Expert Recommendation

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Best Digital Camera Overall Under $250
Expert (97 Recommendations and 21 Compliments)
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January 24, 2009
Overview

Though it’s not quite as feature-packed as the higher-end ultrazooms from Canon, Panasonic, and Sony, Fujifilm’s budget-level S2000HD is just as versatile a camera, featuring a huge 28-414mm (15x) zoom lens that can cover just about any situation imaginable.

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My Best In Class Pick
Fujifilm FinePix S2000HD

With its huge 27.6-414mm (15x) zoom lens, Fujifilm’s S2000HD can cover just about any photographic situation that comes to mind, from panoramic landscapes to close-ups of far-away wildlife. The Fuji S2000 also boasts a 720p HD video recording mode, as well.

Performance-wise, the S2000HD is a little above average; while the camera isn’t blazingly fast at locking onto a subject and snapping away, it should be sufficiently responsive for most situations. The S2000HD can shoot burst of shots at a nearly useless 1.1 fps speed, but also has higher-speed modes that can shoot at extremely fast 6.8 and 13.5 fps, although both operate at lower resolution.

Low-light performance is about average - while the S2000HD does feature an image stabilization system to reduce camera shake, its high-ISO performance is middle of the pack, producing moderately blotchy photos when trying to freeze fast motion.

Comparison with Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ4

The S2000HD just edges out Panasonic’s TZ4 in a number of areas, with slightly better high-ISO image quality, 720p HD video mode, and a longer telephoto range (though this isn’t nearly as important as the wide-angle, which is about the same 28mm for both cameras). The TZ4 does trounce the S2000HD in a handful areas, such as faster shutter lag/autofocus performance, much, much faster continuous shooting, and perhaps most importantly, a more travel-friendly size. For versatility and image quality, the S2000HD is a better overall camera by a hair, although the TZ4 is a worthy alternative if you’re looking to shoot quick or unpredictable subjects (children, animals, fast action), or if you’re simply looking for something more portable.

Comparison with Canon PowerShot SX110 IS

While the SX110 has the superior image quality, it’s an otherwise very no-frills camera that simply doesn’t have the same versatility that the Fuji S2000HD does. The biggest limitation for the SX110 is its 38-380mm lens, which simply isn’t as useful as the S2000HD’s much wider 27.6-414mm range.

Pros
  • +
    27.6mm wide-angle
  • +
    15x zoom
  • +
    720p HD video
Cons
  • -
    Slow 1.1 fps continuous shooting
Fujifilm FinePix S2000HD is the Best Digital Camera Overall Under $250
Where to buy
Fujifilm FinePix S2000HD
  • Best Price: $180
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 15.3x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 27mm (30% wider)
  • Resolution: 10.0MP
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Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
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Fujifilm FinePix S2000HD
2
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ4
3
Canon PowerShot SX110 IS
Customer Rating
Price $180.30 $549.99
Size (W x H x D) 4.4 x 3.1 x 3.0 in. 4.1 x 2.3 x 1.4 in. 4.4 x 2.8 x 1.8 in.
Weight (without batteries) 13.6 oz 7.3 oz 8.6 oz
Max Shooting Speed (burst) 1.1 frames/sec 3 frames/sec 1.3 frames/sec
Max Consecutive Burst Frames 3 frames 4 frames Unlimited
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
27.6mm 28 mm 36 mm
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Max Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
414mm 280 mm 360 mm
Optical Zoom 15x 10.0x 10.0x
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Image Stabilization Available
Yes Yes Yes
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Max Aperture (wide-angle)
f/3.5 f/3.3 f/2.8
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Max Aperture (tele-photo)
f/5.4 f/4.9 f/4.3
Battery Life 400 shots 300 shots 400 shots
High ISO quality Average Poor Average
Shutter lag Average Good Average
Travel Rating Superb Superb Good
Fast Action Rating Good Good Good
People/Pets Portrait Rating Good Average Good
Low-light Rating Average Average Good
2
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ4

With a 28-280mm (10x) zoom lens, the TZ4 can cover just about any situation. It has the reach to zoom in for close-ups on faraway subjects, such as in sports or wildlife photography. And on the other end, it’s also got the 28mm wide-angle that will let you take in all of a scenic landscape or the large landmarks often encountered on travel. There just isn’t any other camera on the market either as cheap as the TZ4 or as small as the TZ4 that offers this wide-ranging versatility.

For speed situations, the TZ4 is also one of the fastest-performing cameras around. Shutter lag and autofocus are both above-average, making it a bit easier to precisely time shots as well as track around moving subjects, which is important for unpredictable subjects like kids or pets or sports players. The TZ4 can also shoot at a speedy 3 frames per second, allowing you to fire off a burst of shots and then choose the best one later, which can significantly improve your keeper rate.

The TZ4 does have a weak point though, and that’s low-light performance. The TZ4 does feature an image-stabilized lens to help combat camera shake blur, but its high-ISO quality is just below-average, producing noisy/blotchy images if you want to freeze moving subjects in low-light situations.

At 1.4 in. thin, the TZ4 is a pocketable camera that can be taken just about anywhere.

Comparison with Canon PowerShot SX110 IS

Panasonic’s TZ4 and Canon’s SX110 are both cameras in the same compact ultrazoom class - both fit in versatile 10x zooms into fairly compact and easy-to-carry bodies. Feature-wise, the TZ4 offers up a lot more, with a bit faster speed and responsiveness, as well as much more versatility in its 28mm wide-angle lens, all in a significantly smaller package. The SX110, however, performs significantly better in low-light situations, featuring both a larger aperture and better high-ISO performance.

Pros
  • +
    28mm wide-angle
  • +
    10x zoom
  • +
    1.4 in. thick
  • +
    3fps burst mode
Cons
  • -
    Below-average high-ISO
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ4 is one of the Best Digital Cameras Overall Under $250
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ4
Specifications
  • Zoom: 10.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 28mm (25% wider)
  • Resolution: 8.1MP
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3
Canon PowerShot SX110 IS

The Canon SX110 is Canon’s entry in the compact ultrazoom market. The SX110 features a 10x 36-360mm zoom lens that can cover most everyday situations. It’s got the long-range zoom to capture close-ups of faraway fast action subjects or building details that you might encounter on travel, and it easily covers the midrange zoom that’s ideal for portraits as well. The SX110’s 36mm wide-angle doesn’t stretch that wide, however, so it’s not the ideal camera for capturing sweeping panoramas or large landmarks from a cramped city street corner.

Speed-wise, the SX110 has about average shutter lag and autofocus, so precisely timing shots or tracking fast subjects may be difficult. The SX110 shoots at 1.2 frames per second, which isn’t really fast enough to cover moments of action with a burst of shots.

Low-light ability on the SX110 is above-average. The SX110’s image-stabilized lens helps to reduce camera shake, and high-ISO quality is decent - good enough to freeze motion in low-light situations without producing unusably noisy photos.

At 1.8 in., the SX110 isn’t quite thin but should still be easy enough to carry around in just about any bag or large pocket.

Pros
  • +
    10x zoom
  • +
    Above-average high-ISO
Canon PowerShot SX110 IS is one of the Best Digital Cameras Overall Under $250
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot SX110 IS
Specifications
  • Zoom: 10.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: No
  • Resolution: 9.0MP
More
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Website Reviews (4 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

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