on December 3, 2011
Overall, this is the best under $200 camera you will find. My simple advice is: there is power in reviews. I looked at a dozen professional reviews for this camera and after 3 weeks of owning this camera, I am completely satisfied with my purchase. I will just list a few quick points about this camera rather than pro's and cons because there are a ton of other reviews doing that. If you don't have the time (or commitment) to read through this entire review, the first sentence of each bullet will summarize the point. Also do remember that out of cameras within 5 years old, this is the only one I've owned so I suppose you can take the review with a grain of salt. When it comes to me comparing it to other cameras out there, I am simply re-hashing what I read on other professional reviews. Think of it as me doing your shopping research for you. Bottom line, I highly recommend this camera.
-I am not a professional, I am not an amateur, I am a casual user. I don't take photos for fun, I take them for the memories. I believe if you don't have the camera with you, it is worthless. But..if they are low-quality pictures, you will regret it in the future when you look back.
-I bought this for $150, and you will not find another camera for a better value in my opinion! The other camera I was looking at was the Sony WX-9, but my bias towards Canon won out and I'm glad it did.
-If you are shopping for a camera, shop by price. I know it shouldn't boil down to money, but the truth is it is all about money when it comes to electronic purchases. If you are willing to spend more, you will always find a better camera. Pick your budget and stick to it. In the under $100 range, I have no suggestions because I did not want to spend that little on a camera that I expect to last at least 5 years. If you are in the $200-300 range, I would suggest ignoring the basic point-and-shoot altogether. Get a Canon S95 (the newer version is the S100, but it is $120 more), it is a borderline DSLR while still being a compact. It has manual controls, control rings to adjust focus and aperture and ISO settings, and altogether is in a whole different class of cameras. Do note though that the S95 only has 720p video (although the new S100 has full 1080p video). I would not suggest the elph 500/510, because those are up near $300 and there is no reason to get a basic point-and-shoot that costs as much as cameras with decent manual controls and settings, not to mention much higher photo quality. Unless you must have a touch screen.. The pro's are a better user interface, a larger screen in general (because you don't have to place buttons on the layout), and the ability to select your focus point with a simple touch. The downsides are not being able to use it with gloves on, and a significantly lower battery life (the reason I didn't want one.)
-The black camera has a sandpaper-like finish, while the silver and red versions have the traditional, somewhat slick finish. The black camera has the sandpaper finish that owners have either praised because it give more grip, or loathed because it felt cheap or picked up lint and dust too easily. I actually originally bought the black version because it was cheaper (also $150 at the time..but the silver was $180) and I knew about the texture going into it. When I got it, I thought I liked the sandpaper texture because it provided more grip, but after owning it for about a week, I didn't like it anymore because of said reasons. I bought the silver version for my brother because he was also in need of a camera, and lo and behold, it was a sleek, traditional finish. I liked it enough to return the black one i bought and get a silver one for myself.
-There are indeed versions of this camera that are made in china, and others made in Japan. My thoughts (albeit just speculation) is that all these cameras were originally made in Japan, but considering the tsunami and the fact that there is a newer version (elph 310) out, production was shifted to China. There are others saying that only the Made in Japan versions are worth it because of the zoom 'knock' around 3.8x zoom in the China versions, but I will say that both of the cameras that my brother and I own do not have this problem. They both will have a motor zoom noise, but whether it has the knock or not I suppose it's just the specific camera you receive. Yes, traditionally Japan will have higher quality products than China, but in this case I did not notice a difference. I actually read another review (this one a professional one) that said the China versions had a quieter motor zoom noise, but that just depends on the specific one you receive. I actually was planning on returning mine to look for a Made in Japan one, but after playing around with it for a few weeks, I decided not to. Since the 'knock' isn't present, I figured they aren't going to get any quieter than what I have. If you are paranoid about it (as I was for a little while), good luck on your search.
-turn off the "AF-assist beam" setting for taking macros. In general, Infrared rangefinders are very inaccurate in short distances (under 6 inches), it will make it impossible to focus on close shots. The only time you need this setting on is when it is very dark (almost no light), but you want to take a shot with no flash. Then it will be able to properly find a focal length. But if there is light present, this camera will auto-focus without it. Also, when using flash, there is another setting in the camera that will allow you to use this infrared rangefinder only when you use flash.
-there is a newer version of this camera, the Elph 310. The basic differences are: 310 has a 3" screen vs 2.7" and a higher resolution at 461k vs. 230k pixels, 310 has a macro rating down to 1cm vs. 3 cm, 310 has 8x zoom vs. 5x, but it has a worse sensor in it (maximum f3.0 aperture vs. f2.7..the smaller number actually means a better aperture on cameras). I don't know why a newer version would have a downgrade on it..but it does in this sense. This mostly only affect low-light shots without flash, but that is something that deterred me from upgrading. Professional reviews that I read said the overall picture quality of the 310 was slightly worse than the 300. The 310 also costs $200 while the 300 is $150 (assuming you find decent, albeit somewhat common sales on them).
-The startup time is very quick (under 1 sec) and delay between pictures is also quick, assuming you turn review off. There is also almost negligent shutter delay. It focuses in under a second. Overall, a very fast camera. There are also high-speed burst modes (~8shots/sec, but at a lower, 3MP quality) and continuous shot mode (~3shots/sec, but full quality). Do note that the speeds of these shots is dependent on the memory card speed (see below). Also, their focus is dependent on the first shot's focus, so you won't be able to change subjects in the burst (same as any camera)
-This camera has one of the best auto modes out there. If you are buying a point-and-shoot, I'm assuming you are not an avid photographer that is going to go through menus and settings to find a good photo, you just want to have the camera do it for you. I am a fan of not having to use flash if possible, so this camera was perfect for me. It has the best low-light pictures out of others in its price range. But in reality, the only difference between a camera with good picture quality and a camera with bad picture quality is its ability to take low-light pictures. Cameras from 8 years ago already had fantastic pictures in good lighting, but they were grainy and soft in low lighting. This camera is fantastic in low lighting settings. Reviews I read said it will be completely crisp up to about an ISO of 800, but even at 1600 I found it to be ok. High ISO settings require a longer exposure, so if you are very steady of hand or have a tripod, that will vary your 1600 and higher ISO photos (for the better or worse). But if you are taking pictures in that low of light, you'd probably be better off using flash.
-Like other reviews have said, I am quite surprised that Canon did not prevent this, but there is a shadow in the bottom right-hand corner of pictures when you use flash, due to the flash area not being wide enough and it being too close to the lens. However..what isn't stated in most reviews is that the problem is dependent on the distance of the photos. At macro range (within 6 inches), the shadow covers almost an 1/8" of the corner, which is unacceptable as a photo, but that shadow gets much smaller as you get further away from your subject (somewhat common sense, but I might as well say it). at around a foot, the shadow is nearly gone, but still faint and present. Anything past 1 foot away there is no shadow. To be honest, 95% of your pictures that require flash are going to be taken from further than a foot away. I don't know anyone that takes macro shots in very low lighting that requires flash..they're all taken in good lighting. So..it is a big problem that you will most likely never encounter (making it a small problem?).
-The image stabilization is very good in my mind. It isn't going to completely eliminate large vibrations from a very unsteady hand, but any regular shakes in you or the subject will not appear in the photo. Unlike almost all cameras in the under $200 range, this camera has true lens optical stabilization rather than a digital stabilization.
-the video does cut off at 10min (or when you run out of memory), but you can always start taking videos again once it cuts off. I will admit, that can get annoying, but I suppose you don't really take long videos on a P&S, get a camcorder for that. I know other P&S cameras have limits up to 30min (the Sony Cybershots in particular), but that was just a minor irk for me.
-Put a class 10 memory card in there. For 1080p video, anything less than class 6 will have your video cutting short because it cannot keep up with the filesize. But class 10 cards truly maximize the speed of the camera, going from being dependent on the card to the maximum limit of the camera's processor. This is useful in terms of the delay between shots, the speed of rapid shot bursts, and the speed of continuous shots. I would recommend Sandisk Extreme disks. I bought my 16gb class 10 for $24, but that was a black friday sale. Normal prices are 8gb for ~$20, 16gb for ~$35, and 4gb for ~$12. Class ratings for memory cards denote their minimum speeds: class 4 at 4mb/s, class 6 at 6mb/s, and class 10 at 10mb/s. However, the average speed for cards is not noted in class ratings. The sandisk cards have ratings of 'up to 30mb/s', and reviews I read on the cards have sandisk cards being almost twice as fast as other class 10 cards. 4gb translates to 15 min of 1080p video, 8gb as 30min, and 16gb as 60 min of 1080p. You will get well over 1000 pictures (the highest quality..largest size) with a 4gb card, so if you don't plan on taking any video, 4gb should be sufficient.
-this camera has plenty of toys to it, but my favorites are the long exposures (up to 15s) and the slow-motion (high fps) movie modes. I live in Salt Lake City where the Christmas lights are absolutely beautiful, and to have a little fun, long exposures let you create effects with lights. You can write words with a flashlight, etc etc. This is also the same setting you use to get that motion-blur effect. Just make sure you are very steady of hand or have a tripod when using it, or your final subject will be blurry too. The slow motion video can be taken at 320*230@240 fps, or 640*480@120 fps. I prefer the slightly higher quality, but both these are somewhat low qualities. It's good for a laugh and entertainment though. There is no sound with the slow-motion movies though.
I also wrote this as a reply to Stephan Krasner's review, but i figured it had good info in it so i will put it in a product review: ([...])
I also purchased the elph 300 semi-recently, and I did not have the same problems you had with indoor and outdoor shots, sorry to hear that. You have to remember by default, this camera in auto mode will pick up an aperture/exposure from the entire shot's lighting (with the ability to change that in manual mode..but to be honest that isn't what people buy this camera for). This camera by far had the best auto-scene selection out of under $200 cameras out there in my opinion.
As far as the screen goes, you might want to give the elph 310 (the new version of this camera) a shot if that is bugging you, it has nearly twice the resolution and a 3" screen vs. this camera's 2.7" screen. It is ~$200 rather than $150 though, assuming you do a little shopping to find a decent price (these were the most common prices I saw leading up to and during Thanksgiving). That was also one key concern when I bought this camera, but after playing with it in-stores, I found it to be decent enough for my liking. Do remember that there is an option in the menu called "AF-Point Zoom" that magnifies the focus subjects on the screen, both while taking and reviewing photos (they're 2 separate settings). It's enough for me to tell if I got a good picture or not. But yes..it would be nice to have a Sony-quality screen on there. Just not essential.
Concerning macro, I did notice that when you have the auto-focus assist beam (from the menu) on, macro shots have a very hard time focusing. Simple solution, turn this setting off. The only time the camera really benefits from having this setting on is in really really (near black) low light. With any reasonable light present, even semi-low lighting, the camera does a fantastic job range-finding a focal point in my opinion. This camera is rated at a 3cm macro distance (that is from the tip of the lens at 1x zoom, remember..), but I found it able to focus well down to almost 2cm. I really believe that auto-focus infrared lamp was what was making your images so blurry. The simple truth is infrared rangefinders cannot correctly read distances at that close of a distance, but they work really well at mid-to long distances (anywhere past 6in). That is the truth about infrared rangefinding, in this camera and any application. I got beautiful shots from macro, and i suggested the Elph 310 to you earlier, that camera is rated down to 1cm macro. Since you said you were a huge fan of macro shots, that seems like a high recommendation to you. I can post or send some macro shots I took, they look fantastic to my eyes. The thing I love about this camera is the quick-key tracking auto-focus by simply pressing the up button. As long as you have a steady hand and basic knowledge of maintaining distance to keep the focal length, the center-focus allows me to focus on the subject I want and then offset and reposition the shot I want after focusing. Works wonderfully.
I am glad you have found a P&S you are satisfied with, but personally i find a difference of opinion when it comes to picture quality. I will admit, Sony Cybershots on average have much more bells and whistles, most notably their screen quality (most of them i shopped around for had 921k screens, vs. the 230k on this camera, or the 461k on the elph 310), but when it comes to picture quality (and with the elph 300/310's case, video), the Canon P&S camera's blow them out of the water. Canon puts the goodies where it counts, in the actual sensor and camera rather than its toys and trinkets. It's nice to have a nice screen, but this one was decent enough for me (esp with the af-point zoom setting on) considering pictures are taken to be shared on a large screen or printed rather than on the camera.
I am by no means a professional photographer, but I don't think this phone was marketed to professionals. I wouldn't even call myself an amateur, simply a casual user that takes photos for memories, not hobby. If you want a compact but slightly more 'advanced' manual control camera, I would suggest the s95 ($300) or s100 (the newer version, albeit $120 more), but this completely satisfies me. It looks like Canon's marketing scheme is working..after buying this camera, which in my opinion is way above its pricerange and is the best value you can find on the market today, I am really enjoying photography and just might take it up as a hobby. One of these days I might fork over the big bucks for a borderline DSLR camera, but my philosophy still stands that if you don't have the camera with you, it is worth nothing. But you do have to remember that value is the entire judge of a products quality..if you are willing to fork over more money, there are always more competitors that are higher quality.