For those looking for a relatively inexpensive consumer digicam, here's a list of the top 10 best selling cameras based on a number of sources including Amazon sales listings. It represents what they typical consumer is buying and consumers know what they want. They seek out and buy the cameras with the features they need at the price they are willing to pay for a camera with good performance and a good reputation. These cameras obviously offer what consumers want.
You'll quickly see that most of these cameras are made by Canon and most are in the "SD" and "A" series. This isn't a bias on my part (Canon don't pay me to advertise their products or give me cameras!), it's a reflection of the fact that Canon make very good, reasonably priced cameras that offer features most users want.
The SD series cameras are very small. Most can easily be carried in a shirt pocket. The A series cameras are a little larger (though still small enough to be carried in a coat pocket) and use AA batteries rather than dedicated Li-ion cells. Since they don't come with a battery and don't require quite as much miniaturization, you tend to get more features for your money (e.g. wider zoom range). The SD cameras all use special Li-ion cells and are supplied with one battery and a charger.
Except for the Sony S500 (which uses Sony Memory Sticks) all these cameras use SD format memory cards for image storage.
Here are the cameras in order of sales popularity (November 2006)
|Canon SD700 IS||6MP||35-140||2.5"||Li-ion||800||$300|
|Canon S2 IS||5MP||38-432*||1.8"#||AA||400||$300|
What would I buy? Well,
Here are the cameras described in a little more detail:
|The most popular digicam is Canon's SD600. It's a sub-compact 6MP camera
with a 35-105/2.8-4.9 (35mm equivalent) zoom, a 2.5" LCD, ISO 800 capability and a 60
frame/sec movie mode.
It's small, light and very capable and provides all the functions that most casual photographers will need, wrapped up in a package that will fit in a shirt pocket.
At a price of around $215 it's also affordable
|A 5MP camera with a 4x zoom (35-140/2.9-5.5 35mm equivalent), a
1.8"LCD, ISO 800 capability, movies at 20 frame/sec and an optical viewfinder.
The A530 uses two easy to find AA batteries. With a pair of rechargable NiMH batteries you can expect about 360 shots per charge. In an emergency a pair of regular alkaline AA batteries should give you 90 shots.
At around $130, it's quite a bargain for those who don't want to spend a lot. A good basic camera without too many frills.
|The SD630 is essentially the same as the SD600, except that it has a
larger 3" LCD, no optical viewfinder and costs about $40 more ($255).
Like the SD600, the SD630 should get about 160 shots on a charge of the Li-ion battery (supplied). The SD600 gets up to 600 shots with the LCD off (using the optical viewfinder), but since the SD630 has no optical viewfinder (the 3" LCD screen leaves no room for one), it's hard to operate with the LCD off.
|The SD800IS is a 7.1MP camera with an image stabilized lens system,
allowing hand held shooting in lower light. It has a 28-105/2.8-5.6 (35mm equivalent)
lens. 28mm is unusual in digicams and provides a real wideangle view. ISO settings up to
1600 are available.
The SD800 IS has a 2.5" LCD and is good for 270 shots with the LCD on (600 with it off) on a single charge of the (supplied) Li-ion battery. The price is around $350 but for those looking for a tiny digicam with great low light capability and a true wideangle lens, the SD800 IS is hard to beat.
|The A540 is essentially identical to the A530 (above), but adds a larger LCD (2.5" vs 1.8") and a slightly larger sensor (6.2MP vs 5MP). It's about $40 more than the A530, but still pretty affordabe at around $170.|
|The SD700 IS is similar to the SD800 IS, but has fewer pixels (6.2MP vs.
7.4MP), a lens that starts at 35mm rather than 28mm (35-140/2.8-5.5) - but zooms to a
longer focal length - and a maximum ISO of 800 (vs. 1600 for the SD800 IS).
The price is $50 less than the SD800 IS
I think a 28-105 is more useful than a 35-140 lens for general purpose use. 28mm is the start of the true wideangle range, whereas 35mm is more of a "wide-normal" lens.
|The S2 IS is significantly different from the SD and A series cameras in
that it's larger and it has a much wider range zoom (38-432/2.7-3.5 in 35mm
equivalent terms). The lens is image stabilized so despite the very long maximum focal
length, sharp images can be made with the camera hand held.
Maximum ISO setting is 400 and the camera uses 4 AA type batteries.
If you don't need a pocketable camera and you shoot a lot of sports and wildlife, the long reach of this camera will be very useful. Price is around $300.
|The SD500 has 7.1MP with a 37-111/2.8-49 (35mm equivalent) lens, a2" LCD and ISO
settings to 400. 60 frames/sec movie mode
|6MP Sony with 2.4" LCD, powered by 2 AA batteries. Uses Sony Memory
Sticks but also has 25MB of internal memory. 32-96/2.8-4.8 (35mm equivalent) lens. ISO
setting to 400.
At around $140 it's pretty cheap for a 6MP camera
|This is the A630, not to be confused with the SD630.
The A630 is an 8MP camera with a 4x zoom (35-140/2.8-4.1 in 35mm equivalent terms). ISO settings up to 800 and a 2.5" vari-angle (swing out) LCD. It takes 4 AA batteries and is good for 350 shots with standard alkaline batteries or 500 shots with NiMH rechargables (with the LCD on). It has an optical viewfinder in addition to the LCD.
The price is around $260