Expert Recommendation

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Best Compact Digital Camera for Travel Photos Under $400
Expert (53 Recommendations and 31 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
December 9, 2009 Updated: December 10, 2009
Overview

When taking pictures is an integral part of your next trip, the Pentax X70 has everything you’ll need to get the shot. Whether you’re after distant wildlife or festive nightlife, this lightweight, easy to carry camera has the tools built in to give you excellent results. That’s what makes the X70 my Best in Class pick.

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My Best In Class Pick
Pentax X70

One of the best rules of traveling with a camera is to keep it long (lens) and light (weight). The ability to have everything in one robust package is what makes the Pentax X70 just the answer for going by that simple, golden rule.

In this first camera in Pentax’ X series, you will find a 24x megazoom lens (26mm-624mm equivalent), a 12mp imaging sensor, an auto sensitivity control range that can go up to 6400 ISO for low light photography, HD video and shutter, aperture and manual controls all wrapped up in a compact body that you can take anywhere.

And for ease of operation, the X70 has an electronic viewfinder, a 2.7” LCD screen, fast tracking auto focus, face detection for up to 32 faces and an auto picture mode that lets the camera choose the proper settings under a wide variety of situations. Sometimes, letting the camera do the work is just as relaxing as getting away.

With the X70, you will find that the shake reduction function works in both still and video modes, a real plus when taking advantage of the huge zoom this camera offers. The CCD shift-type image stabilization is also good for taking low light images, allowing you a couple of extra stops of sensitivity.

Although you’ll surely find more uses than I’ve listed here, this is a must have camera when traveling light is on the itinerary.

Comparison with Olympus SP-590UZ

The SP-590UZ may have a little more zoom, but it doesn’t have HD video, something I like when shooting far-off places might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I also prefer having the rechargeable battery and charger that comes with the camera. Getting an extra battery(s) is crucial either way.

Comparison with Fujifilm FinePix S1500

Not as much zoom as the X70, the S1500 is an otherwise good camera for travel. No HD video makes it a lesser choice for travel purposes.

Pros
  • +
    Lots of zoom
  • +
    Electronic viewfinder
  • +
    HD video
  • +
    Auto picture mode
  • +
    Manual controls
Cons
  • -
    Battery life limited
  • -
    No diopter on EVF
Pentax X70 is the Best Compact Digital Camera for Travel Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Pentax X70
Recommended with
  • TechFuel® Battery for Pentax X70 Digital Camera
    $8.95 @ Amazon.com
Specifications
  • Zoom: 24.0x
  • Resolution: 12.0MP
  • Size: 4.4 x 3.2 x 3.9 in.
  • Battery Life: 170 shots
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (1 review)
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
Best badge
Pentax X70
2
Olympus SP-590UZ
3
Fujifilm FinePix S1500
Customer Rating
Price $449.85 $390.81
Camera Format Electronic Viewfinder Electronic Viewfinder Electronic Viewfinder
Size (W x H x D) 4.4 x 3.2 x 3.9 in. 4.3 x 3.5 x 3.9 in. 4.0 x 2.9 x 2.7 in.
Weight (with batteries) 14.5 oz 14.6 oz 12.2 oz
Easy to Use Yes Yes Yes
Max Shooting Speed (continuous) 0.3 frames/sec 0.5 frames/sec 1.6 frames/sec
Video Available Yes Yes Yes
HD Video Available Yes No No
Optical Zoom 24.0x 26.0x 12.0x
?
Image Stabilization Available
Yes Yes Yes
?
Max Aperture (wide-angle)
f/2.8 f/2.8 f/2.8
Aperture Priority Mode Available Yes Yes Yes
Shutter Priority Mode Available Yes Yes Yes
Full Manual Exposure Mode Available Yes Yes Yes
?
Face Detection Available
Yes Yes Yes
?
LCD Screen Size
2.7 in. 2.7 in. 2.7 in.
Storage Media SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card xD-Picture Card SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card, xD-Picture Card
Battery Type Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable AA-size (x4) AA-size (x4)
?
Effective Sensor Resolution
12.0 megapixels 12.0 megapixels 10.0 megapixels
2
Olympus SP-590UZ

Sporting an Ultra-zoom 26x lens that starts down in the 26mm end and goes all the way out to 676mm with a range of f/2.8 - f/5.0, the Olympus SP-590UZ is a must-have compact camera for your next travel expedition.

The SP-590UZ also features a 12mp CCD imaging sensor, a large 2.7” HyperCrystal II LCD screen, Dual Image Stabilisation and Advanced Face Detection technology that can recognize up to 16 individuals. Movies are shot at 30 fps in VGA resolution.

And whether you want to use your camera as an easy to carry SLR or an easy to use automatic point and shoot, the 590 offers Manual, Shutter Priority or Aperture Priority modes or, choose from one of 18 different shooting modes to free you up for more important things, like adjusting your saddle or baiting your hook.

Be sure to carry extra AA batteries too, you don’t want to run out when you see all the potential this camera has to offer.

Comparison with Fujifilm FinePix S1500

The 590 has much more zoom than the S1500 and more ISO functionality. The S1500 is priced right though, if it’s going to be your second camera.

Pros
  • +
    Electronic viewfinder
  • +
    Lots of zoom
  • +
    Lightweight and portable
  • +
    Perfect Shot preview
Cons
  • -
    Uses only XD cards or has a mini SD adapter
  • -
    No HD video
Olympus SP-590UZ is one of the Best Compact Digital Cameras for Travel Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Olympus SP-590UZ
  • Best Price: $449
    Amazon See It »
Recommended with
  • Sanyo Eneloop 4 Pack AA NiMH Pre-Charged Rechargable Batteries w/ Charger
    $17.60 @ Amazon.com
Specifications
  • Zoom: 26.0x
  • Resolution: 12.0MP
  • Size: 4.3 x 3.5 x 3.9 in.
  • Battery Life: 600 shots
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (1 review)
  • Rated Good by CNET.com
3
Fujifilm FinePix S1500

For an easy to hold, image stabilized camera with a long zoom lens for taking along on trips, the Fuji FinePix S1500 is a great choice at a great price.

Featuring dual image stabilization, a high ISO (6400 at 3mp) and a generous f/2.8 (wide angle) aperture, you can expect to get excellent low light images like a well-lit skyline at night or a nice sunset on a busy harbor area. Load the S1500 up with AA Lithium batteries and expect to get up to 700 shots.

Built with a 10mp imaging sensor, 12x optical zoom (33mm-396mm equivalent), a 2.7” LCD screen and an electronic viewfinder, the S1500 weighs in at a stingy 11.5 oz’s. Ideal for moving about in strange locations without drawing attention to yourself as the typical “tourist”.

In addition to great styling, the S1500 also boasts many automatic features as well as manual ones accessed by easy to use controls. Treat the S1500 like an SLR by using Program, Aperture, Shutter or Manual mode or, leave it on Scene Recognition AUTO to take advantage of 16 pre-set scene modes.

Pros
  • +
    Electronic viewfinder
  • +
    Lightweight
  • +
    Easy to use controls
  • +
    Panoramic mode
  • +
    Manual control
Cons
  • -
    No HD video
  • -
    Could use more wide angle
Fujifilm FinePix S1500 is one of the Best Compact Digital Cameras for Travel Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Fujifilm FinePix S1500
Recommended with
  • Sanyo Eneloop 4 Pack AA NiMH Pre-Charged Rechargable Batteries w/ Charger
    $17.60 @ Amazon.com
Specifications
  • Zoom: 12.0x
  • Resolution: 10.0MP
  • Size: 4.0 x 2.9 x 2.7 in.
  • Battery Life: 700 shots
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (1 review)
  • Rated Good by CNET.com

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