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mccoady Nov 25, 2006 12:00 PM

My sister is wanting to buy a digital camera to take pictures of her girls participating in sports and she wants a camera that she can set on Auto setting and take good pictures. I assume she may need a camera that has a decent zoom. I also think she would like to spend less than $300 and probably closer to $250 or so. We have been pricing a Canon Sd630, would this fit the bill for her or are there others that might be better? And would she need to spend more than the Canon 630 (or others) to get a good enough digital zoom required to take sport pictures?

JimC Nov 25, 2006 12:16 PM

The Canon SD630 has a focal range that's equivalent to a 35-105mm lens on a 35mm camera.

That's not a lot of optical zoom for sports. So, you may want to look at some of the Ultra Zoom models instead.

I'd suggest ignoring digital zoom. All Digital Zoom is doing is cropping a photo (removing the outside edges, leaving only a portion in the middle), then enlarging the image again using pixels that were not captured by the camera's sensor. Digital Zoom degrades quality, and you can accomplish the same thing later using software anyway.

But, since resolution in total pixels (like area) is computed by multiplying width x height, if you crop a photo to make it look like twice as much optical zoom was used (or use 2x digital zoom), you end up with only 1/4 (not 1/2) the pixels captured by the camera's sensor. So, you really want to stick with optical zoom specs when comparing models. Digital Zoom is mostly marketing hype.

A good place to start looking for a camera is our Best Cameras List. You'll see a 10-12x Optical Super Zoom Category in it.

If you read the review conclusions for models you consider, you'll see comments on things like Autofocus Speed and Reliability, number of photos in a burst/cycle time between photos and more. The Conclusion section is the last page before the sample images in each model's review here.

Note that I'm assuming that the Sports will be outside in good light. If you need to take photos of indoor sports (or sports in a stadium under the lights), you probably won't be able to get satisfactory results with a non-DSLR camera model (because shutter speeds would be too slow, resulting in motion blur).

KALEL33 Nov 25, 2006 12:16 PM

The SD630 would not be good for sporting events at all. Did you mean the A630? Also, what type of sports would it be? Indoors, outdoors, low light, etc. It really makes a difference in what camera would work.

mccoady Nov 25, 2006 2:40 PM

Sorry I did mean the A630, we've looked at so many I guess I got confused. The sport right now would be basketball but at other times it would be outside sports like softball and track.

Sounds like you're saying to have the best chance of taking sports pictures we would need to get a camera from the 10-12x Optical Super Zoom category. Okay looking over the 10-12x category I've came up with two camera's that fit our price range and that have Image Stabilization:
1. Kodak Easyshare Z612
2. Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ7

Are these both comparable to each other as far as what my sister wants to use it for? Any preference?

mtclimber Nov 25, 2006 3:17 PM

You are going to need more zoom and high ISO capability if you are going to shoot indoors because where I live flash is prohibited due to safety concerns. The result is that your sister is going to have to spend some more money if the same rules apply in your community.

You might want to take a look at the Fuji S-6000, it is more adapted to the situational needs.


mccoady Nov 25, 2006 3:27 PM

I'm sure $300 would be her high point as far as spending so it seems that any camera that would do what she wants is out of her price range. So with that established would one of the camera's I mentioned above (Kodak and Panasonic) work as somewhat of a compromise since she would be taking non-sport pictures also? Or since there's no camera in her price range for taking sport pictures she might as well save some money and buy a cheaper Canon A520 or A630?

JimC Nov 25, 2006 3:47 PM

The best solution for indoor sports like basketball would be a DSLR with a bright lens on it. But, you'd need to more than double that $300 budget to get a bare bones system with a single bright prime (non-zoom) lens that you could use from the sidelines (and then add more lenses for other uses like the outdoor sports).

In an under $300 camera, I'd look at the Fuji S5200. It's got higher usable ISO speeds compared to most other camera brands, and it's lens is relatively bright (only dropping off to f/3.5 on the long end).

It's not a perfect solution. But, you may be able to get some keepers with it indoors if you set the ISO speeds higher and take lots of photos.

Outdoors in good light, you won't have as many problems with things like motion blur, and you'll want a longer optical zoom for outdoor sports.

Indoors is very challenging to a camera if you can't use a flash.



A quick check of our price search engines revealed that this model is available for $239 with free shipping from (a reputable vendor). These guys usually have pretty good prices on the camera bodies. I'd probably avoid the packages, though.

Fuji S5200 at

mccoady Nov 25, 2006 6:56 PM

Thanks JimC that camera sounds like a winner! It doesn't have Image Stabilization like the Kodak Z612 or the Panasonic DMC-FZ7 but apparently you don't seem to think that matters or that the Fuji S5200 just out performs those two cameras. I know little about these cameras so I'll take your word on it.

JimC Nov 25, 2006 7:25 PM

There's no such thing as a perfect camera. Any choice is a compromise.

I'm a big fan of stabilization.

But, with an under $300 budget, you can't have everything. ;-)

Besides, stabilization won't help with blur from subject movement. So, if you're trying to shoot moving subjects in less than optimum lighting, you're going to need higher ISO speeds (as mtclimber mentioned), and the faster shutter speeds you get from using higher ISO speeds will also help to reduce blur from camera shake.

The Fuji S5200 model doesn't have the ability to go as high as the model mtclimber mentioned. But, it does go higher than most other similar cameras, since it has ISO 1600 available (although I'd be tempted to try and stick with ISO 800 and get a bit more motion blur). It's lens is actually brighter than the newer model mentioned at longer focal lengths, too (which helps make up for the ISO speed differences if you're zooming in much).

Don't expect that you'll get perfect photos with a camera like this indoors. That's not going to happen in low light conditions with moving subjects. You'll need to set the ISO speed higher (each time you double the ISO speed, the camera can use shutter speeds twice as fast).

That means more noise (similar to film grain shooting with higher ISO speed film). Even at it's highest available ISO speed, you may still get more blur than desired shooting basketball indoors. But, at smaller viewing and print sizes, blur and noise won't be as noticeable. Quality is subjective, and it sounds like your sister wants to capture some memories of the kids in challenging conditions (and indoors without a flash is very challenging to a camera) within a tight budget. That means some compromises will need to be made.

There are some good tools that can help to reduce the appearance of the noise/grain you'll get setting ISO speed higher (and you'll need to set it higher indoors to get shutter speeds fast enough to get any "keepers" shooting sports without a flash).

One popular tool is Noiseware

You'll find a free "Community Edition" near the bottom of their download page.

Another popular tool is Neat Image

Their stand alone demo is free for home use and doesn't expire.

To be able to buy a camera for $239 with the ability to use ISO speeds this high was pretty much unheard just a couple of years ago, and a single zoom lens for a DSLR that bright would cost you a lot more than this entire camera (and you would probably need multiple lenses to cover it's focal range with decent quality shooting with a DSLR).

It's not perfect. But, no camera is, and it's the best "bang for the buck" that I can think of for the condtions you want to shoot in that keeps you within budget.

Keep in mind that any opinion you see here is biased, including mine, and there are pros and cons to any solution. So, feel free to get more opinions, do your own research, etc. I'm just offering a suggestion of the best compromise that I can come up with based on my limited knowledge.

mccoady Nov 26, 2006 10:52 AM

Yeah I figured there were compromises being made. Do I understand correctly that when shooting sport pictures that you wouldn't be able to use the Auto setting and come up with acceptable pictures?

Just curious, if not using the camera for shooting sport pictures would this still be the camera you would recommend for under $300?

Lastly, should there be any particular attention paid to the quality or speed of the bigger memory card we would probably need to buy?

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