Expert Recommendation

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Best Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Travel, Child, Action, and Low Light Photos Under $750
Expert (88 Recommendations and 32 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
December 16, 2007 Updated: December 25, 2007
Overview

Olympus E510 delivers good low light performance and fast response times to freeze that long jumper in flight. Its optical viewfinder makes it easier to follow fast-moving sports action and kids. With twin kit lenses (effectively covering 10.7x zoom) you will be able to capture panoramic view of landscapes and shoot that F1 car from safe distance. It’s image-stabilization feature will help in taking blur free shots of sunrise and sunsets. The camera also has an Auto Mode with lots of Scene Modes for easy operation by novice users.

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My Best In Class Pick
Olympus EVOLT E-510 (with 14-42mm and 40-150mm Lenses)

All these cameras offer an Auto Mode plus a lot of Scene Modes for novice users. Experienced photographers will find the Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority manual modes useful.

The Sony H9 lags behind the other three on image quality as it uses excessive compression (typical image size 2.2MB to FZ18’s 3.5MB), smearing out fine details from images, especially at higher ISOs. Additionally, its images suffer from more frequent fringing problems (i.e. unnatural purple/red halos around high contrast edges).

The Panasonic FZ18 has tremendous reach (18x zoom) and has minimal distortion or fringing problems. The image quality is good especially if one shoots in RAW mode and converts them to JPGs using image-editing programs.

The Panasonic FZ18 is my top choice among non-DSLR cameras.

Nikon D40 is class apart with excellent performance (faster focusing & negligible shutter lag), an optical viewfinder, and much better image quality (especially at higher ISOs). Even ISO3200 setting yields usable images! With twin kit lens, it is a terrific value too.

Nevertheless Olympus E510 provides more value with its in-body image-stabilization feature (especially useful in shooting landscapes and in low light situations) and stupendous battery life. It scores over D40 with its dust reduction feature too. Olympus kit-lenses are smaller and a bit better than those coming with other entry level DSLRs.

Overall, the Olympus E510 is my “Top Pick”.

Olympus EVOLT E-510 (with 14-42mm and 40-150mm Lenses) is the Best Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Travel, Child, Action, and Low Light Photos Under $750
Where to buy
Olympus EVOLT E-510 (with 14-42mm and 40-150mm Lenses)
Specifications
  • Zoom: 10.7x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 10.0MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.4 sec
  • Burst Speed: 3.1 fps
  • Max ISO: 1600
  • Size: 5.4 x 3.6 x 2.7 in.
  • Battery Life: 650 shots
  • Easy to Use: No
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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Olympus EVOLT E-510 (with 14-42mm and 40-150mm Lenses)
2
Nikon D40 (with 18-55mm and 55-200mm Lenses)
3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18
Customer Rating
Price $999.95
Size (W x H x D) 5.4 x 3.6 x 2.7 in 5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in. 4.6 x 3.0 x 3.5 in.
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Sensor Size
17.3 x 13.0 mm 23.7 x 15.6 mm 5.8 x 4.3 mm
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Effective Sensor Resolution
10 million pixels 6.1 megapixels 8.1 megapixels
Shutter Lag Time (pre-focused) < 0.1 sec < 0.1 sec 0.1 sec
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Shutter Lag Time (including auto-focus time)
0.3 sec 0.3 sec 0.5 sec
Power to First Shot Time 1.0 sec 0.4 sec 1.7 sec
Continuous Shooting Speed (single shot mode) 1.5 frames/sec - 0.9 frames/sec
Max Shooting Speed (continuous) 3.1 frames/sec 2.5 frames/sec 2.0 frames/sec
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
28-300 mm 27 mm 28-504 mm
Optical Zoom 10.7 x 11.1x 18.0x
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Image Stabilization Available
Yes (CCD-shift) No Yes
Auto Focus Assist Light Available Yes (Flash strobe) Yes Yes
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Max Aperture (tele-photo)
f/5.6 f/5.6 f/4.2
Max ISO Setting 1600 3200 1600
Shutter Priority Mode Available Yes Yes Yes
Viewfinder Type Optical Optical Electronic
Battery Life 650 shots 470 shots 400 shots
High ISO performance Excellent Excellent Average (Raw mode helps)
2
Nikon D40 (with 18-55mm and 55-200mm Lenses)

Yes, it is a DSLR. But there is no need to be intimidated as it also has an Auto Mode :-). You can always use it as a typical point-and-shoot camera with its kit lens mounted and in Auto Mode or a Scene Mode. The only relevant difference is that for DSLRs composing a shot is done using the optical viewfinder. The rear LCD is used for preview/playback and for changing camera settings (e.g. brightness, contrast, ISO, etc.) only and not for composing the shot (as is the case with point-and-shoot cameras). The optical viewfinder is also easier when framing in dim light (e.g. indoors).

DSLRs have a real advantage in image quality as they have much larger sensors (about 10-15 times the size) than prosumer cameras like the Panasonic FZ18. So each pixel is larger and therefore more sensitive to light. This translates into much lower noise at high ISO settings and better dynamic range (range of light-levels between darkest and brightest areas in a scene). So you will have less blown out areas in high contrast scenes.

The Nikon D40 has a 6.1 megapixel resolution sensor. Its first kit lens has 3x zoom (equivalent to 27-82.5 mm on a 35mm camera) and second one has 3.6x zoom (equivalent to 82.5-300mm on a 35mm camera). It has an auto-focus assist lamp (useful for focusing in low light when indoors). It also has full manual control options (e.g. aperture priority, shutter priority, raw mode, etc.). It has an Auto (Flash Off) mode (auto-boosting the ISO to take blur-free picture without flash). It runs on a proprietary battery that delivers approximately 470 shots/charge. It is one of the smallest DSLRs in the market.

Note - DSLRs presently don’t have a movie mode.

Nikon D40 (with 18-55mm and 55-200mm Lenses) is one of the Best Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Travel, Child, Action, and Low Light Photos Under $750
Where to buy
Nikon D40 (with 18-55mm and 55-200mm Lenses)
Specifications
  • Zoom: 11.1x
  • Image Stabilization: No
  • Resolution: 6.1MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.3 sec
  • Burst Speed: 2.5 fps
  • Max ISO: 3200
  • Size: 5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in.
  • Battery Life: 470 shots
  • 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
3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18

The latest superzoom from Panasonic, this camera packs class leading 18x zoom lens and 8.1 megapixel resolution sensor in a compact body. It has an Intelligent ISO Mode (auto-boosting the ISO to freeze action) and full manual control options (e.g. Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Raw Mode, etc.) for additional versatility. The camera has an Image Stabilization feature to help avoid blurry pictures because of camera shake. The life of the proprietary batteries is approximately 400 shots/charge.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 is one of the Best Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Travel, Child, Action, and Low Light Photos Under $750
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18
Specifications
  • Zoom: 18.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 8.1MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.4 - 0.5s
  • Burst Speed: 3.0 fps
  • Max ISO: 6400
  • 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
4
Sony Cybershot DSC-H9

This super zoom is the top-of-the-line camera from Sony. The camera has 8.1 megapixel resolution and 15x zoom lens (equivalent to 31-465mm on a 35mm camera). It also supports full manual modes (e.g. Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, etc.). Sony quotes a battery (proprietary) life of 280 shots per change.

Sony Cybershot DSC-H9 is one of the Best Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Travel, Child, Action, and Low Light Photos Under $750
Where to buy
Sony Cybershot DSC-H9
  • Best Price: $1299
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 15.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 8.1MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.5 - 1.0s
  • Burst Speed: 2.0 fps
  • Max ISO: 3200
  • Size: 4.3 x 3.3 x 3.4 in.
  • Battery Life: 280 shots
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (5 reviews)
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

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