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Digital Camera Reviews
Budget Camera Image Quality and ISO Settings
Most inexpensive digital cameras get a mix of positive and negative feedback from experts and consumers posting online. Most budget models are easy to use, according to digital camera reviews, with myriad preset shooting modes and convenient aids designed to produce top-notch photos.
Camera Image Quality.Point-and-shoot cameras are supposed to take a lot of the guesswork out of snapping great pictures. Indeed, most budget models can shoot decent-looking photos in normal lighting conditions, but in lower light the cameras' image quality dips dramatically.
In the digital camera reviews we read, the Canon PowerShot A2400 IS (starting at $88, Amazon) earned the most praise for photo quality. It impressed a CNET reviewer by producing vivid, accurate colors. A PC Mag expert who reviewed both this model and the other Canon PowerShot we researched, the A3400 IS (starting at $89, Amazon), notes the sharpness of the lenses on both cameras but says images suffer from "noise" or graininess in low light. More than one expert complains about the performance of the Fujifilm FinePix T400 (starting at $89, Amazon) in low light. Still, testers from Tech Review Source gives the camera credit for taking sharp photos with accurate colors in good lighting conditions.
Digital camera reviews criticize the Nikon Coolpix S3300 (starting at $69, Amazon) for sub-par image quality all around. Reviewers from Digital Versus found that photos lacked detail and appeared blurry around the edges. At Digital Camera Info, an expert writes that the camera renders colors accurately, but a cheap lens produces blue and yellow "fringing" along high-contrast edges, an effect known as chromatic aberration.
Spending more doesn't necessarily guarantee better photo quality. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ5 (starting at $150, Amazon) comes in for criticism at Steve's Digicams because indoor photos simply don't turn out well. The reviewer accuses this camera of taking less-than-sharp images that show a lot of noise in the background.
ISO Settings.Digital camera reviews tend to talk a lot about a camera's image quality at different ISO settings. Changing the ISO makes the camera more or less sensitive to light. Budget cameras, including our top picks, can typically be set to 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1600. The ISO settings on the Fujifilm FinePix T400 go up to 3200. The higher the number, the less light you need to take a properly exposed photo, all other settings being equal. A camera set to ISO 800 doesn't require as much light to take the same photo as it would if it was set to ISO 400, so you can take photos indoors or in low light without using a flash. But there's a tradeoff, especially in budget cameras: Photos snapped at higher ISO settings tend to look "noisy" or grainy and may display other distortions known as digital artifacts. The images also may look more washed out than photos taken in bright light.
Experts highlight such issues in digital camera reviews. The Olympus VR-340 (starting at $89, Amazon) can take good photos with little noise up through ISO 400, according to PC Mag's digital camera analyst. After that, images show noise and start to lose detail. The same is true even of the Canon PowerShot A2400 IS, which is otherwise lauded for photo quality. Trusted Reviews notes that the Fujifilm Finepix T400 camera's image quality deteriorates anywhere above the lowest ISO setting.
While you can try to always keep the camera on a low ISO setting, you're likely to wind up with blurry photos indoors or in low light. A camera with optical image stabilization (see the next page for more on that feature) can reduce the blurriness to some extent, but it can only do so much. Don't expect to take a sharp picture in a poorly lit room with the ISO set to 100, even if your camera does have image stabilization.
Don't Bother Cheap Digital Cameras
Nikon Coolpix L810 Review
Nikon Coolpix S3300 Review
Canon PowerShot A2400 IS Review
Fujifilm FinePix T400 Review
Canon PowerShot A3400 IS Review
Olympus VR-340 Review
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S2100
Kodak EasyShare M590
Canon PowerShot A1200
Nikon Coolpix S3100
Kodak EasyShare Mini M200
Canon PowerShot A800
Nikon Coolpix L24
Casio Exilim EX-Z35
Panasonic Lumix DMC-S3
Canon PowerShot A495
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