Expert Recommendation

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Best Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Travel, Action, and Low Light Photos Under $750
Expert (97 Recommendations and 21 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
October 28, 2007 Updated: November 28, 2007
Overview

Travel photography demands versatility, and action photography demands sheer speed and performance - two very different ends of the photographic spectrum, and one that few cameras can adequately cover (even at this price range). Low light, of course, makes photographing either of these things ten times harder. Though it’s not quite the perfect travel camera, the Rebel XT is quite versatile, and shines as the best camera available for fast action and low-light pictures of moving subjects

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My Best In Class Pick
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT (Body Only)

The Canon Rebel XT and Pentax K100D represent two of the most well-rounded SLR cameras on the market today - ironically they’re also the cheapest, and the only ones with versatile zoom lenses that fit into this price range.

Both cameras have their strengths and weaknesses. The Rebel XT has better high ISO performance, and will deliver better pictures when trying to freeze fast action, especially in low light. Its continuous shooting (14 pictures vs. the K100D’s five) also helps a lot for fast action photos. On the other hand, the K100D has a better autofocus system (when used with the lenses in this price range), and its image stabilization, while useless for fast action and moving subjects, is a useful feature for static subjects that provides better low-light performance for travel photography.

Overall, the Canon Rebel XT is ultimately the better choice as the generally superior fast action camera, while still being a very capable travel camera. While the Pentax K100D’s high ISO pictures are certainly in the “usable” range, the Rebel XT is a significant step above it, and this becomes the overriding factor for action photos where images are almost universally taken at high ISO. In other areas like travel and low-light pictures of static subjects, the Pentax K100D may be a slightly better performer, but the Rebel XT can still get the job done, which can’t be consistently said for the K100D and action photos in low-light.

Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT (Body Only) is the Best Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Travel, Action, and Low Light Photos Under $750
Where to buy
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT (Body Only)
Specifications
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 8.0MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.2 sec
  • Burst Speed: 2.9 fps
  • Max ISO: 1600
  • Size: 5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in.
  • Battery Life: 400 shots
  • Easy to Use: No
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (5 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Excellent by CNET.com

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
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Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT (Body Only)
2
Pentax K100D (Body Only)
Customer Rating
Price
Size (W x H x D) 5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in. 5.1 x 3.6 x 2.8 in.
Weight (without batteries) 17.0 oz 19.8 oz
Weight (with batteries) 19.0 oz 22.4 oz
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
29-320mm 27-300mm
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Image Stabilization Available
Yes Yes
Storage Media CompactFlash Card, MicroDrive SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card
Battery Type Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable AA-size (x4) or CR-V3 (x2)
Battery Life 400 shots 300 shots
Max Shooting Speed (continuous) 3 frames/sec (14 frames) 2.8 frames/sec (5 frames)
Max ISO Setting Superb Good
2
Pentax K100D (Body Only)

The Pentax K100D is Pentax’s entry-level digital SLR, and is one of the cheapest and most feature-packed SLRs on the market. As with the Rebel XT, don’t be intimidated by the complexity of the K100D’s manual controls - it can be operated just as easily as any point and shoot camera in automatic mode.

Being an SLR, unlike other cameras the K100D can be equipped with a large variety of lenses that provide a variety of focal lengths, along with other features. The standard “kit lens” is an 18-55mm lens, which equates to a 27-83mm (3x) zoom range. Since we’re looking for a more versatile range for travel and need a long telephoto range for sports and action, a better option would be to purchase the body by itself, and buy a $350 Tamron 18-200mm lens separately. This setup provides a 27-300mm (11x) zoom range, which will cover nearly every situation you might encounter on travel.

For low-light situations, the Pentax K100D employs a sensor-shift image stabilization method to reduce blur, and in addition has very good high ISO performance that is perfectly usable even at the highest setting. With a combination of great high ISO and image stabilization system, the K100D is the best overall low-light camera in this price range, but isn’t quite as good as the Rebel XT when it comes to moving subjects like people, animals, or sports, where image stabilization is useless and only high ISO is important.

The Pentax K100D can shoot continuously at 2.8 frames per second (about average), but can only take up to 5 photos at a time, meaning you get less than 2 seconds of continuous action. This is a bit of a drawback - with only 5 photos at a time you won’t be able to machine-gun photos off, but sports photos certainly don’t require continuous shooting. Though Pentax cameras aren’t usually regarded as good sports cameras because of a lack of fast-focusing lenses, at this price range (with cheaper consumer lenses), the K100D has one of the most reliable and accurate autofocus systems, similar to that found on the higher-end sports cameras from Canon or Nikon.

The Pentax K100D uses four standard AA batteries (you’ll of course want to get rechargeable AA batteries of your own), which last for 300 shots per charge (CIPA standard) - slightly below average and good enough to last a day or more for most travelers, but perhaps not enough for a full sports game, depending on the length and how many photos you take.

Pentax K100D (Body Only) is one of the Best Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Travel, Action, and Low Light Photos Under $750
Where to buy
Pentax K100D (Body Only)
Specifications
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 6.1MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.2 sec
  • Burst Speed: 2.7 fps
  • Max ISO: 3200
  • Size: 5.1 x 3.6 x 2.8 in.
  • Battery Life: 300 shots
  • Easy to Use: No
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (6 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

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