Expert Recommendation

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Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Travel, Action, and Low Light Photos Under $400
Expert (97 Recommendations and 21 Compliments)
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November 11, 2007 Updated: November 28, 2007
Overview

More often than not, ultracompact cameras that try to do it all end up producing overall mediocre results. While there are some cameras that do travel photography better, and some cameras that do low-light photography better, you won’t find a better jack-of-all-trades ultracompact camera than the Sony T200, which doesn’t produce outstanding results in any particularly category, but - with a 35-175mm 5x zoom lens, image stabilization, 2fps continuous shooting, and decent high ISO performance - is one of the only ultracompact cameras that is competent in all three fields of fast-action, travel, and low-light photography.

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My Best In Class Pick
Sony Cybershot DSC-T200

Squeezing cameras into compact sizes always result in compromises, most particularly in the lenses available - there isn’t a single ultracompact camera on the market that can stretch all the way to the 300mm telephoto length needed for most fast-action photography, much less an ultracompact that can stretch that far and include a 28mm wide-angle that’s useful for travel photography. For such a broad range of uses - travel, fast action, and low-light, there is really no camera that can do it all - it may even be a better idea to focus on only two of the goals so you can find a camera capable of doing your top priorities well, instead of trying to cover all areas and not producing good photos in any of them.

That said, the Casio V8 and Sony T200 are two of the more capable cameras in this size class. Both have moderately large zooms, allowing for the versatility needed for travel, although both lack the 28mm wide-angle lenses that are useful for landscapes or landmarks or interiors. In low-light photography, both have image stabilization systems to take photos of static subjects, but the Casio V8 has below-average high ISO performance, making it extremely difficult to take photos of any kind of moving subjects. This deficiency also means the V8 is a poor camera for taking fast action photos - the high ISO is simply not capable of freezing action without producing unusably blurry or noisy results.

While the T200 doesn’t particularly excel in either fast action or low-light, its image stabilization and average high ISO performance makes it an above-average low-light performer, and its combination of somewhat long (175mm, 5x) zoom lens and continuous shooting capability (2 frames per second) make it the best fast-action camera that fits into an ultracompact size.

Sony Cybershot DSC-T200 is the Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Travel, 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
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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
Casio EXILIM Hi-Zoom EX-V8
Customer Rating
Price $149.99
Size (W x H x D) 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.8 in. 3.76 x 2.35 x 1.0 in
Weight (without batteries) 5.6 oz 5.3 oz
Max Shooting Speed (continuous) 2.2fps, unlimited 1fps, unlimited
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
35 - 175 mm (5x) 38 - 266mm (7x)
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Image Stabilization Available
Yes Yes
Storage Media Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick PRO Duo SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card
Battery Type Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable Proprietary Lithium Ion rechargeable
Battery Life 250 shots 240 shots
Max Usable ISO (subjective) ISO400 ISO200
Travel Rating Average Average
Fast Action Rating Average Poor
Low-light Rating Good Average
2
Casio EXILIM Hi-ZOOM EX-V8

The Casio V8 is a ultracompact, 7x zoom camera that breaks the mold of Casio’s usual 3x zoom compacts. Fitting into a slim 1 in. frame, the V8 is one of the smallest cameras to include a big 7x (38-266mm) zoom lens, which, although lacking the 28mm wide-angle useful for travel, does have a versatile long range useful for portraits, faraway detail, and even zooming in for sports and fast-action.

While the V8 does have image stabilization to help take low-light photos of static subjects like buildings and landscapes, it has below-average high ISO performance, making it very difficult to take low-light photos of moving subjects. Fast-action pictures will look grainy/noisy in even daylight situations, and the V8 is simply unusable for any kind of fast-action in low-light.

The V8 can continuously take photos at 1 frame per second. This is about average for a camera in this class, but not enough to make a difference - within that 1 second, the action will have already elapsed. The V8’s autofocus, like many other consumer cameras, will barely be able to keep up with the fastest action in daylight, but is simply not fast enough to focus on fast-action in low-light situations.

The V8 can take 240 shots on one battery - slightly below average but good enough for at least a day of travel.

Casio EXILIM Hi-Zoom EX-V8 is one of the Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Travel, 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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