Help me get in focus.
January 12, 2007 5:56 AM   Subscribe

What's the best camera 200-300 dollars can buy?

I'm looking to do some amateur photography (flickr,etc.). The camera needs to have an SD Card expandable memory and be in between the 200-300 range. The cheaper the better, as long as it doesn't sacrifice quality. I would prefer to be able to purchase it from a store rather than a website-- but if the price is right I might consider.

posted by jne1813 to Media & Arts (29 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
dpreview and Steves-Digicams are both good digital-camera sites.
posted by box at 6:07 AM on January 12, 2007

Its more in the $300-$400 range, but I'd suggest you'll get more for your money with the Canon SD800. Unlike other pocket cameras it has a 28mm lens, which is wider than the usual 35mm. That makes a big difference when you're taking pictures in small rooms or landscapes, even the casual shot across a restaurant table.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 6:08 AM on January 12, 2007

the Kodak P880 is an affordable and well-reviewed "bridge" camera - a nice term for a digital SLR-wanna-be. I just got one from a reputable eBay store for just under $300. Its feature that I like best is the manual zoom ring - and I was most disappointed with the manual focus ring. I thought it would replicate my film SLR focusing nicely, but since it's not actually an SLR, it uses another small digital screen inside the eye piece to show what you're aiming at. And this looks very muddy and pixelated even when focused correctly. Everything else about the camera is to my satisfaction.
posted by white light at 6:08 AM on January 12, 2007

(It also has a really wide lens)
posted by white light at 6:09 AM on January 12, 2007

Are you wanting SLR, or point-and-shoot? There are some good point-and-shoot recs in this recent thread.
posted by somanyamys at 6:55 AM on January 12, 2007

Do you need it small? If you don't, you can usually get a better camera in a larger size for the same price as one of the micro cameras.
posted by smackfu at 6:55 AM on January 12, 2007

For instance, the Canon A630 vs. the SD630. Both good cameras, both same price.
posted by smackfu at 7:01 AM on January 12, 2007

White light: I would have emailed but you didn't include an address in your profile.

What's the shutter delay like on that Kodak P880? The only real reason I want to splash out on a DSLR is to be able to shoot pictures instantly (I HATE that endless delay on my Canon point and shoot between pressing the button and the picture being taken.)

posted by CunningLinguist at 7:15 AM on January 12, 2007

Kevin Kelly's cool tools 'camera' category. Lots of love for the Lumix in that link.
posted by craniac at 7:23 AM on January 12, 2007

Take a look at the Casio Exilim Z1000 review at DPReviews. I picked one up at Costco for $329 (including a 512MB SD card and a leather carrying case) before Christmas. It's extremely slim, has a huge LCD and a long-lasting battery. My girlfriend (who has very little photographic experience) and I (who have owned a Canon D-SLR for more than 2 years and 25K photos) have both been very pleased with it, so far.
posted by syzygy at 7:40 AM on January 12, 2007

My boyfriend got a Cannon A540 for xmas, that was $200. It takes really good pictures and takes SD.
posted by Attackpanda at 8:20 AM on January 12, 2007

I have a friend who raves about the Panasonic Lumix because of the thing that removes the blur from shaky hands and I was also at a holiday party this year where a co-worker was taking great videos with one in very low light.
posted by any major dude at 8:24 AM on January 12, 2007

I've had really good luck with my Fujifilm Finepix S5200 5.1MP Digital Camera with 10x Optical Zoom, which Amazon has now for about $250. But don't just take my word for it. Have a look at my flickr stream.
posted by Dave Faris at 8:32 AM on January 12, 2007

According to Ken Rockwell, professional photographer, the Canon Powershot A530 is "the best buy in photography in 2006". As far as he's concerned, this $150 camera is as good as a $5000 camera.

I just bought the a540 and I'm just starting to figure out how to use it. It offers a lot of manual control, which I'm not used to, but ithat's probably good for an aspiring amateur.

The Digital Camera Resource Page is indispensable for researching digital cameras.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:51 AM on January 12, 2007

I HATE that endless delay on my Canon point and shoot between pressing the button and the picture being taken

That's wierd. I bought a new Canon recently becuase they usually have a rather short delay compared to other brands I tried.

I second smackfu's suggestion, I bought the SD600 (for 219 with 1gig card at newegg) after owning an "A" series Canon for awhile. We wanted something more portable, but it does look hilarious on a tripod.
posted by Big_B at 8:51 AM on January 12, 2007


I HATE that endless delay on my Canon point and shoot between pressing the button and the picture being taken

What kind of Canon do you have? Many of them have a special "continuous mode" that can take a shot every 2 seconds or so.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:53 AM on January 12, 2007

Another note about the Canon SD versus A series, you get more manual control with the A series as others have pointed out. But in my research they both have more manual control than other brands.

Oh and the new 700IS/800IS have image stabilization, which I wish I had ponyed up the extra dough for.
posted by Big_B at 8:56 AM on January 12, 2007

What kind of Canon do you have?

Oh, it's a very old cheap point and shoot A10 which is why it's time for something new. I sometimes work with professional photogs and they let me play with their fancy gear and the one thing that makes me go all starry eyed is the almost total lack of shutter lag. I don't really need all the other stuff expensive SLR cameras have but am willing to buy one just for that.
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:09 AM on January 12, 2007

Autofocus/Shutter lag on compact point and shoots have come down a lot in the past 6 years, CunningLinguist. A dSLR will still have them beat. Either way, a half press to pre focus is still a good plan.
posted by Good Brain at 9:25 AM on January 12, 2007

I love my Canon SD600. (And the hold-the-button-halfway-down technique gets the camera ready to shoot and keeps it from giving me any delay when I press it all the way down. It takes the picture right then.)
posted by eleyna at 9:50 AM on January 12, 2007

For what it's worth, I saw several old Digital Rebels at a pawn shop the other day, all for under $175. I'm not sure what the risks involved in buying from a pawn shop are, but you might look into that...
posted by soviet sleepover at 10:31 AM on January 12, 2007

For what it's worth, I have a Canon A630 and love it.
posted by trip and a half at 11:38 AM on January 12, 2007

I just got a Lumix FZ7 (basically the six megapixel version of the FZ5) and I've been pretty happy with it so far. No RAW mode, but it does have 3 different aspect ratios to pick from to shoot in tiff or jpeg. I've heard some complaints about the noise from people online, but I haven't had any problems so far. However, it seems that when Panasonic increased the size of the LCD screen when upgrading models, they didn't really increase the resolution, so the LCD makes the pictures look like there's a lot of noise. But it has a nice wide lens, optical image stabilization (fantastic), and 12x optical zoom.

In terms of price, you probably won't be able to find it for less than $300 in-store (I've seen them for that at Circuit City, if there's a store nearby you should go play around with the floor model) but the cost has been fluctuating at various online retailers for the past several weeks; the price floor seems to be about $260, which is what I got mine for on Amazon.

I'll have some of my pics up on flickr soon if you want to see examples, e-mail's in profile.
posted by kyleg at 12:47 PM on January 12, 2007

The Canon S2 IS is perfectly within your price range. It's an awesome camera.

-Huge 12x image-stabilized optical zoom (equivalent to 400+mm lens on a 35mm camera)
-Tilt-swivel LCD
-Uses SD cards
-Takes AA batteries. If you're out on the town and your batteries die you can make a pit stop at 7-11 and be back to shooting in no time.

The lens is a major selling point, since the equivalent on a 35mm would be over $1k. Since the S3 came out, the prices for the S2 have dropped significantly. Check out some shots I've taken with it.
posted by mullingitover at 1:47 PM on January 12, 2007

I don't really know how to describe the short delay time on the P880. It's not instant, so it was weird after being used to film SLRs, but it is much faster than I had been anticipating after playing with my friends' point and shoots. It has the shutter-half-down to auto focus idea, and if you use that it works well. But the auto focusing can take up to what seems to be 1.5 seconds or so. I was against auto focus after a few years of art school brainwashing that anything automatic was bad - but you can move around a light meter/focus target bracket on a grid on the LCD and use that to determine where you focus (so it actually is your control), or you can use a centered auto focus bracket and use that to frame an object at the depth you want to focus on. Then hold the shutter half down to lock in that focus, and then move the camera and shoot. Hope that made sense. CompUSA allegedly carries this camera , so you might try going there and feeling it out on display.
posted by white light at 1:59 PM on January 12, 2007

I just upgraded from a Canon A80 to a Canon A630, which is the same line, newer version. I love that I can have full manual control and even add lenses (not that I have, but hey I like the option). In a lot of ways, it's like having a tiny SLR.

The swivel screen is also a big plus for me. Makes candids and weird angles a lot easier.

The one thing it's missing, IMO, is image stabilization. The A710 has 6x zoom (vs my 4x) and image stabilization, but no swivel screen.

I think it's a reasonable self-link to show you pics taken with the A80 here and here.
posted by SampleSize at 3:11 PM on January 12, 2007

I just this week got a Canon S630 and its amazing. It's only $230 bucks and it takes great photos and videos. There's also a mode which lets you shoot a series of photographs so that you can stitch them together with your computer. Very good bang for your buck. Also their is no viewfinder so the lcd screen is extra big. I love this feature because I use the lcd screen to take and frame the pictures anyways. Very impressive.
posted by pwally at 4:19 PM on January 12, 2007

I think the Canon A630 is exactly what you're looking for, especially if you're really interested in pursuing photography. Also, I'd recommend against the SD series of compact cameras mentioned in this thread because they lack manual control.

Secondly, I wouldn't spring for the A640, which costs $100 more than the A630. Its only advantages seem to be two extra megapixels, which do not add to overall image quality, and a nice black finish.

Many reputable online retailers are selling it for as low as $235.
posted by MyDocuments at 11:23 AM on January 13, 2007

three recommendations:

canon s2is (or preferably the newer s3). 12x zoom, takes awesome pictures in brighter light. decent flash. i love canon. pretty cheap for what you get.

fujifilm finepix f30: compact 3x zoom camera... wouldnt be so fantastic except that it has a fuji superCCD that is sensitive to ISO 3200. that means you can take photos without the flash in VERY dark situations. its really great for parties and concerts and the like. color is very nice on this camera as well.

fujiflim s6000fd. same sensor as the f30 but in an SLR-style body. has 10x zoom with wide angle and a barrel control. also has a real focus ring. its a little more expensive but will definitely rival SLRs in quality and abilities.

i keep all three around. i use the s2 when i am shooting outdoors during the day, so i can zoom in farther and use the image stabilization. i use the s6000fd when i take photos at concerts or when i am doing night photography around the city. i pretty much stick the f30 in my pocket everywhere i go. its about as versatile as it gets since its so small and so sensitive. great for going out to bars and clubs.

have fun!
posted by kneelconqueso at 11:09 AM on January 15, 2007

« Older What do the Japanese eat for breakfast?   |   Honest Garage in Miami? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.