Expert Recommendation

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Best Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Action Photos Under $750
Expert (97 Recommendations and 21 Compliments)
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November 12, 2007 Updated: November 28, 2007
Overview

For fast-action photography, there’s simply no better camera than Canon’s Rebel XTi, which brings the best autofocus system, best motion-freezing high ISO, and fastest-focusing lens in this price range. The only drawback of the Rebel XTi is its somewhat high cost - if your budget is strictly set at $750, there won’t be enough money left to purchase a more standard lens that makes the Rebel XTi useful for everyday photography as well. Bumping up your budget by about $50, or using the camera solely for fast-action, solves this problem, or otherwise the older Canon Rebel XT is an almost as capable camera for a much cheaper price.

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My Best In Class Pick
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi (Body Only)

Canon’s Rebel XTi is by far the best fast-action camera on the market today for this price range - not only does it have one of the best high ISO, continuous shooting rates, and autofocus systems in this class, it can also be used with the very long, fast-focusing, yet very affordable Canon 75-300 USM lens.

The one drawback of the Rebel XTi is its high price, which precludes buying a more standard lens for “normal” (non-fast action) usage. If you’re willing to bump your budget up to about $800, you can purchase both the kit lens and the 75-300 USM lens, allowing you to use the XTi for everyday photography as well. Otherwise, if you want a camera that is also useful for everyday shooting, the cheaper Rebel XT (with both the 18-55 kit lens and the 75-300 USM telephoto lens) is also a great choice, with the same superb action-freezing high ISO and fast-focusing lens, but a slightly less capable autofocus system.

Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi (Body Only) is the Best Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Action Photos Under $750
Where to buy
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi (Body Only)
Specifications
  • Resolution: 10.1MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.2 sec
  • Burst Speed: 3.0 fps
  • Easy to Use: No
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (6 reviews)
  • Highly 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
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Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi (Body Only)
2
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT (Body Only)
3
Pentax K100D (Body Only)
Customer Rating
Price $950.00
Size (W x H x D) 5.0 x 3.7 x 2.6 in. 5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in. 5.1 x 3.6 x 2.8 in.
Weight (without batteries) 17.8 oz 17.0 oz 19.8 oz
Max Shooting Speed (continuous) 3 fps for first 28 3 fps for first 14 2.8 fps for first 5
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
120-480mm 120-480mm 105-450mm
Storage Media CompactFlash Card, MicroDrive CompactFlash Card, MicroDrive SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card
Battery Type Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable AA-size (x4) or CR-V3 (x2)
Battery Life 370 shots 400 shots 300 shots
Max ISO Setting Superb Superb Good
Autofocus Rating Superb Good Average
Fast Action Rating Superb Good Average
2
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT (with 18-55mm Lens)

In the Digital SLR world, Canon cameras have long been known to be the king of low-noise sensors. Even when used at the highest ISO settings, the noise on images would be drastically lower than that of other cameras, and while competing cameras have improved on their sensor designs and noise reduction algorithms, the nearly 3-year old Canon Rebel XT 350D is still the best high ISO camera in the market at this price range (or the entire sub-$2000 price range, in fact). This ability allows the Rebel XT to excel at freezing fast-action motion in both daylight and low-light situations, with a minimal amount of grainy noise.

While the Rebel XT (and the other cameras mentioned here) are digital SLR-type cameras, don’t be alarmed or scared by their apparent complexity. For all of their manual controls and buttons, all SLR cameras can be set to an “automatic” mode which allows the user to just point and shoot like any compact camera, letting the camera determine all of the correct settings, and allowing even complete novices to take advantage of the features offered by SLRs.

While the Rebel XT comes with an 18-55mm kit lens, fast-action photography almost always uses a long telephoto lens, so a better choice would be to purchase the $155 Canon 75-300 f4-5.6 USM lens. The 75-300 provides a 120-480mm zoom range (this is equivalent to about a “14x zoom” on most consumer cameras), allowing you to zoom in for great close-up shots of fast action. Unlike most budget lenses, Canon’s 75-300 uses an ultrasonic motor (USM) for autofocus rather than the conventional micro-motor or screw-driven motor found on other cameras and lenses - this allows the 75-300 to focus far faster than any non-USM lens on the market.

The Rebel XT can continuously shoot at 3 frames per second, and take up to 14 pictures at a time - about as much as one can expect at this price range, and plenty for most kinds of sports. This feature will allow you to pick and choose the best photos out of a series later on, greatly improving the number of “keepers” you end up with. Autofocus-wise, the Rebel XT is a solid camera that should have no problem in daylight situations, but may struggle a bit with fast action in low light.

The Canon Rebel XT uses a proprietary Canon battery, which lasts 400 shots on one charge (CIPA standard), which should be plenty for a couple days of travel, and plenty for most sports games (perhaps not enough if it’s an all-day event and you’re especially shutter-happy).

Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT (with 18-55mm Lens) is one of the Best Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Action Photos Under $750
Where to buy
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT (with 18-55mm Lens)
  • Best Price: $749
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.0x
  • Resolution: 8.0MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.2 sec
  • Burst Speed: 2.9 fps
  • Easy to Use: No
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (5 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Excellent by CNET.com
3
Pentax K100D (with 18-55mm Lens)

The Pentax K100D is Pentax’s entry-level digital SLR, and is one of the cheapest and most feature-packed SLRs on the market. As with the Rebel XT, don’t be intimidated by the complexity of the K100D’s manual controls - it can be operated just as easily as any point and shoot camera in automatic mode.

Being an SLR, unlike other cameras the K100D can be equipped with a large variety of lenses that provide a variety of focal lengths, along with other features. The standard “kit lens” is an 18-55mm lens, which equates to a 27-83mm (3x) zoom range. Since we’re looking for a much longer lens for fast-action (which usually takes place far away), a better option would be to purchase the $155 Tamron 70-300mm f4-5.6 lens, which provides a 105-450mm zoom range (comparable to “13x zoom” on most consumer cameras). This setup will allow you to take great close-up photos of fast-action. The Tamron 70-300 uses a conventional screw-driven motor, so its autofocus speed won’t be quite as fast as Canon USM lenses (or Pentax’s SDM or Nikon’s SWM lenses which use the same technology), although it will still be fast enough for most types of fast action.

While not the best in the industry, the K100D’s high ISO performance is very usable even up to the highest ISO, allowing it to easily freeze motion in both daylight and low-light situations, although photos taken in low-light may be somewhat noisy.

The Pentax K100D can shoot continuously at 2.8 frames per second (about average), but can only take up to 5 photos at a time, meaning you get less than 2 seconds of continuous action. This is a bit of a drawback - with only 5 photos at a time you won’t be able to machine-gun photos off, but sports photos certainly don’t require continuous shooting. Though Pentax cameras aren’t usually regarded as great sports cameras, the K100D actually has one of the most reliable and accurate autofocus systems, similar to that found on the higher-end sports cameras from Canon or Nikon, although the use of a conventional motor in the lens means it’s not quite as fast.

The Pentax K100D uses four standard AA batteries (you’ll of course want to get rechargeable AA batteries of your own), which last for 300 shots per charge (CIPA standard) - below average and perhaps not enough for a full sports game, depending on the length and how many photos you take.

Pentax K100D (with 18-55mm Lens) is one of the Best Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Action Photos Under $750
Where to buy
Pentax K100D (with 18-55mm Lens)
  • Best Price: $829
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.0x
  • Resolution: 6.1MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.2 sec
  • Burst Speed: 2.7 fps
  • Easy to Use: No
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (6 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
4
Nikon D40 (with 18-55mm and 55-200mm Lenses)

The Nikon D40 is Nikon’s entry-level SLR camera, a low cost camera aimed at beginners but stripped of many features, although it is one of the cheaper SLRs on the market.

This D40 kit comes with the 18-55mm kit lens (versatile for other photography, but useless for fast-action), and the Nikon 55-200 f4-5.6VR SWM lens, which provides a 83-300mm zoom range that is significantly shorter than the 480mm and 450mm range on the Canon and Pentax cameras, but still capable of close-up fast-action photos (the same Tamron 70-300 f4-5.6 lens can also be purchased in this price range, however, yielding the same 105-450mm zoom range). Nikon’s 55-200 uses a Silent-Wave Motor (SWM) for autofocusing, yielding quick-focusing performance similar to the USM found on Canon’s 75-300 lens.

The D40’s high ISO abilities are very good, though not class-leading. The D40 will be able to freeze fast action from daylight to low-light situations, although low-light photos will turn out somewhat noisy.

The D40 can take photos continuously at 2.5 frames per second, for an unlimited number of photos - not quite as fast as the other cameras but still very capable of taking a series of photos to capture the best shot. The biggest drawback of the D40, however, is its autofocus system - while other cameras have 7 (Rebel XT), 11 (K100D), and 9 (Rebel XTi) autofocus points, the D40 has only three, making it much more difficult to track moving subjects and focus on them, especially if they don’t move in a predictable manner. While the 55-200mm SWM lens is fast, it doesn’t mean much if the camera can’t focus on quick-moving subjects reliably.

The Nikon D40 uses a proprietary Nikon battery, and lasts 470 photos on once charge - above average and long enough for nearly any kind of sporting event, although perhaps still a bit short of covering an all-day event, depending on how much you shoot.

Nikon D40 (with 18-55mm and 55-200mm Lenses) is one of the Best Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Action Photos Under $750
Where to buy
Nikon D40 (with 18-55mm and 55-200mm Lenses)
Specifications
  • Zoom: 11.1x
  • Resolution: 6.1MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.3 sec
  • Burst Speed: 2.5 fps
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (6 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

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