Expert Recommendation

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Best Ultra Compact Digital Camera Overall Under $1000
Expert (88 Recommendations and 32 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
December 15, 2008 Updated: December 1, 2009
Overview

Equipped with a stupendous 14.7 Megapixels resolution sensor, a sharp lens and the latest DIGIC IV image processing engine, the Canon PowerShot SD990 IS produces stunning images with lots of detail and rich colors. Well built and featuring manual modes and a rich feature set, the Canon SD990 IS is the best in class ultra compact camera for a variety of situations.

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My Best In Class Pick
Canon PowerShot SD990 IS

The Canon SD990 IS is the top-of-line ultra compact from the market leader. The camera has an optical viewfinder, which is uncommon for ultra compacts. It is a great feature for keeping track of moving subjects and also for framing under the bright sun when images on LCDs appear washed out. It is the first camera in the highly successful SD series to offer manual modes, providing full control over shutter speed and the aperture.

The camera offers class-leading resolution and features a sharp lens to match it.

Equipped with the latest DIGIC IV processor, it has managed to strike a good balance between noise and rich detail at high ISOs. So, high ISO images are relatively clean and retain enough detail for mid-sized prints (up to 8”x10” size), which is unusual for such a small sensor camera.

Overall the default image quality is best in class with rich colors and plenty of fine details.

With a rich feature set, optical viewfinder, good image quality because of the DIGIC IV processor, and nice built quality makes it a great camera for everyone to handle a variety of situations. Even after more than a year since its launch, it still remains top pick among ultra-compacts.

Comparison with Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX150

The Canon SD990 IS has cleaner high ISO images and has an optical viewfinder. The images are more natural looking with minimal artifacts. However, the Panasonic FX150 has a RAW mode, which is desirable feature for most experienced photographers as it makes it possible to get the best image quality during post processing.

Comparison with Fujifilm FinePix F200EXR

High resolution, optical viewfinder, brighter lens at wide-end of zoom, less image processing artifacts. However F200EXR does offer wider angle view and slightly higher zoom range.

Pros
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    Best in class resolution
  • +
    Good image quality
  • +
    Optical viewfinder
  • +
    Rich feature set
  • +
    Well built
  • +
    Good high ISO performance
Cons
  • -
    wide end of zoom could have been wider
  • -
    Thicker than others in class
  • -
    Missing RAW mode
Canon PowerShot SD990 IS is the Best Ultra Compact Digital Camera Overall Under $1000
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot SD990 IS
  • Best Price: $699
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.7x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: No
  • Resolution: 14.7MP
More
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 SD990 IS
2
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX150
3
Fujifilm FinePix F200EXR
Customer Rating
Price $699.00 $399.95
Size (W x H x D) 3.8 x 2.4 x 1.1 in. 3.8 x 2.1 x 1.0 in. 3.8 x 2.3 x 0.9 in.
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Sensor Size
7.6 x 5.7 mm 7.5 x 5.6 mm 7.8 x 5.8 mm
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Effective Sensor Resolution
14.7 megapixels 14.7 megapixels 12.0 megapixels
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Shutter Lag Time (including auto-focus time)
0.4-0.6 sec 0.3 - 0.6 sec 0.5 - 0.6 sec
Max Video Resolution 640 x 480 pixels 1280 x 720 pixels 640 x 480 pixels
Max Video Frame Rate (max resolution) 30 frames/sec 24 frames/sec 30 frames/sec
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
36 mm 28 mm 28 mm
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Max Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
133 mm 100 mm 140 mm
Optical Zoom 3.7x 3.6x 5.0x
Min Focus Distance (not macro) 19.7 in. 19.7 in. 17.7 in.
Min Focus Distance (macro) 2.0 in. 2.0 in. 2.0 in.
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Max Aperture (wide-angle)
f/2.8 f/2.8 f/3.3
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Max Aperture (tele-photo)
f/5.8 f/5.6 f/5.1
Max Usable ISO (subjective) 1600 800 1600
Full Manual Exposure Mode Available Yes Yes Yes
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Viewfinder Available
Yes No No
Sensor Raw Format Available No Yes No
2
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX150

Panasonic is quickly catching up with other leading camera manufacturers and is working hard to improve its image processing with successive launches. This camera is one of their latest additions to their FX series of premium ultra compacts. This camera also offers class-leading resolution and has a sharp wide angle lens which produces minimal barrel distortion at the wide end of the zoom range. It features a manual mode, which you can use to control the shutter speed.

The camera uses a bit less noise reduction than usual at high ISOs. As a result the images are grainy but retain slightly more detail than others in its class.

It offers a RAW mode too making it the only camera with this feature in this price range. The RAW mode is a desirable feature because one can get better image quality later during the image conversion to a more popular image format (e.g. JPG or TIFF) after adjusting white balance (e.g. remove unnatural color cast due to artificial lighting), applying noise reduction using the supplied software (or third party software, e.g. Noise Ninja). It also helps recover blown out highlights to some extent (as compared to JPG images from camera).

Great resolution, sharp lens, and RAW mode makes it the preferred choice of photography enthusiasts.

Pros
  • +
    Best in class resolution
  • +
    More fine details at high ISO
  • +
    Rich feature set including RAW mode
  • +
    versatile zoom range
  • +
    Well built
Cons
  • -
    More noise at higher ISOs
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX150 is one of the Best Ultra Compact Digital Cameras Overall Under $1000
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX150
  • Best Price: $399
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.6x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 28mm (25% wider)
  • Resolution: 14.7MP
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (1 review)
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
3
Fujifilm FinePix F200EXR

For the last few years, the Fuji F series cameras, equipped with Super CCD sensors, have become synonymous with good image quality in low light. This camera is one of the latest additions to this series. It packs a unique Super CCD EXR sensor and a 5x wide angle zoom lens in a sturdy body. Its sensor sensor can use data from adjacent pixels to produce either lower resolution (6MP) low noise images or lower resolution images with high dynamic range (tonal gradations).

The camera will please photography enthusiasts with its manual, and aperture/shutter priority modes (although one can choose only one of the two aperture settings). However novice users will be equally at home by leaving the camera in EXR mode . It provides great value for the price. But for the missing RAW mode and limited control over aperture settings, it would have been been top choice.

Comparison with Fujifilm FinePix F100fd

Slightly lower noise at high ISOs, A/S priority modes, unique EXR sensor.

Pros
  • +
    Good image quality
  • +
    High resolution
  • +
    Rich feature set
  • +
    Clean high ISO images
Cons
  • -
    Lacks optical viewfinder
  • -
    Lacks RAW mode
Fujifilm FinePix F200EXR is one of the Best Ultra Compact Digital Cameras Overall Under $1000
Where to buy
Fujifilm FinePix F200EXR
Specifications
  • Zoom: 5.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 28mm (25% wider)
  • Resolution: 12.0MP
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (3 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Rated Excellent by CNET.com
4
Fujifilm FinePix F100fd

It packs a high resolution 8th generation Super CCD sensor and a 5x wide angle zoom lens in a sturdy body.

The camera is a predecessor to Fujifilm F200EXR, however it lacks modes like aperture/shutter priority or full manual, which is a limitation for many experienced users.

Comparison with Fujifilm FinePix F70EXR

Better resolution, better optics.

Pros
  • +
    Good image quality
  • +
    High resolution
  • +
    Rich feature set
Cons
  • -
    Lacks optical viewfinder
  • -
    Lacks manual modes & RAW mode
Fujifilm FinePix F100fd is one of the Best Ultra Compact Digital Cameras Overall Under $1000
Where to buy
Fujifilm FinePix F100fd
  • Best Price: $299
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 5.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 28mm (25% wider)
  • Resolution: 12.0MP
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
5
Fujifilm FinePix F70EXR

This ultra compact camera packs in 10x zoom in its 1” thick shell. The camera is also equipped with latest super CCD EXR sensor. However at wide end of zoom the images are soft especially around the corners and aggressive noise reduction further obliterates fine details even at base ISO. The image quality improves as you zoom in. Good choice for someone who wants a closer picture from safe distance.

Among plenty of scene modes thee is unique “Pro Lowlight Mode”, wherein the camera will take burst of 4 high sensitivity images in quick succession. By Multi Frame Technology, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th images are overlapped to create one image with lower noise.

Pros
  • +
    10x zoom in ultra-compact body
  • +
    rich feature set
Cons
  • -
    aggressive noise reduction even at base ISO
  • -
    images lacks corner to corner sharpness especially at wide end of zoom
Fujifilm FinePix F70EXR is one of the Best Ultra Compact Digital Cameras Overall Under $1000
Where to buy
Fujifilm FinePix F70EXR
  • Best Price: $145
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 10.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 27mm (30% wider)
  • Resolution: 10.0MP
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (1 review)
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

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