Expert Recommendation

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Best Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Travel Photos Under $400
By Vance
Expert (1 Recommendation and 1 Compliment)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
September 28, 2007 Updated: November 28, 2007
Overview

The Canon SD 800 IS brings very good image quality, compact convenience, solid construction and ease-of-use to the pocket of the traveler. Whether you just want to bring home high quality snapshots of your travels, or you’re a serious photographer who just doesn’t want to carry around an SLR all day, this camera will take care of business.

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My Best In Class Pick
Canon PowerShot SD800 IS

The Canon PowerShot SD800 IS isn’t perfect but it hits so many of the right notes. At 3.5 x 2.3 x 1.0 inches it will fit almost anywhere and be ready when you are to take a picture. More importantly, its superior construction means it’s going to survive. In a pocket it may be sharing space with keys, or coins. In a purse, who knows what it’s sharing space with, but it’s guaranteed there will be something that can scratch it. Canon’s construction is top-of-the-line here. When it’s turned off, the camera’s built-in lens cover protects lens from any possible damage and the LCD on the back has a pretty good anti-scratch coating. Its sturdy body is also designed to take the bumps, whacks and jolts of a rough and ready camera. Slightly heavier than other ultra-compacts, just handling the camera gives you a sense of quality.

It also has a really good lens range for travel photography. With a 4x optical zoom, it’s over what I recommend as an absolute minimum and it has that 28mm wide-angle capability that’s just so great for travel photography. Fully zoomed it gives you a 105 mm lens. This range will cover almost all the shooting you’re going to do. Not having the optical zoom go up to say 200 mm isn’t really a limitation. Canon provides a nice easy to use software program with their cameras that allows you to pick a section of the photograph, which is called cropping, and enlarging it with higher quality than you would get using the digital zoom. And you haven’t permanently changed the image, which is what happens with digital zoom in the camera.

Overall, this is a nimble camera to use. You’re ready to take your first picture 1.1 seconds after you turn it on. That’s pretty good for camera in this size range. Shutter lag, the time between when you press the shutter and the picture actually gets taken isn’t outstanding, but at less than 1/2 second with the LCD screen on, it’s pretty good. Pushing the shutter down halfway to pre-focus cuts the lag time to less than 1/10 second. Turning the LCD screen off and using the optical viewfinder also speeds things up. The LCD screen on the Canon SD 800 IS is very usable in bright sunlight, which can’t be said for a lot of cameras, but when it isn’t usable it has the optical viewfinder.

Of course the camera has image stabilization. Canon uses only optical stabilization in their cameras and that helps ensure the highest quality images.

Battery life with the SD 800 IS is nothing special. You’ll get about 270 shots per charge on the battery. This is better than many of its competitors, but the secret is to carry an extra battery. This is so important that I urge everyone to carry a second set of batteries or a second battery for their camera. With my pro camera I can get about 750 shots, or more, off a freshly charged battery. I still don’t leave the house without a second battery pack.

This camera’s also very easy to use. All of the controls and menu selections are very easy to get at and intuitive to use. Canon has been refining the user controls of the Elph cameras for years and it shows. The large variety of preset exposure modes means you’re going to reliably get good pictures under almost any condition you’re likely to shoot under. In situations where the camera might need a little help from you, you can make exposure adjustments using a simple up or down/lighter or darker type of control. You can also change the light sensitivity of the sensor. Like I said, easy.

Canon PowerShot SD800 IS is the Best Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Travel Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot SD800 IS
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.8x
  • Resolution: 7.1MP
  • Size: 3.5 x 2.3 x 1.0 in.
  • Battery Life: 270 shots
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (5 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
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Canon PowerShot SD800 IS
2
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3
3
Casio EXILIM Hi-ZOOM EX-V7
Customer Rating
Price $699.99 $288.99
Rating from CNET - - -
Size (W x H x D) 3.5 x 2.3 x 1.0 in. 4.1 x 2.3 x 1.4 in. 3.8 x 2.4 x 1.0 in.
Weight (with batteries) - 9.1 oz -
Max Image Resolution 3072 x 2304 pixels 3328 x 1872 pixels 3072 x 2304 pixels
Shutter Lag Time (pre-focused) 0.08 sec 0.02 sec 0.05 sec
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Shutter Lag Time (including auto-focus time)
0.4 sec 0.4 - 0.8 sec 0.5 sec
Power to First Shot Time 1.2 sec 2.7 sec 1.6 sec
Continuous Shooting Speed (single shot mode) - - -
Max Shooting Speed (burst) 1.7 frames/sec 3.0 frames/sec 2.1 frames/sec
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
28 mm 28 mm 38 mm
Optical Zoom 3.8x 10.0x 7.0x
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Image Stabilization Available
Yes Yes Yes
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Max Aperture (wide-angle)
f/2.8 f/3.3 f/3.4
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Max Aperture (tele-photo)
f/5.8 f/4.9 f/5.3
Max Shutter Speed 1/1600 sec 1/2000 sec 1/800 sec
Max ISO Setting 1600 3200 1600
Exposure Compensation +/- 2.0 EV +/- 2.0 EV +/- 2.0 EV
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Viewfinder Available
Yes No No
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LCD Screen Size
2.5 in. 3.0 in. 2.5 in.
LCD Screen Resolution 207000 pixels 230000 pixels 230400 pixels
Flash Recycling Time 6.5 sec 4.3 sec 1.7 sec
Storage Media SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card
Battery Type Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable
Battery Life 270 shots 270 shots 240 shots
2
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3

Designed as a travelling companion. Excellent optics, easy to use, great zoom range, good value.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 is one of the Best Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Travel Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3
Specifications
  • Zoom: 10.0x
  • Resolution: 7.2MP
  • Size: 4.1 x 2.3 x 1.4 in.
  • Battery Life: 270 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
3
Casio EXILIM Hi-ZOOM EX-V7

It’s fast, feature-packed and easy to use, has very reliable exposure and an excellent movie mode. It’s very convenient to use and a good price.

Casio EXILIM Hi-ZOOM EX-V7 is one of the Best Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Travel Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Casio EXILIM Hi-ZOOM EX-V7
Specifications
  • Zoom: 7.0x
  • Resolution: 7.2MP
  • Size: 3.8 x 2.4 x 1.0 in.
  • Battery Life: 240 shots
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • Rated Good by CNET.com

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