Expert Recommendation

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Best Ultra Compact Digital Camera Overall Under $200
Expert (88 Recommendations and 32 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
December 22, 2008 Updated: December 25, 2008
Overview

The Canon SD7700 IS is the best overall affordable ultra compact digital camera. It produces great images, which are rich in colors and fine details, and is one of the few ultra compacts with an optical viewfinder. The build quality is good. The rich feature set makes the camera versatile and generally useful.

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My Best In Class Pick
Canon PowerShot SD770 IS

Canon is the pioneer of the digital camera revolution and is the market leader. The Canon SD770IS is a well-built ultra compact with many useful features. Its optical viewfinder (OVF) will help when tracking subjects and will also help extend the battery life (i.e. one can switch off LCD). The OVF also helps shoot with a stable conventional posture.

Despite its tiny proportions, the lens is one of the best among compacts with good corner-to-corner sharpness. The resulting images are full of fine details and rich colors with minimal noise reduction artifacts.

Other useful features are:

  • Face detection Adjusts exposure based on faces in the scene and removes red-eye automatically. It also adjusts the White Balance and supports Face Select & Track.
  • Motion detection technology Combining inputs from its Face Detection Technology, the optical Image Stabilizer, changes in scene brightness and changes from frame to frame, it raises the ISO setting to freeze the action.
  • LP (Long Play) VGA movie mode, which utilizes more efficient compression for movie clips and therefore requires less memory card space than the normal VGA mode.
  • 5” LCD with wide viewing angle

Overall this ultra compact provides the best value because of its best-in-class image quality and feature set.

Comparison with Sony Cybershot DSC-W150

The Canon SD770 IS has better low light performance & image quality (better corner sharpness, more fine details in its images).

Comparison with Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS5

The Canon PowerShot SD770 IS delivers images with less noise reduction artifacts and has a greater battery life, in large part because of the availability of an optical viewfinder.

Pros
  • +
    Good corner to corner sharpness in images
  • +
    Good image quality (good colors, minimal processing artifacts)
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    Above average low light performance upto ISO800
  • +
    Optical Image Stabilization
  • +
    Optical view-finder
  • +
    High Resolution LCD (230K pixels)
  • +
    Good performance (speed of operation)
Cons
  • -
    Wide end of the lens could have been more wider
  • -
    Lacks Aperture/Shutter priority modes
Canon PowerShot SD770 IS is the Best Ultra Compact Digital Camera Overall Under $200
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot SD770 IS
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: No
  • Resolution: 10.0MP
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Website Reviews (1 review)
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
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Canon PowerShot SD770 IS
2
Sony Cybershot DSC-W150
3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS5
Customer Rating
Price $244.00
Size (W x H x D) 3.4 x 2.1 x 0.8 in. 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 3.7 x 2.1 x 0.9 in.
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Sensor Size
6.0 x 4.5 mm 5.8 x 4.3 mm 6.0 x 4.4 mm
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Effective Sensor Resolution
10.0 megapixels 8.1 megapixels 10.1 megapixels
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Shutter Lag Time (including auto-focus time)
0.4 - 0.6 sec 0.3 - 0.6 sec 0.3 - 0.6 sec
Max Shooting Speed (continuous) 1.5 frames/sec 2.3 frames/sec 1.4 frames/sec
Max Video Resolution 640 x 480 pixels 640 x 480 pixels 848 x 480 pixels
Max Video Frame Rate (max resolution) 30 frames/sec 30 frames/sec 30 frames/sec
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
35 mm 30 mm 30 mm
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Max Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
105 mm 150 mm 120 mm
Optical Zoom 3.0x 5.0x 4.0x
Auto Focus Assist Light Available Yes Yes Yes
Min Focus Distance (not macro) 11.8 in. 3.9 in. 19.7 in.
Min Focus Distance (macro) 1.2 in. - 2.0 in.
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Max Aperture (wide-angle)
f/2.8 f/3.3 f/3.3
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Max Aperture (tele-photo)
f/4.9 f/5.2 f/5.8
Max ISO Setting 1600 3200 6400 (reduced resolution after 1600)
Max Usable ISO (subjective) 800 400 400
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Viewfinder Available
Yes Yes No
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LCD Screen Size
2.5 in. 2.7 in. 2.5 in.
LCD Screen Resolution 230000 pixels 230000 pixels 230000 pixels
Storage Media SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick PRO Duo SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card
Image Quality
Lens Quality Very good good very good
Image quality (noise reduction artifacts) very good above average good
2
Sony Cybershot DSC-W150

Sony is one of the leading manufacturer of compact cameras. This is their model in the W series of cameras, which come with an optical viewfinder. The camera has a lot of things going for it with a 5x wider (than normal) angle zoom, fast operation, good build quality and good resolution. However the camera produces images with a slight blurring in the corners and applies slightly too much noise reduction, especially at higher ISOs, which destroys subtle color gradations (e.g. skin tones) and fine details a bit more than average.

The image quality and large zoom range earn it second place.

Comparison with Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS5

The Sony Cybershot W150 has more zoom and an optical viewfinder.

Pros
  • +
    Wider angle 5x zoom (32-128mm)
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    Optical viewfinder
  • +
    Image stabilization
  • +
    Well built
Cons
  • -
    Blurring of fine details near corners
  • -
    Excessive noise reduction at high ISOs.
Sony Cybershot DSC-W150 is one of the Best Ultra Compact Digital Cameras Overall Under $200
Where to buy
Sony Cybershot DSC-W150
Specifications
  • Zoom: 5.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 30mm (17% wider)
  • Resolution: 8.1MP
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (1 review)
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS5

Panasonic cameras are renowned for high performance (shutter response and focus speeds) and sharp lenses . This is one of the two cameras in the recently launched FS series (easy to use, affordable and stylish). The camera is equipped with a 4x zoom lens and is a snappy performer. The latest image processing Venus Engine IV produces minimal color bleeding, which was an issue with earlier models. Noise reduction is still a bit too high at higher ISOs, which can turn areas of fine details into a colorful mush a bit more than many of its rivals.

The camera is equipped with useful features like: Intelligent ISO – in this mode the camera can determine if the photo subject is moving and change the ISO setting and shutter speed accordingly, thus giving a blur-free photo.

Face Detection – Detecting up to 15 faces, Panasonic’s Face Detection can even track a face if the subject is moving.

Quick AF – The Quick AF (auto focus) system starts focus on the subject by just pointing the camera to the subject, thus minimizing the AF time.

Pros
  • +
    Good performance
  • +
    Rich feature set
  • +
    sharp lens with wide angle view
  • +
    Well built
Cons
  • -
    Too High noise reduction at higher ISOs
  • -
    No Optical viewfinder
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS5 is one of the Best Ultra Compact Digital Cameras Overall Under $200
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS5
Specifications
  • Zoom: 4.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 30mm (17% wider)
  • Resolution: 10.1MP
More
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