What's the best sub-$200 camera for concerts?
June 3, 2009 7:17 AM   Subscribe

What would be the best sub-$200 digital camera to use mostly at parties and concerts?

It's been a couple years since I last bought a digital camera, and I'm badly out of touch with what's available. What I'd like is a sub-$200 camera that will take great pictures indoors in less than ideal conditions, for instance where there's low light and movement, like at a concert or a party. My wife and I go to a lot of shows, and that's actually the place we use our camera the most. So I'd like something that could take good pictures in club conditions, and one that could shoot reasonably decent video/sound. Any ideas?

Bonus points if I can get a great price on it at Amazon, as we've got some gift certificates we'd like to use. We also have Mac computers, if that matters still.

We also already have SD cards and Memory Sticks, so if I didn't have to buy new cards, that'd be nice.

Thanks in advance for helping us spend money!
posted by mdbell79 to Technology (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
After doing a bunch of research here I picked up the Canon SD1100 IS. It's very compact and takes nice pictures. It's been replaced by the SD 1200 IS which, if it's a nice as the 1100, I wouldn't hesitate to purchase.
posted by 6550 at 7:38 AM on June 3, 2009

The SD1000 is better than the SD1100 if you can find it.
posted by chunking express at 8:14 AM on June 3, 2009

"What I'd like is a sub-$200 camera that will take great pictures indoors in less than ideal conditions, for instance where there's low light and movement, like at a concert or a party."

I don't know what makes a "great picture" for you, but the conditions you describe are going to be challenging for any camera, much less a mainstream point & shoot. In ambient light (no flash), a DSLR with a reasonably fast lens could do a pretty good job, but its going to be pretty bulky and more than $200. Pictures taken in poor light with the small flash on a compact camera may be exposed properly, but is generally unflattering to my eye.

What you are left with is using a High ISO mode. Look for a camera that supports at least ISO 800, and maybe even 1600. There will be a lot of noise in the photos and the camera will try to deal with some of it. I think everyone but Canon makes horribly wrong compromises when doing noise reduction, so I'd suggest getting a Canon in your price range.
posted by Good Brain at 8:45 AM on June 3, 2009

Those Canon IS cameras have image stabilization, which helps in low-light.
posted by smackfu at 9:02 AM on June 3, 2009

I've used the SD 1100 IS at many concerts with surprisingly good results. You will probably have to take a lot of pictures to get a good one, or time it well, but I have had good results (and am no photographer). With a flash (such as at parties) it works really well, but of course that is rude at concerts ;)
posted by shownomercy at 9:12 AM on June 3, 2009

I can 100% put my word on the Canon SD800IS. I've used the camera for the past three years doing exactly what you describe. I bought it specifically because it has a fully manual mode where you can control the exposure, ISO and white balance etc. The problem is that the camera is a few years old, which means it will be harder to find. I did find some used listings on Amazon, the first one is $205.99, which is right where you want it to be. It uses SD memory cards and has great battery life.

Good luck!
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 9:19 AM on June 3, 2009

The Canon SDs are an enduring favorite, and I've hardly heard a bad word about 'em.

If you can envision your camera getting wet or dropped or anything like that, though, you might check out Olympus' and Pentax's offerings.
posted by box at 10:46 AM on June 3, 2009

I tend to discount the value of image stabilization in small P&S cameras for low-light indoor shooting. IS helps eliminate blur due to camera movement, but when you are taking candid shots of people in such conditions, they are likely going to be moving enough to end up with some blurring any way. These days though, even the lower end SD cameras have IS, so you get it whether you need it or not. It's more useful for cameras with 5-10x zoom ranges. The longer focal length emphasizes camera movements, so IS is more broadly useful.

If you plan on taking photos of the acts you might want to look at a somewhat larger camera that has a longer zoom range, the upper end on ~3x zoom cameras will probably leave you needing to crop unless you are right up to the edge of the stage.

The SD800IS does have a "manual mode" but pretty much any Canon offers the same key options. The SD800IS may be a fine camera, but in looking at some of the photographic samples over at DPReview.com, its not obvious to me that its low-light/high-ISO performance is distinctly better than the easier to find SD1100IS, or some other more recent model.

What's your current camera? Where does it fall short?

No one has addressed your questions about audio and video, and I'm afraid I don't have anything to offer there either.
posted by Good Brain at 11:23 AM on June 3, 2009

Fuji cameras like the F60D have some very high ISO values available (3200/6400) if you're willing to trade-off resolution.
posted by smackfu at 12:32 PM on June 3, 2009

My boyfriend got me the Canon Powershot A590. It is 8 megapixel and does video. I absolutely love it and have found it to be quite useful and the clarity is amazing on Photoshop!
posted by penguingrl at 4:53 PM on June 3, 2009

I have the SD1100, and have been surprised at how well it does in low light conditions. I took some video of my friends going down a concrete slide in an unlit park at dusk, and it came out surprisingly well. Shooting pictures at the lowest ISO I can get away with seems to eliminate some of the image noise that can plague the little Canons in low light.

You can search flickr by camera for examples of images of different models. I don't know if that search brings up video as well.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:17 PM on June 3, 2009

I used to have a Ricoh GR-D which was great in low light - it had a fast, wide lens (a 24mm 2.4, if I remember correctly) and high ISO. It was pretty expensive when I bought it, but you might be able to find a used one cheaply now the second version has come out.
posted by primer_dimer at 3:46 AM on June 4, 2009

GR-D's still sell for way too much money, because lots of people are in love with the way they take B&W high-ISO photos. I have the GR-D II which is hype, but also cost me a shit load of money. If you have much more money to spend, the Ricoh GR-D or Panasonic LX3 are good things to look into.
posted by chunking express at 5:29 AM on June 4, 2009

Yeah, I was in love with exactly that, until my girlfriend and I accidentally crushed it while.....er.... rolling around on the bed. When I have the cash to buy another compact camera I'll definitely be looking for another one.
posted by primer_dimer at 3:42 AM on June 5, 2009

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