Digital Cameras: 28mm worth it?

So, I’m looking at a compact point and shoot. I like the idea of having shutter and aperture priority, but I’ve come to accept the fact that I’m not going to get manual control over those in a slim sexeh format. Specifically, I’ve narrowed my choices down to the Canon SD1100 IS (IXUS 80IS) and the Canon SD870 IS ELPH (IXUS 860).

They are functionally the same, except that the IXUS 80 has a 35mm zoom, and the IXUS 860 has 28mm. And the IXUS 860 is about a hundred dollars (20%) more expensive.
So, is having a 28mm zoom really worth $100? And the lack of a shiney brown camera? The shopkeeper highly recommends the 28mm, but then he’s a camera buff who probably thinks I’m an idiot for getting a compact anyway. Hey, when you get a DSLR into a form factor that’s less than the size of a breadbox…

The only way to tell if the difference will matter to you is to go back to the shop and observe the wide angle coverage of the two cameras in situations similar to your intended use of the camera. 35 isn’t very wide, so if you’re expecting to take a lot of indoor shots of multiple people, 28 may well be worth it. On the other hand, if you are planning on just shooting outdoors, or portrait-ish shots of one or two people inside, then 28 is probably unnecessary. Unless the outdoor shots are supposed to be landscapes with dramatic depth - though 28 is probably insufficiently wide for that anyways.

The main reason I have for using as wide a lens as possible is for taking pictures of buildings, because often you can’t back away from them as much as you would like. In addition, a wide-angle lens often gives an interesting perspective. I use a Canon Digital Rebel XT, and the lens that I use most is a 10-20mm zoom: the equivalent of 16-32mm on a full-frame 35mm camera. So if I had to make the choice, I’d go for the 28mm equivalent.

If you are going to be taking pictures of people in tight spaces, where you can’t back up a few feet, you’ll probably want the 28mm.

Like your out at the bar or something like that.
Also much more useful for taking photos of scenery, like mountains and stuff.

When I bought my Canon I was looking for something that would go to 28mm but couldn’t find one. I knew I’d end up try I ended up trying to take pictures indoors—tight quarters, large groups of people. I couldn’t find anything with a decent zoom range and ended up buying one with 38mm~240mm or so.

Assuming they’ve sweated the engineering (true wide to portrait lenses often struggle with distortion), I’d go for the 28mm. Judging from the OP you have experience as a photog and are aware that 10mm in the wide angle range is a huge difference, much bigger than 10mm in the telephoto range.

If you ever take self-portraits by holding the camera out, the 28mm is better. I had a practical demonstration of this while I was on vacation a few weeks ago; my camera with the 28mm fit all three of us in, while her camera didn’t.

(Although at some level the result is a little creepy, since it doesn’t look right that someone in the photo could possibly have taken the photo.)

I have the SD800, which is pretty much identical to the SD870 except it has an optical view finder and a slightly smaller LCD. I won’t buy a camera without the optical view finder, so it was an easy choice over the SD870 for me.

The lens on the SD800/870 is softer on the edges then the SD1100, which can be noticeable in some shots. I still think the wide angle is worth it, as it makes the camera more versatile. I shoot lots of skiing trips, and use it for hiking and backpacking as well as an around town camera.

I’m too lazy to find a cite, but I’m sure you can find online comparisons that show images with 35mm vs 28mm fields of view. (pretty helpful, eh?) IMHO, wider is always better.

Well, you’re giving up range on the telephoto end to get the wide angle. Depending on your intended use, the telephoto end might be more useful. And on these particular models, the wide angle lens is a bit soft.

But for many people, the 28mm wide angle might be the right choice. is an good source for reviews and comparison photos.

If this is your “I wish I had a camera with me right now”, easy to carry along camera, the 35mm will be fine. If this is the main photo machine, spend the few extra bucks and get the 28mm.

Not for some kinds of photography, e.g., sports photography and wildlife photography, where you are typically far away from the subject, and you want to zoom in to try to get your subject fill the picture. For those fields, a 200-400mm zoom is likely to be much more useful than a 20-40mm zoom.

FWIW, my Canon:

One thing: it will accept an auxiliary wide angle, like the old rangefinders did. I read one user review that said it vignettes at extreme wide angle, which sux. OTOH if you later decide you need wider, at least you can add it. I’ve found it at Amazon for $130, YMMV.

I know this ruins the “slim sexeh” thing you were after. But it’s an alternative.