Expert Recommendation

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Best Compact Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Travel, Child, and Low Light Photos Under $750
Expert (97 Recommendations and 21 Compliments)
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October 28, 2007 Updated: November 28, 2007
Overview

As the top of the line Canon compact, the G9 brings a lot to the table - solid all-metal body, versatile 35-210mm (6x) zoom range, image stabilization technology, and the same unique quick-dial control scheme found on the high-end Canon SLRs. Although it doesn’t quite have the 28mm wide angle needed for wide travel landscapes or landmarks, and doesn’t have the absolute best high ISO performance for taking pictures of fast-moving subjects like children or pets, it’s the best camera in this class at doing everything competently, and is the best choice to cover such a diverse array of photographic situations as travel, low-light, and children/pets portraits all in one camera.

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My Best In Class Pick
Canon PowerShot G9

With compact cameras come compromises, and out of the top choices presented here, there is no clear-cut winner since none of the compact cameras adequately fulfills all of our criteria - 28mm wide angle for travel, telephoto zoom for travel and portraits, good high ISO for portraits of moving subjects, and general low light ability for travel and portraits. Depending on which is your greater priority - low light, pets and children portraits, or travel - there are two possible choices.

If travel is your top priority, the Panasonic TZ3 is the camera that comes the closest to fitting all the criteria. It’s the only compact camera on the market that combines both a 28mm wide angle and a long telephoto reach, allowing for the greatest flexibility to capture all of the scenes, from wide landscapes to zoomed-in portraits, that you’re bound to encounter while on travel. The weak point for the TZ3 is its low-light performance - while it has an image stabilization system that works well, its high ISO falls behind that of other cameras. While both of the other leading contenders offer better low-light ability for photos indoors or at night, a flexible zoom range is an advantage in all shooting situations, and this is what makes the TZ3 the best overall travel camera.

If low-light or portraits is your top priority, however, the TZ3’s poor high ISO performance makes it a less-than-ideal choice for taking pictures indoors or at night. Of the other options, the F50fd, thanks to its unique SuperCCD design and amazing high ISO performance, is the best low-light performer, but keeping travel and portrait considerations in mind, the Canon G9, with its much more flexible 35-210mm (6x) zoom, is a better all-around camera that is competent in low-light, and has a greater range to capture both travel and portrait pictures that the F50fd can’t.

While all of the choices here present compromises, the camera that compromises least is the Canon G9. While the TZ3 is the best travel camera, and is the best camera in daylight situations, it simply doesn’t work well in low-light situations, and when taking pictures of fast-moving subjects like pets or children indoors or at night, the TZ3 is simply not able to capture usable photos without resorting to a flash. While the G9 is missing a 28mm wide-angle that’s useful for photography, it still has a reasonably versatile travel range, and has the all-important 50-200mm range needed for portraits, and most important of all, has a good enough high ISO ability to take low-light pictures without resorting to flash, making it the best camera for covering all the required situations.

Canon PowerShot G9 is the Best Compact Point and Shoot Digital Camera for Travel, Child, and Low Light Photos Under $750
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot G9
  • Best Price: $549
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Specifications
  • Zoom: 6.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 12.1MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.6 sec
  • Max ISO: 3200
  • Size: 4.2 x 2.8 x 1.7 in.
  • Battery Life: 240 shots
  • Easy to Use: Yes
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Website Reviews (4 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Rated Excellent by CNET.com

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
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Canon PowerShot G9
2
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3
3
Fujifilm FinePix F50fd
Customer Rating
Price $549.95 $278.68
Size (W x H x D) 4.2 x 2.8 x 1.7 in 4.1 x 2.3 x 1.4 in. 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.9 in.
Weight (without batteries) 9.4 oz 8.2 oz 5.5 oz
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
35-210mm (6x) 28 - 280 mm (10x) 35 - 105 mm (3x)
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Image Stabilization Available
Yes Yes Yes
Storage Media SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card, xD-Picture Card
Battery Type Proprietary Li-ion Rechargeable Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable
Battery Life 240 shots 270 shots 230 shots
Max Usable ISO (subjective) ISO400 ISO400 ISO800
2
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3

Through the use of “folded optics” lens design, the Panasonic TZ series was the first of the “compact ultrazoom” cameras - a camera that provided a long (10x) zoom range, yet still fit into a compact body (just 1.47in thick). The latest model, the TZ3, combines many of the high-end features found only in larger cameras, and packs them all into a fairly light and portable body small enough for a jacket or even a large pants pocket.

The TZ3 has a large 28-280mm (10x) zoom range perfect for travel photography, and is currently the only compact-sized camera with both a wide-angle 28mm lens and any appreciable (150mm or more) telephoto range. In addition to this, the TZ3 also has an effective lens-based image stabilization system, helping to reduce blur in low-light situations. However, the TZ3 is noted for having poor quality at higher ISO, somewhat negating the low-light advantage gained by IS, and making it less suitable for pictures of moving subjects like people and pets.

The flash on the TZ3 is embedded into the camera, so flash performance is similar to most other cameras - generally to be avoided, but given the TZ3’s somewhat poor low-light ability, possibly necessary in some cases.

The TZ3 lasts for 270 shots on one charge - just about enough to last a day of travel for most people, and about average for a camera in this class.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 is one of the Best Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Travel, Child, and Low Light Photos Under $750
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3
Specifications
  • Zoom: 10.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 7.2MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.4 - 0.8s
  • Max ISO: 3200
  • 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
Fujifilm FinePix F50fd

The Fujfilm F50fd is the flagship camera in Fuji’s Fxx line, which utilizes Fujifilm’s unique SuperCCD sensor design to deliver amazing low-noise, high ISO images that far exceed any other non-DSLR camera on the market. The F50fd is an ultracompact camera, fitting into a 0.9in frame that can easily fit into any pocket or bag.

The F50fd has a fairly standard 35-105mm (3x) zoom lens - covering a somewhat boring range that doesn’t get wide enough to capture landscapes or big landmarks, and doesn’t quite zoom in close enough for portraits or wildlife or architectural details. The big advantage of the Fuji F50fd is its combination of amazing high ISO performance from its SuperCCD sensor, and its inclusion of sensor-shift image stabilization technology, making it by far the best compact camera for low-light photography, especially for portrait photography of people or pets. The F50fd’s flash is embedded into the body, so it will perform like most other cameras on the market - not such an important factor, considering the F50fd’s incredible low-light abilities means you’ll hardly have to use flash anyway!

The F50fd can take 250 shots on one battery, slightly below average but good enough to last a day of travel for most users.

Fujifilm FinePix F50fd is one of the Best Compact Point and Shoot Digital Cameras for Travel, Child, and Low Light Photos Under $750
Where to buy
Fujifilm FinePix F50fd
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.0x
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Resolution: 12.0MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.6 sec
  • Max ISO: 6400
  • Size: 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.9 in.
  • Battery Life: 230 shots
  • Easy to Use: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (3 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

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