Expert Recommendation

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Best Ultra Compact Digital Camera for Travel Photos Under $200 with Waterproof Body
By Fotoguy
Expert (27 Recommendations and 7 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
September 2, 2009 Updated: September 5, 2009
Overview

The Olympus Stylus 550 WP is an economically priced, waterproof to three meters point-and-shoot with an effective 10 megapixel sensor, an equivalent 38-114mm f/3.5-5.0 3X zoom lens that delivers surprisingly good prints up to 8 x 10 inches even at ISO 400, and is a perfect camera choice for a child or teenager or an adult on a budget.

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My Best In Class Pick
Olympus Stylus 550 WP

The Olympus Stylus 550 WP produces suprisingly good images for an under $200 camera, but it’s no speed demon. Power-up to First Shot takes over three seconds! Shutter lag with full auto-focus averages about one. And with a Shot-to-Shot time of a hair under four seconds, rapid sequence shots are out of the question. But if you can get past its slowness, the 550 WP really isn’t all that bad of a camera.

True, it doesn’t have a lot of the features one is accustomed to finding in pricier point-and-shoots like optical image stabilization, long battery life, a fast super wide to tele zoom, HD video, etc. However, if you’re not a feature freak, the 550 WP does have enough suitable features to make your picture taking easy. For example, there are seventeen Shooting modes, seven White Balance settings, Shutter Speeds from 1/2 to 1/1000 second, ISOs 100 to 1600, plus Auto; two Autofocus modes, including Face Detection; four AVI movie modes with sound: 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 at either 30 or 15 frames per second; and a 10-shot Panorama assist mode. There’s also a integrated flash (careful or you’ll cover it with your finger) and 14.8 megabytes of internal memory.

The 6.7 – 20.1mm (38 – 114mm equivalent) f/3.5-5.0 3X zoom lens is a modest performer and well suited to this low cost camera. It does exhibits slight barrel distortion at the wide setting progressing to slight pincushion at tele. Nothing serious, though. Its main caveat is image softness in the corners which occurs at all focal lengths, but due to the 4:3 image sensor format the corners mostly get cropped out when typical sized prints are made. In any case, the softness is slight to moderate and probably wouldn’t be noticeable in normal use. Otherwise, it produces generally sharp images with noise well controlled up to ISO 400. After that image quality degrades rapidly. Overall image color balance is good as is auto-exposure.

So, if you’re looking for an economical, waterproof camera for general watersports–at three meters max depth, it’s not a dive camera–or for just playing around in the swimming pool, then the Olympus Stylus 550 WP might just be the camera you’re looking for.

Pros
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    Price
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    Size
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    Weight
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    Low noise up to ISO 400
Cons
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    No optical viewfinder
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    No true image stabilization
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    Not Shock or Freezeproof
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    Images soft in corners
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    Slow operating
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    Battery life
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    Battery life
Olympus Stylus 550 WP is the Best Ultra Compact Digital Camera for Travel Photos Under $200 with Waterproof Body
Where to buy
Olympus Stylus 550 WP
  • Best Price: $179
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Website Reviews (1 review)

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
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Olympus Stylus 550 WP
2
Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP
Customer Rating
Price $179.98
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Effective Sensor Resolution
10.0 megapixels 10.0 megapixels
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
38 mm 35 mm
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Max Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
114 mm 105 mm
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Max Aperture (wide-angle)
f/3.5 f/3.7
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Max Aperture (tele-photo)
f/5.0 f/4.2
Min Focus Distance (not macro) 19.7 in. 23.6 in.
Min Focus Distance (macro) 2.8 in. 3.1 in.
Max Shutter Speed 1/1000 sec. 1/1000 sec.
Min ISO Setting 100 64
Max ISO Setting 1600 1600
Shockproof No No
Waterproof Yes Yes
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Image Stabilization Available
No No
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Face Detection Available
Yes Yes
Power to First Shot Time 3.3 sec. 2.2 sec.
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Shutter Lag Time (including auto-focus time)
1.0 sec. average 0.67 sec. average
Video Available Yes Yes
HD Video Available No No
Max Video Resolution 640 x 480 pixels 640 x 480 pixels
Max Video Frame Rate (max resolution) 30 fps 30 fps
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Viewfinder Available
No No
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LCD Screen Size
2.5 in. 2.7 in.
LCD Screen Resolution 230,000 pixels 230,000 pixels
Storage Media xD, microSD SDHC, SD, xD
Size (W x H x D) 3.7 x 2.4 x 0.8 in. 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.8 in.
Weight (with batteries) 5.3 oz. 3.9 oz. w/o battery
Battery Life 140 shots 200 shots
2
Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP

The 10 megapixel Fujifilm Finepix Z33WP is a small, economical, waterproof (to 3 meters) camera with about the same specifications, features and price as the Olympus Stylus 550 WP, and is faster operating, but only marginally so. The controls are easy to operate, the battery is rated for 200 exposures, and it has a large 2.7” LCD. The lens, a Fujinon 6.3 - 8.9mm (35 - 105mm 35mm equivalent) f/3.7-4.2, is its primary failing exhibiting objectionable image softness in the corners to the point that it is readily apparent even in a 4” x 6” print. And even though there is little if any barrel or pincushion distortion regardless of focal length, image detail even at the lowest ISOs, 64 or 100, is already quite soft with further degradation due to noise as the ISO increases with images above ISO 400 looking more like illustrations than photographs. Overall color and auto-exposure are good.

Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP is one of the Best Ultra Compact Digital Cameras for Travel Photos Under $200 with Waterproof Body
Where to buy
Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.0x
  • Resolution: 10.0MP
  • Size: 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.8 in.
  • Battery Life: 200 shots
  • Waterproof: Yes
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Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • Rated Good by CNET.com

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