Ultra-cheap digital cameras- worth it?

I was rather surprised today to see, for sale in a local drugstore, a fully functioning digital mini-camera for $10. Yes, I know it’s probably as low-quality as a camera can be. But does this mean that for $20-$50 I can get a basic, decent no-frills limited capacity digital camera? Or is anything under $100 going to be a piece of crap?

At the current level of technology, anything under about $100 is going to be crap and not worth your time. There are some basic, no frills cameras from real manufacturers that retail for $100-125 that actually take good if somewhat limited images. Below that, you’re in the realm of crap cams.

I don’t know…I’d say it more depends on what someone’s using it for. If all you’re doing is taking pictures of cheap stuff to sell on ebay or something, you could probably find something to do the job for under $100. I wouldn’t want one of those for any photos I planned on keeping, probably.

I bought a 3.2 megapixel camera at Walmart for $19.99 over 3 years ago. I use it solely for Ebay/Gunbroker auctions. For that purpose it’s fantastic.

For vacations & other events it has zero value. Only 20 pix on the memory (no memory card) and 3.2mp is a dinosaur. But for internet auction use it’s worth 20 bucks.

If you need a half-way decent digital camera but lack funds, for $75-$100 you can get a Kodak EasyShare with 4-5mp. Not great but not that bad either. My daughter has one and it’s worth a C-note.

Expect something that cheap to be on par with your cell phone’s camera. IE, good for capturing spur-of-the-moment oddities when you have no other camera; crap for everything else (especially events you want decent pictures of).

One of the key differences between cheap digital cameras and the others is the type of sensor they use - the cheap ones typically use CMOS sensors - the better ones use CCD sensors.

These two terms aren’t actually equivalent in the sense of chocolate vs vanilla - one describes the material and method of construction, the other describes the architecture, or something like that, however, it is generally the case that the former type - CMOS - are quite prone to producing a ‘noisy’ image - some of this can be corrected in software in the camera or afterwards on a computer, but typically, cameras that have CCD sensors give you a better starting point

Furthermore, the cheaper cameras often don’t give you any control over the compression scheme and will achieve impressive-sounding storage of images, at the expense of quality

Not necessarily. Among the best cameras (Canon 5D, Canon 1D series, Nikon D3 [not yet available]) all use CMOS sensors.

I didn’t know that. Presumably there’s some difference in the implementation somewhere along the line?

I’m not sure. Try this article.

You can find cameras for under $100 that will take pictures that are a good quality for standard size prints. Look for one that has 2.1 Megapixel capability, or better. I had good pictures to the size of 5x7. I won’t go into features, because what I posted is all you need for the answer to your question. Now you can decide if you wish to look for cameras or not.

Those very cheap cameras will only take decent pictures in a very small range of conditions. The MegaPixels isn’t a problem, 3.2 is more then enough for a vast range of uses. Having 6-7 MP isn’t going to make any difference in the quality of the image.

Those cheap cameras give you absolutely no control over how the picture is taken. For $50 more you can get a “real” camera that actually will take shots that you can use beyond the eBay world. If all you are ever going to do is eBay, place your subject under as much light as you can find and you’ll be OK. If you want to take pictures of people and places, get at least a minimally competent camera.

I have a cheap camera (< $30, I think) that I have used when deployed with the Red Cross to disaster sites. I don’t need a lot of image quality, and having a small camera that I’m not going to miss if it’s lost or stolen is a help. Now, if I wanted National Geograpjic quality pictures, I’d get a more expensive camera. But then I’d be more worried about it getting lost, stolen, wet, etc. The kind of camera you would want depends on how and where you want to use it.

I quite agree that 3mp is more than enough for most uses. Some of my best digital photos were taken on an old 2mp (actually 1.9mp in image terms) Olympus C-2100. Admittedly it was a fairly high-end camera in its day. The fact remains that with 2 million pixels I have produced enlargements right up to 18 x 10 (after resampling) that are perfectly acceptable unless you eyeball them from a few inches away.

Whenever there’s a digital camera thread I always end up saying the same thing - megapixel counts are fairly meaningless when it comes to image quality. It’s like fixating on the film in a traditional camera - the sensor is merely the “film” that captures the image; what is far more important is the quality of the image that falls on that “film”, and that is dependent on the quality of the optics. A cheap camera will generally have a small and cheap lens; a more expensive camera will have much better glass.

And that is why my old 2mp Olympus (RIP :frowning: ) produced far better pictures than a modern 5mp point-and-shoot will give you.

The Canon A460, the Kodak C743, the Nikon L10, and the HP M437 are all basic but very function cameras that sell for between $100 and $120. They are leaps and bounds ahead of the $30 cameras you can find in drug stores and I’d consider it a no-brainer, but image quality is very important to me.