Tell me about digital cameras, please

About four years ago, we bought a Hewlett-Packard digital camera. It’s rated at a whopping 2.1 megapixels, and cost us about $169. It can take some very nice pictures, but it has its drawbacks.

It has to boot up before you can use it. Every time it boots up, you have to reset your preference of flash on/off/red-eye, etc., and picture quality/filesize (crappy & small, medium & fairly large, best & freakin’ huge). There’s no way it could be considered a “point and shoot” snapshot camera. To save the batteries, you have to turn it off, or compromise by not using the LCD screen. You can’t get the photos off the memory card unless you put the camera in the dock, which connects to the computer by USB. In short, it’s a pain in the ass.

I was looking on Sam’s Club website, and they have some cameras that are smaller, more efficient and they’re up to 6.1 MP now, for around $100. There was one that does video in .avi with .wav sound format, and offloaded files by direct USB connection.

I was wondering if anyone here could recommend a recent camera model that costs less than $150. I’m not going to shoot portraits or artwork, I’d just like a nice, easy-to-use camera. I don’t even require a zoom lens, but it’d be handy to have actual zoom, instead of the kind that draws a tiny frame around your object and takes a tiny picture of it. Mainly what I’m interested to know is, do cameras still have to boot up every time?


Cameras still need to boot up, but they are a lot quicker, usually a second or two. They should keep their settings from the previous session. Canon is a line I am familiar with. Something from the Powershot A line might work for you such as the A540.

Explore Digital Photography Review. You can sort by price and compare features on different cameras.

The full reviews are dauntingly detailed, but you can skip to the “conclusions” section like I did.


There are dozens of models that would fit your need, but you should know all cameras (except a tiny few) have zoom lenses, all take movie modes and record sound, megapixels isn’t a measure of quality just quantity.

OK, do you ever want to use manual controls (shutter speed, aperture) or are you happy to let the camera decide everything?

How big a camera are you looking for? Tiny or compact?

Will you be taking a lot of pictures in low light and without flash?

Certainly the Canon A-series should be on your list, the A560 or A550. The Fuji F40 is the best choice for low light shots. The Panasonic LZ6 might be a good choice as well. You will have to add the price of a memory card (1G for $10-15), rechargeable NiMH AA batteries with a charger if you don’t have them already, and a small case. is also a good site. It’s more consumer-friendly than DPReview.

Oh, and one more vote for the Canon A Series!

One nice feature that came out the last few years is Image Stabilization, which helps the camera correct for minor hand movements. It can reduce the number of blurry pictures you get. Canon offers it on their PowerShot A570 IS, at around $200. Here’s a review.

Panasonic also offers some good image-stabilized cameras, but it’s too hard to find product information from them (their websites are horribly difficult to navigate).

By the way, if you’re sick of docks and USB cables, an incredibly convenient invention that also came out in the last few years are memory cards that can fold in half and plug directly into USB ports, like the SanDisk “Plus” line of SD cards.. You can take them out of the camera, fold them, and plug 'em directly into a computer… no cable or dock needed.

SD (Secure Digital) is the most popular memory card these days. Both Canon and Panasonic use them in their consumer cameras.

My latest is a Nikon Coolpix L6 with 6.0 megapixels bot at Stapes for $140 about 4 months ago. It has a 2.5" LCD display screen. I carry it with me everywhere in my shirt pocket. It’s taken about 100 pix so far all on the same two AA batteries. Megapixels DO affect quality. Pix of a sign with a 2 mp camera do not enlarge clearly-the sign text gets quite blurry.

Goog luck.

Two days ago I finally broke and bought a Casio EX-Z75PK (Exilim) after spending the last two years slowly destroying my Kodak Easy Share. The Easy Share was a surprisingly good little camera, it was just so wide that I could barely cram it into a pocket or my less than huge purses. On top of that, I’d been so rough with the Kodak over the last year or so that I had to start taping the battery door shut, lest the batteries fall out (and fall out they did, even with tape).

A friend is a tech reviewer for a website and she gets bunches of stuff to try for free. Even then, her personal Camera is the Casio Ex-z75pk. I read more reviews online and they were all pretty darned good.

What I like is that it doesn’t use AA batteries or somesuch and instead has what is supposed to be a great battery in it. Also, the camera I played with in the store was nice and small.

I know it’s a bit more than you wanted to spend, but it may be worth considering anyway. With second day shipping and tax, I paid $195 at Circuit City. Actually, you can get it cheaper online if you look around- much closer to $150, actually. This is mine, though. (And yes, it comes in colors other than Uber Girlie).

While shopping around the last few weeks, it seems that damn near all of the cameras are 7 MP now, even the cheapies at WalMart.

Now only if that damn Fedex man would get here. . .

My one recommendation is to be sure it has an optical viewfinder if you think you will ever take pictures outdoors or in sunlight. The LCD screen will be so washed out as to make it nearly useless.

Thanks, everyone, for the information and suggestions. I would have replied earlier, but I was working late. I’ll look into the Canon line, as they come highly recommended, and the others mentioned here, and also visit the websites mentioned.

In answer to Telemark’s questions, I’m looking for a compact-sized camera, not necessarily tiny, and I wouldn’t be taking too many photos in low light or without flash. I’d prefer the camera to sort out the settings, as I know nothing about f stops, etc. Boy, the price of memory cards has come way down! I think we paid $69 for a 256 MB SD card. What a waste!

Thanks again. If anyone has anything to add, please do!

I just wanted to put in a plug for Canon’s cameras… If you’re, erm, clumsy, then they are great cameras. My 3 year old SD500 has numerous scratches and dents (one astonishingly large dent in its base impresses people, too!) and I never use any sort of protective case, and the damn thing just keeps on ticking. I bought an underwater case for our upcoming trip to Bonaire, and I bet the sucker will keep going if a squid eats it, too!

Another site I have found very useful is Steve’s Digicams They have very detailed reviews.

I’ll also put in a vote for Canon.

After doing much research, I recently purchased an A710 IS. A few details:
[li]Compact body[/li][li]6X zoom[/li][li]7.1 megapixels[/li][li]Optical viewfinder[/li][li]Full variety of manual options[/li][li]Wide variety of programmed options[/li][li]Records movies[/li][li]Image stabilization (The “IS” in the model name)[/li][/ul]
I’m still exploring the options, but am definitely very happy with it.

And I’m a big fan of and I post there frequently.

The myth of megapixels is that if 6MP is good, 10MP is better. That’s simply not true; you may get better image quality from the 6MP camera. Jamming more pixels into a tiny CCD leads to noise in the image. You may be able to blow it up bigger, but the resulting print will be noisy. For most people, anything greater then 6-7MP isn’t going to be helpful, and may in fact hurt. 6 is fine for 8x10s which is what most people print.

I also won’t buy a camera without an optical viewfinder, but they are getting harder to find. Fortunately Canon still has them. I go for multi-day backpacks and spend time in very cold temps when skiing so I turn off the LCD to save battery power. It’s also a problem in bright sun, especially on snow.

If you buy a camera with a proprietary Li-Ion battery for this trip you’ll want to buy a second one as a backup ($20-50 depending on camera) if you’re going to be out and about for extended periods of time. If you only use the camera occasionally then you won’t need one; but if you run out of juice it’ll be several hours before you can take pictures again.