Cameras have become more and more affordable over the years. With time, they’ve also shrunk in size from large and bulky devices to the sleek compact works of art they are today. Moreover, camera manufacturers are moving away from the standard plastic body to more robust metal frames and all cameras now include the standard SD card slot and slimmer and more efficient Lithium Ion batteries. Even with their diminishing size, some cameras still manage to fit in a decent 3-inch screen. However, with all these features packed in, such cameras always make some sort of compromise; maybe average image quality, poor battery life or issues with the overall functionality.
We have tested many point-and-shoot cameras over the years; from entry-level to high-end. For this group test, however, we chose 11 cameras that fell within a budget of Rs 8,000. Since these are basic cameras, the user will not get options to manually adjust the aperture and shutter speed. However, they do come with a number of predefined shooting modes that do all the thinking for you. Surprisingly, these entry-level cameras featured apertures as large as f/2.7, which basically allows you to capture a wider view of the subject.
Other than their ability to capture still images, video recording can also be considered as an added advantage. Cameras that feature high definition video recording over standard definition offer much higher value for money, but the quality of the video recording is equally important. The Fujifilm AV100 was the only camera in this group that was capable of capturing high definition (720p) video.
With a plethora of cameras available in various sizes for every budget, it’s easy to get lost in the sea of information. So if you’re looking to pick up a compact digital camera this holiday season, read on to help make your decision a little easier.
These are the parameters we used to evaluate the various cameras under the scanner.
Features: We allotted better scores to cameras with better specifications
Build Quality: We evaluated the quality of construction and the firmness of the moving parts.
Ergonomics: The overall design, size, spacing of buttons and user interface were taken into account.
Performance: We evaluated the overall replication of color, contrast and details produced by each image.
Warranty: We made note of the number of service centers in the country, the number of cities in which these centers are present and the warranty period each camera offered.
Value for Money: We pitted all of the above parameters against the price.
Here are the winners, based on the above parameters.
Best Performance – The Panasonic F2
The Panasonic F2 might not be a show-stopper in terms of looks, but it bagged our Best Performance award thanks to its superlative overall image quality and astounding noise reduction capabilities. The camera comes in an all-plastic body that feels a little tacky when held, but its matte finish ensures that smudges and fingerprints won’t be an issue. At 2.5 inches, the F2’s screen might feel a tad small but it performs quite well in all conditions. The camera features a rather intuitive navigation system and comes with decently sized buttons that make it even easier to use. The useful Quick Menu button allows you to change various settings without having to juggle through the cameras individual settings. However, the list of settings depends on the mode that has been selected.
The overall interface comes across as a little childish. While navigation is considerably easy, the UI could definitely use a face lift. There are a total of 22 scene modes to choose from, and two of them in particular stand out. ‘Starry sky’ puts the camera on a 60-second shutter priority, while in ‘Hi-Speed Burst’ the camera takes a series of shots at a maximum of 3 megapixels each. A few strange features such as world time and travel date are also included. While world time is an understandable, if unnecessary addition, travel date - which allows you to set your journey departure and return dates, seems of little use in a camera. There is nothing much one can complain about as far as performance is concerned.
The camera did decently well in maintaining the overall contrast in both the indoor and outdoor shoots. However, it wasn’t the best at capturing details when shooting indoors. Having said that, the Panasonic F2 excelled in the noise tests, which were carried out at three different ISO values. It performed best till ISO 400, but any higher and it started losing out on details.
VERDICT: A perfect balance between performance and price.
FOR: Excellent noise reduction, 60 second shutter speed, compact construction.
Best Value: Fujifilm AV100
The Fujifilm AV100 is probably the tackiest looking point-and-shoot of the lot. However, it does sport a few features that make it our Best Value awardee. Featuring a full glossy plastic body, the AV100 is a fingerprint magnet, and also prone to scratches. The camera comes with standard 3x optical zoom, and a 32 mm lens, in addition to an effective resolution of 12 megapixels. It’s quite big and it might look a little bulky, but it feels quite comfortable when held.
Unlike other cameras that come with standard Lithium-Ion batteries, the AV100 makes use of two AA batteries instead. While AA batteries add to the camera’s size, the fact that AA batteries are easily available work in its favor. The camera features a rich and vivid 2.7-inch screen that performs well even under broad daylight. However, the screen is extremely prone to fingerprints, and you’ll have to keep cleaning it from time to time. Frequent smudges also hinder the screen’s overall visibility.
Its directional pad and display and preview buttons are placed just beside the screen. Standard buttons are present for zooming in and out, but the presence of a zoom rocker would have allowed for more precise control over zoom. The AV100 features a slick menu that doesn’t take long to get used to. All options are clearly explained and well detailed, so even inexperienced users will have no trouble using it.
It may not have scored highly in the looks department, but the camera more than made up for it with its features. For instance, this was the only camera in this comparison that could record video in high definition (720p). The video quality can’t be compared to that offered by expensive high-end models, but it does well enough for its price. The AV100 is also the only camera in this round-up to support optical zoom during video recording. It performed decently both outdoors and indoors, but the camera struggled a bit when it came to overall picture details and macro range.
VERDICT: A camera well-suited for casual users.
FOR: HD recording, Optical zoom for video recording.
AGAINST: Tacky design, pictures lack sharpness and focus at times.
So there you have it, our two winners in the performance and value category for Digicams under Rs. 8,000. If you still want to take a look at the others we evaluated and see how they stack up against the competition, here’s the entire list of candidates.
The entire list - click to enlarge
Published Date: Dec 14, 2010 01:30 pm | Updated Date: Dec 14, 2010 01:30 pm