Expert Recommendation

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Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Travel and Action Photos Under $200
Expert (97 Recommendations and 21 Compliments)
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December 2, 2007 Updated: December 7, 2007
Overview

While there are many versatile cameras for travel use, there are very few ultracompact cameras that do well for sports, and there are even less when your budget is restricted to $200. While the Casio V7 has the decent zoom range and good shutter lag that’s useful for a fast action camera, it is severely lacking in the high ISO department - the V7 simply isn’t capable of freezing fast action motion in anything but the best daylight situations, making it useless for taking fast action pictures indoors or at night. The V7, though not best in class, is also a capable travel camera that can cover a variety of situations with its versatile 7x zoom range. If all you plan to do is shoot slow-moving subjects in daylight, the Casio V7 is capable of returning mediocre results (which no other camera in this class can claim), but for anything else you will need to look at either a more expensive or bigger camera to produce usable results.

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My Best In Class Pick
Casio EXILIM Hi-ZOOM EX-V7

At only $200, it’s very difficult to find a capable fast action camera, much less one that fits into an ultracompact body. There are only a handful of ultracompact candidates that come close to having the long zoom range needed for fast action photographs, but even these cameras fail miserably in other aspects of performance - both the Casio V7 and Olympus FE240 have below average high ISO ability which makes fast action photos extremely noisy, and unusably in low-light situations.

Compounding the issue is the need for a versatile camera that can also handle travel situations, which tend towards wide-angle ability. For $200 and an ultracompact size, there is really no camera on the market that can do both well, so you’ll need to decide what your top priorities are.

For fast action, the best choice in this class is the Casio V7 - despite its poor high ISO performance it has an adequate zoom range and fairly low shutter lag. The camera will only be usable in good daylight situations, however - it simply will not produce usable fast action photographs indoors or at night, and if you had planned to shoot anything but slow-moving daylight action, you’ll need to either increase your budget or put up with a larger camera.

For travel usage, the Casio V7 is an adequate camera, but is lacking in two key features - high ISO performance for taking photos in lower-light situations, and a wide-angle lens that is better suited to take photos of things like landscapes, landmarks, and building interiors commonly encountered on travel. Here, the Panasonic FX30 is the best travel camera, with both average low-light performance and a 28mm wide-angle lens. However, the FX30, with its short zoom range, is an almost unusable fast action camera - it simply can’t zoom in close enough.

The choice depends on which is your greatest priority - travel or fast action. The Panasonic FX30 is the best travel camera, and the Casio V7 is the best fast action camera in this class. While the FX30 is nearly useless for fast action, the Casio V7 is a capable travel camera, and is the best recommendation.

Casio EXILIM Hi-ZOOM EX-V7 is the Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Travel and Action Photos Under $200
Where to buy
Casio EXILIM Hi-ZOOM EX-V7
Specifications
  • Zoom: 7.0x
  • Resolution: 7.2MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.5 sec
  • Burst Speed: 2.1 fps
  • Size: 3.8 x 2.4 x 1.0 in.
  • Battery Life: 240 shots
  • Easy to Use: Yes
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Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • Rated Good by CNET.com

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
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Casio EXILIM Hi-ZOOM EX-V7
2
Olympus FE-240
3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX30
Customer Rating
Price $288.99 $399.66
Size (W x H x D) 3.8 x 2.4 x 1.0 in. 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.7 in 3.7 x 2.0 x 0.9 in.
Weight (without batteries) 5.3 oz 4.1 oz 4.7 oz
Max Shooting Speed (continuous) 2.1fps for 3, 1.3fps unlimited Unspecified 3fps for 5, 2fps unlimited
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
38 - 266 mm (7x) 38 - 190 mm (5x) 28 - 100 mm mm (3.6x)
Storage Media SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card xD-Picture Card SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card
Battery Life 240 shots 180 shots 280 shots
Max Usable ISO (subjective) ISO200 ISO200 ISO400
Shutter Lag Rating Good Poor Average
Autofocus Rating Average Average Average
Fast Action Rating Poor Unusable Unusable
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Image Stabilization Available
Yes Yes Yes
Travel Rating Average Poor Good
2
Olympus FE-240

The Olympus FE-240 is Olympus’ budget 5x zoom, ultracompact camera. The FE240’s 38-190mm zoom lens isn’t quite long enough to get good close-ups of sports photos, but it will do a lot better than ordinary 3x zoom cameras. For travel usage, the FE240 is reasonably versatile, although it doesn’t have the 28mm wide-angle that’s useful for things like landscapes or landmarks.

The Olympus FE240’s high ISO images are below average - fast action images in daylight will be a little noisy, and photos in low-light will be unusably noisy. The FE240 does have an image stabilization system to help take low-light photos of static scenes such as buildings or interiors.

Olympus does not specify a continuous shooting rate for the FE240 - it’s probably safe to assume that if it has one at all, it won’t be fast enough to be useful. The Olympus 820’s shutter lag is a below average, which may make it difficult to capture precisely-timed shots.

The Olympus FE-240 takes about 180 photos on one charge - fairly low and possibly not enough for an entire day of travel, depending on how much you shoot.

Olympus FE-240 is one of the Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Travel and Action Photos Under $200
Where to buy
Olympus FE-240
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3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX30

The Panasonic FX30 is an budget model from Panasonic’s FX line of ultracompact cameras. With a 3.6x, 28-100mm zoom, the FX30 has the extremely useful 28mm wide-angle for travel, but has limited versatility and doesn’t come close to the telephoto range needed for good fast action photos.

The FX30’s high ISO ability is about average - it will be somewhat noisy in low light situations, and for fast action it will be able to freeze motion in daylight situations (possibly with some noise), but won’t really be able to produce usable fast action pictures in low-light situations or indoors. The FX30 does have an image stabilization system that is arguably better than either Olympus’ or Casio’s - this will help greatly with low-light photos of static subjects like buildings or interiors.

The FX30 can take photos continuously at 3 frames per second for 5 photos, and 2 frames per second for an unlimited number of photos - extremely fast and rivaling the speeds of consumer SLR cameras. This feature will allow you to fire bursts of photos, and select the best shot or peak moment afterwards, greatly increasing your number of “keepers”. The FX30 has average shutter lag, which may be a slight problem when you’re capturing spur-of-the-moment action.

The Panasonic FX30 can take 240 photos on one charge - about average and enough for at least a day of travel for most people.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX30 is one of the Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Travel and Action Photos Under $200
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX30
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.6x
  • Resolution: 7.2MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.5 sec
  • Burst Speed: 3.0 fps
  • Size: 3.7 x 2.0 x 0.9 in.
  • Battery Life: 280 shots
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
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Website Reviews (1 review)

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