2010 Compact Digital Cameras Selecting A Family Camera
We have found that if we divide compact cameras into several large interest groups and if we have specific recommendations at different price points within those groups we are able to help camera buyers make informed decisions.
The first of the large segments is the Family Camera group. A Family Camera is probably the "Jack of all trades" in photography. This camera is expected to cover a wide variety of situations and in general ease of use is as important as quality pictures. A Family Camera is always a more traditional compact camera design; it looks like it could slip into almost any pocket or purse.
It can be helpful to also define what a Family Camera is not: A Family Camera is not a sports camera nor is it intended to be a hobbyist / performance camera. Though the zoom lenses can get long and powerful, a Family Camera's zoom is more about convenience than performance.
There are many camera brands available but to keep this article brief we will look at Canon and Nikon models only. Over 90% of all cameras sold worldwide are either a Canon or a Nikon. If you have a different brand preference it should be easy to translate our recommendations into a Fuji, Olympus, Samsung or any of the other lines available.
The Family Camera group is subdivided into smaller feature and price segments. Cameras in the same price range tend to have the same features: Under $175.00 we find 4X zooms. Over $200.00 we will find zoom lenses 5X and stronger. Once the price of the Family Camera approaches $300.00 or more we find that the zoom lenses tend to be 10X and greater.
Please be aware that all of the price examples used are quoted at regular price! Rebates and other discounts may change the actual selling price of the cameras we will discuss.
Let's start at the bottom and work our way up the price ladder with some specific camera model suggestions. While Porter's offers several cameras priced below $100.00 I will ignore that group for now. These low price cameras are truly aimed at price shoppers only and they don't often have the features that a Family Photographer needs.
At $175.00 and under the best options are the Nikon S4000, S3000 and the Canon SD1300 and A3100. Four distinct cameras with four different feature sets. All of these cameras feature a 4X zoom lens and 12 megapixel resolution and all have image stabilization too. The image quality is comparable between all four models, the differences are strictly in the features.
The Canon A3100 is the lowest priced model and is a solid no-frills choice. The Nikon S3000 is the next higher priced camera and it is thinner and smaller than the Canon A3100. Up we go to the Canon SD1300 which is Canon's small body style that brings a wider angle lens to the selection and a metal body construction. Last we have the Nikon S4000 which has the same thin body as the less expensive S3000 but adds HD video and offers touch screen control.
In the group priced between $199.00 and $275.00 we find that there are three strong choices. The Canon SD1400 and SX130, the Nikon S6000 fits in here too. All are 14 megapixel cameras and all shoot HD video.
The Canon SD1400 jumps to 14 megapixels and offers HD video in one of Canon's slimmest and most colorful cameras. The Canon SX130 is a larger camera body but it offers the longest zoom lens in this camera family at 12X. The Nikon S6000 continues the slim body design but sports a powerful 7X zoom.
Finally, the Family Camera group priced $299 and more. This is an elite group of cameras were each model has something very unique to offer. All of the cameras feature LCD viewscreens 3" or larger, all shoot HD quality video too.
The Canon SD4000 is all about the lens. The SD4000 has the fastest lens on a Family Camera, it allows more light in so it takes outstanding low light images. The SD1400 has a 10 megapixel sensor and the shortest zoom lens of this segment at 3.8X, but this design ahs been used to maximize the cameras low light capabilities.
The Nikon S8100 is the only camera od this segment to shoot in what is called "Full HD" which means 1080p quality HD video. With 12 megapixels and a very powerful 10X zoom this is Nikon's top performance Family Camera.
The Canon SX210 tips the scales with a 14X zoom lens in a slim body that seems to thin to offer a lens of such length. Probably the very best Family Camera for travel. The 14 megapixel sensor and high dynamic exposure mode provide fantastic low light imaging.
The last of the Family Camera group is the Nikon S80. The S80 is all about style with performance. An ultra-thin camera that has a touch screen interface and a 5X zoom, the Nikon S80 boasts the largest viewscreen of its class at 3.5" and 14 megapixels under the hood.
That's it. We've taken a 56 possible camera models and narrowed the Family Camera choices down to eleven models each with a distinct set of features. Simply select the features that are the most important: price, zoom lens, video quality or megapixels. The camera from this list that matches those needs could be your new "best camera ever".