Sub-$350ish point-and-shoot camera recomenndations!
April 28, 2010 4:41 PM   Subscribe

I need to buy a sub-$350ish point-and-shoot camera in the next week. Any recommendations? I've had a few Canon Digital ELPHs in the past and have been pretty satisfied with them but I know there are other brands out there.

I'm looking to buy a relatively small camera like those in the Canon Digital ELPH line. I've had two Canon Digital ELPHs in the past and never had any major problems with them. However, I'm not sure if there are any better cameras out there from other manufacturers. I wouldn't spend more than around $350.

I'll be using this camera in everyday situations. I'm not a photographer by any means, but I like having a camera around when I go to concerts, bars, sporting events or just when I'm downtown stumbling around.

Do you all have any recommendations? I know nothing but the Canon line.

one good link I've found:
The Best Point and Shoot Cameras For Every Purpose
posted by decrescendo to Technology (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I've had various versions of that line since a 2 megapixel S100 (100S? something like that, it still takes fantastic pictures). Currently we have a SD 1100IS, it's a great camera for it's size, takes nice pictures, and you can run custom firmware on it for more features.
posted by defcom1 at 4:48 PM on April 28, 2010

That's a good point. I forgot about the CHDK. I have never used it but I could definitely tinker with that in my next camera.
posted by decrescendo at 4:53 PM on April 28, 2010

Canon S90 gets great reviews, looks like you can find it for around $375.
posted by casaubon at 5:07 PM on April 28, 2010

I own a Nikon CoolPix S630 and I am very happy with it. It looks like the S640 is the current version in that product line.

NewEgg is selling the S640 for $170, if you don't mind the strange color.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:35 PM on April 28, 2010

If you're just carrying it around for casual snapshots, there's really no reason you need to spend $350. You can spend less than $200 and get a model that does everything you need and shoots HD video, or even a competent non-HD Canon for under $150.

If you just want a cool piece of kit, though, I'd get a Panasonic DMC-TS2 (I think that's the one...) which is their newest waterproof, shockproof offering which is great if you're going to be rough with your camera or the DMC-ZS7 which has insane zoom and GPS geotagging capability. Otherwise, Sony's newest HX5 (or it's credit card sized companion) is great too, with lots of cool gimmicky featuers like automatic panoramas, Twilight Mode, etc. Most P&S cameras at that price point are meant for advanced photographers and likely have features that aren't that useful to you (hot shoes, manual focus capability, critically sharp image quality, etc).
posted by speedgraphic at 5:37 PM on April 28, 2010

Whenever my friends ask me what camera to get, I pretty much just tell them to get whatever Canon feels best in their hands. I've had great luck with Canon point and shoots, and everyone I know loves theirs.

I'm with speedgraphic--you don't need to spend $350 for a casual point and shoot. I'd say go to Best Buy (or a similar store), take a look at Canons and Nikons around what you want to spend, and pick the one you like using the most. Ignore megapixel counts and digital zoom numbers, as both are pretty meaningless. All the cameras at this price point from Canon and Nikon will have pretty much the same image quality, especially if you're staying solely in automatic mode.
posted by deansfurniture5 at 5:43 PM on April 28, 2010

Nthing the "no need to go $350." Panasonics with Leica lenses can be had for half of that. You want point and shoot, so Canon & Panasonic have you covered for around $200. Do NOT get sucked in to the more megapixels = better pictures trap. With the small size sensors in most point and shoots, there can be significant "noise" in your images when the mfr is forcing more MPs onto the same size sensor.

We have a couple 6 and 8 MP Panasonics & Canons here and looked at 10 & 12 MP in the same size box. The image degradation was quite noticeable when printing above 8 x 10 inch.

To go bigger MP, you need a bigger sensor, and at that point it probably makes sense to spend $700-800 on a Canon digital SLR.
posted by beelzbubba at 6:12 PM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just to be contrarian: If you want good pictures in low-light situations like bars or other dim indoor settings, and you don't need a long zoom, consider hunting around for a good deal on the Panasonic Lumix LX-3. Its lens has a range that's equivalent to 24-60 mm on a 35mm SLR: that is, a range that privileges wide angle to "normal" focal lengths. And at the shorter focal lengths the widest aperture is f/2--far better than most compact cameras. It has a basic automatic mode but also offers a lot of creative control, with well thought out controls.

The result is a camera that's relatively small and light but can substitute for a DSLR for a lot of uses. Since I got one, I rarely take my Nikon D-70 while traveling. If Henri Cartier-Bresson were starting out now, he might choose the LX-3 or its Leica-branded equivalent, the D-LUX 4.

It is bigger and heavier than the most compact cameras, but not that much more so.
posted by brianogilvie at 7:52 PM on April 28, 2010

2nding the Canon S90, best P&S camera I've ever seen/used/owned.
posted by iamabot at 9:32 PM on April 28, 2010

I've had a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX07 since 2006, and it just takes the absolute best pictures. Which sounds ridiculous, but it really does. I know very little about the nuts and bolts of photography, but I set up the shot and it makes it happen. It's got a wide angle lens and takes great macro shots for being a point and shoot. I bought it because:

1.) It takes video with sound for as long as the memory card can hold.
2.) I compared the sample shots with similar brands on, and it seemed to have the best macro/close up shots.
3.) I liked that it came in colors.

It's gotten a little wonky lately, but still takes terrific shots. Without a doubt, when it eventually dies, I will buy a later evolution of the same model.

I pretty much only use it on the macro setting, and I almost always rest it on something to stabilize the shot. These two things, combined with the camera itself, result in nothing but win.
posted by redsparkler at 10:12 PM on April 28, 2010

It's slightly above your price but you might want to think about the Canon here and here.
posted by Hypnotic Chick at 10:52 PM on April 28, 2010

Steve's Digicams is a fantastic, free, reesource for this, by the way.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:08 AM on April 29, 2010

I just bought an Olympus StyleTough 6020. It's rugged, waterproof, shock proof, and can handle cold weather. It's also got a 5x optical zoom, great image quality, and does 720p video.

It's fantastic for your uses... if running out concerts, outside, and just generally using it when you're having fun, it's the one to get. I love it.
posted by smitt at 9:55 AM on April 29, 2010

I've been enjoying my Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS1. Got it on recommendation of my father. He bought it on recommendation of the sports photographer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, who uses it for personal point-and-shoot stuff.
posted by dlugoczaj at 10:12 AM on April 29, 2010

nthing the Canon S90 — I just got one a few weeks ago, and it's great. However, I feel that with Cameras the rule of diminishing returns is very apropos. Probably 95% of the pictures I've taken (and will take) I could have taken almost as well with just about any $150-ish point and shoot...yes, it has a big sensor and operates better than most cameras in low light conditions, and for me I decided it was worthwhile to pay a whole lot more for that last 5% of photos (if that) it might enable me to take...but I certainly recognize that for most folks it wouldn't be.
posted by dyslexictraveler at 2:32 PM on April 29, 2010

Seconding, thirding others here for the Lumix brand; I'm extremely happy with my DMC-FZ7. (I've had it since November 2006, and — it keeps count for me — have taken 38,887 shots.) Having a 12x zoom is a very nice feature, and by now the newer models go 18x.

It is a bit bulky to slip into your pocket, so I later got a Lumix DMC-FS3 for that. I like it well enough too (9,000 photos later); only a 3X zoom, though, so I don't use it as much.
posted by LeLiLo at 12:49 PM on May 5, 2010

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