Expert Recommendation

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Best Compact Digital Camera for Photos of Children or Pets Under $400
Expert (53 Recommendations and 31 Compliments)
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November 8, 2009 Updated: November 10, 2009
Overview

Never before have I been so excited about a Nikon compact digital camera. But after researching compacts that can capture children and pets, a problem I hear about endlessly, the S640 stood out among the best. With a start up speed as fast as a DSLR and features that make picture taking a snap, this is the camera to rely on to “get the shot”.

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My Best In Class Pick
Nikon Coolpix S640

As the fastest Nikon compact camera so far, the S640 is just the answer to the problem of speedy, shy kids and even speedier pets.

With Nikon’s Ultra-fast focus and a start-up time of 0.7 seconds, the S640 has a quickness comparable to it’s big brother, the D40. Without the bulk. That means you can carry this camera in your jacket pocket or purse and still be ready in a split second to capture the moments that are most important to you.

Loading the S640 with features designed to make sure you get the best shot possible, Nikon makes you, and your subjects, look good.

Tired of photos where someone blinked, or forgot to smile when you said “Say cheese” just as you snapped the shutter? With a Blink Proof function and a Smile timer, the S640 is designed to outsmart even the toughest of subjects. Got a model in the family? The Smart Portrait System will apply Skin Softening automatically up to as many as 12 faces. Add Subject Tracking to follow speedy kids and pets to make sure you have proper focus all the time.

Getting the best shot has never been so easy. With four advanced image stabilising features like Motion detection, optical lens shift VR image stabilisation, 6400 ISO and Best Shot Selector, Nikon has finally designed a camera the whole family can use, creating images that are sure to please.

For shooting video, Nikon has included 2 movie modes with sound.

And Nikon solved another problem I hear about all the time, the hard to see LCD screen. The 2.7” Clear Color LCD with screen brightness boost function greatly reduces reflection and improves visibility outdoors (key for cameras without a viewfinder).

It looks like NIkon was paying attention when they designed the S640.

Comparison with Canon PowerShot A2100 IS

I like the Nikon S640 over the Canon A2100 IS for a variety of reasons. One, it’s the faster compact point and shoot, rivaling it’s bigger brother the D40. The LCD is brighter but smaller, not by much though. The S640 also boasts a higher usable ISO and more wide angle (28mm for the Nikon vs. Canon’s 36mm).

Comparison with Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3

The Lumix DMC-ZS3 should jump right to the head of the class for it’s 12x zoom, if that’s what you want in your Ultra Compact digital camera. Otherwise, a smaller imaging sensor, less usable ISO and a weak battery might have a hard time going up against the S640, especially for an extra $50.

Pros
  • +
    Fast start up time
  • +
    Bright LCD
  • +
    Nice features
  • +
    Slim
Cons
  • -
    Battery wears out fast
Nikon Coolpix S640 is the Best Compact Digital Camera for Photos of Children or Pets Under $400
Where to buy
Nikon Coolpix S640
Recommended with
  • Nikon EN-EL12 Rechargeable Li-Ion Battery for Nikon S610 Digital Cameras
    $23.99 @ Amazon.com
Specifications
  • Zoom: 5.0x
  • Resolution: 12.2MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.4 sec
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Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
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Nikon Coolpix S640
2
Canon PowerShot A2100 IS
3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3
Customer Rating
Size (W x H x D) 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.8 in. 4.0 x 2.5 x 1.3 in. 4.1 x 2.3 x 1.3 in.
Easy to Use Yes Yes Yes
Colors Black, White, Pink, Red Black Silver, Black, Blue, Red
Video Available Yes Yes Yes
Optical Zoom 5.0x 6.0x 12.0x
?
Image Stabilization Available
Yes Yes Yes
Smile Detection Available Yes No No
Max ISO Setting 6400 1600 6400
?
Face Detection Available
Yes Yes Yes
?
Viewfinder Available
No No No
?
LCD Screen Size
2.7 in. 3.0 in. 3.0 in.
Battery Type Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable AA-size (x2) Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable
2
Canon PowerShot A2100 IS

For capturing images of the kids and pets as they tear around the house, park or the backyard, the Canon A2100 IS combines lens shift Image Stabilization with Motion Detection and Face Detection Technology to ensure you get the best shot every time.

And to make it easy on yourself, set the A2100 IS to Smart Auto mode, improved Easy mode or dedicated Kids & Pets mode to let Canon’s extensive research and design solve problems you may not even be aware of.

Switch to 30fps VGA movies with sound plus Long Play option to capture video and still take advantage of the 6x zoom. Add the optional HF-DC1 high power flash attachment for low light situations and never miss a thing.

Oh, and don’t forget to take extra batteries, the A2100 takes AA’s and you don’t want to run out of power before the kids do.

Pros
  • +
    Zoom while in video mode
  • +
    Dedicated kids and pets mode
Cons
  • -
    LCD too light
  • -
    Not much wide angle
Canon PowerShot A2100 IS is one of the Best Compact Digital Cameras for Photos of Children or Pets Under $400
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot A2100 IS
Recommended with
  • Canon HF-DC1 High Power Flash for Canon Powershot Digital Cameras
    $93.89 @ Amazon.com
  • eneloop 4 pack AA with MQNO6 Charger
    $14.99 @ Amazon.com
Specifications
  • Zoom: 6.0x
  • Resolution: 12.1MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.6 - 0.9s
More
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Website Reviews (1 review)
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3

Sporting a 10.1mp imaging sensor, a bright 3.0” LCD and a high-quality LEICA DC VARIO ELMAR 25mm ultra-wide-angle lens with a 12x optical zoom, the DMC-ZS3 is an excellent compact camera for taking photos of the kids and pets.

Being able to zoom in on the little rascals is key to capturing their movement without standing right over them while they spontaneously provide you with great picture possibilities.

And most of the excellent features cross over to the movie mode as well. Just press the convenient dedicated button on the camera’s back panel and start shooting in three levels of motion image quality: SH (17 Mbps), H (13 Mbps) and L (9 Mbps).

Make sure you bring along an extra battery though, you may find that the Li-ion battery that comes with the ZS3 doesn’t have your stamina.

Pros
  • +
    12x zoom
  • +
    Bright LCD
  • +
    Leica lens
Cons
  • -
    Low usable ISO
  • -
    Weak battery
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 is one of the Best Compact Digital Cameras for Photos of Children or Pets Under $400
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3
Specifications
  • Zoom: 12.0x
  • Resolution: 10.1MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.7 - 0.8s
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (3 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Excellent by CNET.com

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