How many baby pics can you look at without vomiting?
February 21, 2007 2:53 PM   Subscribe

New baby coming, lots of photo ops. Which digital camera to get for less than $500?

I've looked at lots of digital camera review sites, and to be honest, at 38 weeks I'm just too dumb/ADD to sift through them all to find what I want. So fellow parents/doting aunts and uncles/people who just know something about photography, what's your favorite camera for capturing the joys of baby and toddlerhood?

Here are the basic requirements:
*Fast startup time and low shutter lag in case I catch them doing something adorable (or doing something I can blackmail them with later)
*Good light controls so I can capture that golden afternoon light on her napping little face
*Portable in a purse or diaper bag
*Not too expensive - losing it or getting half a rotten bottle of milk spilled on it is just a matter of time.
posted by pomegranate to Technology (23 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I like my new Canon SD800 IS, recent AskMe question re: using its flash notwithstanding. The Image Stabilization would be great for squirrely babies.

I found it for $375 at Beach Camera online, with free shipping. Total came to almost exactly $400 for the camera and a 1 GB SD card (which you'd definitely want).
posted by rossination at 3:05 PM on February 21, 2007

We just birthed a highly photogenic Turduckling, and bought the Canon SD700 digital Elph, for about US$310 on Amazon -- lowest priced Elph with image stabilization, and takes great photos. (The SD800 is excellent, too, but no one needs that many megapixels!)

Ditto the 1 gig card -- but make sure you buy a high speed version (80x or more). Costs 5 bucks more, but worth it in download time.

Lots of threads on this topic on AskMe, which others will surely reference...
posted by turducken at 3:12 PM on February 21, 2007

...and a tip: The "High ISO" setting is the one to use for squirrely babies -- freezes the action without too much loss in picture quality. (The image stabilization is more about your hand shaking while using the tiny camera.) The ISO option is available with a button on the back of the SD700 (vs. via a software menu), which makes it exceptionally useful.
posted by turducken at 3:15 PM on February 21, 2007

The Canon powershot s3. It addition to being a great camera, it takes videos at 640x480 at 30fps which is basically standard TV resolution.
posted by Pastabagel at 3:20 PM on February 21, 2007

"The Image Stabilization would be great for squirrely babies."

Image stabilization corrects for blur due to camera movement. If you have a moving subject, there is no substitute for faster shutter speed (except a flash). In order to be able to use a faster shutter speed you either need more light, a larger lens aperture (which means using the widest zoom on most compact cameras), and or using a higher ISO setting to increase the effective sensitivity of the sensor.

As other's have suggested the smaller Canons like the SD models are a good bet. An ultrazoom, like the S3 would only be useful if you want to take closeups from across the room. I think pretty much any of the canons released in the past 12-18 months are going to let you shoot 640x480@30fps -- it won't be as good as a video camera, but you can have it handy pretty much all the time.

It doesn't have image stabilization, but the SD600 is pretty cheap (~$210), and otherwise as capable as the more expensive compact models.

BTW the main attraction of the SD800 isn't the megapixels, it's that it has a 28mm-equivalent wide angle at the wide end of the zoom.
posted by Good Brain at 3:51 PM on February 21, 2007

You might also want to look for a camera with a good burst mode. Being able to get 3 or 5 rapid frames to fire off could significantly increase your chances of being able to get lucky and capture that singularly precious expression.

I'm not sure which of the sub-$500 cameras have that, but there are several DSLR cameras that wouldn't cost much more than that and meet all of your other requirements with the exception of portability. You might even be able to get a nice used one for even less if you look around on craigs list.
posted by willnot at 3:58 PM on February 21, 2007

Once they start moving around, the swing-out display that Canon has (on the S3, among many others) becomes very useful. I have it on my A80, and I wouldn't buy another camera without it. I also wouldn't buy one that doesn't run on standard batteries- being able to replace dead AA batteries at every corner store and gas station has come in handy.
posted by Steve3 at 4:07 PM on February 21, 2007

I have this Kodak DX7630, I think this one is the "upgrade" to mine and it's $200 or less. I've taken some really great photos with it.

I know it's not one of THE most popular cameras out there, but it has a pretty quick start up. A ton of default settings, the ability to customize settings, burst mode and a video feature (with sound).

For what it's worth, I've gotten a lot of bang for my buck :) And congrats!
posted by heartquake at 4:12 PM on February 21, 2007

We got the Panasonic DMC-TZ1 before Christmas and have been very happy with it. Great zoom. Burst mode great for quick moving subjects. Relatively good in low light. Rechargeable battery lasts a long time (but worth getting a spare). Turn it on and it's ready to shoot instantly. Quick shutter speed compared to other digitals I've used.

It has a 'simple' mode and a more advanced mode where you can access all kinds of settings, including B&W, sepia etc. There are also pre-set settings for beach scenes, snow scenes, night scenes, fireworks, portraits, etc.

It also does very good video, even in low light.

I paid about $700 Canadian for the camera, a 2G card, spare battery, case and other accessories. I understand it's considerably cheaper in the US. A friend got one on sale about 6 months ago for about $400 total.
posted by valleys at 4:36 PM on February 21, 2007

It's more important to have a large sensor than it is to have ultra mega-pixels, in case you come across a couple of cameras that compare closely other than this.
posted by dancestoblue at 5:06 PM on February 21, 2007

I'm going to sound contrarian and suggest you consider an inexpensive dSLR, like the Nikon D40 or D50 (do a careful comparison at and a fast (f/1.4-f/2) lens. (The 50mm f/1.4 is great for low light, the f/1.8 almost as great and, according to my BIL, significantly sharper. There's a 35mm f/2 lens that would give a wider angle but costs much more.) The dSLR is bigger and heavier but does great in low light, has almost no shutter lag, has fast autofocus, and lasts a looong time on a battery charge because the sensor is active only when you take a photo and the screen is active only when you're reviewing photos. The tradeoff is that you do have to lug the thing around, but with a form-fitting case it's not that big, especially if you fit a fixed focal length lens.

You may decide against it, because of the size, but give it some thought and check out the used market.
posted by brianogilvie at 5:18 PM on February 21, 2007

I'll second the current Canon SD700/800 cameras. They're great. I've had my SD700 for a few months and I absolutely love it. High ISO (simulates 800 speed film) and image stabilization (that's the IS in Canon SD700 IS) are way good to have in point-and-shoot cameras. The screen is huge and bright, and it actually has a decent optical zoom for a camera that's so tiny.

I also bought a 4 gig card for it, which is apparently out of spec for SD cards but the camera reads/writes that card just fine. I have to use the USB cable to transfer photos, though (no SD readers seem to work for the card).

I think the only way you could get a better camera would be a cheap DSLR.
posted by bigtex at 5:30 PM on February 21, 2007

Don't even consider getting a camera that's not a Canon.


You listening?


After my Canon Powershot S400 was used until it wouldn't reliably work anymore, I got a Powershot SD800 IS for my birthday. It's amazing. You know what? You should get one.

posted by redteam at 5:35 PM on February 21, 2007

Oh, and since fast startup time and shutter lag were in your requirements, I should mention that the SD700 boots up almost instantly and if you hold down the shutter button it will keep taking pictures as fast as it can write them to the card without even refocusing/metering/etc, so it'll be like two shots a second or faster. So get a fast card and you're good to go.
posted by bigtex at 5:35 PM on February 21, 2007

Touche, Goodbrain - that explains why the pictures after 10 cups of coffee still come out shaky, no matter how still those damn plants are.

Thanks for the clarification.
posted by rossination at 6:06 PM on February 21, 2007

I won't offer a direct suggestion for which camera as good recommendations are noted above. (I've owned a number of cameras including digital elves and have a Nikon DLSR… happy with all for their time and place.) What I will say is this: point and shoots will be fine while your child is a fleshy lump *awww, such cute descriptions* but once that critter starts motoring you will wish you had a DSLR. The one drawback mentioned above: lugging it about? I predict less travel in your near future. :-)

(All this is assuming you must have digital -- only the very best digital cameras can match the specs for film cameras and even then, I am not sure this is true dollar for dollar. It's been a long time since I ponderd that question though.)

/father of 14 month old boy
posted by Dick Paris at 6:53 PM on February 21, 2007

Another vote for the Canon SD800 IS. I love mine so much I would marry it, if not for a recent unfortunate constitutional amendment passed by voters in my state.
posted by LarryC at 7:05 PM on February 21, 2007

Get a Canon. I've an aging Canon SD400 and it's a very versatile little camera. Canon cameras in general have good optics and a good range of optical zoom. I don't know if they're still available or if it even matters for you but I purchased a dive case for my SD400 when I went to Hawaii. For about 120 bucks I could take my camera down to 150 feet while scuba diving. They're nice and compact, and to me the most important thing about a point and shoot as opposed to an SLR is that you can carry it with you always (so that when those opportunities to photograph your kids misdeeds and embarrassing events for future fame and fortune you actually have your camera)

The only drawbacks I see with the Canon are it's relatively short battery life compared to Sony's of the time and it didn't have a RAW mode. I don't know about the present battery life but they still don't have RAW (of course it's a point in shoot - with decent optics)

If you think you want a point and shoot then don't let yourself be swayed down the DSLR path. I have both and shoot more with my point and shoot just because I can stuff it into a large pocket.
posted by substrate at 7:27 PM on February 21, 2007

I have both a Canon SD550 and a Nikon D50, and while I haven't a child, I have some good friends with a two-year-old, and I have taken a lot of pictures of the kid, from infancy on up. I think that you may ultimately be disappointed with the pictures from a point-and-shoot camera, and like brianogilvie above, I will recommend that you at least consider a dSLR as an option.

I love my SD550 for its portability, but the things kids do are a lot more fleeting than even it can even catch sometimes. For interior shots, you will also often need to use the flash with a compact camera to freeze your child's motion, and indoor-flash shots tend to look (to me) more "snapshotty" than like "keep-forever memory" photos.

Of course, you probably will not want or be able to always carry a dSLR. So I would consider getting a Canon SD series compact and perhaps a D40 or D50. Keep the compact in your diaper bag, and take the SLR whenever you can. It will be worth it.
posted by misterbrandt at 7:30 PM on February 21, 2007

What you want is something in the Fuji F-- series: F10/F11 (discontinued), F20 (budget), F30 (more controls), F31 (more controls plus face detection AF), or F40 (newest iteration of this series). Canon compacts are wonderful good-light cameras, but the Fuji F-- series is simply incomparable indoors (close to DSLR high-ISO quality, without the bulk or the expense). Some things to consider: virtually all compact cameras have slowish (roughly f/2.8 or worse) lenses, image stabilization does nothing to counter subject (i.e. baby) movement, and most babies hate flash. Hence, ramping up to high ISO levels is your only way to go here, and that's the Fuji F-- series's special feature. They also have amazing battery life, which makes them good "toss in diaper bag and forget" cameras. Their main drawback is their stupid proprietary memory card format, but the newest F40 fd also accepts industry-standard SD cards as well.
posted by DaShiv at 8:14 PM on February 21, 2007

We just produced a child, and got the SD700 from Canon as well. It has been wonderful.
posted by blahblahblah at 8:28 PM on February 21, 2007

I'll chime with the Canon SD800 IS again. I bought one a few weeks ago and haven't wanted to put it down yet.
posted by troubadour at 10:09 AM on February 22, 2007

no canon, no sony. i live in japan, olympic is ok but the best is lumix. compact, clear, easy, great pics, great one handed action. great value, good menu. set it to the double shot setting, where it takes two pics half a second apart every time, and you will catch everything with the kid.
posted by edtut at 3:38 AM on February 24, 2007

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