I need a digital camera under $200
August 6, 2008 8:17 PM   Subscribe

I have $200 to spend and am looking for a high quality digital camera. I want I camera that's light weight, small: that's easy to take hiking and not bulkily. I want really hi res so I can use many of the photos I take for stock photography. Please suggest a few cameras.
posted by BoldStepDesign to Computers & Internet (39 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
IMO, high resolution, high quality, lightweight digital camera for stock photography does not fit into a $200 budget.

What do you have now? Can you tell us what you mean by stock photography (it doesn't sound like you're a pro or intend to sell your photos- do you?)

I'd say for $200 see if you can pick up an older Nikon body with a good lightweight lens. You *might* be able to pick up a used Nikon D70 on eBay with a very basic lens for $200, but you'd have to be pretty lucky.
posted by arnicae at 8:25 PM on August 6, 2008

Oh, and do you want a DSLR, and do you care about whether it is fixed lens or not?
posted by arnicae at 8:26 PM on August 6, 2008

Cannon SD450, very small, good pictures, durable. Should be available used for that price.
posted by iamabot at 8:27 PM on August 6, 2008

Err Canon.
posted by iamabot at 8:27 PM on August 6, 2008

Response by poster: @ arnicae - no idea what a DSLR is or if i want one. I'm looking for primarly three things (within my budget)
1. Highest possible quality
2. Lightweight
3. Video

I want to use the photos on my personal sites, flickr, social sites and if they're good enough for stock on my business/client's sites.
posted by BoldStepDesign at 8:40 PM on August 6, 2008

Pentax Optio W30 is about $240, but the previous model, the W20 could be had for less. It's waterproof, pretty small and has good resolution. I have one and it's pretty great. No worries about getting dust or grit into the lens and waterproof down to several feet, so it's perfect for camping.
posted by electroboy at 8:42 PM on August 6, 2008

"DSLR" == Digital Single Lense Reflex. Which means it has the same kind of form factor and lense as the old high quality 35 mm cameras, but has a CCD instead of using film.
posted by Class Goat at 8:44 PM on August 6, 2008

Canon SD750, 7mp, very good yes. Check out camera usage stats on flickr.
posted by limited slip at 9:00 PM on August 6, 2008

Response by poster: What would you recommend
posted by BoldStepDesign at 9:01 PM on August 6, 2008

Canon A-series. A bit more manual options than the SD series has - it's not near an SLR but it's about the best camera I can think of that matches all your options. Check out the website and buy the highest Axxx (A720 IS will probably be your best bet). You can also install custom firmware (google for it) that lets you do quite a bit more on a lot of the A series cameras.

SLRs will be neither light nor capable of video.
posted by true at 9:04 PM on August 6, 2008

Most of the Canon SD and A series cameras would fit the bill, I think. Check out the SD1000.
posted by roomwithaview at 9:12 PM on August 6, 2008

Yeah, given that you want video, I retract my suggestion for a D70. Look at used cameras from the Canon A series.
posted by arnicae at 9:29 PM on August 6, 2008

The Online Photographer has a wonderfully snarky guide on choosing a digital camera.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 9:31 PM on August 6, 2008 [4 favorites]

The Canon S5 IS that I have is quite good. It's 8MP (which isn't the highest in the world but it's good enough). The huge optical zoom is great, and the physical size is relatively small. It runs on regular AA batteries and standard (cheap) SD cards, too.
posted by yellowbkpk at 9:52 PM on August 6, 2008

Scratch that... the S5 IS seems to retail for around $300, which is a little out of your budget.
posted by yellowbkpk at 9:53 PM on August 6, 2008

Well, for $200 bucks, you're going to get a lot of "HAHAHA, DIGITAL POINT AND SHOOTS ARE FOR RETARDS, GET AN SLR DONGHEAD HAHAHA!" type of responses.

Don't listen. And that review from the Online Photographer linked above? Don't waste your time. It's someone calling you a retard for wanting a point and shoot.

I have two digitals that I purchased for under 200, and they work fine. One is a Panasonic DMC-FS3A, takes great pictures, easy to use, and seems sturdy enough. The other is an Olympus FE-340, takes great pictures, has a lot of nice features, and will survive a 3 story drop off of a balcony on to concrete. Both were purchased for around $179.

No, you will never win a photo contest with people who have nothing better to do than spend thousands of dollars on cameras and lenses. You will, however, have a nice little camera to take some snapshots with.
posted by bradth27 at 9:55 PM on August 6, 2008

foo...he's not calling anybody a retard for wanting a P&S. He's simply saying that they are all so similar that comparing them is not terribly useful. Your time is better spent understanding how to use the one you buy rather then agonizing over subtle differences.

Yes, I use a P&S....
posted by Confess, Fletch at 10:09 PM on August 6, 2008

Response by poster: Did I say all this has to work with a mac?
posted by BoldStepDesign at 10:11 PM on August 6, 2008

Response by poster: Here's what I'm looking @
Canon PowerShot A590:
FUJIFILM FinePix S1000fd:

I'm thinking canon cuz I've heard it's the best. But I'm not sure.
posted by BoldStepDesign at 10:19 PM on August 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ken Rockwell sez Canon SD750. $170-180.
posted by mdonley at 10:28 PM on August 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

My vote goes to the Panasonic Lumix FX30, which I own. Probably not hugely better/worse than the SD750, however.
posted by O9scar at 10:39 PM on August 6, 2008

Best answer: If your a good photographer, you can take great pictures with just about anything. Just ask Holga enthusiasts. For you uses, the three you have picked will be just fine. When explaining to people the differences in camera brands, I break it down like this: Canon is to Nikon as Mercedes is to BMW. Pentax is to Olympus as Honda is to Toyota. But really, everyone has their preferences. The camera should be intuiative to use and should feel good in your hands. Good luck.
posted by captainsohler at 10:43 PM on August 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

I recently purchased a Canon PowerShot SD850 IS and it is fantastic in every way. Excellent automatic mode and face detection, lightweight, big LCD screen, great battery life and a really nice digital macro mode. I was able to get it from Amazon for about $220, they also have a 2GB memory card for $10. I would, without any reservations, recommend this camera to anyone looking for a quality point-and-shoot on a budget (high-resolution too, 8MP, although I'd advise not being drawn into the megapixel-myth zone). Also, the digital macro mode is awesome.

I have my Flickr account linked to my MeFi account, so check my profile for some recent shots I took with it.
posted by cgomez at 11:41 PM on August 6, 2008

I'll just pass along the info I've seen to date... after hearing the benefits of the Panasonic Lumix line ... I bought a used FZ5, and have been quite happy with its performance. However, the same reviewers who gave the Lumix high marks two years ago are now praising the flash memory based digital video camera: if you don't have a specific camera assignment in mind, you might consider a digital video focused solution.
posted by acro at 11:45 PM on August 6, 2008

i just bought a canon sd600 elph used on ebay. it is tiny, lightweight, and shoots decent video. because it was refurbished it didn't come with a memory card, so with that + shipping and taxes the grand total came to something like $160. i am very happy with it.
posted by janepanic at 1:07 AM on August 7, 2008

I'd say pick up a decent camera review magazine - one with the big table in the back where they summarise a wide range of cameras and rate them on different factors.

Make a shortlist based on your critera. Go to a camera store and hold each of the cameras in your hands. It's not until you feel a camera that you'll know it's the right one for you.

I've had a Canon A series for a few years (an A80, although newer A series cameras are quite similar) and it takes good pictures. Maybe not SLR-good, but it has enough manual overrides to open up possibilities. Then I got myself an Ixus 70 (SD1000) and now I rarely get the A series camera out, despite the Ixus having fewer manual settings. The SD1000 is just too convenient not to carry it everywhere; and because I carry it everywhere I get much better pictures than I would from a better camera. Plus it feels like a perfect little block of metal, and that's cool.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:32 AM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Strong vote in favor of an A series Canon, unless it's not as compact as you'd like. In that case I'd go for an SD series Canon.
posted by imjustsaying at 4:04 AM on August 7, 2008

just to be clear - for the uses you describe you do not need "high resolution" (which is a good thing given your prce constraints). what you need is " good picture quality", which is not the same thing at all. for point and shoot cameras you get better quality with less pixels (as long as the camera is a modern model). for the technical arguments see here. in short using "number of megapixels" as a guide to quality is a scam created by marketing departments because people aething "big numbers must be better".

so go with whatever people recommend, but if you are torn between one or two different models, prefer the one with less pixels (you will not find a modern camera with less than 6 megapixels, they all have more).
posted by not sure this is a good idea at 4:15 AM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

(where i wrote "aething" i guess i mean "think"...)
posted by not sure this is a good idea at 4:16 AM on August 7, 2008

I wanted to nth the fact that high megapixel number doesn't equal better picture quality. You have to consider the size of the sensor as well. For example, the Nikon 40D (a digital SLR) is around 6 MP but if you compare pictures taken with this DSLR to a 6 MP point and shoot you'll see a pretty big difference in terms of picture quality, partly due to this difference in sensor size (the lens plays a part too).
posted by minus zero at 4:47 AM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks guys. I'll go to a store try some on for size and see what I like.

I'm leaning towards
Canon PowerShot SD850 IS
Canon PowerShot A590:
posted by BoldStepDesign at 5:45 AM on August 7, 2008

I have to agree with those suggesting the SD Canon series. I have a 750 (lightly outdated now) and it takes great pictures for such a compact cameral. The biggest difference you will notice between the A series and SD is the form factor. If you are planning to print the pix in real life, see if they will let you print them in the store, or at least email them to yourself to check out at your leisure.
posted by kenbennedy at 6:35 AM on August 7, 2008

You may also consider a used Canon G-series camera. Slightly less compact than the SD and A series cameras, but in my experience they have excellent manual controls, RAW mode, good optics, great battery life, and a flash hotshoe to boot! Don't fall into the megapixel trap. Be sure to weigh the advantages of lower noise and better optics against the OMG 12megapixels! hype.
posted by freq at 7:16 AM on August 7, 2008

Confess, Fletch thanks so much for that link. Vindicated on buying the "cute" camera (from one source anyway)!
posted by nax at 8:06 AM on August 7, 2008

My wife really like her Panasonic Lumix mumble7, and her sister likes the previous model. Very nice pictures, fast response, and not too hard to figure out. They both have the model with the big glass lens, but I have been considering the smaller, pocketable Lumix cameras.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:15 AM on August 7, 2008

When you've narrowed it down to particular cameras, you might take a look at Flickr's Camera Finder, which lets you take a look at pictures on Flickr that were taken with whatever camera you select.
posted by sinfony at 12:11 PM on August 7, 2008

Please go with Canon - if anything for the FREE(!) CHDK firmware. It's as simple as slipping in an SD card to install, it's not permanent, and the functions it adds to your Canon point-and-shoot are easily worth several hundred dollars. It's basically upgrading your point-and-shoot to a DSLR.
Here's the Wikipedia link, and here's a great forum to learn more.

Please, I'm begging you, don't miss out on this!
posted by Detuned Radio at 2:09 PM on August 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

Nthing the Canon SD series. I've owned several, and currently have the SD750. I don't have a single complaint.
posted by BryanPayne at 4:45 PM on August 7, 2008

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