Although you can easily find decent dSLR cameras under $500 today, you may still need a compact camera for day-to-day regular use, because they are cheaper, lightweight and easy to carry. Here are some of the best models on the market that are under $200:
Fujifilm FinePix XP90: One Tough Basic Camera
The Fujifilm FinePix XP90 is a rugged camera which is not only waterproof but also is dustproof, shockproof, freezeproof. Up to some extent, it’s even crushproof. Unlike XP30, it has no GPS receiver. But apart from that, both the cameras have been tested to withstand the depth of 16 feet underwater for around 2 hrs; temperatures as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit and drop from 4.9 ft.
The best thing about these rugged cameras is that all that protection comes pretty cheap. In general, you don’t get rugged cameras inexpensively. Though the low price here has called some trade-offs. Here it comes in the form of a drop in shooting performance and photo quality. So, if you’re looking for image quality and don’t mind the price, then you better keep looking for one of the following cameras. But the price/performance of the camera could be acceptable for some, depending upon the requirement.
Design and Controls
There’s no denying the fact that one of the reasons why anyone would consider the Fujifilm FinePix XP20 is the solid build quality of the camera. But despite all the heavy protection that it brings, it is nice, small and good-looking. The controls on the FinePix XP20 are also simpler. The shutter release, power and zoom toggle positioned on the top. A directional navigation pad has an OK/menu button. The playback, movie record and display buttons are on the rear end of the camera. All the setting changes and shooting mode changes are handled using the menu button. This makes them simpler to find and simple to operate.
The camera has a design to withstand some abuse, just like any other rugged camera. However, there are certain things that you need to keep in mind to make the camera operational and to run. That said, we were impressed with the small latch which protects the SD card slot, Micro-USB port, and battery. The door is small and tough to figure out whether it’s properly locked or not. Check it twice before using the camera.
The photo quality from Fujifilm FinePix XP90 was simply okay. That’s what we were expecting from the camera considering its sturdy and robust construction. The pictures are decent when you use the camera outside or in proper lighting. The photos from FinePix XP90 are sufficient for 4 x 6-in or smaller prints and Web use. The main problem with the pictures here is noise. The noise isn’t all that apparent at and under ISO 200. It becomes evident once you look at the images in full size. But go above that sensitivity and you’ll be having apparent color shifting, noise and smeary and soft details. It means that using the camera in dim light or indoors will not get you all that great photos.
As far as video quality is concerned, it was on par with entry level HD pocket video camcorder; which is sufficient enough for web usage. There will be juddering in the video if you pan the camera, but that’s the case with most of the compact cameras. So even the videos shot from the XP90 can be used under very basic conditions.
Finally, we’d say that the Fujifilm FinePix XP90 is a respectable point-and-shoot camera. The shooting performance and photo quality is acceptable. It may be a nice secondary camera when you are on rough outdoors that could withstand some water, cold and dust or even some shock. The Fujifilm FinePix XP90 is decent choice.
Casio TRYX: Style Over Substance
The Casio TRYX boasts a fantastic metal body, which is known as “Tryx.” The body of the camera looks more like a smartphone than a compact camera.
The TRYX measures 15 mm wide and boasts a 3 in a touch-sensitive display screen. The camera only has two physical buttons in the form of shutter and power buttons.
Design and Controls
The body of the camera sits on the external metal surface of the camera which can easily be flipped externally. It can also be rotated in a complete circle. It doesn’t only mean that you will be able to use the camera in almost uncountable positioned. But at the same time, it means that the metal frame of the camera will be used as a grip for reducing the blurring when shooting from hand. The metal frame of the camera is also pretty effective in achieving shake-free video clips. The TRYX can record HD video at 1080p resolution, in addition to the 12-MP still shots.
There is also an alternative to shooting at a lot low resolution, but with a significantly increased frame rate of around 240-fps (frames per second). When you replay that at average speeds, you will get a slow motion effect. It’s pretty decent for action shooting. Unluckily, you will not be able to go too close to the action. Because the design has its problems.
The TRYX doesn’t have any optical zoom. The digital zoom demeans the quality of the picture a little bit. The lens of the camera is fixed at the corresponding of a 21 mm wide-angle in previous 35 mm film terms. Now that is pretty handy for landscapes but at the same time lends closer portraits a slightly distorted ‘fish-eye’ consequence. The chances of you covering the lens with your finger are also pretty good at moving the screen of the camera.
The TRYX comes with a camcorder-style LED spotlight rather than a flash, which needs to be activated manually with the help of the touchscreen menu. One problem here, once you turn it on, it remains on, and that drains the battery faster than normal. The camera only deliveres 200 shots from a complete charge which is disappointing. But the best thing is the bright lens here. There’s no need for flash in the darker conditions because the lens automatically allows a lot more light than the lens.
Finally, we’d say that the picture quality from the Casio TRYX wasn’t significantly better than the image quality that we found on the other cameras. In simple terms, it is a style-over-substance camera.
Pentax Optio RS 1500SL: Change How Your Camera Looks
Pentax has decided to put a lot more fun into their Pentax Optio RS 1500. They have fitted the camera with a customizable front panel. It’s possible to change the look of the camera to meet your new mood or attire using the supplied faceplates. Also, if you are bored of the faceplates, there are also blank faceplates that will give you a chance to create the design according to your mood.
Design and Controls
There is a compact boxy camera having a silver-colored carcass concealed behind the variable frontage of the Pentax Optio RS1500. To be honest, the unadorned variant of the camera also has a certain charm, though it was rather plasticky. There is also a 3-inch screen with compass positioned at the rear end of the Pentax Optio RS 1500. Viewing images and menus was rather easy to navigate. There is also a 4x optical zoom and along with the 14 MP still images. The Optio RS1500 has the capability to shoot HD video at 720p resolution.
The shooting mode for still images ranges are both automatic and manual. The camera detects the best settings as per the conditions in auto-mode. In manual mode, you can change most of the settings. Along with the shooting modes for sport, portraits and more, there is also a panorama mode which you can create an overall image by sewing three shots jointly.
The panorama mode of RS1500 does both track and detect faces though the results weren’t all that clear. The camera didn’t always succeeded in finding faces. The Smile detection feature worked pretty nicely. The Pentax Optio RS 1500 has decent flash, and it was sufficient to see a tripod socket on the underside. In general, the picture quality was pretty good though there was inevitable noise in low light conditions.
The camera has rather basic fitted editing tools. We got fast and efficient results though they weren’t a match for dedicated editing software. The onboard memory for the camera is sufficient for a handful of pictures but you will need an SD card for more. The rechargeable battery of the camera was sufficient for a day’s shooting. Both memory and battery card of the Pentax Optio RS 1500 have been fitted with a small compartment positioned at the base. There also is a micro-USB socket on one side of the camera for attaching it to a PC for image transfer.
Finally, we would say that for its price the Pentax Optio RS 1500 is a rather idiosyncratic compact camera capable of taking quick photos, though the build quality of the camera holds it back.
Canon PowerShot Elph 510 HS: A Splendid Little Camera
The Canon PowerShot Elph 510 HS is an update to Canon’s SD4500 IS, and boosts the resolution for the rear-end illuminated CMOS sensor to 12 MP. It brings 3.2 in high-resolution LCD touchscreen instead of the previous 3 in LCD; gets a 28 mm wide-angle lens having 12x zoom instead of a 10x zoom. It also brings a plethora of other shooting lineaments. But the best thing here is that all this comes in a body which is less than an inch thick.
The PowerShot Elph 510 HS brings everything that your smartphone camera doesn’t and the best thing is that all that comes in a tiny body. So, we’d say that the PowerShot Elph 510 HS is a fantastic little camera.
Design and Controls
The overall build of the Canon PowerShot Elph 510 HS is pretty decent enclosing a big and broad lens in a small body. We liked the overall appearance of the camera, but at the same time, we’d like to tell that the frontage of the camera doesn’t offer any grip. It also collects a lot of fingerprints. The rear end of the camera houses a high-resolution bright 3.2-in touchscreen LCD screen. Despite a small number of physical controls available on the phone including the likes of play, power, and shutter release; there also is a zoom ring surrounding the shutter release switch; and one button for shooting mode selection. Everything else has been handheld with a small interface.
The display screen here is rather responsive and could easily be calibrated with your finger. But the user interface can be annoying at times for navigating. Canon doesn’t include the alternative for customizing and rearranging the outline of the primary shooting screen. If you want quick access to white balance or ISO, you will have to put these icons on the home screen of the camera. One of the finest uses for a touchscreen is to focus on particular subjects only by tapping them, which you get in this Canon. You could also tap for shoot and focus.
The touchscreen for the camera can be used for flicking through or moving between images. You can easily select photos for marking as favorites or deleting or enlarge a segment of a picture only by tapping.
If you want to link your camera to an HDTV, computer or any other monitor, there are Mini-HDMI and Mini-USB ports on the right side of the body. The memory card and battery compartments have been provided on the base of the device under a non-locking sliding door. The battery can not be charged in camera and because of the touchscreen. The battery doesn’t last all that long and you’ll find yourself accessing the battery compartment quite often.
The overall photo quality of Canon PowerShot Elph 510 HS is incredible for its class. The images become noisy and soft above ISO 200. But that’s the case for almost every point-and-shoot camera. The real thing here is that even the ISO 400 and ISO 800 are pretty usable.
Just as all the other “HS”, the noise and noise reduction is rather balanced. You’ll still get plenty of excellent color and details up to ISO 800. The Colours from the camera impregnates at ISO 1600 and ISO 3200, and the subject starts looking soft and diminished. Although, the pictures aren’t ideal for using full sizes or doing a lot of cropping and editing like dSLR’s, they are still sufficient for web and printing at small sizes. So the still picture performance of the camera is pretty good.
The video quality for the camera was also pretty good for an HD pocket video camera. Sufficient enough for web usage and non-discriminating TV viewing. The complete HD video records at 24 frames-per-second and although panning the camera create shudder; there still is noticeable trailing on stirring subjects, the video shot from the camera is decent enough to watch.
Finally, we’d say that the Canon PowerShot Elph 510 HS is a perfect balance between features, photo quality, design and video quality. When it comes to shooting performance, the camera goes a bit off target.
GE X5: Competent Budget Megazoom Camera
GE X5 is a fully-featured superzoom camera that offers good flash images. It has resolutions and 2.7 inches 230,400-pixel LCD. There are plenty of point-and-shoot digital cameras launched every year that marques like GE. It has the capability of capturing nice images under right circumstances. The shooting performance is slow as compared to other models like Canon PowerShot SX130 IS. Some of the key specifications include 14-megapixel ½.3-inch CCD sensor, 2.7-inch LCD screen, Motion JPEG/JPEG file format, digital and mechanical image stabilization. It’s bundled with Arcsoft Photo Impression 6 software and SDHC/SD storage media.
Design and Controls
The photo quality of GE X5 is good for a point and shoot camera. It’s better than expected given its price and specifications. The video quality is also quite good and best suitable for non-discriminating web use. The ISO sensitivity ranges from Auto, 3200, 80, 1600, 100, 800, 200 and 500. The white balance mode offers Auto, Manual, Daylight, Incandescent, Cloudy, Fluorescent CWF and Fluorescent. It also features some recording modes such as Auto, Panorama, ASCN, Portrait, Manual, Scene, Shutter Priority, Movie and Aperture Priority. Some of the focus modes are Center Autofocus, Face Detection AF, and 13-point Multi Autofocus. The metering modes are multi, spot and center-weighted, while the color effects include Vivid, White, and Black and Sepia.
There is very few point and shoot cameras on the market that come with aperture priority, manual shooting options, and shutter priority, but GE X5 has them. The apertures are f3, f7.3, f3.3, f5.8, f3.8 and f4.6. One of the extensive and exclusive features found in this camera is the fully automatic mode and automatic scene mode. They both determine the appropriate settings based on conditions of what you are doing. The Program Auto mode gives you access to the settings for exposure compensation, ISO and white balance. The X5 also offers two menu systems. A main system menu reachable by Menu button and a shooting mode accessed by OK/Func button.
With a small electronic viewfinder and 2.7-inch LCD screen, the GE X5 feels like a bargain basement camera. Once the shooting situation is perfect, the X5 offers images with excellent photo quality. While shooting outdoors, it provides bright images and sharp realistic colors.
Overall, it is a budget mega zoom camera. It comes with wide angle, long zoom lens with manual and semimanual shooting options and electronic viewfinder.
Olympus TOUGH TG-310: Rugged Entry-Level Camera
The Olympus TOUGH TG-310 is a rugged entry-level camera for everyday outdoor adventures. You can use it when hiking, camping or on the beach etc. The TOUGH TG-310 is strong enough to survive a drop of 1.5 m. It also can defy underwater force up to 3m.
The TOUGH TG-310 is freeze proof and dust-proof, but it’s not scratch-resistant. Because the TOUGH TG-310 is a rugged entry-level camera you shouldn’t expect immensely high-quality pics. But it delivers decent quality images, which you can use for online sharing or view on a big-screen.
Design and Controls
The Olympus TOUGH TG-310 has a satisfactory overall build quality and for a touch device. It’s pretty easy to use the camera. The buttons have a rubber cachet. Hence, the water can’t get into the camera body. The menu steering buttons here are tactile. The 2.7-inch display screen does nor perform well in the bright daylight. You need to shield the camera completely from the sun. The close button for the Olympus TOUGH TG-310 has a different two-step feel. Holding the camera is a rather easy maneuver. The positioning of the lens of the eye at the exceed-left corner of the body intends that you have to be a tad extra heedful while holding the camera. Because, you don’t want your figure to come in the way while you’re shooting with the camera.
The camera has a broad angle lens of 28mm, and it has been placed ahead of a 14 MP sensor. Olympus TOUGH TG-310. The image quality from Olympus TOUGH TG-310 is sufficient overall. The images are best viewed at complete HD resolution. View them in any bigger size and the images will lose their perfection. For most of the part we shot in iAuto mode. We have to say that the camera delivered a pretty decent job.
So finally, we would say that the Olympus TOUGH TG-310 is a pretty decent rugged entry level camera without any exceptional feature. But if you want a camera that could handle a bit of rough handling during your outdoor activities then the Olympus TOUGH TG-310 surely is a reasonable option and will not disappoint you.
Jack Baker, Fujifilm FinePix XP90 review, PhotographyBLOG“The Fujifilm FinePix XP90 is an easy-to-use rugged point-and-shoot.”
Joshua Goldman, Casio Exilim TRYX, Cnet“The Casio Tryx has a unique design and interesting shooting options that allow you to do things no other point-and-shoot can do.”
Pentax Optio RS1500 Review, Photography Blog,
GE X5 Ultra Zoom Digital Camera Review, Ephotozine,
Olympus Tough TG-310, Pcmag,“built to withstand some pretty harsh environments”