Which Digital Camera?

I'm looking for a small (will always live in Amanda's purse) point and shoot camera and have so far narrowed the choices down to the following. Anybody have any advice on which one I should get (or an alternative, if you'd like to suggest one)? (Descriptions/details are from Amazon, for consistency)

Canon PowerShot ELPH 300 HS 12.1 MP CMOS Digital Camera with Full 1080p HD Video (Silver)

  • World's thinnest digital camera with a 24mm ultra Wide-Angle lens and 5x Optical Zoom and Optical Image Stabilizer.
  • Canon's HS SYSTEM with a 12.1 MP CMOS and DIGIC 4 Image Processor improves shooting in low-light situations without the need for a flash and
  • Full 1080p HD Video for exceptional quality with stereo sound, plus a dedicated movie button for easy access.
  • Get high-speed shooting in a point-and-shoot camera: High-speed Burst Mode captures 8.0fps and
  • Smart AUTO intelligently selects the proper settings for the camera based on 32 predefined shooting situations.
  • Super Slow Motion Movie records video at high speeds to allow slow motion playback.
  • Zoom optically while shooting video and keep footage stabilized with Dynamic IS.
  • Lowers noise levels at higher ISO settings.

Nikon COOLPIX S9100 12.1 MP CMOS Digital Camera with 18x NIKKOR ED Wide-Angle Optical Zoom Lens and Full HD 1080p Video (Black)

Product Features

  • 18x Wide-Angle Optical Zoom-NIKKOR ED Glass Lens.
  • 12.1-megapixel CMOS sensor for high-speed operation and exceptional low-light performance.
  • 3-inch Ultra-High Resolution VGA (921,000-dot) Clear Color Display
  • Capture 5 shots per second at full resolution
  • 5-way VR Image Stabilization System

Technical Details

  • Brand Name: Nikon
  • Model: S9100 Silver
  • Optical Sensor Resolution: 12.1 MP
  • Optical zoom: 18 x
  • Display Size: 3.000 inches
  • Width: 2.5 inches
  • Height: 1.4 inches
  • Weight: 0.5 pounds

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 14.1 MP Digital Camera with 16x Wide Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 3.0-Inch LCD (Black)

  • The DMC-ZS8 features a powerful 16x optical zoom lens.
  • The 16x Optical Zoom Keeps the Subject Sharp While Giving the Background a Soft focus.
  • The DMC-ZS8 features a 1/2.33-inch CCD with effective 14.1-megapixel high-resolution.
  • Images remain clear and sharp even when they are enlarged to A2 size.
  • The Sonic Speed AF system includes numerous re-engineering enhancements, including a higher-speed actuator.

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-WX9 16.2 MP Exmor R CMOS Digital Still Camera with Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar 5x Wide-Angle Optical Zoom Lens and Full HD 1080/60i Video (Black)

  • Exmor R CMOS sensor for low-light performance, 5x, bright lens
  • Full HD 1080x1920 with dual record of stills and movies
  • 3D still image and 3D Sweep Panorama
  • Fast capture with 10fps at full 16.2 MP resolution
  • iSweep Panorama for one shot landscapes

Do you happen to have one of these? If so, how fast is the damn thing ... if you press the button to turn it on, does it turn on quickly? How much lag between pressing the "shutter release" and the actual taking of the picture is there? Is it rugged? Does it suck?

Any info woudl be much appreciated. Thank you very much.

I'm leaning towards the Canon Power Shot, though Julia has one of those Sony's and really likes it, and the zoom on that Nikon is rather kick-ass. Of course, what I really want is one of these, but I don't see that happening!

More like this

i have a cannon powershot. not good picture quality indoors.

By freethinker (not verified) on 27 Nov 2011 #permalink

Don't forget the bad effect more pixels has on noise. I've got a FinePix with 7.1 Mpixels and I feel no lack of detail, but I do wish I could shoot in dimmer places with less noise. Also wish I had stabilization, but I see you know about that...

By Dave Babcock (not verified) on 27 Nov 2011 #permalink

Have the Lumix DMC-FH20, which I 'spect is predecessor to the ZS8 you've spec'd above, and it's a great little pocket/purse camera. Comes on in a second, shutter lag is noticeable but only just, and I've found the burst mode helps me get something approaching the action shots I want to think I'd be able to shoot with an SLR. Nice zoom, good features, but it generally works so well on auto that I've finally learned to mostly leave it there.

I have an ELPH 100 HS that lives in my pocket (i.e., goes everywhere I go) which replaced the SD780IS when it broke. So my comments apply to the 100HS not the 300HS.

The 120 and 240 fps video modes are neat, but mostly a novelty. 1080p is decent but "exceptional" is marketing fluff on the sound (what can you truly expect from a sub-1mm hole as a microphone?).

Startup time is rarely a problem. Shutter lag is contingent upon flash, red-eye, and auto-focus. I never use red-eye and rarely use flash. Auto-focus is pathetic compared to an SLR but satisfactory.

My purpose of having this P&S is to have it with me everywhere. If I want some serious, I break out the SLR, but walking around with an SLR in my pocket would be...challenging, if not outright awkward. For the price range you're shopping in, you cannot get the best camera there is, so really any camera should be adequate as long as it doesn't outright suck. The 100HS doesn't outright suck and I assume the 300HS doesn't suck either. (The reason I went with the 100HS over the 300HS was price.)

I have the Lumix, it's the best compact point and shot I've ever had (the auto white balance is _excellent_). When it was among the cameras stolen last month, it was the first one I replaced.

I have a Lumix - does a nice job and the wide zoom range really comes in handy. I suggest you get one of the models on your list with the biggest zoom range (Lumix or Nikon).

On the other hand, if you are just looking for quick point and shoot, I suggest getting the cheapest camera you can find, with the fewest features, that still takes decent pictures. It will truly be point and shoot, because you don't need to set anything, select a zoom range, or anything else. Get a model with a built in lens cover. It's cheap - so if it gets borken, lost, or stolen it won't be so painful.

I have experience of 4 different powershot models (earlier than the one you describe.) The first was my wife's and it was fine for the family snapshots she took, but developed a fault after seven years - and it seen far more appropriate to get a small and better model for a quarter of the price she had originally paid.
Meanwhile about 4 years ago I decided to get my own for detailed recording of the countryside around us - including historic buildings, etc. After about 8000 shots I fell holding it with the lens turret out - and it hit a post hard - bending the lens turret. I assumed it was a write-off but gently pushed the turret straight - and it continued to work for about another 5 or 6,000 shots when one of the servos that control the turret failed!! However it still works perfectly if I don't use the zoom - and I keep it as a reserve.
However it lacked image stabilization and I purchased one with image stabilization and a bigger zoom. I am approaching 10,000 exposures with no problem - nearly all on automatic - as it does so well I can't be bothered to learn all the settings. I find that if I taken a firm posture I can hand-hold 10x optical zoom and get a sharp picture about 50% of the time.

Definitely I am a very satisfied Powershot user for still photographs. I have little real experience of video mode - apart from a few short family shots.

There is one snag which applied to most small cameras in that it doesn't have an eye level viewfinder. I understand why it is not practical to provide an optical finder on with such high zooms, etc - but there are two circumstances where it can be very useful to have an electronic eyepiece, which a few camera now have.

I suspect the following apply to all cameras without an optical eyepiece.

The first is working in bright sunlight which can cause problems - both when the sun is shining directly onto the screen, and when it is shining on you - so you get reflections which can be annoying if you are wearing a white shirt with a striking pattern.

The other relates to the zoom. With an eyepiece you can hold the camera tight to your face and it is far easier to avoid shake at maximum zoom. OK Image Stabilization helps a lot - but even that isn't perfect at x40 with both optical and digital zoom in place, especially if you are getting reflections in the screen at the same time. (Of course you may never want to use such high zooms - I use it to identify birds several 100 yards away as the camera provides bigger images than my pocket binoculars)

Another possible advantage of an electronic eyepiece is that it can be better if you wear glasses. When walking the countryside I only need glasses for close items - such as looking at the screen on the back of the camera!

If this Lumix performs anything like my LX5, you and Amanda will not be disappointed. Stephen Downes makes an good point about the superior white balance (I have seen both the Canon and the Nikon get this wrong - esp. in low light conditions), and the Leica glass cannot be beat!

Price point is the issue. $200 seems to be the center point for decent feature sets, and one is quickly up to $400 or more to do any better.

I've been through several different makes over the years looking for an always-with-me camera for shooting wildlife during my ferry commute. Canon, Sony, Lumix, ... The older Canons were my favorites since they had optical view finders, manual focus, and AA batteries, but alas no more.

The biggest issue has been finding one with very short focus time, and I finally did - the Fujifilm Finepix F500 EXR. Also has the zoom I need at 15x, and a 3" LCD.

Other features are pretty much standard these days - panoramas in the camera (this one goes to 11 with 360 deg in any direction), 1080p HD with HDMI out, high speed movies at 320 fps at 320x112, and face recognition (again, this goes that extra step with not only human but also separate settings for 8 specific humans, also cats and dogs, and waits for the pet to face the camera). Some fairly intelligent advanced features too, like multiple image averaging to lower low level noise instead of single image filtering. This one also follows the Pentax example with a sensor shift motion compensator instead of trying to do that via software manipulation of the pixels on their way off the sensor.

So far I'm happy with it, but at the same time so far I have not had many good shooting opportunities. If it breaks or I get something outstanding I'll report back.

By GrayGaffer (not verified) on 27 Nov 2011 #permalink

I've had a powershot and while it was good, there were some flaws. While mine was an older model, the biggest issue for me was speed. This was most obvious when attempting to photograph dogs or children, or anything in motion. This may be an issue with all point and shoots. While its larger the Olympus PEN is very nice.

I just bought the Canon Powershot Elph 300 HS after obsessing over this to the point where I felt like I could have been on Jeopardy. The speed is much better than any other Canon I owned before. I was tending away from them because of lag. I almost went for a Lumix, which is bulkier. Lumix gets all the hype these days and some people insist that they are the best. Haven't used the Canon enough yet, but I like it a lot more. Using it largely on Program. I am told low light is great.

Zoom is one of the main reasons to own a camera that isn't part of a phone.
Start up time is the other important feature, the fancy camera is worthless if the moment has passed by the time the gadget is ready to snap.
Other than that, they're all pretty good these days.

dpreview.com is a nice place to compare features:


Though, I could swear they used to list the start up time in there. I'm not seeing it now though.

I've had an older model Canon point & shoot since 2006, and I've had very good luck with it. My wife just (September) bought a 310, and we like it very much.

I suspect all the cameras listed will do the job for you perfectly well, but if you have other Canon (or other brand) devices, you might want to consider staying in a brand for all of them, just form a consistency-of-interface-and-design standpoint.


By Stephen Johnson (not verified) on 28 Nov 2011 #permalink

What you will use the camera for would probably determine which one you want. For me, my backup camera has to fit into a shirt pocket, has to have a fairly good zoom (mostly I take bird and other wildlife pics), and a not too bad macro (I can supplement it with my magnifying lens I carry with me). That'd narrow down the choices above to the Nikon or Panasonic. If I was just snapping day to day pics (kids, scenery, idiot drivers so I can hunt them down later) any of the choices above would suffice.

The older Nikon Coolpix had too long a delay when pushing the button. Maybe they've corrected that now.

My personal choice (disregarding zoom) would be the Canon--when my girlfriend, now my wife, had one of the early models it outperformed my Nikon CoolPix which cost three times as much. Sharper picture, almost immediate response with the shutter button, more intuitive menu that I could figure out without resorting to the instruction book.

The quality of that pocket Canon and its ease of use convinced me to make my next bigger camera a Canon (which I like). The only reason my pocket one isn't a Canon is because I couldn't find a Canon with adequate zoom (hence the "use" caveat above).

By Daniel J. Andrews (not verified) on 28 Nov 2011 #permalink

I think I've decided that the Canon is perfect for Amanda while the Lumix is perfect for me. I wasn't getting myself one, but just so you know.