Expert Recommendation

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Best Compact Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Action and Low Light Photos Under $400
Expert (88 Recommendations and 32 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
November 16, 2007 Updated: November 29, 2007
Overview

Equipped with a sharp 10x super-zoom lens and fast image capture times, the Canon SX100IS IS will freeze action at the press of a button, and you won’t miss the winner’s moment of glory at the finish line. With its good low light performance and face-detection feature, you can keep on freezing the natural expressions of babies without startling them with a flash.

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My Best In Class Pick
Canon PowerShot SX100 IS

All these cameras offer auto and numerous scene modes (including auto high sensitivity mode which helps to take blur-free shots in natural light) for novice users.

The Panasonic TZ3 has faster performance, smaller size, and a lighter body than the other two. However it lacks manual modes like Aperture/Shutter priority modes (useful to have for getting blur-free shots). It lags behind the other two on battery life and switch-on times. Its resolution is the lowest of the three.

The Canon A720 IS & SX100 IS have better low light performance (producing grainy images at higher ISOs). The TZ3 images have water-color artfacts at higher ISOs. Both have enough manual controls/modes to satisfy demanding users.

The Canon A720 IS has good performance and has an optical viewfinder (essential for keeping track of fast moving subjects). It will be top choice for motorsports.

Although it lacks an optical view-finder, the Canon SX100 has the largest reach among the three and has good performance too. The lens is sharp and bright (widest maximum aperture at tele-end of zoom). Overall the extra zoom tilts the scale in favor of the SX100.

The Canon PowerShot SX100IS is my Top Pick.

Canon PowerShot SX100 IS is the Best Compact Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Action and Low Light Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot SX100 IS
  • Best Price: $699
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 10.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 8.0MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.5 sec
  • Burst Speed: 1.1 fps
  • Max ISO: 1600
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (2 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 SX100 IS
2
Canon PowerShot A720 IS
3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3
Customer Rating
Price $699.95 $400.00
Size (W x H x D) 4.3 x 2.8 x 1.8 in 3.8 x 2.6 x 1.7 in. 4.1 x 2.3 x 1.4 in.
Weight (without batteries) 9.4 oz 7.0 oz 8.2 oz
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Effective Sensor Resolution
8.0 million pixels 8.0 megapixels 7.2 megapixels
Shutter Lag Time (pre-focused) 0.10 sec 0.10 sec 0.02 sec
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Shutter Lag Time (including auto-focus time)
0.6 sec 0.6 sec 0.4 - 0.8 sec
Power to First Shot Time 2.4 sec 1.4 sec 2.7 sec
Continuous Shooting Speed (single shot mode) 0.6 frame/sec - -
Max Shooting Speed (continuous) 1.5 frames/sec 1.4 frames/sec 2.1 frames/sec
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
36 - 360 mm 35 mm 28 mm
Optical Zoom 10.0x 6.0x 10.0x
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Image Stabilization Available
Yes (Optical Lens Shift) Yes (Optical Lens Shift) Yes (Optical Lens Shift)
Manual Focus Available Yes Yes No
Auto Focus Assist Light Available Yes Yes Yes
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Max Aperture (wide-angle)
f/2.8 f/2.8 f/3.3
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Max Aperture (tele-photo)
f/4.3 f/4.8 f/4.9
Max ISO Setting 1600 1600 3200
Aperture Priority Mode Available Yes Yes No
Shutter Priority Mode Available Yes Yes No
Viewfinder Type - Optical -
LCD Screen Resolution 172,000 pixels 115000 pixels 230000 pixels
Battery Life 400 shots 400 shots 270 shots
2
Canon PowerShot A720 IS

The latest upgrade to Canon’s successful A-series cameras, this model offers an 8MP resolution sensor and ISO rating up to 1600. The camera has a 6x zoom lens (35-210mm equivalent on a 35 mm film cameras), which is image stabilized. It offers full manual modes (Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, etc.). The camera has an optical viewfinder, a face detection feature (when the shutter button is pressed halfway, the camera finds the faces in the frame and sets the exposure and most suitable focus point). and runs on 2 AA batteries. It supports wide-angle and tele-photo conversion lenses, which are available separately as accessories.

Canon PowerShot A720 IS is one of the Best Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Action and Low Light Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot A720 IS
Specifications
  • Zoom: 6.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 8.0MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.5 - 1.2s
  • Burst Speed: 1.4 fps
  • Max ISO: 1600
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3

The Lumix DMC-TZ3 is the latest big zoom compact (1.5” thick) from Panasonic. This camera has a 7 megapixel resolution sensor and a 10x optical zoom with wide-angle lens (equivalent to 28-280mm on a 35mm camera). The lens is sharp, and the zoom is motor operated. This camera too has an Image Stabilization feature to help avoid blurry pictures because of camera shake. The feature is akin to shooting with a cheap tripod. In low light, it helps to shoot using a relatively low ISO setting. At higher ISO ratings, the camera can shoot with less light, but there will more noise in the image. The life of its proprietary battery is approximately 270 shots/charge.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 is one of the Best Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Action and Low Light Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3
Specifications
  • Zoom: 10.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 7.2MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.4 - 0.8s
  • Burst Speed: 3.0 fps
  • Max ISO: 3200
  • 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

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