Compact Digital Camera Recommendations


Active Member
I'm looking for a compact digital camera for under $400. The smaller the better, but I would like it to take some decent indoor pics - I know this is the weakness of many compacts.

I had bought a Casio Exilim EX-Z55 a week ago. I was fairly happy with the pictures until I tried in low light situations in a big room. I dont know if all compact digital cameras are as bad or if it is because this casio lacks an AF lamp.

I have started to look at the canon SD300 and the panasonic DMC-FX5. The things I liked about the casio is that the battery lasts very long. Having this lets me save some money by not having to buy a spare battery.

This is my senior year of college, figured I would invest in something to save the memories :blink:
If you haven't looked already, check out Phil Askey does a good job with his reviews, although there are so many cameras out there that many of them haven't been reviewed. You can also check out the forums there - be warned that they can be pretty contentious and fanatical at some times.

I'm hesitant to recommend anything because I haven't been paying too much attention to the lower end recently [1]. However, I've been pretty impressed with the Canon Axx series (A with two digits following). I have an A60 which I use as my "carry around, don't worry what happens to it, always available" camera [2]. They are up to the A95, now. I think this series is pretty good as far as "bang for the buck" goes. One real benefit, as far as I'm concerned, is that they use AA batteries. A good set (of 4) NiMH batteries seem to last a very long time - and if they run out of charge, you can always buy alkalines in an emergency.

[1] I mostly shoot with a digital SLR.
[2] Which I lent to my sister so it's not technically available right now.
I agree with smee, try to find a camera which uses regular AA batteries, it's so nice to be able to walk into any store and buy a set of batteries when you are on a road trip versus having to find an outlet for your your special charger. I would also recommend looking for camera's which support CFI/II so you can enjoy the large storage capacities of Compact Flash. I would also try to select a model which has at least a 3x optical zoom.

I personally would go to some of the local computer stores such as Best Buy or CompUSA, and touch them, see which one feels the best in your hands and such. Then once you figure out which models you like, look up the reviews on, then it should be pretty easy to pick a winner.

I personally have an Uzi (Olympus C2100UZ, 10x optical, IS, etc ...), it's only a 2.1 mpixel camera, but the quality of the lens / ccd chip is very high, so it does the job really well, and once you go 10x optical, you don't go back, so most new cameras don't even meet my requirements.
electron said:
...and once you go 10x optical, you don't go back, so most new cameras don't even meet my requirements.
Of course, once you use a real camera, you don't specify zoom in number of "x". :blink: "x" is for video cameras ( :) again). You specify a range of focal lengths, like 70-200mm. But, real photographers use primes [1], anyway. (another :) ).

Electron makes a number of good points. And his camera is still regarded quite highly by most people.

Increasing the number of megapixels will often decrease the quality of the pictures (primarily due to noise). Don't get caught up in getting as many as possible. 2 is sufficient for most 4x6 prints and can still look good at 8x10 [2].

I also prefer compact flash for my cameras (all of them use it). I went over to the dark side (secure digital) for my PDA. It looks like SD prices are dropping a lot so the CF/SD argument based on cost may be moot. However, CF still comes in larger sizes than SD (but both are readily available in 1 gig now).

When you look at zoom numbers, ignore the digital zoom. In fact, as soon as you get the camera, turn off the ability to use digital zoom. That way, you'll never accidentally get a messed up picture. You can always crop and enlarge an image if you need to - that's all digital zoom is doing.

[1] Fixed focal length (non-zooming) lenses.
[2] This does not mean that I'm recommending you look for a 2 MP camera.
Thanks for the suggestions. I'm trying to avoid the Canon A series because they are too big. The casio I bought uses sd, but I dont have a problem with sd or cf.

As for the Casio, the battery on that thing is amazing, I used it for 3 days with approx 200 pictures and 3 minutes of video and the battery meter didn't even budge. Steve's digi cams gave it a great review, and according to a camera store which sells teh casios they said it was one of their more reliable cameras with very few complaints. However after reading a few complaints on forums, I have begun to question this purchase.
Don't worry too much about complaints in the dpreview forums. Obviously, you should take them into consideration, but remember that people like to complain.

It's easy to find complaints about the cameras that I use and am very happy with.
I just thought I'd add this:

The camera configuration in my avatar is what I like to use as a "carry-around" config and would I always use if it weren't just a little inconvenient compared to the A60.

For comparison, the Casio EX-Z55 weighs [1] in at 130 grams. The configuration I'm using is only 1390 grams (up to 1875 grams if I use my favorite lens). None of these weights include batteries. :blink:

[1] I cringe using "weighs" and "grams" in the same sentence, but it sounded funny in this context to say "masses".
Thanks for the info. I was just afriad that I could have bought a better camera for the money spent. I'll keep an eye on the canon sd300, but I may have to purchase a second battery if it doesn't last as long as the casio.

For some reason I never looked at your avatar closely and to me it sorta resembed a blury pengiun...HAHA, dont kill me.

I was wondering, what is purple frindging? I've seen a few complaints on that, mostly from canon cameras?
unrealii said:
I was wondering, what is purple frindging? I've seen a few complaints on that, mostly from canon cameras?
You'll find purple fringing (usually chromatic aberration) with many cameras (certainly not just Canon [1]). The affects can come from either the sensor (CCD or CMOS) or the optics.

Usually, it shows up as a purple "aura" surrounding dark areas where there is high contrast. The typical example is to shoot a picture of the sky through a leafy tree. The bits of sky will probably be overexposed and very bright. Along the edges of each branch or leaf, you will see some purple (usually).

This page on dpreview shows an example:
dpreview (Canon A95 review)

Many (if not most) digital cameras exhibit some level of this. In most normal pictures, you won't see it unless you really zoom in. It usually doesn't show up in prints.

It typically manifests in cameras with cheaper optics, extreme zoom ranges, or very small high resolution sensors. It's also more likely to show up at wide angles than telephoto. My A60 does not exhibit much chromatic aberration, if any. But the optics are good and the sensor is only 2MP.

My D60 and 20D have much larger sensors and don't exhibit chromatic aberration (due to the sensor). Cheap lenses would probably produce some, however - this would also happen to some extent with the same lens and a film camera.

You can also seem some affects similar to this due to the Bayer interpolation used by most sensors (i.e., the pattern of red, green, and blue sensor sites).

[1] If you see comments like "Why do all Canons exhibit purple fringing?", just keep looking around. You'll find the same comments for just about every manufacturer.
unrealii said:
For some reason I never looked at your avatar closely and to me it sorta resembed a blury pengiun...HAHA, dont kill me.
I told this to my friend who took the picture. She got a big kick out of it.

It does look a little more like me in larger versions. And I don't think I look particularly "penguiny" (at least not in real life).
I personally really like the cameras that record on a mini-CD. It sure makes life a lot easier. The CDs are dirt cheap and hold 256 MB (at least my Sony does). I'll bet that these can probably be purchased for less than $400 now. I paid $1000 for mine about 2 years ago.