DCRP

2010 Budget Camera Shootout Review

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor

Originally Posted: June 27, 2010

Last Updated: July 2, 2010

For many years now, the trend on this website has been to review the more expensive, cutting-edge cameras. Not only do those cameras capture my interest -- they are what the majority of DCRP readers are curious about, as well. Recently, I was reminded by a reader that I wasn't giving enough attention to entry-level cameras. These cameras may be boring to tech enthusiasts, but let's face it, millions of them are sold every year to regular folks who want something easy-to-use that takes decent photos.

Thus, I set out to find a group of cameras to test. I went to my local Target and BestBuy stores and wrote down what they were selling. I wanted compact cameras that had prices between $150 and $180, with 4X or 5X zoom lenses, 2.7" LCD displays, and lithium-ion batteries. Here's what I ended up with:

  • Canon PowerShot SD1300 IS Digital ELPH
  • Kodak EasyShare M550
  • Nikon Coolpix S3000
  • Olympus FE-4030
  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH3
  • Pentax Optio H90
  • Samsung SL600
  • Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W330

Two quick notes: I originally sought out the FE-4020, but Olympus only had this model. It's the same camera as the 4020, but it uses a different battery (why, I do not know). The FE-4030 also appears to be a BestBuy exclusive, and costs more than the FE-4020. Also, the Samsung SL600 appears to have been discontinued, and replaced with the SL605. They are very similar cameras, with the SL605 adding dustproofing on its rear controls.

And with that, here's a huge table comparing all of the cameras in this test, with standout features highlighted in bold. You may need to widen your browser window to accomodate it!

  Canon PowerShot SD1300 IS Kodak EasyShare M550 Nikon Coolpix S3000 Olympus FE-4030 Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH3 Pentax Optio H90 Samsung SL600 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W330
Street price $179 $129 $129 $149 $159 $123 $129 $164
Resolution 12 MP 12 MP 12 MP 14 MP 14 MP 12 MP 12 MP 14 MP
Zoom 4X 5X 4X 4X 5X 5X 5X 4X
Focal range 28 - 112 mm 28 - 140 mm 27 - 108 mm 26 - 105 mm 28 - 140 mm 28 - 140 mm 27 - 135 mm 26 - 105 mm
Max aperture F2.8 - F5.9 F3.5 - F5.9 F3.2 - F5.9 F2.6 - F5.9 F2.8 - F6.9 F3.5 - F5.9 F3.5 - F5.9 F2.7 - F5.7
Image stabilization Yes No No No Yes No No No
LCD size 2.7" 2.7" 2.7" 2.7" 2.7" 2.7" 2.7" 3.0"
Macro distance 3 cm 10 cm 8 cm 4 cm 5 cm 8 cm 5 cm 4 cm
Manual controls White balance None White balance None White balance White balance, focus White balance None
Startup time 1.0 sec 1.9 sec 1.2 sec 1.3 sec 1.1 sec 1.4 sec 1.1 sec 1.7 sec
ISO range 80 - 1600 64 - 1000 80 - 3200 64 - 1600 80 - 1600 80 - 6400 80 - 3200 80 - 3200
Burst mode
(At full res)
Infinite @ 0.9 fps 3 shots @ 2.0fps Infinite @ 1.0 fps None Infinite @ 1.5 fps 4 shots @ 0.8 fps Infinite @ 0.5 fps Infinite @ 1.0 fps
Flash strength (Auto ISO *) 0.3 - 4.0 m (W)
0.5 - 2.0 m (T)
0.3 - 3.5 m (W)
0.5 - 2.0 m (T)
0.5 - 4.5 m (W)
0.5 - 2.4 m (T)
0.2 - 5.5 m (W)
0.6 - 3.0 m (T)
0.6 - 6.8 m (W)
1.0 - 2.7 m (T)
0.2 - 4.0 m (W)
1.0 - 2.4 m (T)
0.2 - 2.7 m (W)
0.5 - 1.6 m (T)
0.3 - 3.5 m (W)
0.6 - 1.8 m (T)
AF-assist lamp Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No
Max movie resolution 640 x 480 640 x 480 640 x 480 640 x 480 1280 x 720 1280 x 720 640 x 480 640 x 480
Zoom in movies? No No No Yes *** No No Yes *** No
Date stamp Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes No
Battery life 240 shots 220 shots 220 shots 230 shots 310 shots 210 shots 250 shots 230 shots
Built-in memory None 20 MB 47 MB 46 MB 40 MB 32.7 MB 9.9 MB 28MB
Supported memory cards SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC+ SD, SDHC SD, SDHC SD, SDHC SD, SDHC, SDXC SD, SDHC SD, SDHC, MMC+ MS Duo, SD, SDHC
USB 2.0 High Speed support Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Dimensions
(WxHxD, in.)
3.6 x 2.2 x 0.8 3.9 x 2.3 x 0.9 3.8 x 2.2 x 0.8 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.9 3.9 x 2.2 x 0.9 3.7 x 2.2 x 1.0 3.8 x 2.3 x 0.8 3.9 x 2.3 x 0.7
Weight (empty) 117 g 125 g 99 g (**) 116 g 125 g 114 g 119 g 112 g
Available colors Silver, blue, pink, green, brown Grey, purple. blue, tan Black, silver, plum, blue, green, orange Silver, grey, pink, blue Black, silver, pink, blue, red Black, white, orange Black, silver, red Black, silver, red, blue

Street prices obtained from Newegg.com, who just happens to sell all eight of the cameras

* The flash range was measured at ISO 400 for the Kodak EasyShare M550 and ISO 1600 for the Olympus FE-4030
** Approximate
*** With sound recording turned off (temporarily in the case of the SL600)

So now you've seen which cameras I'm going to cover in this test. Each of them will get their own page in this article, which will be a "lite" version of what you'll normally find in a DCRP review. Following that we'll have photo quality comparisons and a conclusion where I'll hopefully pick the best cameras in the group.

Ready to begin? I'll work my way through the cameras in alphabetical order, beginning with the Canon PowerShot SD1300 IS Digital ELPH.

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