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I need some advice and I recognize that most here are more technologically advanced than myself, so here is my question. I have $500 to spend on a digital camera and wonder what your recomondations would be.
I would be useing it on trips to start recording the places I get to see. I would also be used to email photos of the family back east to my parents. I would like a 8X or better optical zoom and at least 4 mega pixel ...

Ahoy hoy,

I recommend checking out THIS SITE. Best page I found for digital camera reviews and information.

I just bought a Canon S45; AWESOME camera for the price ($350). Takes great pictures/movies and can be a "point n' shoot" camera or an almost fully manual one.

Do you plan on printing your pictures or just throwing them up on the web? If you don't plan on printing them then megapixels aren't too big of a factor. 4 is definitely enough and 3 would suffice.

With the amount you're looking to spend and the specs you want (zoom/megapixels), you'll be sacrificing camera quality and features. It will also be much more bulky, but as long as it fits the bill...

Here are some cameras with your desired specs.

Keep in mind the price of the camera is just that, the camera. You will most likely want a larger flash card, extra battery, other accesories which in the end could tach on another $100-200.

One of the factors I considered while researching my camera was the "shutter speed". I did not want a camera that would take a picture 2 seconds after I pressed the button.

Digital cameras are hella fun, enjoy!

I have a nikon coolpix which is great - you will need to get the 4 megapixel one, as the others do not come with the rechardable batteries and charger (it costs about another $100 for that stuff).

Also Fries is the place to get flash cards - everywhere else makes mega $$$ on them.

I've always used the Sony Cybershot and have had terrific results. Right now I have an F717, but it runs around $800 I believe. It's a 5 megapixel camera, which is great, but not really necessary for everyday applications. I would bet the next size down would be within your price range...

Worth a look at any rate!

Let us know what you decide on...
Hands down: Canon S400 Digital Elph. $430 from Costco, includes a spare battery. I own the Canon S50 and wish I'd gotten the S400, even tho its a 4 mpx versus the S50's 5 mpx. Why? The S400 is tiny, easily pocketable. The S50 isn't large, but it won't comfortably fit in a pocket. Both have the video feature with sound, and a cable to run the video signal to a VCR or TV for displaying your photos or archiving them to tape.

There are some good online review sites that have sample photos by which to gauge photo quality. Here's a couple:
I've got to agree with aloft. I've got a canon elph s200. It only has 2 megapixles but it fits really nicely into any pocket/purse It takes some great pictures too. (i'll post some later on the U-M thread in the squawk box)
I'm holding out for a Nikon D100. It is expensive but I'm going for it because I have some Nikon lenses and I also like SLRs.

But I may buy a relatively cheap digital before I buy that one.
Now that you mention it, that is the negative thing about most Sony cameras. For the most part they're huge! The F717 wouldn't fit in any pocket...

Just depends on your needs I guess...
Yeah, I've got the Canon Powershot G3. Sweet camera, with all the features of an SLR but auto features too if you're feeling lazy. Probably not a great camera for someone who doesn't have at least a decent understanding of photography. It can do great night shots, but unless you have ultra stable hands, you will need to set it on something to stabilize it, or use a tripod. Also, its not real small. You can get different flashes and lenses for it as well. I think it runs around $800- maybe less now- its been out for a year or so.
We have a Sony 3.2 Mpx and I could print a poster if I wanted to. I really wouldn't worry about any more mpx then that. I have an HP photoseries printer and you can NOT tell the difference between develpoed pics and my printed ones. So I'd get a better shutter time, a larger memory card/stick, and rechargeable battery (DO NOT get regular AA battery ones, you will go through 2 a week!) and the opt for less mpx. Mine is small enough that I could fit it in my jeans pocket!
I LOVE my Sony Mavica CD-400. It's a 4 megapixel 6X optical Carl Zeiss lensed CD-burning machine! It burns the pics straight to a mini-CD that can be read by any PC/Mac. No more memory sticks or running out of room. At max resolution, I can fit 180 shots on a single ten cent disc. It gives you a permanent hard copy of your photos so you don't lose everything if your HDD crashes. Imagine you are on vacation with a different camera and can only fit 30-40 shots at max res on your three-digit dollar media card. You run you stop, pop open the laptop and download to make room OR start deleting photos that you aren't sure you want to keep OR buy another media card? Screw that! Throw in another CD that costs a dime!

Fully auto or full manual adjustment, also with a hot shoe and holographic auto-focus. InfoLithium lasts forever and tells you how much battery you have left. Same batteries for Sony handi-cams, too. Only downside is size. It's big for a digital, almost SLR size.

Good luck!


OH YEAH! It has a movie option, up to 320X320 HQX (high quality) and since it's CD media, you can fit over 15 minutes of video on one CD! Try that with SmartMedia.
Well, I went ahead and bought myself a Cannon EOS 10D. I already had a bunch of SLR lenses, and I'll be darned if I was going to give those up.....

And if you want movies, then get a movie cam.....

I have an Olympus Camedia C-740. 10X optical, 30X digital. 3.2 megapixel, I paid less than $500 and I love it. They have a new model, the C-750 that is 4.0 megapixel.
For most photographic needs, a good 2 Megapixel camera is all that you need. Using a decent printer with color correction and a basic knowledge of resolution, there are many 2 Megapixel cameras that can print excellent 8x10s. The only reason I see to go with anything bigger is if you want to publish or print bigger photos. Remember that the 2 Megapixel image is often a higher quality that printed negative film would yield . . .

If what you want is, as you said, a camera to record your memories and e-mail photos to family and friends, I'd recommend something small and compact that is loaded with features. The Nikon Coolpix seems to be a great product in the $200, 2 Megapixel range. I'd take the saved money and pick up a good case, a photo optimized printer, and a large capacity media card. There's no reason to spend the extra cash on bonus megapixels when you don't need them . . .

Also remember that all cameras with a given # of pixels are not created equal on the image quality front. It is entirely possible for a 2 mp camera to smoke a 3 or 4 mp camera in image quality. Having more receptive pixels doesn't mean much if they aren't arranged properly on a high quality sensor. And some of those less expensive 3 and 4 mp cameras only use 2 or 2.5 in application because the majority of the pixels actually fall outside of the image thrown by the lens.

I use 6.3 and 11 megapixel cameras for my professional work. When I get home, I use a little 2 megapixel camera that does much better than any 35mm negative film camera would. I think that in the modern world of "bigger Better FASTER!", it's really about getting what you need rather than getting what you can.

Sure, you could get the 4 megapixel camera for $400. But when a 2 megapixel camera would be more than satisfactory 99.9% of the time, why waste the money?

There are some great places to get cameras at lower prices without risk of being ripped off. B & H Photo ( is very reputable and has a great selection. Same thing goes for Adorama ( Many of the least expensive camera sites on the web will burn you. Be very careful - in the internet-camera world, a price that is really low is that way for a reason . . .

Good luck and burn that . . . film?

Ditto on what PhotoPilot said. Be very careful about who you deal with in the internet camera world. Right now I am waiting for some film (yes, folks, some of us still use that stuff) that I ordered about three weeks ago from someone.

So you need to be very careful about who you deal with. Sometimes the $50 you'll save by going with someone who has the lowest price will be more than eaten up by shipping costs or by aggravation.

And while this may not be relevant for digital cameras (you're the expert, PhotoPilot, so I'll defer to you), often, the really cheap prices come on grey market cameras. They are not supposed to be sold in the US and if something goes wrong with them, you can't get them fixed in the US under the manufacturer's warranty.