhaps the best fit for all the requirements - it does have a 5x zoom that’s versatile for travel, and has a long telephoto range for portraits, although it has average high ISO that can’t really freeze subject motion, and doesn’t have the useful wide-angle for travel.

The best camera will depend on where you prioritize your needs among low-light, travel, and children/pet photos. If your priority is on travel, the Panasonic FX33 and Sony T200 are the best choices for their versatile zoom ranges, with perhaps a slight nod to the more useful 28mm wide-angle lens on the Panasonic FX33. The Fuji F50fd, while good in low-light, simply doesn’t have the versatility to be a good travel camera.

If your priority is low-light, the F50fd is by far the best camera - no other camera at this price or size combine both incredible high ISO ability and image stabilization. The Sony T200 and Panasonic FX33 are competent low-light cameras for static subjects like buildings or landscapes, but won’t really be able to take low-light pictures of moving subjects without a flash.

If your priority is photos of children or pets, the Fuji F50fd and Sony T200 are good choices, for different reasons. Because of its high ISO ability, the F50fd is the only camera that will actually be able to freeze the subject motion of children or animals in low-light situations. At the same time, the F50fd doesn’t have the longer zoom range that is ideal for portrait pictures, which is the advantage of the Sony T200 and its 35-175mm, 5x zoom lens. The Panasonic FX33, with average high ISO performance and a short 28-100mm zoom range, lacks any of the features particularly useful for portraits of children and pets.

To conclude concisely, if low-light or travel photography is your predominant priority, the Fujifilm F50fd or Panasonic FX33 are the best choices, respectively. Otherwise (if children/pets is your priority, or all three categories are equally important to you), the Sony T200 represents the best compromise that is very competent, though not necessarily the absolute best, in all three areas, with the versatility of a 5x zoom for travel, average high ISO and an effective image stabilization system for low-light photos, and the long zoom range for good portrait images.

Sony Cybershot DSC-T200 is the Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Travel, Child, and Low Light Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Sony Cybershot DSC-T200
Specifications
  • Zoom: 5.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 8.1MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.4 - 1.2s
  • Max ISO: 3200
  • Size: 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.8 in.
  • Battery Life: 250 shots
  • Easy to Use: Yes
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Website Reviews (1 review)
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
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Sony Cybershot DSC-T200
2
Fujifilm FinePix F50fd
3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX33
Customer Rating
Price $278.68 $399.22
Size (W x H x D) 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.8 in. 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 3.7 x 2.0 x 0.9 in
Weight (with batteries) 6.6 oz 6.2 oz 5.4 oz
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
35 - 175 mm (5x) 35 - 105 mm (3x) 28-100mm (3.6x)
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Image Stabilization Available
Yes Yes Yes
Storage Media Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick PRO Duo 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 Lithium Ion
Battery Life 250 shots 250 shots 280 shots
Max Usable ISO (subjective) ISO400 ISO800 ISO400
Travel Rating Good Average Good
Low-light Rating Good Superb Average
Children/Pet Portraits Rating Good Good Poor
2
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 enough for good portraits or wildlife or architectural details. The big advantage of the Fuji F50fd, however, 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, especially for moving subjects such as pets or young children. 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 Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Travel, Child, and Low Light Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Fujifilm FinePix F50fd
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 12.0MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.6 sec
  • 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
3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX33

The Panasonic FX33 is Panasonic’s 0.9in thin ultracompact camera which packs in one of most useful features, and one rarely found in the ultracompact range: a 28mm wide-angle lens. Though the 28-100mm (3.6x) won’t get you the close-up shots or great portraits that other larger zoom cameras like the T200 can, the wide-angle capability of the FX33 allows you to capture sweeping landscapes, large landmarks, and pictures in cramped indoor rooms that are simply impossible with other cameras, making it one of the most versatile cameras for travel photography.

Though Panasonic cameras have long been derided as having poor high-ISO ability, the FX33 is actually about middle-of-the-pack. Novice users might even prefer the stronger noise reduction used by the FX33, since it yields better pictures straight out of the camera than similar cameras like the Canon SD870IS. For static subjects, the FX33 also packs an image stabilization system, making it a good overall camera for taking pictures of non-moving things like buildings or landmarks, although flash will need to be used on moving subjects such as people.

The FX33 takes about 280 pictures on one battery, which is about average and certainly enough for a day of travel.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX33 is one of the Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Travel, Child, and Low Light Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX33
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.6x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 8.1MP
  • Max ISO: 6400
  • Size: 3.7 x 2.0 x 0.9 in.
  • Battery Life: 280 shots
  • Easy to Use: Yes
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