Jun 28, 2010

Top 8 Budget Cameras for 2010

If you're shopping around for a new point and shoot camera you'll be interested in this new article at DCResource. They have compared eight budget digital cameras in one article. Remember that you should always try a camera out for yourself before you lay down your cash, whether it's $150 or $1500.
Here's the cameras tested:
  1. Canon PowerShot SD1300 IS Digital ELPH
  2. Kodak EasyShare M550
  3. Nikon Coolpix S3000
  4. Olympus FE-4030
  5. Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH3
  6. Pentax Optio H90
  7. Samsung SL600
  8. Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W330

Canon PowerShot SD1300 IS
What I liked:
  • Very good photo quality
  • Optical image stabilization
  • Stylish, compact metal body
  • Fastest startup time in the group
  • Nice LCD with good outdoor/low light visibility
  • AF-assist lamp, good low light focusing
  • Smart Auto mode selects a scene mode for you
  • Manual white balance and slow shutter speed controls
  • Well-implemented face detection, with handy face self-timer feature
  • Effective redeye removal in playback mode
  • Optional underwater case and external slave flash
What I didn't care for:
  • Some corner blurring and highlight clipping
  • Even with two anti-redeye systems, you still need to use the removal tool in playback mode
  • Flimsy door over battery/memory card compartment; cannot access while camera is on a tripod
  • Plastic tripod mount
  • Full manual on CD-ROM; manuals are not terribly user-friendly
  • No built-in memory or included memory card

Pentax Optio H90
What I liked:
  • Good photo quality; better than average high ISO performance
  • 5X, 28 - 140 mm lens in a uniquely styled and compact body
  • Auto Picture mode selects a scene mode for you
  • Lots of bells and whistles: instant panorama stitching, photo frames, virtual color filters
  • Manual focus and white balance
  • Customizable "green button"
  • Good face and smile detection
  • Can record up to ten minutes of continuous 720p video; in-camera video editing tool available
  • Large, detailed, and easy-to-read printed manual (woohoo!)
What I didn't care for:
  • Redeye a problem, even after digital correction
  • Some corner blurring and highlight clipping
  • Lens is on the slow side
  • No AF-assist lamp (though camera does okay in low light)
  • Below average battery life
  • Not great for night shots
  • Video quality isn't great
  • Poorly placed I/O port on bottom of camera
  • Plastic tripod mount and flimsy door over memory/battery compartment
Worth a Look

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH3
What I liked:
  • Good photo quality in most situations
  • Optical image stabilization
  • 5X, 28 - 140 mm lens in a solid, well-designed metal body
  • Nice LCD has good outdoor and low light visibility
  • Intelligent Auto mode does just about everything for you
  • Tons of scene modes, some of which are quite unique (though require compromises in terms of image quality)
  • Fast autofocus, even in low light
  • Best continuous shooting mode in the group
  • Well-implemented face detection
  • Records about eight minutes of continuous 720p video
  • Best-in-class battery life; gets even better with optional battery
  • Metal tripod mount!
What I didn't care for:
  • Redeye a problem, even with digital correction feature
  • Some vignetting and corner blurring
  • Details tend to get smudged by noise reduction
  • Lens is very slow at the telephoto end (F6.9)
  • Not great for night shots or unusual lighting conditions
  • Lens moves through zoom range way too slowly
  • No USB 2.0 High Speed support
  • Flimsy door over memory card/battery compartment
  • Full manual on CD-ROM; manual is not user-friendly

Samsung SL600
What I liked:
  • Decent photo quality in good lighting
  • Nice value for the money
  • 5X, 27 - 135 mm zoom in a compact metal body
  • Generally snappy performance
  • Smart Auto mode selects a scene mode for you
  • Only camera to feature AE bracketing
  • Redeye not a problem
  • Handy Photo Guide shows you what settings to change
  • Cool self-portrait, Frame Assist, and motion timer features
  • Performed well in our night test, despite lack of manual shutter speed control
What I didn't care for:
  • Some detail smudging from noise reduction; images get noisy fairly quickly
  • Weak flash
  • Unimpressive burst mode
  • LCD on the grainy side
  • Stiff zoom controller
  • Flimsy door over memory card/battery compartment; cannot access compartment while using tripod
  • Plastic tripod mount
  • Very little built-in memory
  • No video output cable; accessories difficult to find
  • Full manual on CD-ROM; manual is not user-friendly

Nikon Coolpix S3000
What I liked:
  • Good photo quality in most situations; performs better than average at high ISOs
  • 4X zoom lens in the smallest and lightest body in the group
  • Fast startup, focus times (at wide-angle)
  • Auto Scene Selector picks a scene mode for you
  • Smart Portrait mode combines face, smile, and blink detection with skin softening
  • Help screens for all menu items
What I didn't care for:
  • Redeye a problem
  • Noise reduction smudges fine details
  • Telephoto/low light focusing not great
  • LCD has poor viewing angle
  • Not great for night shots
  • Below average battery life
  • Poorly located I/O port on bottom of camera
  • Plastic tripod mount
  • Full manual on CD-ROM
I'd Pass on These

Olympus FE-4030
What I liked:
  • Good photo quality at low ISOs
  • Ultra-wide, 26 - 105 mm zoom in a small package
  • iAuto mode features automatic scene selection
  • Quick AF performance when lighting is good
  • Handy preview of exposure compensation and white balance options in overlay menu
  • Fun "Magic Filters"
  • One-step image retouching and redeye removal in playback mode
  • Help screens for some menu items via dedicated button
What I didn't care for:
  • Detail smudging from strong noise reduction; traditional noise shows up early
  • Strong corner blurring
  • No AF-assist lamp; slow low light focusing
  • No burst mode
  • No custom white balance
  • Digital zoom cannot be turned off
  • Sluggish menu system
  • Below average video quality
  • Small buttons on back of camera
  • Flimsy door over memory card/battery compartment
  • Plastic tripod mount
  • Full manual on CD-ROM

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W330
What I liked:
  • Performs better than average at high ISOs (but isn't so hot at low sensitivities)
  • Ultra-wide, 26 - 105 mm zoom
  • Only camera in the group with a 3-inch LCD
  • Intelligent Auto mode picks a scene mode for you
  • Well-implemented face and smile detection
  • Support for both Memory Stick Pro Duo and SD/SDHC media
  • Optional underwater case
What I didn't care for:
  • Strong noise reduction smudges details
  • Redeye a problem
  • LCD has poor viewing angle
  • Lack of custom white balance leads to color casts in unusual lighting
  • Poor showing in night test
  • Weak flash
  • No AF-assist lamp; poor low light focusing
  • Below average battery life; slow battery charger included
  • Controls on back of camera are small; right thumb ends up leaving prints on LCD
  • Can't access memory card slot while camera's on tripod
  • Plastic tripod mount
  • Full manual on CD-ROM; manual not user-friendly

Kodak EasyShare M550
What I liked:
  • 5X, 28 - 140 mm zoom in compact metal body
  • Smart Capture mode selects a scene mode for you
  • Limited slow shutter speed control
  • Good face detection/recognition
  • Photos can be tagged for uploading/e-mailing at the push of a button
  • In-camera panorama stitching and video editing
What I didn't care for:
  • Details in photos have been flattened by noise reduction; images often have a fuzzy appearance, as well
  • Very noisy at higher ISOs
  • Redeye
  • Strong vignetting/fall-off at wide-angle; plenty of corner blurriness, as well
  • Lens on the slow side
  • No AF-assist lamp; poor low light focusing
  • Nearly useless burst mode
  • Video quality isn't great
  • No manual white balance
  • Small buttons on back of camera; other buttons are hard to distinguish
  • Below average battery life
  • Flimsy door over memory card/battery compartment; can't access compartment when using tripod
  • Plastic tripod mount
  • No A/V output cable included
  • Software and manual must be downloaded from Kodak's website; manual is easy-to-read, but not detailed