Expert Recommendation

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Best Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Action Photos Under $400
Expert (97 Recommendations and 21 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
August 20, 2008 Updated: August 25, 2008
Overview

Though it won’t come close to producing professional-quality shots like an SLR camera, the Canon S5 is about as close as it gets, with a long range telephoto lenses and fast shutter lag and autofocus that’s about as good as it gets for a non-SLR camera. Though its high-ISO ability and shooting rate are about average, the S5 is a fantastic camera for slower action and daylight situations, and with good timing technique and noise reduction software, it can produce good shots for fast sports and low-light action as well.

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My Best In Class Pick
Canon PowerShot S5 IS

The Canon S5 is an ultrazoom camera from Canon’s long-running S-series. With its far-reaching 432mm image-stabilized telephoto lens, the S5 has plenty of reach for fast-action close-up photos. The lens aperture is very large at f2.7-3.5, helping it take in more light and rely less on blurry long shutter speeds or noisy high-ISOs.

The Canon S5’s high ISO performance is average - using a lighter approach to noise reduction, the S5’s images are extremely grainy but also retain more detail than most cameras. This leaves them less usable straight out of the camera for average users, but easier to work with for advanced users who want to use software to reduce noise.

Autofocusing on the S5 is a bit quicker than most other ultrazooms and should work fine for most action in daylight, though it doesn’t have the kind of SLR speed you need to keep up with the fastest sports, or sports in low-light conditions. Shutter lag is fast for a non-SLR camera, but still too slow to be able to take precisely timed or spur-of-the-moment photos.

The S5 can take photos continuously at 1.5 frames per second, for an unlimited number of photos. While this isn’t particularly fast, it can still help to take multiple shots of an action sequence and then an pick the best photo afterwards.

Comparison with Sony Cybershot DSC-H50

Both the H50 and S5 are versatile, full-featured ultrazoom cameras. Both feature long image-stabilized lenses, as well as average continuous shooting rates. What makes the S5 the better action camera is its larger aperture (better for low-light situations), and faster performance, with a faster shutter lag and autofocusing than the Sony.

Comparison with Sony Cybershot DSC-H10

Though it still offers the long zoom range necessary for sports and also a fast 2fps continuous shooting mode, the H10 simply isn’t nearly as responsive as the S5 - with a long shutter lag and poor autofocus speed, the H10 simply can’t react and snap the same action shots as the S5.

Pros
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    Long 432mm telephoto end
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    Large f2.7-3.5 lens
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    Above average autofocus
  • +
    Above average shutter lag
Cons
  • -
    Grainy (but detailed) high-ISO images
Canon PowerShot S5 IS is the Best Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Action Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot S5 IS
Specifications
  • Zoom: 12.0x
  • Resolution: 8.0MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.5 sec
  • Burst Speed: 1.5 fps
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
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Website Reviews (5 reviews)
  • Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
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Canon PowerShot S5 IS
2
Sony Cybershot DSC-H50
3
Sony Cybershot DSC-H10
Customer Rating
Price $649.00
Size (W x H x D) 4.6 x 3.1 x 3.1 in. 4.6 x 3.2 x 3.4 in. 4.3 x 2.8 x 2.0 in.
Weight (without batteries) 15.7 oz 14.6 oz 9.3 oz
Max Shooting Speed (continuous) 1.5 frames/sec 1.6 frames/sec 2 frames/sec
Max Consecutive Burst Frames Unlimited Unlimited 13 frames
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
36 mm 31 mm 38 mm
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Max Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
432 mm 465 mm 380 mm
Optical Zoom 12.0x 15.0x 10.0x
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Image Stabilization Available
Yes Yes Yes
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Max Aperture (wide-angle)
f/2.7 f/2.7 f/3.5
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Max Aperture (tele-photo)
f/3.5 f/4.5 f/4.4
Battery Life 450 shots 300 shots 310 shots
Important fast action features
Shutter lag Good Average Average
High ISO quality Average Good Good
Autofocus rating Good Average Poor
Fast action rating Good Good Average
2
Sony Cybershot DSC-H50

The newest model in Sony’s long-running H-line of ultrazoom cameras, the H50 is a full-featured do-everything camera that can cover just about anything, including fast action. Its 15x lens covers a huge 31-465mm range, allowing it to easily capture close-ups from far away. The lens aperture is f2.7-4.5, which is about average.

The Sony H50 has slightly above average high ISO ability - while its high ISO images are slightly blotchy, they’re cleaner out-of-the-camera than most others, and will be able to produce usable results when photographing moving subjects in dark conditions. The H50 also has an image-stabilized lens, helping to reduce camera shake, especially at the telephoto end.

Shutter lag and autofocus on the H50 are about average - they’ll perform fine in daylight situations with slower moving subjects, but photographing faster action, especially in low-light situations, will be troublesome.

The H5 can continuously shoot at 1.6 frames per second, for a virtually unlimited number of shots. This is about average, and can help you take a sequence of shots and just select the best one afterwards

Comparison with Sony Cybershot DSC-H10

The H10 has an advantage in its faster 2fps continuous shooting rate, but the H50’s fast autofocus rate is the important attribute here - a series of shots is no good if the images aren’t in focus.

Sony Cybershot DSC-H50 is one of the Best Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Action Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Sony Cybershot DSC-H50
Specifications
  • Zoom: 15.0x
  • Resolution: 9.1MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.5 - 0.9s
  • Burst Speed: 1.6 fps
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
3
Sony Cybershot DSC-H10

The Sony H10 is a compact ultrazoom - a mini-version of the bigger Sony H50. Though its 10x 38-380mm zoom doesn’t reach quite as far, it’s still got plenty of range that should cover most fast action events. The lens aperture is f3.5-4.4, which is about average for an ultrazoom.

The H10 has above average high ISO ability, with images that are fairly clean but not quite as detailed as others.

Shutter lag is about average, while autofocus is a bit slow, especially in low-light situations. While it will work fine in daylight situation, don’t expect the H10 to keep up with fast-moving action or in low-light situations.

The H10 can take photos at a fast 2 frames per second, a useful tool for snapping bursts of photos and selecting the best shot afterwards.

Comparison with Canon PowerShot SX100 IS

The H10 and SX100 are two very similar cameras, both offering long-range telephoto lenses in the upper 300mm range, image stabilization, and ordinary apertures at the telephoto end. The H10’s advantages are its much faster 2fps continuous shooting speed, and stronger noise reduction that produces cleaner photos straight out of the camera.

Sony Cybershot DSC-H10 is one of the Best Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Action Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Sony Cybershot DSC-H10
Specifications
  • Zoom: 10.0x
  • Resolution: 8.1MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.5 - 1.1s
  • Burst Speed: 2.1 fps
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
4
Canon PowerShot SX100 IS

A compact-sized ultrazoom camera, the SX100 features a large 36-360mm (10x) zoom that lets you zoom in close for most fast action events that are far away. With an f2.8-4.3 aperture, the SX100 takes in about an average amount of light.

High-ISO on the SX100 is about average - while images tend to have plenty of detail, they’re also very grainy straight out of the camera, although this can be fixed with noise reduction programs.

Shutter lag is typical for an ultrazoom camera, while autofocus is a bit on the slow side - shooting action in good lighting should be fine, but faster events (race cars or football, for example) and darker lighting (indoors or at night) will be very difficult.

The SX100 takes photos at 1.3 frames per second, which can allow you to take series of photos during an action sequence, but is a bit too slow to be really useful.

Cons
  • -
    Slow 1.3fps continuous shooting
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    Slow autofocus
Canon PowerShot SX100 IS is one of the Best Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Action Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot SX100 IS
  • Best Price: $699
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 10.0x
  • Resolution: 8.0MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.5 sec
  • Burst Speed: 1.1 fps
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

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