Expert Recommendation

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Best Digital Camera for Action Photos Under $250
Expert (97 Recommendations and 21 Compliments)
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March 12, 2009
Overview

Though it’s no longer the newest compact ultrazoom on the block, Canon’s SX110 is still a full-featured, quality camera that adequately fulfills the two biggest criteria for fast action photos - a long telephoto lens for close-up shots (the SX110 has a 360mm telephoto) and decent high-ISO ability to freeze motion in its tracks.

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My Best In Class Pick
Canon PowerShot SX110 IS

Canon’s SX110 is part of a new segment of “compact” ultrazoom cameras. While its big 10x zoom lens reaches as far as 360mm - providing plenty of range for most action situations - the entire camera fits neatly into a 1.8 in. thin frame that can be taken just about anywhere.

Speed-wise, the SX110 has about average shutter lag and autofocus, so precisely timing shots or tracking fast subjects may be difficult. The SX110 shoots at 1.2 frames per second, which isn’t really fast enough to cover moments of action with a burst of shots.

Low-light ability on the SX110 is above-average. The SX110’s image-stabilized lens helps to reduce camera shake, and high-ISO quality is decent - good enough to freeze fast motion in slightly low-light situations without producing unusably noisy photos.

Comparison with Fujifilm FinePix S2000HD

The Fuji S2000 boasts a longer telephoto range than the Canon SX110, but that’s where its advantages end. The SX110 beats out the S2000HD in every other area, most importantly in high-ISO performance, where the SX110 can produce much more detailed images while freezing the fast motion. The SX110 is also significantly more portable than the S2000HD.

Comparison with Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ4

Though the SX110 and TZ4 are both versatile compacts offering large 10x zoom ranges, each caters to a different area. While the TZ4 offers a 28-280mm range with a more flexible wide-angle end, the SX110 offers more telephoto reach with its 36-360mm range, achieving better close-ups for far-away action subjects.

Pros
  • +
    Above-average high-ISO quality
Cons
  • -
    Slow 1.2 fps continuous shooting
Canon PowerShot SX110 IS is the Best Digital Camera for Action Photos Under $250
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot SX110 IS
Specifications
  • Zoom: 10.0x
  • Resolution: 9.0MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.6 sec
  • Burst Speed: 1.2 fps
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Website Reviews (4 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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Canon PowerShot SX110 IS
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Fujifilm FinePix S2000HD
3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ4
Customer Rating
Price $549.99 $180.30
Size (W x H x D) 4.4 x 2.8 x 1.8 in. 4.4 x 3.1 x 3.0 in. 4.1 x 2.3 x 1.4 in.
Weight (without batteries) 8.6 oz 13.6 oz 7.3 oz
Max Shooting Speed (burst) 1.3 frames/sec 1.1 frames/sec 3 frames/sec
Max Consecutive Burst Frames Unlimited 3 frames 4 frames
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
36 mm 27.6mm 28 mm
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Max Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
360 mm 414mm 280 mm
Optical Zoom 10.0x 15x 10.0x
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Image Stabilization Available
Yes Yes Yes
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Max Aperture (wide-angle)
f/2.8 f/3.5 f/3.3
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Max Aperture (tele-photo)
f/4.3 f/5.4 f/4.9
Battery Life 400 shots 400 shots 300 shots
High ISO quality Average Average Poor
Shutter lag Average Average Good
Fast Action Rating Good Good Average
2
Fujifilm FinePix S2000HD

With its huge 414mm telephoto lens, Fujifilm’s S2000HD has one of the longest reaches of any budget ultrazoom on the market, enabling it to cover everything from short-range indoor sports to long-distance action that stretches across fields or racetracks.

Performance-wise, the S2000HD is a little above average; while the camera isn’t blazingly fast at locking onto a subject and snapping away, it should be sufficiently responsive for most situations. The S2000HD can shoot burst of shots at a nearly useless 1.1 fps speed, but also has higher-speed modes that can shoot at extremely fast 6.8 and 13.5 fps, although both operate at lower resolution.

Low-light performance is about average - while the S2000HD does feature an image stabilization system to reduce camera shake, its high-ISO performance is middle of the pack, producing moderately blotchy photos when trying to freeze fast motion.

Comparison with Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ4

The S2000HD just edges out Panasonic’s TZ4 in a number of areas, with slightly better high-ISO image quality and a much longer telephoto range. The TZ4 does trounce the S2000HD in a handful areas, such as faster shutter lag/autofocus performance, much, much faster continuous shooting, and perhaps most importantly, a more travel-friendly size. Simply for telephoto reach and close-up ability, the S2000HD is a better action camera by a hair, although the TZ4 is a worthy alternative if you’re looking to shoot quick or unpredictable subjects (children, animals, fast action), or if you’re simply looking for something more portable.

Pros
  • +
    Long 414mm telephoto
Cons
  • -
    Slow 1.1 fps continuous shooting
  • -
    Below-average high-ISO
Fujifilm FinePix S2000HD is one of the Best Digital Cameras for Action Photos Under $250
Where to buy
Fujifilm FinePix S2000HD
  • Best Price: $180
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 15.3x
  • Resolution: 10.0MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.4 - 0.8s
  • Burst Speed: 0.5 fps
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3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ4

The budget TZ4 doesn’t quite have all the features of the ideal fast action camera. Its 280mm telephoto lens is a bit short for getting good close-ups of action scenes from a distance, although it’s definitely still usable. The TZ4’s slightly below-average high-ISO quality also limits its ability to freeze action, especially in lower light situations.

Despite, this, the TZ4 does have a few redeeming features. It’s only 1.4” thick, making it a very portable camera that can be taken just about anywhere. Its 3fps burst mode is also significantly faster than most other cameras, and is great for snapping a series of shots and picking out the best one later. And though its 280mm lens isn’t the longest one around, it still provides significantly more reach than your average budget camera.

Pros
  • +
    1.4 in. thick
  • +
    3fps burst mode
  • +
    Good shutter lag
Cons
  • -
    Below-average high-ISO
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ4 is one of the Best Digital Cameras for Action Photos Under $250
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ4
Specifications
  • Zoom: 10.0x
  • Resolution: 8.1MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.7 sec
  • Burst Speed: 3.6 fps
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