5 Point and Shoot Cameras Under $250

Fuji

Introduction

Cameras are everywhere. Every cell phone these days has a built in one. Many folks tend to notice though that a cell phone camera has limitations on functionality, and look at getting a dedicated camera to take better quality pictures. While I’ve always encouraged people to adopt the mentality that The Best Camera is the one you have with you, there are added benefits to working with a dedicated camera over one that exists as part of a multi-function device like a smart phone. This means you could be looking at a point and shoot camera, an SLR, or even a mirrorless camera.

The Digital SLR Camera

DSLR’s are great, but have several limitations themselves, the most common one of which is that they are bulky, and have a higher learning curve than most are willing to engage in. Enter the point and shoot camera. P&S cameras are highly portable, more cost effective, and you don’t have to worry about all the accessories (at least in terms of lenses, filters, and such) that are often associated with SLR photography.

The Point and Shoot Camera

The Point and Shoot category is rife with options itself though, ranging from miniature ones that cost under $100 to ones that are almost SLR quality that exceed to the cost of entry level SLR gear. So, if we’re going to look at the P&S category, it helps to focus on a particular budget. One of the most common thresholds is around $200 to $250. So, with that in mind, here are my top five point and shoot cameras under $250!

  • Fujifilm FinePix S4200 – The largest in this category, and the ability to swap out the lenses put this one on par with some of the features of a DSLR, but still maintaining the compact nature of a Point and Shoot, the FinePix S4200 produces stellar quality images at 14MP!

Fuji

  • Canon Powershot S110 – As a Canon guy, I like this one a lot for the quality of the images, the ISO handling, and the 12MP images for under $200.  Lightweight, and easily sliding into my pocket, this is the essence of a point and shoot camera with portability, but maintaining image quality for the budget conscious shooter

Canon Powershot S110

  • Nikon Coolpix S6300 – With 10x zoom, great ISO handling that Nikon has become legendary for, and the full HD video, for under $250 (it’s actually even under $150!), this is a great camera for the price.  my one nit is that there is still a bit of shutter lag, and AF can cause blurry shots if you’re not stable in your grip.  The most economical of the bunch though, so there will be downsides to this that aren’t present in others since the mantra of “you get what you pay for” bears witness here…

Nikon Coolpix S6300

  • Sony Cybershot DSC-WX80/B – At 16.2 MP, this is the 2nd highest count of the five cameras, so the images are huge!  I also like the 8X zoom on this…while not at the longest end, the resulting shots are on par with ones taken at a wider angle.  A great pocket camera for the shooter on the go!

Sony Cybershot DSC-WX80

  • Samsung WB350F – While this is a notch below the reputable mirrorless NEX line of Samsung, those are beyond the scope/budget here, and this is a nice economical alternative if you like Samsung.  At 16.3MP, it ups the Cyber Shot by a mere 1/10th of a MP count – which is not a lot but is enough to put it at the highest count.  And Samsung is becoming the newest BIG player in the camera scene.  Definitely worth considering at only around $180! 

Samsung WB350F

 

Conclusion

Keep in mind, the camera is only as good as the shooter behind it and gear is not the be all end all solution to anything.  A camera is what you make of it!  I know professionals that have shot with point and shoot cameras and gotten better results than amateurs with multi-thousand dollar rigs.  What does this mean?  Basically, the next step is up to you – which one best fits your needs requires your commitment to taking and making better photos and any of these setups will help you improve your craft on a budget.  Let me know which one you got and tell me what swayed you!  Happy shooting!

Want more tips on taking better photos?  Check out my video tutorial on how to hand hold a Point and Shoot here!

Whiners in the Rear

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Hi all! I know it’s been a while since I’ve done any posting. Truth be told, life has been keeping me very busy, but I’ve been quite active – even with my photography. For starters, as most of you know, I moved from Colorado to Cleveland last year for a new job opportunity. I documented a fair bit of that with my smart phone camera as well as my point and shoot.

What some of you might have guessed from a recent post (relatively speaking anyway), is that we’ve also caved in and added a new family member again. This furry bundle of energy has landed on her own dedicated blog, which I’ve dubbed Puppy Parables! There’s already a few photos, videos, and anecdotes there for anyone who likes puppy pictures (and who doesn’t like puppy pics…well, except for cat people, right?) 🙂

So, for those of you who have been emailing, texting, and yes, even calling me (why I one time published a phone number is beyond me…LOL), asking when I will “be back”, the collective answer is:

I never left!

In the interim, starting the new job, finding a house, moving our belongings, selling the Colorado house, settling in, holidays, working, and now the puppy parenthood detail has been occupying much of my time! Not that anyone really cares about that though, because the interwebs are all about showing you content, right? Brand new, original, creative and inspiring content!

Well, you’ve got some now in the form of the Puppy Parables blog to fill the voids that oh so many of you had! (After all, I’ve got scads of people that continue to tune in even now…). What? That’s not enough?!?! Well good news then blog readers, photogs, and CB fans because more is coming shortly!

Here’s a teaser:

Revisiting the Sigma 30mm

Timelapse Apps

Tripods for Smart Phones

Travel Bags for Photographers

And finally, the 3rd Edition of 49 Photo Tips!

Fair warning though, many photos will have puppy portraiture used to demonstrate various techniques. Of course other stuff will be interspersed in there too. So, the whiners can step to the rear of the plane, because I’m back in the captains chair! See you soon!

Author rant: Speaking of whiners, why do parents of teething children due for naps think that flying anywhere but the rear of the plane is somehow acceptable? If you must travel with such a child, put yourselves where you will inflict your child’s tantrums to as few of the rest of us as possible. It’s called consideration…

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Photography Apps for the Smart Phone, Part 5

Camera+

As you may recall, over the last week or so, I’d been sharing some thoughts on various types of photography-related apps for the smart phone, ranging from how to set up your camera, (SetMyCamPro), setting up the shoot (EasyRelease), editing your photos (ColorSplash), and finally, managing your photos (WiFi Photo).  The one thing I hadn’t mentioned, albeit intentionally, was any discussion of apps that can actually take photos!  I’ve been saving that for the last installment here, because while everyone wants to know about taking better photos, there’s so much more that goes into photography, I felt it important to “set the sage”, so to speak!

With the stage set, here we are in the final installment – Part 5 of Photo Apps for your Smart Phone

The funny thing about this one though, is that I am going to cover a number of apps here collectively, because there are some commonalities that we can look at across the board.  After all, it’s the same camera, right?  The same lens, the same aperture and shutter speed capabilities, right?  It’s really all about the different options that photo apps can give you, so let’s just take a look:

Common Features:

  • Shutter Release – across the entire gamut, the shutter release is a big dot in the lower center of the screen – a common setup, so there’s really no need to discuss positioning because it’s the same across the board.
  • Tap to Focus – Another common feature is that you can simply tap the area of the screen you want the camera to focus on.  Not saying that all touch screen functions are consistent across all apps (for instance, pinch and expanding to zoom and go widescreen are not native to all photo apps), but the simple tap to focus feature appears to be a constant.
  • Sharpness – How sharp the photo is really depends on whether you select the right area or not, and whether the camera is capable of focusing at that particular point, along with a number of other human factors, which really take us out of the “apps world”, so I’ll save that discussion for elsewhere (such as here).
  • Camera Selector – Because most smart phones have both a front and rear facing camera these days, another standard feature is the ability to toggle between the two options, and this is available across every app I’ve looked at.
  • Flash – Again, a standard feature for the phone camera.  I almost never use mine though just because it’s such a horrible quality and strength of light, that it almost always makes a scene worse rather than better.  About the only time I’ve used an onboard phone camera’s flash is when I’ve stuck my phone behind a server rack and tried to get a pic of a server serial number that I needed for warranty service.

The Native Camera (iPhone demonstrated):iPhone 4s

For those that wish to gripe about me not featuring an Android phone, I’ll beg out of the Apple versus Android discussion by simply saying that to test all android camera phones would have been cost prohibitive, so I just excluded the category.  If you want reviews of Android phone cameras, ask my good friend Kerry Garrison over at Camera Dojo – he’s an Android user.

That point aside, let’s take a look at some of the native feature sets on the iPhone.  You can see the shutter release front and center, as well as the photo gallery on one of the lower sides, which of course, is common.  To the left is the toggle between photo and video capture.  Still…pretty straightforward.  But when you move to the top center, you get the unique options for the native app – the grid overlay, HDR, and Pano mode.  I’ll look at each briefly:

Grid Mode – Simply put – this makes an overlay of the Rule of Thirds grid on your screen – this can help for those learning composition.  ‘Nuff said…

HDR – This saves your images in the equivalent of a bracketed exposure – I’ve still not found a time when I’ve felt the need to take a smart phone photo off the camera and develop it using the wider dynamic range of the HDR version.  Not sold on the feature, but it could be simply because I’ve not used it.

Pano – Probably my favorite feature in the native app is the panorama feature.  Allows me to take panorama photos and usually does a decent job at covering tonal and brightness ranges across the wider area, which is often trickier to manage in your own pano stitched efforts.  You also will pleasantly find that lines seaming things together are virtually non-existent. Check out a few of my own personal pano photos here

Next up, Camera Infiniti…

Camera Infiniti

Camera Infiniti is different from other apps in that the functions are all compacted around the shutter release.  The dial gives you the option to toggle between a timed release, a standard photo, a burst of photos, and an audible trigger release (by far the coolest feature for my two ¢!)  The settings menu is rather limited otherwise to removing ads, writing reviews, and buying other apps from the developer (Agemarks).

There’s no pinch to zoom or gestures built in here nor is there an interface option that I could find to do this, so was not a fan of that.  Also, the highly visible ad at the top of the screen prompting me to buy Candy Crush I found a bit obtrusive…but I guess developers need money too…

Next up, Camera!

Camera!Camera! comes to us from the folks at Smugmug.  Again, nothing too drastic here, except the options have again shifted a little bit.  You can select the options from the arrow button to the left of the center shutter release.  On order, the functions are standard photo capture, image stabilization, a big button (for easier capture I guess…not sure about the rationale here), a slow burst option, high burst option, and then a timer, and last but not least, an intervalometer (taking a picture every X seconds, or at standard intervals).

There’s an option top center to adjust other settings as well, ranging from location, pinch to zoom, sounds, and several others.  Perhaps the most impressive consideration here is that you have the option to configure your photos to either auto-export to your library or stay within the app (every other one makes an assumption here…)  You can also set up sharing services to places like (surprise), Smugmug, Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, Flickr, Picasa, Photobucket, and YouTube.

The final note here is to not lose sight of some hidden gems.  You can switch a compositional grid on and off from the options in the top menu, add filters natively, and even toggle on a leveling function that helps you keep horizons straight.  Very cool!

Next up, Photosynth

Photosynth

There’s not much to Photosynth but I did feel it is worth mentioning here because I sung the praises of the built in pano feature to the iPhone.  Photosynth from Microsoft does just this – panos!  What’s handy here is that when you press start, it will take one picture, then the frame will help you align the next portion up, and you can keep going up to an entire 360 degree circle if you want.

Photosynth 2

Not much in the way of settings – just the ability to sync photos to your various Social media accounts (with your Microsoft account listed first of course), an exposure lock, sound, and hints. One thing worth mentioning here is that you do also have the option to toggle saving panos created directly to your camera roll…something most other apps lack.

Finally, my default photo app of choice – Photo+

Photo Aug 07, 3 53 32 PM

First off, don’t confuse Photo+ with Photo Plus (further up) – these are two different apps, with very different feature sets. The Photo+ app is so cool, I don’t want to wax on too much, but the host of features available are impressive:  normal capture, stabilizer, timer, burst, zooming options, and then inside the menu, you can toggle other things like volume snap, the grid overlay, the horizon level, geotagging, sharing services, and best of all – you can choose whether your photos are saved in the app for further editing, or photos are exported to your camera roll – or both!

In addition to all these functions, the editing capabilities of this app are pretty amazing as well.  You can crop, add borders, adjust lighting (white balance), and of course, apply filters.  The best part…if you make an edit to a photo, then want to apply another effect, you can press and hold the save button to get yet another sub-menu to save and remove from the app (export to camera roll), save and keep, Save without edits (clear all the edits out), or Commit Edits.  This last one is pure genius, because then you can go to town with any of the other editing functions of the app.  Well worth the price of admission of 99¢!

So, there you are – the final installment of the Camera Apps articles.  Apologies for not getting this out on the normal schedule, but better late than never, right?  Don’t forget to share your own thoughts, and comments on the various apps down below.  Which ones have you used?  Any apps that stand out for your work flow?  Sound off in the comment section, and don’t forget to check out the other app articles!

Happy shooting!