Expert Recommendation

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Best Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Travel, Child, and Low Light Photos Under $200
Expert (97 Recommendations and 21 Compliments)
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October 22, 2007 Updated: December 21, 2007
Overview

The Panasonic FX30 is a stylish ultracompact camera, embodying many of the ideal features of a travel camera into a budget price. Its image stabilization system is great for taking pictures of static scenes when in low-light, and its 28mm wide-angle lens is perfect for landscapes, landmarks, and interiors encountered on travel. The FX30 does have a few significant shortcomings, however, notably its poor low-light performance (especially when taking low-light photos of fast-moving children or pets) and lack of a long zoom range; please read the “Top Pick” section for a more detailed analysis and recommendation.

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My Best In Class Pick
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX30

While there are many bargains in the camera market, budget models in the $200 price range come with compromises, and in this case all three of the leading contenders have significant shortcomings for all of our requirements.

The F40fd is the best low-light camera in this class. Because of its great high ISO ability, it will be able to freeze motion and take natural-light photos in low-light situations, while other cameras will need to rely on flashes that usually produce bland photos with harsh lighting. Unfortunately, the F40fd is heavily limited by its short zoom range. 36mm on the wide-end isn’t really wide enough to capture landscapes and large landmarks on travel, and 108mm on the telephoto end isn’t quite long enough to take good portrait photos.

The Canon A570IS has average high ISO ability, but won’t really be able to freeze motion in low-light situations, and thus isn’t a great solution for low-light photos of fast-moving children and pets. On the other hand, the A570IS has a somewhat longer 140mm telephoto lens, allowing it to take better portraits in non-low light situations, but lacks the useful 28mm wide-angle lens for landscape and landmark photos encountered on travel.

The Panasonic FX30 has the worst high ISO ability of all, and is almost useless for freezing motion in low-light without a flash. It also lacks a long telephoto lens and a useful portrait range, making it the worst camera of the three for taking photos of children or pets. Because of its 28mm wide angle lens, however, the FX30 is the best travel camera of the bunch for travel photos, where landscapes and landmarks photos are common.

So what’s the best answer? None of the three cameras adequately satisfies all the requirements for travel, children and pets, and low-light, so you’ll have to decide which kinds of photos are most important to you.

If you’re planning to take lots of photos of children or pets in low-light, the F40fd is the only camera capable of freezing action instead of outputting a blurry or noisy mess, and is the best choice.

If you don’t plan on taking too many low-light photos of children or pets, but want a portrait camera for children or pets more than a travel camera for scenery, the Canon A570IS, with its longer telephoto zoom, is the better choice.

Finally, if you don’t plan on taking too many low-light photos of children or pets, but want a travel camera for scenery more than a portrait camera for children or pets, the Panasonic FX30, with its 28mm wide-angle lens, is the better choice.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX30 is the Best Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Travel, Child, and Low Light Photos Under $200
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX30
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.6x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 7.2MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.5 sec
  • Max ISO: 3200
  • Size: 3.7 x 2.0 x 0.9 in.
  • Battery Life: 280 shots
  • Easy to Use: Yes
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Website Reviews (1 review)

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX30
2
Fujifilm FinePix F40fd
3
Canon PowerShot A570 IS
Customer Rating
Price $399.66 $379.00
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
28 - 100 mm (3.6x) 36-108mm (3x) 35 - 140 mm (4x)
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Image Stabilization Available
Yes No Yes
Storage Media SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card xD Picture Card, SD Memory Card SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card
Battery Type Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable Proprietary Lithium Ion rechargeable AA-size (x2)
Battery Life 280 shots 300 shots 400 shots
Max Usable ISO (subjective) ISO200 ISO800 ISO400
Size (W x H x D) 3.7 x 2.0 x 0.9 in. 3.8 x 2.3 x 0.9 in 3.5 x 2.5 x 1.7 in.
Weight (without batteries) 4.7 oz 5.4 oz 6.1 oz
2
Fujifilm FinePix F40fd

The Fuji F40fd is the budget model of Fuji’s F-x0 series of ultracompact point and shoots. While its compact size makes it easy to carry along on travel, the F40fd has a rather limited 36-108mm 3x zoom range that isn’t really wide enough for wide-angle landscape and landmark pictures on travel, and not quite long enough for good portrait pictures.

The F40fd’s strong point, however, is low-light photography. Thanks to its SuperCCD sensor, a unique sensor design developed by Fujifilm, the F40fd can produce amazing high-ISO photos in low-light, reducing camera shake blur and motion blur without creating excessive graininess or noise which ruins high-ISO pictures on most other cameras. While the F40fd doesn’t have image stabilization, the ability to use high ISO to freeze motion makes it an exceptional camera for photos of children and pets.

The F40fd battery lasts about 300 shots (CIPA standard), which should be good enough for a day of shooting for most travelers.

Fujifilm FinePix F40fd is one of the Best Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Travel, Child, and Low Light Photos Under $200
Where to buy
Fujifilm FinePix F40fd
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.0x
  • Image Stabilization: No
  • Resolution: 8.3MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.5 sec
  • Max ISO: 2000
  • Size: 3.8 x 2.3 x 0.9 in.
  • Battery Life: 300 shots
  • Easy to Use: Yes
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Website Reviews (4 reviews)
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
3
Canon PowerShot A570 IS

The Canon A570IS is one of the budget models in Canon’s A series, but despite its budget label and cheap price, the A570 packs a lot of features. Using a conventional CCD sensor, the A570IS’s high-ISO ability is fairly typical, but thanks to a lens-shift image stabilization (IS) system, the A570IS is a better than average low-light performer. While IS won’t be able to freeze subject motion blur (making the A570IS an average camera for fast-moving children and pets), it works great to reduce blur on pictures of static scenes like buildings and landscapes in low-light.

The A570IS packs a 35-140mm (4x) zoom lens. Although it lacks the wide-angle that’s useful for pictures of scenery or landmarks, the longer telephoto length allows for better portraits and some more ability to zoom in on fine detail.

The A570IS runs on AA batteries, which last 400 shots (CIPA standard), which should be good enough for a day if not more, of travel.

Canon PowerShot A570 IS is one of the Best Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Travel, Child, and Low Light Photos Under $200
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot A570 IS
Specifications
  • Zoom: 4.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 7.1MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.5 - 0.7s
  • Max ISO: 1600
  • Size: 3.5 x 2.5 x 1.7 in.
  • Battery Life: 400 shots
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (4 reviews)
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

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