Expert Recommendation

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Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Action Photos Under $400
Expert (97 Recommendations and 21 Compliments)
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December 1, 2007 Updated: December 7, 2007
Overview

For a demanding goal like sports, an ultracompact camera is usually going to result in compromises. Like most other compact cameras, the Sony T200 compromises in lens reach - its 35-175mm (5x) zoom lens doesn’t quite zoom far enough to get really good fast action or sports close-ups, but other competitors don’t get much farther anyway; you won’t find anything close to the big 10x ultrazooms in an ultracompact body. Despite this one drawback, the Sony T200 has just about everything else you’ll want in a fast action camera, with one of the smallest shutter lag speeds and best continuous shooting of any ultracompact camera, and decent high ISO performance that’s capable of freezing fast action motion in good lighting.

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My Best In Class Pick
Sony Cybershot DSC-T200

With ultracompact cameras, you’re always going to have compromises in capability, especially for a demanding use goal like fast action. None of the lenses in this range have a particularly long telephoto zoom lens that is needed for fast action (the Casio V8 almost gets there), and none of the cameras mentioned here have the high ISO abilities needed to freeze fast motion with good results, especially in dark indoor or night lighting.

Of the cameras mentioned here, the Sony T200 is the most capable - its 175mm lens isn’t really long enough, but its average high ISO can freeze subjects well in daylight situations, and its shutter lag and continuous shooting speeds are some of the best in this class. While the Casio V8 has a longer zoom lens, it lacks in all other areas, most notably in its high ISO ability, where the images it produces will be very noisy even in daylight, and completely unusable in low-light situations.

Sony Cybershot DSC-T200 is the Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Action Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Sony Cybershot DSC-T200
Specifications
  • Zoom: 5.0x
  • Resolution: 8.1MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.4 - 1.2s
  • Burst Speed: 2.2 fps
  • Easy to Use: Yes
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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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Sony Cybershot DSC-T200
2
Casio EXILIM Hi-Zoom EX-V8
3
Olympus Stylus 820
Customer Rating
Price $149.99 $237.99
Size (W x H x D) 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.8 in. 3.76 x 2.35 x 1.0 in 3.8 x 2.2 x 1.0 in
Weight (without batteries) 5.6 oz 5.3 oz 4.4 oz
Max Shooting Speed (continuous) 2.2fps, unlimited 1fps, unlimited 7fps for 11 (reduced resolution)
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
35 - 175 mm (5x) 38 - 266 mm (7x) 36 - 180 mm (5x)
Storage Media Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick PRO Duo SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card
Battery Life 250 shots 240 shots 300 shots
Max Usable ISO (subjective) ISO400 ISO200 ISO400
Shutter Lag Rating Superb Good Poor
Autofocus Rating Average Average Average
Fast Action Rating Average Poor Poor
2
Casio EXILIM Hi-ZOOM EX-V8

Despite its small 1 in. thick size, the Casio V8 packs the largest zoom lens of any ultracompact on the market, with a 38-266mm (7x) zoom lens that is just about long enough for zooming in on sports and fast action photos.

The Casio V8 has below average high ISO - even in daylight situations it will produce photos that are noisy and blotchy, and it’s almost useless for any kind of fast action in low-light situations. The V8 can continuously take photos at 1 frame per second. This is about average for a camera in this class, but not enough to make a difference - within that 1 second, the action will have already elapsed.

The V8’s autofocus, like many other consumer cameras, will barely be able to keep up with the fastest action in daylight, but is simply not fast enough to focus on fast-action in low-light situations. The V8’s shutter lag is very good, and you shouldn’t experience many significant delays.

Casio EXILIM Hi-Zoom EX-V8 is one of the Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Action Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Casio EXILIM Hi-Zoom EX-V8
  • Best Price: $149
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Specifications
  • Zoom: 7.0x
  • Resolution: 8.1MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.2 - 0.4s
  • Burst Speed: 0.6 fps
  • Easy to Use: Yes
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3
Olympus Stylus 820

The Olympus Stylus 820 is a 5x zoom, ultracompact camera from Olympus’ mju line of weatherproof camera (with an IPX4 weatherproof rating, the 820 can withstand direct splashes of water). The 820’s 36-180mm zoom lens isn’t quite long enough to get good close-ups of sports photos, but it will do a lot better than ordinary 3x zoom cameras.

The Olympus 820’s high ISO images are simply average - fast action images in daylight might be a little noisy, and photos in low-light will be unusably noisy. The manufacturer’s information doesn’t specify what its continuous shooting rate is, but the Olympus 820 does have a “high speed” mode that can take up to 11 photos at 7 frames a second, albeit at lower 3 megapixel resolution. Although image quality won’t be great, this is extremely fast, and will allow you to take a quick burst and pick and choose the best shots or peak moments afterwards. The Olympus 820’s shutter lag is a bit below average, which may make it difficult to capture precisely-timed shots, although this is less of an issue if you just continuously shoot a burst of photos.

Olympus Stylus 820 is one of the Best Ultra Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Action Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Olympus Stylus 820
Specifications
  • Zoom: 4.7x
  • Resolution: 8.0MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.5 - 1.3s
  • Burst Speed: 0.3 fps
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
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Website Reviews (1 review)
  • Rated Good by CNET.com

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