Ten Essential... Budget Compact Cameras
Summer snappers for less than 150 quid
Product Round-up The credit crunch has made many of us cost-conscious consumers, and so it’s no surprise that more people are taking a closer look at sub-£150 cameras. And with summer holidays coming up, now's the time to take a peek.
Naturally, at this price point, you're looking at a compact model, but you might be surprised by some of the features you can get for your money – some models include a 5x optical zoom, compatibility with wireless memory cards and even HD recording, although HDMI ports are as rare as the proverbial rocking horse droppings.
Here’s a round-up of some of the best sub-£150 models on the market. Note that all zoom figures are for the optical zoom and the 35mm equivalent.
Kodak EasyShare M550
OK, we know you should never judge a book by its cover and that beauty is only skin deep, but the EasyShare M500 looks as if it had been designed back in the Soviet era. This camera came plastered with YouTube, Facebook and Flickr stickers, and social networking fans will find features designed to make it easy to tag and upload images. You get a 5x zoom (28-140mm), 12Mp CCD, 22 scene modes and 0.3Mp (VGA) movie recording, but little else. The control layout is awkward, with dark buttons and strange icons used to select various functions. Picture quality wasn’t bad, although macro shots were disappointing.
More info Kodak
Unfortunately it's consumers and retail in the UK driving for more MP as it's a simple quantative number that people use as a more == better comparison. Other markets do not care so much about it. The vendors are just repsonding to market demand.
Until consumers get educated and demand better image quality then it will stay this way. Image quality is hard to compare though.
Ah the MP race...
So long as the numbers keep rising the punters keep paying. You whack up the MP but fit these things will shonky pinhole lenses. Everyone whacks up the quality settings and wonders why there is grain and noise and the clarity is not so great. No viewefinders, so a nice bright sunny day when you are most likely to use these and you can see precisely bugger all in the screen while you're shooting!
The other thing is these camera produce huge resolution pictures, so as soon as you offload the pictures, you end up constantly clicking sharpen and denoise filters in your favourite software and reducing the resolution to get something half decent that doesn't make you wince when you see a nice single colour area iike a solid blue sky.
Just like all other industries, numbers make good PR and help shift units, so on the race goes!
Give me a Nikon D2X anyday, might be long in the tooth now but still knocks out pukka shot!
These 14MP resolutions have gotten ridiculous at the consumer level. It's disappointing that engineers from all brands are focusing so much energy on this non-problem.
For regular use, I don't find it necessary to go above half that, and frequently use lower resolutions just to reduce storage.
All things being equal, it would not be so bad, however engineering is always about striking a balance between competing goals. The high resolution comes at the cost of graininess, higher processor requirements, more battery power, slower shutter speed. At this point, all of those are more important to me than the resolution.
The main flaw I find with all consumer cameras I've tried is terrible graininess at the high ISO settings required to prevent hand held night/indoor shots from blurring. It's a real shame to resort to grainy high ISO modes at museums that, understandably, only permit no-flash photography.
Reducing graininess should be engineering priority #1 for the sensors.
Why use percentages...?
Seriously guys, why the hell bother using a scale with 101 discrete options if you're only going to use 3 of them?
Were the four cameras rated at 80% really identically good? Or the three at 75%? or the three at 70%?
What happened to the round-up page? If you are going to split an article like this over ten pages so that it is impossible to just scroll between them, you could at least devote one page to a quick summary/comparison of them all.