Help me buy a sub-$200 digital camera
February 15, 2011 1:55 PM   Subscribe

Looking for a point and shoot camera, best I can get under $200.

Replacing a hand-me-down digital. I'd say my photographic abilities are fairly decent: not afraid to adjust settings away from the default, but not looking at this time for an SLR. Something like this Nikon seems like a good buy, with a very long zoom. Ability to shoot video sequences is nice but in no way mandatory.

Looking for specific model suggestions, retailers, and general advice, as I haven't ever been shopping for a digital camera before.
posted by efalk to Technology (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I should add, I'm not really looking for used models.
posted by efalk at 2:00 PM on February 15, 2011

I would wait a few weeks until the new Panasonic DMC-FH27 is out; it should be available on Amazon in your price range.
posted by Dasein at 2:10 PM on February 15, 2011

I have this Panasonic and really like it. This particular one is water- and shock-proof, which you didn't include in your criteria but can potentially lengthen the life of a camera, if you think about it (I started looking at this kind after dropping a Sony less than a foot onto a hard table. Busted screen=useless camera). Anyway, I really did my homework before buying this and it's an all-around good camera so I would definitely explore the Panasonics.
posted by lovableiago at 2:41 PM on February 15, 2011

Having previously owned point and shoot digitals from Sony, Panasonic, and Nikon, I now swear by the Canon SD series for quality, ease of use, and feature set for the price. The SD1300 can be had on sale for closer to $100 a lot of the time (Here's the Amazon link).

It doesn't have an optical viewfinder; but who uses those now adays. It has solid picture quality, speed, features, battery life (comes with a proprietary rechargeable battery and charger) etc. You could use the extra money to buy a giant high-speed SD card.
posted by ohheh at 2:46 PM on February 15, 2011

CostCo's in-store selection at this price point is usually very good.
posted by zippy at 2:56 PM on February 15, 2011

I own the PowerShot SD780IS, and it's a great camera for just under $200 on Amazon.

Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, and Sony all make decent P&S cameras. I have shot all of them, but prefer the Canon SD models because the best camera is the one you have with you, and almost all of these will slip unobtrusively in your pocket. The down side of every camera in this price range, for me, is the lack of any real manual control over exposure. I can't find good specs for the Nikon SP mentioned, but in a P&S that I'll use regularly, I care about time from power-on to shot, and speed of the zoom in addition to image quality.
posted by Hylas at 3:04 PM on February 15, 2011

Check out the Kodak m590. It is about the size of a Blackberry Bold. Great for a pocket camera. And the best part is that its zooming functionality is (somehow) internal. There is no snout that pops out when you are trying to take a picture. It is NOT digital zoom, they do it with mirrors or something.

The power on time is fast, menus are fast, the autofocus and shutter delay are fine. Has decent manual controls, but I found that they really aren't necessary in a point and shoot. Has a number of what it calls "scenes" where you tell it what you are shooting and it sets the camera up for that.

Image quality is not quite as good as I think it could be, but is certainly excellent for the price, convenience and size. (But I might be an outlier- I don't really think 14 megapixels is necessary. I would prefer a better sensor and less resolution.) It seems to err on the side of slightly underexposing rather than over exposing. That's cool with me. Macro performance is unbelievably good. Flash is usually not necessary.

Just got one at Best Buy for $99, on sale last week.

Good news bad news: it has a rechargable battery. It is removable, but it isn't as convenient as just dropping in a couple of AAAs. Also, inexplicably, it won't charge via a computer. Gotta plug it into its little wall wart.
posted by gjc at 4:44 PM on February 15, 2011

I've got a Canon SD1400 IS on the way to replace my beatdown SD790 IS. The manager who I spoke to at Staples also just bought one as did a friend of his. My camera was $199 plus tax, shoots excellent photos and also shoots HD video (720p, I think).

I'd strongly recommend Canon as I've tried other brands and have never been happy with them. Canon's got their software dialed in, the cameras are well made and the results are excellent.
posted by fenriq at 4:54 PM on February 15, 2011

Canon PowerShot, Canon PowerShot, Canon PowerShot. The camera I currently own (and have recommended to friends and relatives who now also own it) is currently on sale at Amazon for a ridiculously low $109.

I have now had three models in the PowerShot line. All were superb. I love this camera.
posted by eleyna at 7:24 PM on February 15, 2011

Cannon FTW, and get one you can put Canon Hack Development Kit (CHDK) on if you get bored. CHDK lets you do many fun things like scripting, controlling all the settings, auto-bracketing, saving in RAW format, time-lapse, remote triggering, yadda yadda. It's awesome.
posted by zengargoyle at 12:07 AM on February 16, 2011

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