Expert Recommendation

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Best Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Travel, Child, and Action Photos Under $400
Expert (97 Recommendations and 21 Compliments)
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November 5, 2007 Updated: November 28, 2007
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My Best In Class Pick
Fujifilm FinePix S6000fd

All three of the cameras discussed here are very good travel performers - they also possess highly versatile zoom lenses that can cover a wide variety of situations, with the Fuji S6000fd and Fuji S8000fd possessing a slight edge with their wider 28mm wide-angle lenses. The long zoom ranges on all three cameras also adequately cover the portrait range for people and pets, as well as the long telephoto range for close-ups of fast-action subjects, with the Sony H9 and Fuji S8000fd having a slight edge in the latter category due to their significantly longer lenses. The S6000fd, with its good high ISO, is perhaps the only camera that can cope with quick-moving subjects like pets and children in low-light situations, but all three cameras are very capable of portraits in normal daylight situations.

Travel and portrait performance aside, fast action photography is perhaps the most demanding requirement of all (one of the reasons sports photographers spend thousands of dollars on equipment - they need every last ounce of performance they can get). While SLR cameras are very competent, ordinary consumer cameras can’t focus nearly as fast, can’t continuously shoot as frequently, and can’t produce anywhere near the same high ISO performance needed to freeze action. Outside of outdoor, daylight situations, all non-SLR cameras will struggle mightily to get usable pictures.

In many ways, the Sony H9 is the best fast action camera of the bunch. It can take many continuous pictures in a row (which the S6000fd and S8000fd can’t do), and has a much longer telephoto lens to zoom in for close-up pictures (much longer than the S6000fd, although slightly shorter than the S8000fd). Despite all this, the overriding factor for fast action is high ISO and the ability to use fast shutter speeds - it doesn’t matter what features a camera has to more consistently take action photos, if all the photos are too blurry or too grainy to be usable. For this reason, the S6000fd is the best fast action camera, even if it is slightly inferior to the H9 and S8000fd in other fast action aspects, simply because it can freeze motion while no other consumer camera can.

Outside of fast action, the Fuji S6000fd is a better camera for travel (where its wider 28mm lens makes it more versatile than the 31mm on the H9) and for low-light (where its high ISO ability works on moving subjects, where as the H9 and S8000fd’s image stabilization only works for static subjects). Perhaps the only drawback to the S6000fd is its somewhat large size - the H9 and S8000fd are certainly more portable camera, something that should be a consideration if you’re planning to carry around a camera all day on travel.

Fujifilm FinePix S6000fd is the Best Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Travel, Child, and Action Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Fujifilm FinePix S6000fd
Specifications
  • Zoom: 10.7x
  • Resolution: 6.3MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.5 - 0.6s
  • Burst Speed: 2.3 fps
  • Size: 5.2 x 3.8 x 5.0 in.
  • Battery Life: 400 shots
  • Easy to Use: Yes
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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

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
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Fujifilm FinePix S6000fd
2
Sony Cybershot DSC-H9
3
Fujifilm FinePix S8000fd
Customer Rating
Price $1299.00 $539.95
Size (W x H x D) 5.2 x 3.8 x 5.0 in. 4.3 x 3.3 x 3.4 in. 4.4 x 3.1 x 3.1 in
Weight (without batteries) 21.0 oz 14.4 oz 14.5 oz
Max Shooting Speed (continuous) 2.2 fps for first three, 0.7 fps after 2fps, unlimited 1.3fps for first three, 0.5 fps after
?
Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
28-300 mm (10.7x) 31 - 465 mm (15x) 28-504 mm (18x)
?
Image Stabilization Available
No Yes Yes
Storage Media xD-Picture Card Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick PRO Duo xD, SD, SDHC card
Battery Type AA-size (x4) Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable AA-size (x4)
Battery Life 400 shots 280 shots 500 shots
Max Usable ISO (subjective) ISO800 ISO400 ISO400
Travel Rating Superb Good Superb
Children/Pet Portrait Rating Superb Superb Average
Fast Action Rating Superb Good Poor
2
Sony Cybershot DSC-H9

The Sony H9 is a medium-sized ultrazoom camera that is loaded with features and manual controls, although like all cameras it retains a user-friendly automatic mode for those who want to just point and shoot. The H9 has a big 31-465mm (15x) zoom range which isn’t quite as wide as the 28mm on other cameras, but is still a big step up from the 35mm or 36mm of most other cameras, and is adequate enough to cover most travel situations. The long telephoto end of the zoom is perfect for zooming in for close-up pictures of fast action, and covers the medium range useful for portraits of people and animals, as well.

The H9 uses a conventional image sensor (unlike the Fuji S6000fd), so high ISO results won’t be extraordinary. Because of Sony’s slightly more aggressive noise reduction, however, the out-of-camera high-ISO pictures will be slightly better than what you’d typically find in this class. While it may be good enough for slower subjects like simple people portraits in low-light, the H9 simply won’t be able to photograph any sort of fast action in low light situations, and will produce some grainy/noisy photos even in daylight situations.

While it won’t help much for moving subjects, for static subjects in low light the H9 makes up for the lack of high ISO performance with its “Super SteadyShot” image stabilization (IS) system, which will help greatly with low-light pictures of static scenes on travel, like buildings or landscapes.

The H9 can take photos continuously at 2 frames per second for an unlimited number of pictures - extremely good for a consumer camera, and allowing the H9 to capture a whole series of photos and increase your keeper rate - a useful feature for consumer cameras that otherwise struggle with things like consistently focusing. As with the S6000fd and other non-SLR cameras, the autofocus system of the H9, while among the best in the consumer market, is simply not good enough to keep up with fast action subjects in low light, and is just barely able to keep up with the fastest subjects even in daylight situations.

The H9 uses a Sony battery which lasts 280 shots (CIPA standard) - a bit below average for cameras in this class, but still good enough to last a day of travel for most people.

While not the leading camera in terms of image quality (especially in low-light and fast-action situations), the Sony H9 is still above average, and the more compact size makes it a better option for those who don’t want to carry something as big as an SLR or bridge camera while on travel.

Sony Cybershot DSC-H9 is one of the Best Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Travel, Child, and Action Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Sony Cybershot DSC-H9
  • Best Price: $1299
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 15.0x
  • Resolution: 8.1MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.5 - 1.0s
  • Burst Speed: 2.0 fps
  • Size: 4.3 x 3.3 x 3.4 in.
  • Battery Life: 280 shots
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (5 reviews)
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
3
Fujifilm FinePix S8000fd

The newly-released S8000fd is the first camera in Fujifilm’s series of medium-sized ultrazooms. The S8000fd packs a whopping 18x zoom range from 28-504mm, easily covering the midrange useful for portraits of people and pets, the long telephoto for fast action close-ups, and just about any sort of scene - landscapes, building interiors, close-up detail, wildlife - that you might encounter on travel.

Unlike the S6000fd, however, the S8000fd uses a conventional sensor rather than Fujifilm’s heralded SuperCCD sensor, yielding far more average high ISO results - slightly worse than the Sony H9. The S8000fd will struggle to take photos of moving subjects such as people or pets in low-light situations, and will yield slightly noisy images for fast-action even in daylight situations. The average high ISO performance means that fast-action photos in low-light situations is practically impossible without either heavy blur or unusable noise. The S8000fd does have an image stabilization system, which will help for photos of static subjects, such as landscapes or buildings encountered on travel.

The S8000fd can shoot continuously at 1.3fps, but only for the first 3 pictures. After this the continuous rate is only 0.5 frames per second - far too slow to be of any use. The S8000fd’s autofocus system is like most other consumer cameras - just about good enough to keep up with fast-action in daylight situations, but essentially unusable for fast-action in low-light.

The S8000fd is rated for 500 shots on one set of batteries, which should easily last 3 or more days of travel.

While it isn’t the fastest-performing camera, or the camera with the highest image quality, with its 18x zoom and relatively compact size the S8000fd is certainly one of the most versatile cameras on the market.

Fujifilm FinePix S8000fd is one of the Best Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Travel, Child, and Action Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Fujifilm FinePix S8000fd
  • Best Price: $539
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 18.0x
  • Resolution: 8.0MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.9 sec
  • Burst Speed: 1.1 fps
  • Size: 4.4 x 3.1 x 3.1 in.
  • Battery Life: 500 shots
  • Easy to Use: Yes
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