Best camera for $250ish?

I made a camera thread a few months back, but I didn’t get around to buying one, and I will soon. I’ve changed my mind about requiring certain features and what exactly I’m looking for so I decided to start a new thread.

I’m looking to spend somewhere in the area of $150-250 for a new camera (or fairly recent used one). I’m going to be selling my old video camera to be able to justify buying a gadget I probably won’t use as much as I should, so it has to take decent video to replace it.

I like playing with manual controls - shutter times, aperture settings, the normal photography stuff - but I’ve come to discover there’s very little in the sub-$400 market that has a decent amount of manual control. Everything below that range is pretty much point and shoot. Still, some cameras offer some control - like a manual long exposure time mode and stuff like that. That’s a nice bonus.

I’m flexible on form factor. I actually prefer a big beefy camera I can grip generally, but if I get one of those tiny compact cameras they make I can keep it in a pocket and take it everywhere.

Right now I’m leaning towards the Canon 300 hs. It’s ridiculously tiny (I played with one in an electronics store and it’s no bigger than a few credit cards stacked back to back - amazing), seems to take pretty good images - not the greatest, but more than adequate, takes good 1080p video, has the normal suite of canon image processing and gadgety features (I am way too into silly stuff like being able to wink at the camera to make it take a picture), and has a 24mm-120mm equivelant lens which is amazing in such a small form and very flexible.

Some of the reviews say the video is way too jittery to be useful but in this sample movie it looks fine to me. Especially when you consider it’s the video from a tiny tiny camera that’s not even a video camera.

But I haven’t really researched anything but canon so I don’t really know my options. The 500hs is also an option for $50 more - with a faster lens, possibly slightly better optics, a touch screen, but a bigger form factor.

Anyway, what are my options in the $150-250 range? Is the 300hs a good choice? What factors should I be looking at?

Also, are there any aggregator sites that are basically metacritic for electronics that I could look at?

Try “Dave’s Picks” at

Other popular sites are and

Some subcompact cameras that ConsumrReprts recommends that have manual controls and are close to your price range:
Nikon Coolpix P300
Canon SD4000
Panasonic Lumix FX700
Canon SX130 IS

And a compact camera with manual controls that they list for $190: Fuji FinePix F80EXR

They don’t recommend the Fuji because the video is just “fair,” but othewise like it.

Some of the models may have been updated since they published their ratings. They like and recommend the Canon you’re looking at, but it doesn’t have manual controls.

You might also want to see if you can get a deal on the SX210IS. I contemplated buying one, but I decided to wait until I’m feeling flush and get an S95.

Good move. I bought the SX210 IS and hate it. I hate everything about it. I’m just hanging onto it until I can get whatever replaces the S95. Or I might even get a G12 (?13). Anything to be rid of this 210.

What’s wrong with it?

It’s easy to start talking yourself up. “I could get the 100HS for $180… but… well, the 300 hs has zoom during video and it’s really conveniently tiny. But… I can get manual controls if I just go ahead and upgrade to the SX230. Well, shit, if I’m going to spend $300 on a camera, I might as well get the $400 S95 that everyone raves about…”

I overthink every electronics or computer purchase.

The colours aren’t true, in my opinion. The images aren’t as crisp and clear and those I’ve seen on other cameras (not just the S95) and the control wheel at the top is very touchy. I might have it on Av, take a pic which turns out badly and then I discover that the wheel is pointing to Tv or Macro.

Ah, ok. Because I’m taking a loot at the SX230, which is an improved version. Not sure if it takes care of those problems, but with a different sensor I’d imagine it’s a significant change.

Yes, I’ve read it’s better.

I did pretty okay with my Panasonic DMC-ZS6KCP for $140.

The ZS7 has GPS tagging.

The SX230 is a much better camera than the 210, which was considered a major disappointment by most reviewers.

For the price in the OP, you’d be hard pressed to do better than the Canon ELPH 300. It’s a nice camera that does everything well, although I wouldn’t expect spectacular results in low light from any camera in this class.

The differentiators in these cameras are usually optical zoom, full HD video and optical zoom during video, burst mode, GPS, etc. Are any of these very important to you?

I’d ignore Consumer Reports reviews for anything except reliability. Their camera reviews IMO demonstrate a lack of experience taking pictures.

I’m selling my camcorder to fund the camera purchase so I want a replacement that does good video. GPS isn’t important, burst mode would be cool but not at all necessary.

Some of the photography forums are scaring me a bit in regards to the 300 hs, saying the image quality is noticibly sub par compared to previous elf series cameras and even the 100 hs and 500 hs (maybe because it squeezes the lens into a smaller body).

On the other hand, I’m warming up to the SX230 because it seems to get high praise. Max lens width is 28mm (compared to 24mm on the 300) and max aperture is 3.1 which is kind of slow. It’s not a big camera, but pretty big compared to the elph ultra-compacts, so I’m wondering if it’d be practical to carry around the sx230 with me everywhere I go if I wear cargo shorts and if the exterior is durable enough not to need a case.

Costco has the Olympus SZ-20 (12.5x zoom and 16 megapixels) on sale now for $229 after $70 discount.

They also have $70 off a Panasonic Lumix ZS10 (16.5x zoon and 14.1 megapixels) on sale for $249.99.

Both are avail at (but must be a member).

Bah, now I’m pissed. Last month Amazon had a special offer code for the ad-supported kindles to get 25% off any camera. Somehow when reading hours and hours of photography forums and checking around on and stuff no one ever mentioned it. That could’ve brought the 300hs down to $150, or the sx230 down to $225, or even the S95 down to $270.

The code is still valid for another month if you already have one, but you had to have accepted it by July 31. Don’t suppose anyone happens to have an extra code they’re not going to use?

It is a little above your price range, but I’d suggest looking at the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ40.

YMMV, but I hate shooting outdoors without an electronic viewfinder and the AVCHD lite format is more suitable for long video shoots than mov or motion jpeg.

The new FZ47 was just announced. Minor changes but may be enough to sway a decision. This really is a step beyond the smaller cameras that have been mentioned in this thread, but it’s an excellent big ultrazoom camera, IMO the best on the market right now for most people.

Hmm, snagged one of those 25% off codes, so that puts $300-350 cameras just barely into my reach. Thinking about the Sony HX9V or 7V or Fuji 550EXR. Any opinions?

The FZ47 can shoot full 1080P video and uses standard AVCHD video rather than the lite format, but I haven’t seen detailed user reviews or anybody discounting the camera below $400.

The FZ40 only shoots 720p video in AVCHD lite format, but Newegg has is for $280 and there are plenty of reviews.