Recommendation for moderately priced digicams


in Geek stuff, Photography

Canon Powershot A510 in mirror

In the last couple of days, three people have asked me for recommendations on point and shoot digital cameras (must be on account of Christmas approaching). In the $250-$350ish range, I don’t think you can beat the Canon Powershot A series. The digital camera that I use is an old Powershot A510 (3.2 megapixel). Nowadays, I would choose one of these:

(Model – Price in C$ – Megapixels – Largest Good Prints)
A530 – $249.99 – 5MP – 6 x 8″ at 300 DPI
A540 – $299.99 – 6MP – 7 x 10″ at 300 DPI
A630 – $399.99 – 8MP – 10 x 14″ at 300 DPI

All are far more than would be required to take photos to put online. If you start uploading images much bigger than 1024×768 pixels (half the maximum resolution on my 3.2MP camera), few people will thank you.

Aside from the number of pixels in the sensor, these cameras are all very similar. The reasons I recommend them are that they have good image quality, decent lenses, and a nice combination of manual and automatic controls. They are easy enough to use if you know nothing about photography, and flexible enough that they can be used quite creatively. Dollar for dollar, my A510 is surely the best camera I have ever owned (a fact that would remain true even if I bought a snazzy digital SLR like the Rebel XTi).

Every photo in the following albums was taken using my A510, though they have been scaled down from the maximum resolution (2048×1546) to just 800 pixels, measured along the longer edge:

Other recent albums include both film and digital shots. Look at the details below, for hosted images, to see what equipment was used.

[Update: 30 November 2006] This was the photo previously at the top of this post (thumbnail). It was one of very few photos that I have that include the A510, but it isn’t very good. The photo now atop this post was originally posted here. Because this one page of the blog was getting so much traffic, I decided to make the switch. It helps to not seem photographically inept, when you are trying to give people advice about cameras.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Tristan Laing November 27, 2006 at 7:16 pm

Where did you find such awful prices? the A530 can be had for 150$ US.

Milan November 27, 2006 at 7:27 pm

Adorama has them for these prices, in US dollars:

A530 US$144.95 – C$164.26
A540 US $169.95 – C$192.59
A630 US$$249.95 – C$283.25

I thought the prices above looked very good. When I got my A510, it was normally selling for just over $300. That said, if you had one of these shipped to Canada or the UK, you would probably have to pay masses of duty.

It seems that Ken Rockwell is also a fan of the Powershot A Series. His review is definitely worth reading.

R.K. November 27, 2006 at 6:48 pm

Did you know the first digital SLR* (made by Kodak) was released in 1991? It was 1.3 megapixels (1280 by 1024 pixels) and cost US$30,000.

Amazing how things have changed in 15 years

*it was called the DCS-100

Victoria Kowalewski November 28, 2006 at 1:30 am

Thanks for the information, Milan. I will inform Malcolm of your recommendations, post haste.

Milan November 29, 2006 at 6:14 pm

Kai has been camera hunting and came across the Canon Powershot A710. It is 7.1 MP and includes built-in image stabilization. has it for $323, which sounds quite good to me.

Milan November 29, 2006 at 6:28 pm

Having just read the DPReview of the Canon Digital Rebel XTi, I now want one very badly indeed. That’s a lot of camera for $1000 (including kit lens).

Milan December 28, 2006 at 1:20 pm

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