Expert Recommendation

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Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Travel, Child, Action, and Low Light Photos Under $400
Expert (97 Recommendations and 21 Compliments)
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February 13, 2008 Updated: February 18, 2008
Overview

In the realm of ultracompacts, there aren’t any cameras that can truly do it all, but the camera which comes closest to that is the Fuji F100fd. Packing a 28-140mm 5x zoom, the F100fd is an extremely versatile camera that can cover most of the situations encountered on travel, as well as portrait photos, although it’s a bit short for fast action photos. The F100fd’s headline feature, however, is its image stabilization and amazing high ISO performance, two attributes which not only help it produce better travel, portrait, and fast action photos, but make the F100fd the best low-light camera on the market.

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My Best In Class Pick
Fujifilm FinePix F100fd

Finding ultracompact cameras that can do it all is not an easy task - at this current point manufacturers are still in the process of embracing the ultracompact ultrazoom market, and as a result there are very few ultracompact cameras that even have the zoom range to effectively shoot fast action sports. Of those that do, like the Casio V8, the high ISO performance is so terrible that any attempt to actually freeze action would result in unusable, noisy messes.

If you didn’t mind a slightly larger size, searching the recommendation for simply “compact” rather than “ultracompact” opens up an entire host of extremely capable options. Alternately, dropping the fast action requirement also opens up many more options.

That aside, there are a couple of choices in the ultracompact, do-it-all market. The Sony T200 has a somewhat versatile 5x zoom that is useful for travel, and its very fast continuous shooting speed, responsive shutter lag, and relatively long zoom range make it one of the better fast action and portrait cameras on the market.

However, while it doesn’t have the fast shooting rate, snappy shutter lag, or even long telephoto zoom for fast action photography, the Fuji F100fd is perhaps the best fast action camera purely because of its high ISO ability, which will produce much cleaner images with fast action and pets/children, and get fast action low-light photos that would be impossible with any other camera. Beyond this, the F100fd’s 28mm wide angle lens makes it the most versatile camera for travel photography, and its image stabilization system and best-in-class high ISO performance make it the hands-down leader for low-light performance.

Fujifilm FinePix F100fd is the Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Travel, Child, Action, and Low Light Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
  • Best Price: $299
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 5.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 12.0MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.6 - 0.8s
  • Burst Speed: 1.7 fps
  • Max ISO: 12800
  • Size: 3.8 x 2.3 x 0.9 in.
  • Battery Life: 230 shots
  • Easy to Use: Yes
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Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
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Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
2
Casio EXILIM Hi-Zoom EX-V8
3
Sony Cybershot DSC-T200
Customer Rating
Price $299.95 $149.99
Size (W x H x D) 3.8 x 2.3 x 0.9 in 3.76 x 2.35 x 1.0 in 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.8 in.
Weight (without batteries) 6.0 oz 5.26 oz 5.6 oz
Max Shooting Speed (continuous) 1.7fps, first three 1fps, unlimited 2.2 frames/sec
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
28 - 140mm (5x) 38 - 266 mm (7x) 35 mm
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Image Stabilization Available
Yes Yes Yes
Storage Media xD Card, SD Card SD Card Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick PRO Duo
Battery Type Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable
Battery Life 230 shots 240 shots 250 shots
Shutter lag Rating Average Poor Superb
Max ISO Setting Superb Unusable Average
Travel Rating Good Average Average
Low light Rating Superb Poor Good
Pet/People Portrait Rating Good Poor Good
Fast Action Rating Average Poor Average
2
Casio EXILIM Hi-ZOOM EX-V8

The Casio V8 is a budget ultracompact camera that is one of the few on the market to offer a 7x zoom range - the 38-266mm lens doesn’t really have a wide-angle for travel use, but it does cover the 50-200mm portrait range effectively and is somewhat usable for getting close-ups of fast action.

While it has the zoom range for portraits and sports, the V8 lacks one of the key features to shoot them: decent high ISO ability. The Casio V8 has extremely poor high ISO ability, and anything but good daylight will either produce lots of blur or terribly noisy images, making it extremely difficult to shoot any kind of fast action sports or even fast-moving children and pets.

The Casio V8 does have a sensor-shift image stabilization system, however, which somewhat helps for low-light photos of static subjects, but in general, the V8 is still a poor low-light camera.

The V8 can continuously take photos at 1 frame per second. This is about average for a camera in this class, but not really enough to make a difference - within that 1 second, the peak action will have already elapsed. The V8 has average autofocus ability, and its below-average shutter lag also gets in the way of precisely timing fast action shots or pictures of children/pets.

The V8 can take 240 shots on each charge - just about enough for a day of travel.

Casio EXILIM Hi-Zoom EX-V8 is one of the Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Travel, Child, Action, and Low Light Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Casio EXILIM Hi-Zoom EX-V8
  • Best Price: $149
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 7.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 8.1MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.2 - 0.4s
  • Burst Speed: 0.6 fps
  • Max ISO: 800
  • Size: 3.8 x 2.4 x 1.0 in.
  • Battery Life: 240 shots
  • Easy to Use: Yes
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3
Sony Cybershot DSC-T200

The Sony T200 is a slim ultracompact (just 0.8 in thick) but manages to pack a large amount of features, including a moderate 35-175mm (5x) zoom lens that mostly covers the portrait range, doesn’t quite have the wide-angle for travel, but can zoom in for fast action closeups much further than most 3x zoom cameras in this class, although it still doesn’t quite get close enough.

The T200’s high ISO ability is average - it can handle fast action in daylight and pets and children in moderate low-light, but won’t really be capable of freezing any kind of fast action in low-light situations without producing excessive amounts of noise. The T200 also comes equipped with an image stabilization system which aids in low-light photos of static subjects.

The T200 can continuously take photos at 2.2 frames per second for a virtually unlimited number of photos - very good performance from a consumer compact, and one that will allow you to take a burst of photos, capturing nearly twice as many photos as a typical camera and letting you pick and choose the best shot or the peak moment of action, which will greatly increase your number of “keeper” photos. Like most consumer cameras that use what’s called a “contrast detection” autofocus, T200 can just about keep up with very fast-action in daytime situations, but it will be almost impossible to capture fast-action in low-light situations. Shutter lag on the T200 is extremely fast and shouldn’t be an issue.

Sony Cybershot DSC-T200 is one of the Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Travel, Child, Action, 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
  • Burst Speed: 2.2 fps
  • Max ISO: 3200
  • Size: 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.8 in.
  • Battery Life: 250 shots
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
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Website Reviews (1 review)
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

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