Which camera should I buy - P&S with good pictures and features
$400 or less, just for the camera. The memory card, etc can be more.
Something that can fit in a large pocket. (compact)
How many megapixels will suffice for you?
Anything over 5 is fine.
* What optical zoom will you need? (None, Standard = 3x-4x, Ultrazoom = 10x-12x, Other - Specify)
I would prefer 10-12x, but do not want to lose image quality due to it. So somthing like a 6x zoom is probably what I'd shoot for.
* How important is “image quality” to you? (Rate using a scale of 1-10)
Do you care for manual controls?
Some would be nice, not necessary
* What will you generally use the camera for?
Taking pictures of my kids. Lots of indoor shots (low light?) They are young and don't stand still. Also outdoor shots.
* Will you be making big prints of your photos or not?
usually 4x6, occasionally an 8x10
Will you be shooting a lot of indoor photos or low light photos?
Will you be shooting sports and/or action photos?
Are there particular brands you like or hate?
I like my Canon, but it broke.
Are there particular models you already have in mind?
Canon SX200IS (not thrilled about photo quality from Jeff's review though)
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 (really hope it does better with image)
(If applicable) Do you need any of the following special features? (Wide Angle, Image Stabilization, Weatherproof, Hotshoe, Rotating LCD)
I would like to have a wide angle. Image Stabilization should be there too. Rotating LCD would be great, but not willing to sacrifice size for it. Why didn't Canon replace the A650????
I want a fast camera, fast focusing and picture taking, not necessarily rapid fire shots.
Ohhh, 10/10 IQ?
Unfortunately, no compact point 'n' shooter is gonna give you totally satisfactory image quality either indoors, or under poor outdoor lighting scenarios. Exacerbating your requirements is taking kids' pix indoors — a potential imaging nightmare! Obviously, you're looking at a high(ish) shutter value for kids indoors, which forces you into using higher ISOs which in turn increases image noise. This could also, ideally, dictate using a fast lens — which most compacts don't possess.
If you're serious about capturing a lot of indoor/poor lighting/active kids etc, than you really need to consider an entry-level dSLR, which in many cases won't cost you much more than a top-end compact.
Additionally, there's also no way you're gonna get a 10/10 image quality from any/all P&Ss, particularly under less-than-favourable conditions. Many top quality P&Ss will return excellent image quality outdoors with ideal subjects (in fact often, at say up to A4 print size, comparable with budget dSLRs — unless you're a pixel-peeper LOL!).
You might like to look at the (relatively) compact Olympus E420 for $322 body only as at 11 March, and also consider maybe a second-hand, fast, prime lens for your indoor stuff, and then as funds permit think about getting a longer (but slower) zoom lens.
These are just a few of my own thoughts on your issue — I'm sure some of the other guys will probably have better suggestions.
Thank you Beowulff. I guess I misunderstood the image quality question. I realize that a P&S camera cannot deliver the perfect 10 image in the conditions I'll be using it in. I was saying "10" meaning that the image is very important to me. I want the camera with best image quality possible for a compact P&S camera. I also would like a decently wide angle lens that can do at least a 6x zoom too. I was happy enough with my Canon A610 until the LCD broke on it. The improvements I'd look upon on the A610 would be adding image stabilization, a bit more zoom, larger LCD, faster picture taking and continual focusing. I realize I'm not going to get a rotating LCD with all of that. I was considering the Canon SX200IS until I read the review. Comparing the photo gallery with the A620 left me wanting more. It seems like the A620 took better photos than the SX200IS. My thoughts on why that would be was because of the longer zoom and cramming more megapixels on the sensor that is the same size.
If I turn the resolution down to say 5 or 6 megapixels, would the noise levels improve? I would still consider the SX200IS if that was the case. I'm anxiously awaiting the review for the Lumix DMC-ZS3.
I basically want the 2009 equivalent of the Canon A650, which doesn't seem to exist.
I do usually shoot with the image size on my 8Mp camera set to 4Mp. But it's mostly to speed up processing and transfers. Setting a smaller image size typically does not improve DR or noise. Exception (vee hope!!!) being the new Fujifilm F200EXR. You have to hunt around, but there are already sample shots from this camera posted online.
Ooh, thanks. The F200EXR is exactly what I'm looking for. Assuming it is fast enough. I'd gladly give up some zoom for better low light shots. Thanks! I can't wait until it's reviewed.
There is now a full review in PhotographyBlog. They were more impressed with the boost in dynamic range than the noise reduction.