Need a cheapish point and shoot camera with some manual control

For quite a few years I had a Canon A70 that I loved. It wasn’t one of the slim little portable ones, but otherwise it worked great for me - the images were good (even though it was only 3mp - which makes me wonder if there’s even anything to the pixel count arms race), it was cheapish, had a bunch of good auto modes but also let me play around with the various shutter/aperture/white balance/etc. settings. I’m not a photographer by any means but I do like to play around with settings. For example I couldn’t have gotten this picture without being able to manually set shutter speed.

I liked it so much that when it broke, I went on ebay and grabbed the same model. Which then promptly broke in the exact same way. So I guess that model is just old beyond working.

So I figured I’d look first again at Canon’s A series again. It looks like the A1100 IS is their closest equivelant to that camera - but it appears that for the most part they’ve dropped all manual controls from their A series. Their nomenclature is also inconsistent now - apparently the a2100IS is a step up from the a1100, but the a3100 is only half the price, suggesting it’s a step down, so I don’t know what the deal is there.

There are a whole bunch of A-series cameras in between, but I don’t know much about them.

I don’t have my heart set on the canon A-series, that was just where I was looking first since I’ve been pleased with them in the past. Any camera that’s mostly a point and shoot but has the ability to fool around with manual controls a bit would be fine. Don’t care hugely about pixel count - not printing posters, and even 3mp takes fine pictures on a good camera. (Also heard that combining huge pixel counts with mediocre lenses actually results in a decrease in quality, so the pixel count arms race results in worse cameras at the cheaper end of the spectrum.) It’s also fine if it’s out of production or a few years old - I was probably going to bargain hunt on ebay anyway.


On second thought the manual controls aren’t an absolute requirement, just a preference. If there’s a camera in this price range that everyone loves and is considered the best value but without much in the way of controls I’d probably get it.

A3100IS. Got glowing reviews

If you want manual and are prepared to pay more, theres the S90 or S95 - you get HD video with the 95, very popular underwater cameras as good lens and sensor with manual control, but cheaper than the G11/G12.

Other option is superzooms but doesnt sound like you’re after one of them.


You didn’t define “cheapish”, so I’ll plug for the Canon S95 as well. You can find it for under $400, but not by much. Outstanding little camera, with all sorts of options for settings.

I’m torn between the S95 and the SX210, myself. The SX210 is slightly larger (though still pocketable) with a slower lens.

Cheapish is less than $200 for me, but that could include something I grab off ebay that normally retails for more. I probably won’t spend more than $60 or $70 because I’ve seen some A-series cameras that look good going for that price, but I’d like to know which one was my best bet.

The only issue I’ve had with the S95 is that your right thumb tends to hit the photo review button when you’re trying to take a pic. But hitting the shutter button fixes it immediately. It’s a great, fast little camera that takes brilliant photos in the 2MB range on default settings.

The S95 is going to take much higher quality images than the SX120. It’s got a much bigger sensor, a faster lens, and better controls. It doesn’t have the zoom of the SX120, but I’d avoid that camera anyway. The SX130 fixed a lot of the problems with the previous model; it’s a much better option in the compact ultrazoom class.

If you want to stick with the Canon line the A-series are pretty good. I’d avoid the A3300 myself because they are cramming 16 MP on that chip. The A3100 or A3000 will probably produce better images with less noise, especially in low light. Keep in mind that all recent A-series cameras us proprietary Li-Ion batteries rather than AAs, but unless you plan on being away from a charge for days at a time that shouldn’t be a problem and will actually help with flash usage.

I’m a fan of the cheap Panasonics:

They have mechanical optical image stabilization (OIS) which reduces jitter in your pictures. (Other cheap cameras may have digital OIS, which reduces jitter, but at the expense of image quality.)

So far after reading a bunch of reviews, the ones I’m leaning towards are canons.

A570IS - from 2007, very similar to the A70 I liked, similar controls, bigger lcd, optical image stabalization, 7mp. Age makes it pretty reasonably priced off ebay. Like the bigger form factor, good for getting a grip for shooting.

A3100IS - People rave about the picture quality for such a cheap camera. More like an elph than an A series - compact without manual controls.

SD1300IS - Somewhat similar to above - compact, not much in the way of manual control, but takes good pictures and is priced reasonably.

I’m leaning towards the 570 - it has the big beefy grippable form factor I like, and I like to learn a little bit about photography and have some control with manual settings. But it’s also 4 years old and that’s about how long my last camera lasted so I’d be worried I’d only get a year out of it before it broke in some way.

Any problems with these models? Still taking alternate suggestions too.

The A570 is very old in digital camera life. The screen is tiny and poor compared to today’s models, the electronics are considerably less advanced, the video modes are quite poor, and it doesn’t have the modes or higher ISO options. It was a good camera in its time, and I wish they would make a similar model today, but it’s well past its prime.

If you’re willing to look at the SD-series the SD1300 is a great option. It has the same controls as the current A-series and you can do some interesting stuff if you know all the available options. Still, it’s going to be quite a bit shy of the manual controls you are looking for.

If you really want manual controls in a compact camera the S90 or S95, G11 or G12, and SD4000 off them in a modern package, albeit at a price higher than you wanted. There’s literally nothing on the market today that you can buy new for under $200 with manual controls but the SD4000 comes closest. It’s better than the A570 in almost every respect except the missing optical viewfinder, but those are pretty much gone from all cameras today.

Those are all out of my price range really. I only pull out the camera a few times a year so I’m not really willing to invest 300+ in one.

The old thing doesn’t bother me so much. My biggest concern would be having it be old enough to fail - not having the latest gadgets and stuff doesn’t bother me terribly. I’d still be using my old a70 from 03-04 if it worked. It took good enough pictures and I liked it.

The 570 seems like it’s the last in the line of what Canon had going with the A-series - beefy frame you could get a good grip on, good mix of manual and auto controls, good quality pictures for the price. What exactly does it lack? It has manual, aperture-weighted, shutter-weighted and 12 auto modes. It has image stabilization. Exposure control, white balance, flash control, focus assist lights. The stats seem good to me

If I’m going to go much newer, I’m probably going to have to settle on the non-manual stuff like the aforementioned a3100 and sd1300. They may have more whiz bang and take slightly better pictures but I’m not sure that’s a worthwhile tradeoff for never being able to do basic photography settings stuff when the mood strikes me.

I suppose the A590 is an option too, being similar to the 570 but a year newer with a few more whiz bang features. The A1100 almost looks like it’d fit the bill - but no manual.

Is there anything better than the 570/590 for the sort of thing I’m looking for that’s under $200? Seems like your post suggests there’s not.

If you’re not planning on using video, or using high ISO, then the A570 or A710/720 would be pretty good choices. In digital camera terms 4 years is more than a full generation so the improvements in LCDs, dynamic range, sensor sensitivity, and new features are significant. Shutter lag is also going to be an issue with a 4 year old camera, which will be an issue for action shots or anything with a moving subject.

Shutter lag with prefocus is 0.075 seconds and without prefocus is 0.286 apparently (from here), which seems fine to me. I generally have no need for high ISO.

640x480 movies at 30 FPS certainly aren’t great but the sample movie looks fine to me. I don’t expect a compact point and shoot to double as a great high def video camera (although I guess some do).

I don’t mean to sound so argumentative - I appreciate the advice - I’m just wondering if I have a reasonable assessment of the capabilities.

What’s the upside of the 710/720 over the 570/590 btw? The 710 is from 2006 and 720 is 2007, so they’re not newer - are they better in some way?

Not taking it as argumentative, just informative. Those shutter lag numbers are in the test lab, trust me in the real world they are much slower. In low light in particular they will hunt for focus for a long time, and then pause before taking the shot. It’s not spectacularly better with current cameras, but it is noticeable.

The 710/720 have a bigger zoom lens which is also slightly faster at the long end. It’s a little more versatile if you want to take advantage of that. The 570 lens is a 35mm to 140mm, while the 710 is 35mm to 210mm. Neither has a wide angle lens which IMO is more important for daily use than more telephoto. Here’s a review with a chart breaking down some of the differences:

Since these camera use AAs you’ll need to buy NiMH rechargeable batteries. I recommend the low discharge NiMH like the Sanyo Enloops. They are well worth the price.

So I noticed on ebay that my old camcorder sells for $200, which is higher than I expected. I only use the camcorder a few times a year, so I was thinking if I got a still camera that was pretty decent at movies, I could sell the camcorder.

So I’ve been looking over the elph series more which has a few models (780, 960, 1400, others) that have a decent 720p movie capture mode.

I’m having a hard time finding a good guide to what the difference is in the various elph cameras - any advice in that regard?

Of the various elph models, does anyone have any particular suggestions?

780 is good, extremely compact which I’ve read means they had to compromise a little on he lens to get it to fit, so quality is good but not quite as good as the rest of the elphs. 12mp with 720p video. Looks cool.

960 - a little bigger than the 780, so doesn’t have the lens compactness issues but it’s the same sensor. Controls at first glance seem so simple as to be a minor pain. Does 720p. Has 28-112mm aperture which gives it better wide angle ability than the 780, matching 1300/1400.

1300 sounds great all around, but can’t do 720p video. Not an absolute dealbreaker, but if another model is close enough and does do 720p, I’ll go that way.

1400 - similar to 1300, except they over-crammed 2 more megapixels onto the same sensor. Which is too big for that sensor, which means the extra pixels lead to noise, meaning it takes lesser pictures at a higher price. Does do 720p video though. Not sure what else is different between it and 1300. Coolest aesthetics of all of them.

So… 1300 would be the sweet spot if it did 720p video. 1400 is tough to swallow because it costs twice as much as a 960 on ebay without bringing much more to the table. The lens issues some people mentioned about the 780IS might be the sort of subtle things only an expert would notice and that I’d never know, otherwise it’s cheap and looks like a good deal. 960 may be the best overall compromise with no obvious downsides as far as I can tell.

Between those, any suggestions?

So I had pretty much decided on the SD960IS, put in some ebay bids… and then I saw the Elph 300 HS which came out just last month. 1080p video, a CMOS sensor, wide angle (24mm-120mm) lens with 5x zoom, and assloads of features.

I didn’t really want to spend $250 on a new gadget I won’t use that often, but damn that thing looks enticiing. Does anyone have anything to say about it, good or bad, before I decide to buy one?

You can also look at the HS 100 to save a little money. But you give up some zoom and get a slightly smaller LCD.

The HS 500 gives you a slightly faster lens, a bigger screen (also a touchscreen) and the ability to use optical zoom when shooting movies.

They look great on paper, I haven’t seen any real world reviews yet. The Canons have a very good reputation.

Reviews seem to indicate the 300 has the ability to use optical zoom for movies. Also has a 24mm wide angle compared to 28 on the 100.

500 has aperture and shutter priority modes, which makes it appealing.

Black on the 300 looks the best.