Expert Recommendation

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Best Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Travel Photos Under $400
Expert (88 Recommendations and 32 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
August 24, 2008 Updated: August 25, 2008
Overview

Equipped with a tremendous reach (18x zoom), a sharp lens, and an 8 Megapixel resolution sensor, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 is the perfect travel companion. It has an Auto Mode with lots of Scene Modes for easy operation by novice users, and for advanced users, it has full manual modes and supports a RAW image format.

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My Best In Class Pick
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18

The latest super-zoom with an eye-level viewfinder from Panasonic, the FZ18 packs an 18x zoom lens and an 8.1 megapixel resolution sensor in a compact body. Despite such an ambitious zoom range, the lens produces minimal distortion and retains good corner-to-corner sharpness. The wider end of the zoom range is great for capturing landscapes, while the tele-end will facilitate closer view of distant mountains. Click (here) for more details.

For easy operation it also offers an Intelligent Auto Mode, where the camera sets the appropriate scene mode by automatically selecting it from the most frequently used scene modes, such as Portrait, Scenery, Macro, Night Portrait and Night Scenery.

For advanced users it offers full featured manual controls and the option to shoot in RAW image format (RAW images contain more data and require post processing on computers to convert them to popular JPG format. One can use image editing techniques before JPG conversion to maximize image quality.).

The sharp & versatile zoom range, good battery life, rich feature set catering to both novice and advanced users make it the best in class camera overall.

A minor upgrade, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28, with increased resolution and a slightly wider angle view lens, was recently released and should perform similarly.

Comparison with Canon PowerShot S5 IS

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 is a better and more versatile travel camera with its lower distortion and reduced color fringing problems (red or purple halos around high contrast edges in images), wider angle view with a larger zoom range, and RAW mode.

Comparison with Nikon Coolpix P80

The Panasonic FZ18 has lower distortion, better corner-to-corner sharpness, less image processing artifacts, and a RAW mode.

Pros
  • +
    Versatile zoom range (18x)
  • +
    Superb lens (best in class)
  • +
    rRch feature set catering to novice and advanced users
  • +
    Good battery life
  • +
    RAW mode
Cons
  • -
    Image processing could do with less noise reduction
  • -
    Default contrast is a bit too high
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 is the Best Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Travel Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18
Specifications
  • Zoom: 18.0x
  • Resolution: 8.1MP
  • Size: 4.6 x 3.0 x 3.5 in.
  • Battery Life: 400 shots
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (6 reviews)
  • 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
Best badge
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18
2
Canon PowerShot S5 IS
3
Nikon Coolpix P80
Customer Rating
Price $999.95 $649.00 $846.00
Size (W x H x D) 4.6 x 3.0 x 3.5 in. 4.6 x 3.1 x 3.1 in. 4.3 x 3.1 x 3.1 in.
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Effective Sensor Resolution
8.1 megapixels 8.0 megapixels 10.1 megapixels
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Shutter Lag Time (including auto-focus time)
0.4 - 0.5 sec 0.5 sec 1.1 - 1.4 sec
Power to First Shot Time 3.1 sec 1.7 sec 2.9 sec
Max Video Resolution 848 x 480 pixels 640 x 480 pixels 640 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)
28 mm 36 mm 27 mm
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Max Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
504 mm 432 mm 486 mm
Optical Zoom 18.0x 12.0x 18.0x
Auto Focus Assist Light Available Yes Yes Yes
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Max Aperture (wide-angle)
f/2.8 f/2.7 f/2.8
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Max Aperture (tele-photo)
f/4.2 f/3.5 f/4.5
Aperture Priority Mode Available Yes Yes Yes
LCD Screen Resolution 207000 pixels 207000 pixels 230000 pixels
Battery Type Proprietary Lithium Ion rechargeable AA-size (x4) Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable
Battery Life 400 shots 450 shots 250 shots
Image Quality
lens quality good above average above average
colors & fine details good good above average
shadow details above average good average
2
Canon PowerShot S5 IS

This camera is the latest upgrade in Canon’s highly successful “S” series of super-zooms with a unique swivel LCD. It has an 8 megapixel resolution sensor and a 12x optical zoom lens.The camera features full manual control options.

‘The camera offers a superb movie mode and can be safely considered as a camera & camcorder rolled into one, which is a great convenience when traveling.

The swivel LCD is great for shooting landscapes when using a tripod or taking over-the-head shots of tourist attractions at crowded places.

Battery life is great and image quality is good.

Comparison with Nikon Coolpix P80

The Canon PowerShot S5 IS has a better movie mode, which permits zooming while recording, a swivel LCD, a better corner-to-corner sharpness, and the capability of using an external flash and conversion lenses (via an adapter).

Pros
  • +
    Swivel LCD
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    Ability to zoom while recording movies
  • +
    Sses AA size batteries
  • +
    Good image quality
Cons
  • -
    Wide end of lens could be wider
  • -
    Fringing problems at high contrast edges
Canon PowerShot S5 IS is one of the Best Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Travel Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot S5 IS
Specifications
  • Zoom: 12.0x
  • Resolution: 8.0MP
  • Size: 4.6 x 3.1 x 3.1 in.
  • Battery Life: 450 shots
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (5 reviews)
  • Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
3
Nikon Coolpix P80

The P80 marks Nikon’s entry into the super-zoom category. It offers an 18x zoom lens with a wide angle view and class leading resolution.

The camera comes with many useful features like Face-priority autofocusing (i.e. Face Detection), In-Camera Red-Eye Fix, and D-Lighting (to brighten up details in shadows).

However the images appear to be over-processed, with rough edges and noise reduction artifacts.

Comparison with Sony Cybershot DSC-H50

The Nikon Coolpix P80 has a wider angle and higher zoom lens and less fringing problems.

Pros
  • +
    Versatile zoom range (18x)
  • +
    Rich feature set
Cons
  • -
    Image processing could do with less noise reduction
  • -
    Poor battery life
Nikon Coolpix P80 is one of the Best Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Travel Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Nikon Coolpix P80
Specifications
  • Zoom: 18.0x
  • Resolution: 10.1MP
  • Size: 4.3 x 3.1 x 3.1 in.
  • Battery Life: 250 shots
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (1 review)
4
Sony Cybershot DSC-H50

The Cyber-shot DSC-H50 super zoom is the top of the line camera from Sony. It features a large 3-inch tilting (up & down) LCD screen so you can shoot comfortably from nearly any position, at low and high angles.

Other helpful features include a new D-Range Optimizer (DRO) plus a mode that applies a high image correction algorithm to retrieve more picture details in bright highlights and dark shadows.

However, image quality suffers from higher distortion (bending vertical straight edges) caused by lens and color fringing problems. Even though noise control options are available, the lowest setting still applies excessive noise reduction, which results in images which are devoid of fine details, especially at higher ISOs.

Pros
  • +
    Good zoom range
  • +
    Good movie mode
  • +
    Rich feature set
Cons
  • -
    Color fringing problems
  • -
    High distortion
  • -
    Images lack fine details
Sony Cybershot DSC-H50 is one of the Best Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Travel Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Sony Cybershot DSC-H50
Specifications
  • Zoom: 15.0x
  • Resolution: 9.1MP
  • Size: 4.6 x 3.2 x 3.4 in.
  • Battery Life: 300 shots
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

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