Expert Recommendation

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Best Ultra Compact Digital Camera for Photos of Children or Pets Under $400
Expert (97 Recommendations and 21 Compliments)
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August 5, 2008
Overview

There are a number of good portrait cameras in the ultracompact range, each offering its own strengths and weaknesses in areas such as zoom versatility, low-light quality, and responsiveness Though it’s not quite the best in any one category, the Canon SD890 IS is the best overall camera, performing well in almost every area with no major weaknesses.

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My Best In Class Pick
Canon PowerShot SD890 IS

The Canon SD890 IS is one of the higher-end models in Canon’s SD series of ultracompacts, and the only one to offer a versatile 5x zoom lens. Covering a 37-185mm range, the SD890 IS doesn’t quite cover the typical 50-200mm portrait range, but there’s virtually no ultracompact camera on the market that does. The lack of a real wide-angle limits the creative close-up possibilities, however.

The SD890 has about average shutter lag, so it may be a little difficult to react quickly or precisely time your photos. The SD890’s high ISO ability is very good, allowing you to freeze the motion of your kids and pets in low-light without introducing too much noise.

The one drawback of the SD890 is size - at 1.1” thick, it’s a little bulky for an ultracompact camera, although it should still fit fine into most jackets and pants pockets.

Comparison with Sony Cybershot DSC-T300

The T300 and SD890 cover slightly different zoom ranges, with the T300 offering a slightly wider angle (33mm vs. 37mm), while the SD890 offers a longer telephoto end (185mm vs. 165mm). The T300 will offer more creative close-up options, while the SD890 offers a better range if you want to take more traditional portraits. Beyond this, the tradeoff between the SD890 and the T300 comes between high-ISO performance and shutter lag - while the SD890 performs well in both areas, the T300 has an extremely fast shutter lag, but isn’t as great in low-light situations where it produces slightly noisy photos.

Comparison with Fujifilm FinePix F100fd

Compared to the Fuji F100fd, the SD890 lacks the F100fd’s 28mm wide-angle, and while it’s a decent low-light camera itself, isn’t quite as good as the F100fd in the high-ISO department. The SD890 is a more well-rounded camera, however, offering a much faster shutter lag than the F100fd and covering much more of the traditional portrait zoom range with its 37-185mm lens.

Pros
  • +
    Covers most of the 50-200mm portrait range
  • +
    Good high ISO performance
Cons
  • -
    Slightly bulky (1.1" thick) for an ultracompact
Canon PowerShot SD890 IS is the Best Ultra Compact Digital Camera for Photos of Children or Pets Under $400
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot SD890 IS
Specifications
  • Zoom: 5.0x
  • Resolution: 10.0MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.7 - 0.8s
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Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • 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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Canon PowerShot SD890 IS
2
Sony Cybershot DSC-T300
3
Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
Customer Rating
Price $389.00 $399.99 $299.95
Size (W x H x D) 3.8 x 2.3 x 1.1 in 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.8 in 3.8 x 2.3 x 0.9 in.
Weight (without batteries) 5.5 oz 5.3 oz 6.0 oz
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
37 mm 33 mm 28 mm
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Max Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
185 mm 165 mm 140 mm
Optical Zoom 5.0x 5.0 x 5.0x
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Image Stabilization Available
Yes Yes Yes
Battery Life 320 shots 260 shots 230 shots
Important Portrait Features
Shutter lag Average Superb Poor
High ISO quality Good Average Superb
People/Pet Portrait Rating Good Good Average
2
Sony Cybershot DSC-T300

The T300 is an ultraslim (0.8” thin) 5x zoom camera, packing a full 33-165mm 5x zoom into one of the smallest camera bodies available. The T300’s 33-165mm range falls short of the traditional 50-200mm range, but also offers some moderate close-up opportunities at the wide-angle end.

The T300 boasts one of the fastest shutter lags on the market, allowing you to snap photos at an instant and precisely time your shots - important for unpredictable pets and children that won’t hold still or keep an expression. The T300’s high ISO ability, however, is slightly below average, resulting in somewhat noisy images if you want to freeze the motion of your kids and pets in low-light situations.

Comparison with Fujifilm FinePix F100fd

Compared to the F100fd, the T300 is missing a few nifty features, including a wider 28mm lens and superb high-ISO ability. While it won’t perform as well in low-light situations, the T300 is still usable, and it does a much better job of quickly snapping photos with precise timing because of its faster shutter lag.

Pros
  • +
    Very compact (0.8" thin) size
  • +
    Near-instant shutter lag
  • +
    Moderate 33mm wide-angle
Cons
  • -
    Below average high ISO
Sony Cybershot DSC-T300 is one of the Best Ultra Compact Digital Cameras for Photos of Children or Pets Under $400
Where to buy
Sony Cybershot DSC-T300
Want More Opinions? See:
3
Fujifilm FinePix F100fd

At first glance, the F100fd seems like a typical ultracompact camera. It packs a 28mm wide-angle lens for interesting close-up portraits, but the rest of its 28-140mm range doesn’t really cover the full range needed for more traditional portraits. The shutter lag of the F100fd is also subpar, making it difficult to react quickly to quick-moving children and pets.

The F100fd’s strong point, however, is its superb high-ISO ability, which is much better than the average non-SLR camera, and will allow you to easily freeze the motion of kids and pets in low-light situations, with minimal noise problems.

At 0.9”, the F100fd is about average size for an ultracompact camera.

Pros
  • +
    28mm wide-angle
  • +
    Superb high-ISO ability
Cons
  • -
    Slow shutter lag
  • -
    28-140mm lens doesn't cover full portrait range
Fujifilm FinePix F100fd is one of the Best Ultra Compact Digital Cameras for Photos of Children or Pets Under $400
Where to buy
Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
  • Best Price: $299
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 5.0x
  • Resolution: 12.0MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.6 - 0.8s
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com

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