Expert Recommendation

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Best Compact Digital Camera Overall Under $350 with Video and High Definition (HD)
Expert (1 Recommendation and 1 Compliment)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
June 15, 2009 Updated: June 16, 2009
Overview

With 10x optical zoom, a 9.1 megapixel sensor, HD video capabilities, an HDMI output, and zoom capability in video, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 is the best digital camera for under $350. Whether you are taking family photos, recording an unbelievable concert, or documenting your travels, this compact camera will deliver amazing pictures and long lasting memories.

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My Best In Class Pick
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5

The Panasonic Lumix DMC- TZ5 features a 9.1 megapixel resolution sensor, 10x optical zoom, HD video recording capabilities, and 3 inch high resolution LCD. Because of its versatility and ability to produce high quality images in any situation, the Lumix DMC-TZ5 proves to be the best overall digital camera for under $350. The DMC-TZ5’s compact design, great image quality, and attractive price make this camera best-in-class.

The Lumix DMC- TZ5 features a 28mm wide angle Leica lens, which is great for photographing landscapes or large group photos, and an optical image stabilizer. Additionally, the DMC- TZ5 features 21 scene modes, including sports, food, party, and pet modes as well as a built- in flash with 5 modes and Red-eye Reduction. A nice feature of the DMC-TZ5 is the Intelligent Auto, which detects portions of the scene and automatically adjusts to the most suitable settings, making shooting as simple and easy as possible. The E.Z. zoom button, which is a new feature for the DMC-TZ5, allows the user to zoom directly to 10x and back to wide angle quickly.

Although you cannot expect to replace a stand alone HD camcorder, this camera still delivers remarkable 720p video quality. The DMC-TZ5 records QuickTime Motion JPEG movies, with a 2GB maximum or about 22 minutes of HD video and 56 minutes of VGA. The DMC-TZ5 is capable of zooming during video, which is helpful and practical, while many any other cameras do not incorporate this feature. The HDMI output allows for direct viewing of pictures and video on an HDTV screen. The video recording is a great feature if you enjoy documenting spur of the moment occurrences or simply making Youtube videos. The microphone is placed on the top left of the camera and can easily be covered by when holding the camera, so it is important when recording video to be especially aware of this.

Recently, Panasonic released an updated version of Lumix DMC-TZ5 in the Lumix DMC- ZS3 (Available from April 2009.) The DMC-ZS3’s key update is the induction of the AVCHD Lite format for HD video recording. The DMC- TZ5 utilizes the Motion JPEG format, which makes larger files that could quickly fill up a memory card, compared to the AVCHD Lite. Most digital camcorders that shoot in high definition use AVCHD. AVCHD Lite is the adapted format for digital cameras. The only other addition to the DMC-ZS3 is a second microphone. The DMC-ZS3 sells for $399.99. The small changes in the new DMC-ZS3 are not worth the extra money compared to the DMC-TZ5, in my opinion.

The DMC- TZ5 remains the best overall camera for under $350 with its compact size, great performance, extensive features, and affordable price.

Comparison with Canon PowerShot SX200 IS

Although the Powershot SX200 IS has a greater 12x optical zoom and is equipped with Full Manual Exposure mode, if you compare the Powershot SX200 IS and the Panasonic Lumix DMC- TZ5, the DMC-TZ5 is a greater value, with a slightly less bulky design. The DMC-TZ5 features the ability to zoom on HD video, which the SX200 does not, and can handle just about anything you can think of for a point and shoot camera.

Pros
  • +
    HD video recording
  • +
    HDMI output
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    Ability to zoom in video recording
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    10x optical zoom
  • +
    Optical image stabilization
  • +
    28mm wide angle lens
Cons
  • -
    Poorly placed microphone
  • -
    Images can be blurred momentarily when zooming during video
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 is the Best Compact Digital Camera Overall Under $350 with Video and High Definition (HD)
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5
Specifications
  • Zoom: 10.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 28mm (25% wider)
  • Resolution: 9.1MP
  • HD Video Available: Yes
  • Video Available: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (3 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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Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5
2
Canon PowerShot SX200 IS
3
Canon PowerShot SD960 IS
Customer Rating
Price $313.29 $245.99
Size (W x H x D) 4.1 x 2.3 x 1.4 in. 4.1 x 2.4 x 1.5 in. 3.9 x 2.1 x 0.9 in.
Weight (without batteries) 7.5 oz 7.8 oz 5.1 oz
HD Video Available Yes Yes Yes
Video Zoom Available (while recording) Yes No No
Optical Zoom 10.0x 12.0x 4.0x
Full Manual Exposure Mode Available No Yes No
?
LCD Screen Size
3.0 in. 3.0 in. 2.8 in.
Battery Life 300 shots 280 shots 200 shots
2
Canon PowerShot SX200 IS

The Canon Powershot SX200 IS incorporates a 12x optical zoom that cannot be beat. This is a great feature for zooming in on far away landmarks while traveling.

The SX200 overall provides a great 720p video quality, though it does lack the ability to zoom while recording video. With a wide angle lens and an easy to use interface this camera is perfect for quick, high quality photos.

The drawbacks in this camera lie in a steeper price compared to the Lumix TZ5, as well as the pop out flash, which opens when the camera is started, which many find makes the camera difficult to hold.

Comparison with Canon PowerShot SD960 IS

The Powershot SX200 IS packs a powerful 12x optical zoom and incorporates a full manual exposure mode. However, if you are looking for a more simple, compact, and easy to use all- purpose camera, still equipped with HD video capabilites, the Canon Powershot SD960 IS is a great option.

Pros
  • +
    12x optical zoom
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    12 megapixels
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    HD video recording
  • +
    HDMI output
  • +
    Full manual exposure mode
  • +
    Optical image stabilizer
  • +
    28mm wide angle lens
Cons
  • -
    Pop out flash
  • -
    Bulky
  • -
    No zoom capability on video
Canon PowerShot SX200 IS is one of the Best Compact Digital Cameras Overall Under $350 with Video and High Definition (HD)
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot SX200 IS
  • Best Price: $313
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 12.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 28mm (25% wider)
  • Resolution: 12.1MP
  • HD Video Available: Yes
  • Video Available: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
3
Canon PowerShot SD960 IS

The Powershot SD960 IS features a lightweight, compact design, that is very desirable for everyday usage. If you do not feel a super zoom camera is essential for you, this camera proves to be great overall. It easily slips into a pocket and records HD quality video, which can be viewed directly on an HDTV via the HDMI output. This camera features a wide angle lens and the Face Self-Timer, which are both great for taking group photos. When activated, the Face Self- Timer mode detects the number of faces in the frame and waits until an additional face, that of the person setting up the camera, appears in the frame before taking the photo.

Pros
  • +
    HD video recording
  • +
    HDMI output
  • +
    Portable and lightweight
  • +
    Face Detection self-timer
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    28mm wide angle lens
  • +
    Optical image stabilizer
Cons
  • -
    Only 4x digital zoom
  • -
    Controls on the round dial are not clearly labeled
  • -
    No zoom capability on video
Canon PowerShot SD960 IS is one of the Best Compact Digital Cameras Overall Under $350 with Video and High Definition (HD)
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot SD960 IS
  • Best Price: $245
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 4.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 28mm (25% wider)
  • Resolution: 12.1MP
  • HD Video Available: Yes
  • Video Available: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Good by CNET.com

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