Design of the Case
Thanks to cell phone cameras, small, versatile cameras are becoming ever more available and popular. Action cameras are among the smallest and most versatile cameras, and they have features developed for photographing and filming action sports that also are useful to those who photograph less extreme situations. GoPro is the top name in the action camera category, and the GoPro Hero 4 Silver Edition is a best buy in that category.
The GoPro Hero 4 Silver Edition records video in full HD at a resolution of 1080p with monaural sound. To improve video and sound quality, the camera is equipped with distortion correction and wind noise reduction.
The Hero 4 Silver records still images with a resolution of 12 MP, and you can capture video and still photos at the same time.
Use time lapse photography to record a series of images. Night Photo and Night Lapse let you take still photos at night, and Auto Low Light automatically changes the frames per second settings to adjust as you move from brightly lit areas to darker areas.
QuikCapture allows you to use one button to quickly turn on the camera and start filming, and HiLight Tag lets you mark the best parts of your videos so that you can locate them easily later.
While you can continue to use the Hero 4 Silver in automatic mode, you can use Protune to take more control of the camera’s functions as you become more experienced as a photographer.
Unlike many GoPro cameras, the Hero 4 Silver incudes a built-in, fixed video display that doubles as a touchscreen.
The Hero 4 Silver also offers both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections.
The Hero 4 best buy is both shockproof and water resistant.
In general, action cameras are cameras used outdoors to film or photograph extreme or action sports. They are smaller than standard cameras so that they can be worn or mounted on sports equipment. Because they are most often used in rugged environments, they also are more durable than standard cameras. They are shockproof and either weatherproof, weather resistant, waterproof, or water resistant.
When you’re considering an action camera, it’s important to know how far the camera can fall, how waterproof or water resistant it is, how weatherproof or weather resistant it is, and the range of temperatures in which it can continue to operate.
While we were unable to find information about how far the Hero 4 Silver can safely fall, it is shockproof. Other cameras provide this information.
It’s also waterproof when it is inside its case with the waterproof door attached. It comes with the case and the case includes three interchangeable doors -- a touch screen door, a skeleton door which leaves the back of the camera open, and the waterproof door that protects the camera to a depth of 131.2 feet (39.99 meters).
Many action cameras list maximum and minimum operating temperatures, but we couldn’t find the officially listed maximum or minimum operating range for the GoPro Hero 4 Silver. GoPro cameras, however, are designed to automatically save your files and shut down if their internal operating temperature exceeds 120°F (C).
Recording at high frame rates, controlling the camera remotely with the GoPro app, and using BacPac accessories with the Hero 4 all increase the operating temperature. So to keep your camera from shutting down during hot weather, don’t use BacPac accessories, shoot at slower frame rates as much of the time as is possible, and use the GoPro remote to control your camera rather than the GoPro app. The remote can be purchased separately.
On the other hand, meet the barbecued GoPro in this YouTube video from fishycomics entitledGoPro Cooked Medium Well 350°.
The official word from GoPro regarding cold temperatures is that cold drains the battery, but that the operating temperature of the camera provides enough heat to keep the camera warm and operating. If you really want to know how well a GoPro withstands cold, though, meet Frosty the GoPro and his siblings in this YouTube video from TheKingofRandom.com entitledWill a Recording GoPro Survive Liquid Nitrogen?
If you’re wondering how cold liquid nitrogen is, it exists in its liquid state between the temperatures of -320.44°F and -346°F (-196°C and -210°C). When it’s exposed to temperatures above -320.44°F, it boils and becomes a gas, as it does in the video when the warm, operating GoPro cameras are immersed in it. At temperatures below -346°F, nitrogen freezes, like water does at 32°F (0°C), and becomes a solid.
While some vloggers (video bloggers) are beginning to record in 4K, the resolution of 1080p that is used by the Hero 4 Silver is the most common resolution for vlogs. Some people claim to be able to notice a difference in the quality of a video recorded in 4K versus one recorded in 1080p on a computer monitor or an HD television, but others say that, unless you have a 4K television, you have to be very close to the screen to see it.
Most people still sit the same distance from their television as they have for decades, so shooting videos in 1080p is fine.
If you share videos by email, though, recording in 720p or saving a video shot in 1080p in a 720p version reduces the size of the file so that it sends faster for you and opens more quickly for your recipient.
The video display screen can be used as a viewfinder while you shoot others in action or while someone shoots you in action. You also can replay your movie immediately to be sure that you captured exactly what you wanted to capture in the way that you wanted to capture it.
If you want to show off a trick that you or a friend has mastered, the video display lets you see how well it was recorded and gives you the chance to try again if you’re not happy with the first attempt.
The video display also functions as a touchscreen that you can use to review still photos and to access and navigate the camera’s menu instead of using the camera’s select button.
When you are wearing your GoPro or when you have it mounted while you are participating in some activity, you aren’t likely to have access to the touch screen, though. The video display on any camera adds to the drain on the battery, so use the option to turn off the display when you don’t need it.
The built-in Wi-Fi connection allows you to upload your photos and videos to social media, your internet cloud storage account, or to an email anywhere you have a Wi-Fi connection. You also can use either a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection and the free GoPro app to access all of your camera’s controls and operate it remotely from your smart phone or tablet. In addition, you can use these connections to share your videos and photos with other devices. You can upload your photos and videos to your computer wirelessly with a Wi-Fi connection.
When the Hero 4 Silver is set to Time Lapse mode, it takes a series of still images that can be set from one second to 60 seconds apart. So in effect, it captures the action in freeze frames.
Night Photo automatically adjusts the cameras settings to absorb more light. This includes slowing the shutter speed, increasing the lens opening or aperture, increasing the ISO setting or the camera’s sensitivity to light, and adjusting the white balance so that the camera does not identify a light gray as white, causing the image to be too dark with too little differentiation within the darkest areas of the image.
If the image still appears too dark in the viewfinder, adjusting the camera’s exposure value downward by half steps (-0.5, -1, -1.5, or -2) will cause the camera to recognize more differentiations in the darker areas of the image and bring it closer to distinguishing between white and light gray.
Conversely, in cases where you are shooting in normal, daylight mode and the image is so brightly lit that too much of the image shows as white, such as when your shooting in snow or near sand or water, set the exposure value higher by half steps. The exposure value setting actually simultaneously changes the three most important settings that determine the exposure of your image – the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO settings.
Auto Low Light is to filming what Night Photo is to still photography, but when you are using or wearing a GoPro, you are probably moving at the same time that your subject is moving. So for example, if you are visiting the sites while on vacation, you may leave a bright, outdoor scene to enter a museum, an historic building, or an exotic shop or restaurant. With your GoPro in Auto Low Light mode, the camera switches from a higher frame per second film speed to a lower one to allow it time to capture more light in each frame.
Protune lets you take over from the camera’s automatic settings and adjust them manually. It gives you access to the camera’s ISO, shutter seed, and aperture settings; the white balance setting; and the color settings.
The ISO settings for the Hero 4 Silver range from 100 to 6400, and they correspond to the light sensitivity of photographic film. Use lower numbers in brightly lit settings where the camera can easily capture plenty of light and might capture too much. Use the higher numbered settings for low light and nighttime settings where the camera needs to gather every bit of light available to capture the image. Also remember that, while your eyes may tell you that there s plenty of light, to your camera, any indoor setting is a low light setting.
The color settings allow you to use color creatively to add emotional impact. For example, you could emphasize the quiet solitude of the mountains or the ocean by shifting the colors to the cool or blue side of the spectrum while filming a lone skier, surfer, snowboarder, or rock climber or a small group of mountain climbers against the wall of the mountain. You could even film in gray scale to create the look of an old black and white movie or news reel. However, if you want to emphasize the fun and comradery of extreme sports, push the colors to the warm, red side of the spectrum.
If some exciting action breaks out and catches you with your Hero 4 turned off, just hit the QuikCapture button. It immediately turns the camera on and starts filming the scene.
Not everything that you capture with your Hero 4 Silver is going to be something that you want everyone online to see. You don’t want to bore viewers with rides on a ski slope lift or waits in line to enter a concert or sporting event. When you’re editing, you don’t want to see all of that stuff again either. The HiLight Tag is the remedy to all that. Just tag the most interesting bits of your video, and then you can skip directly to those sections when you’re ready to upload, share, replay, or edit your video.
The Hero 4 Silver comes with a dual battery charger, but you may not be using your GoPro where you have a USB port for charging. You can purchase a portable charger to take on camping trips that will allow you to charge your camera and other devices several times, but eventually, the charger will need to be recharged. You may also have USB ports in your car, SUV, truck, or camper, but you might not be near it when your battery starts running down, and you also might not want to stop to recharge. So, bring at least three extra batteries with you, more depending on how you are filming.
The video display is not the only feature that consumes battery power. Using the Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connections use more energy. Also, shooting at higher resolutions and higher film speeds consumes more energy than filming at lower resolutions and film speeds. Since you most likely will be filming at 1080p and faster daylight film speeds most of the time, you might want to bring more than three batteries, especially if you plan on using your video display or Wi-Fi connection to control your camera.
The Hero 4 Silver accepts Micro SD, Micro SDHC, Micro SDHC UHS-1, Micro SDXC, and Micro SDXC UHS-1 memory cards with up to 64 GB of storage. When you are going to be using high film speeds to capture fast moving water or snow skiers, snowboarders, or racing cars, dune buggies, or boats at 1080p, you should purchase the highest speed memory card with the largest amount of storage you can afford, and as with batteries, you might want to purchase extra cards.
Look for cards with reading and writing speeds of at least 90 MB per second. Cards that are too slow can cause the camera to shut down or stop filming or cause TimeLapse mode to fail.
The Problem With Pairing a Rolling Shutter With a CMOS Image Sensor
In short, the problem with pairing a rolling shutter with a CMOS image sensor is that both capture images in ways that are so similar that pairing them accentuates a distorting effect in both still photography and video, especially when you’re attempting to capture fast moving objects or short-lived phenomenon like lightning.
There are two types of image sensors – CMOS and CCD. CMOS sensors are less expensive to produce, so they are commonly found in cameras intended for mass marketing to the general public. While some mass marketed cameras have CCD sensors, these image sensors are more expensive to produce, so they are more often found in advanced cameras that are marketed to professional photographers.
The difference between the two lies in how they are wired to the camera’s image processor, and that effects how they capture an image.
The surface of each image sensor is covered by a certain number of photoreceptors, and each photoreceptor equals one pixel.
On a CCD image sensor, all of the photoreceptors are most commonly wired together and connected as a group to the image processor at one corner of the image sensor. So, all of the photoreceptors on a CCD image sensor capture the entire image in a photograph or a frame of a video at the same moment, and then the entire image is transferred as a whole to the image processor.
On a CMOS image sensor, each photoreceptor is connected to a separate image processor, so each pixel of the image is captured independently. They aren’t quite processed independently, though, because the camera’s image processing and correction software does make comparisons between the images received by adjacent photoreceptors to sharpen the image, eliminate overlap, and fill in any gaps between the parts of the image captured by each photoreceptor. Photoshop uses this same procedure when you enlarge an image that was taken at a low resolution.
There are two types of shutters, global shutters and rolling shutters.
Like CCD image sensors, global shutters open and then close. They capture the entire image at the same moment.
Rolling shutters, however, whether they are mechanical or digital, quickly roll horizontally or vertically across the image sensor in the same way that the sensor in an office scanner glides across below the object it is scanning. Then the image captured by the photoreceptors is reconstructed from the segments and displayed as a whole in the same way that a scanner reconstructs a scanned document, image, or object and displays it as whole.
Rolling shutters capture the image from the photoreceptors row by row or column by column, and that allows the photoreceptors more time to capture more light from the image. This increases the amount of detail that the image sensor is able to absorb, but the process also creates a very tiny time lapse between when the first, middle, and final sections of the image are captured. This time lapse, however, is long enough that it can create distortions in images of objects moving at high speeds or events of very short duration, and it can be aggravated by the way CMOS image sensors operate.
Some of the effects created by a rolling shutter include:
Skewing -- Skewing shifts the image to the right or the left as the camera pans or as the subject moves from one side of the image to the other because different parts of the image were exposed or captured at different times.
The Jello Effect -- The image in the video appears to be wobbling like jello due to camera movement. This can occur when you shoot video from inside of a moving vehicle of objects that are outside the vehicle.
This wobbling look can also occur when you focus tightly on a distant object while holding the camera in your hands. Because telephotography uses a narrow lens angle and limits the foreground and background to a narrow depth of field these images are particularly susceptible to the effects of movement by the photographer or the camera. It’s best to use a tripod or to stabilize the camera in some other way for this type of photography.
Aliasing – The term aliasing, in effect, makes a verb of the word “alias.” It comes from the idea of someone substituting a different name for their real name. Both images and sounds can suffer from aliasing. It occurs when the recording device incorrectly records the image or sound and substitutes the incorrectly recorded version for the accurate version that should have been recorded. Images can suffer from spatial aliasing and temporal aliasing.
Spatial aliasing occurs when an object that is being filmed moves horizontally at or close to the same speed as a rolling shutter that is moving vertically. When the object moves from right to left or left to right, it is skewed in the direction in which it is traveling.
Objects that rotate counterclockwise, such as the blades of a fan, are not only skewed, but they also will appear to be thicker on the left side of the image, and they may appear to float in the image as if they were never attached to the hub. On the other hand, the blades on the right side of the image will appear to be much thinner than they actually are.
The appearance of objects rotating clockwise will have this effect reversed.
Temporal aliasing occurs when quick, short-lived bursts of light or extremely fast movements occur within the time it takes a rolling shutter to pass over all the photoreceptors on a CMOS image sensor. The light or the movement will be captured by the photoreceptors being scanned by the rolling shutters when the burst of light or the movement occurs, but it will not be recorded by the photoreceptors scanned before or after the flash or movement occurred.
When temporal aliasing occurs, you may capture part of an object in motion, but not the entire object, or part of the image may be effected by a flash of light, but not the entire image. Partial exposures result when the rolling shutter moves too slowly to capture an entire image taken under low light or at night at the same time as your flash illuminates it. In this case, one section of the image will be illuminated by the flash from your camera, but other portions of the image will be dark.
Some cameras with rolling shutters have automatic corrections for the effect included in the image processing software built into the camera, but be certain that the camera does make that correction. While the Hero 4 Silver does have built-in distortion correction, some still find that their videos suffer from the jello effect.
To correct the rolling shutter effect when shooting with the Hero 4 Silver, stabilize the camera and protect it from vibrations when shooting with Sorbothane, a pad which is sold in music stores because it’s used by drummers; shoot at a higher frame rate or shutter speed, which means using Protune to take manual control of the camera’s settings; and/or use an ND (neutral density) filter. In addition, look for image and video editing software that allows you to correct for the rolling shutter effect on your computer. Shooting at a higher frame rate forces the camera to use a higher shutter speed, and a faster shutter speed means that the rolling shutter is capturing the image in a shorter period of time. That brings the camera closer to capturing the entire image at once as global shutters and CCD image sensors do.
You can set the Hero 4 Silver to wide for wide angle shots, close-up portraits, group portraits, and selfies; to medium when you want to capture a portrait or an object while also showing part of the background; or narrow when you want to capture a more distant subject or object.
While the Hero 4 offers only spot metering, which causes it to read or meter the lighting directly around your subject, having these settings roughly corresponds to the matrix, center-weighted, and spot metering settings offered by standard cameras.
Matrix metering is used for wide-angle shots in which you want the camera to choose the best settings for capturing the entire image.
Center-weighted metering is used for portraits and photographs of objects when you want the camera to choose the best settings for your subject, but you also want the background to be well lighted, sharp, and clearly visible.
Spot metering in standard cameras is used for telephoto images that focus in tightly on a distant or fast moving person or object so that the camera chooses the best settings for the subject without being influenced by either the foreground or background.
When you use the wide setting with your Hero 4 Silver, however, you may notice a slight fisheye lens effect. While the Hero 4 Silver captures a more panoramic view of the scene to the right and left thanks to this effect, if you want to eliminate it for certain videos or still photos, set the camera to medium. The medium setting crops the amount of the scene that you will capture in the foreground, background, and to each side, but it does eliminate the fisheye distortion.
The GoPro Hero 4 best buy stands up well against competitors in the action camera ring.
In addition to the JPEG format, GoPro added the RAW photo format to the Hero 5 Black and the Hero 6 Black. The Hero 4 offers only JPEG, but that is not much of an issuee when you have to save JPEG files before editing them anyway.
JPEG formatting compresses files every time they are edited and saved to conserve storage space while RAW captures and retains all of the details within the image, creating a larger file. Because of this, it’s best to wait to edit JPEG files until you have uploaded them to your computer and saved them as either PNG or TIFF files. Neither PNG or TIFF formatting will continue to further compress your files, eliminating more details with each compression.
On the other hand, while you should b able to edit RAW files with your photo editing software, you will have to save your files as PNG files before uploading them to the social media or other sites. While most sites accept either JPEG or PNG files, RAW files are too large and can take too long to upload, so most sites will not accept them.
The Hero 5 Black shoots video at resolutions of 1080p, 1440p, and 4K30 while the Hero 6 offers resolutions of 1080p, 2.7K120, and 4K60. Some say that videos shot at higher resolutions do look sharper, even on televisions, monitors, and displays with lower resolutions. However, 1080p remains the standard resolution for vlogging. It creates smaller files when you’re out shooting so that you have more room on your storage media to capture more of the action, and those smaller files upload more quickly.
GoPro has improved image stabilization on the Hero 6 Black. However, even though the rolling shutter effect is a potential problem for these cameras, GoPro’s cameras wouldn’t have become known for their spectacular videos if that effect consistently contributed to poor videos.
Both the Hero 5 Black and Hero 6 Black respond to simple voice commands, so that you can, for example, tell the camera to start filming just as you’re about to start your run down a slope or navigate some rapids while kayaking. This hands free feature is a useful one in such situations, but even though simply leaving the camera on and filming everything consumes more storage space and battery energy, if you’re on a budget and want an action camera, the Hero 4 Silver is more affordable. You can, after all, use the HiLight Tag to mark the most interesting sections of your videos.
The Polaroid Cube+ is Polaroid’s update to their Cube. Those who find the GoPro Hero 4 Silver and its functions intimidating may prefer the simplicity of the Cube+. The Cube+ chooses all of the camera’s settings automatically.
Although the Cube+ doesn’t have the range of mounting attachments that are available for GoPro cameras, it does have one advantage that’s not available with other action cameras. It has a strong magnet in its base that allows you to mount it on any metal surface. No other attachment device is needed, but it does come with clip mounts.
The Cube+ comes with an 8MP CMOS image sensor. It captures video at resolutions of 1080p and 1440p. It supports Micro SD cards up to 132GB, giving t more storage space than the other cameras, and with the app installed, you can control the camera from your phone or tablet and use it as a viewfinder. The camera itself does not have a viewfinder.
While the Cube+ comes with digital image stabilization, the jello effect can be visible along the right and left edges of videos, and some feel that the colors are over-saturated and too vivid.
It could be a good beginner’s camera.
The EK7000 comes with a 12MP image sensor, and it captures video at resolutions of 1080p, 2.7K, and 4K. It can use GoPro mounts. You can control the camera from your cell phone or tablet, but it comes with a number of accessories that GoPro sells separately, including two batteries, a remote control and a helmet mount, a bike mount, and a variety of other mounts and tethers. The EK7000 supports Micro SD cards up to 64 MB.
While these two cameras offer a variety of shooting modes, they lack many of the functions offered by the GoPro Hero 4 Silver Edition. The Hero 4 retains its status as the best buy.
Point-and-shoots are finding a place among the tools of professional photographers, so if you are considering upgrading from your cell phone camera to a point-and-shoot, you have good reason to do so. Advances in technology have improved image quality, and professionals now affirm in interviews that they carry point-and-shoot cameras with them on a daily basis. For capturing spur-of-the-moment occurrences, point-and-shoots are convenient, lighter in weight, and much more compact than their professional gear. In addition, a point-and-shoot with a versatile zoom lens eliminates the need to carry multiple lenses.
One of the issues with the autofocus system of any digital camera, not just a point-and-shoot, is that certain photographic situations make it difficult for the autofocus system to operate properly. Some of these include scenes with an off-center subject; scenes with bright lighting, low light, and nighttime scenes; and scenes with repetitive patterns. You can help the autofocus system achieve a sharp focus with a few adjustments.
Because most photographs are composed with the main subject at the center of the image, autofocus systems are set by default to focus on the person or object that is closest to the camera at the center of the image. However, to create a more interesting composition or for the sake of the story or emotion that you want the image to capture, you may want to compose your photograph with your main subject in one corner, to one side or the other, or at the top or bottom of the image.
There are two ways to change the camera’s default focus. You can change the camera’s focal point, or you can you can lock the camera’s focus on the subject.
Digital cameras divide your image into a grid with three rows and three columns. By default, the focus point is set to the center rectangle of the grid. You can use your camera’s menu to display this grid. If your camera’s LED display doubles as a touch screen control panel, all you have to do to change the focus point is to tap the rectangle on the grid where your main subject will be in your composition. Your camera then automatically focuses on the person or object that is closest to the camera in that section of your image.
If your camera doesn’t have a touch screen, then you will use the up/down and right/left directional arrows you use to navigate the camera’s menu to move the focus point to the rectangle where your main subject will be.
To lock the camera’s focus on an off-center subject, move the camera so that your subject is in the center of the image and push the shutter button halfway down. The camera will focus on your subject and adjust its settings. Then, continue to hold the shutter button halfway down as you move the camera so that your main subject is where you want it to be in your photograph. Now, you can push the shutter button the rest of the way down.
Locking the focus of the camera is the older method. It’s the solution created for capturing off-center subjects with film cameras before digital camera’s were invented.
If you might want to learn still photography with a film camera, you will need to become proficient with locking the focus, because it will be your only option. Practicing with a digital camera is easier because you can see immediately if you released the shutter button while moving the camera or if you depressed the shutter too soon.
However, moving the focus point is the easiest way to capture an off-center subject. Moving the focus point instead of moving the camera while trying to hold the shutter button halfway down eliminates any chance that you will accidentally release or depress the shutter button as you move. Nevertheless, there will still be some situations in which locking the camera’s focus is the only option that will work.
While some autofocus systems are better than others, if your camera’s manuals list settings in which your camera will have difficulty focusing, bright, low light, and nighttime scenes will be among them. However, most point-and-shoot cameras allow you enough control of your camera’s settings that you can assist your autofocus system.
The helpful settings that you most likely will be able to adjust include:
The autofocus assist lamp sends out a brief pulse of light to assist as the camera focuses. While some point-and-shoots use the camera’s built-in flash for this purpose, a separate infrared assist lamp is better. If you are trying to take a picture of a wild animal, a pet, or a sleeping child, the camera’s flash can startle your subject. An adult who is startled by the flash, even if they are knowingly posing for the picture, can become annoyed. The brief pulse of infrared light generally goes unnoticed.
Switch from autofocus to scene mode and choose an appropriate scene mode. Some of the common low light scene modes include indoors, party, nighttime portrait, and nighttime landscape. More specialized lowlight settings, such as museum, adjust the cameras settings for taking lowlight images through glass cases.
Scene modes for brightly lit settings include beach and snow. Setting for sunrises and sunsets also help the camera adjust to the brightness of the sun even though the areas of the scene beyond the rising or setting sun might be a dark or lowlight scene.
The white balance setting helps your camera make adjustments for the type of lighting in the scene. Most point-and-shoots will let you choose a setting for outdoor settings in bright sunlight, outdoor settings on a cloudy day, indoor scenes lit by incandescent bulbs, and indoor settings lit by fluorescent lights.
Some will let you set a custom white balance setting. To do this, with the camera set to white balance, focus the camera on a white sheet of paper or a photographer’s white board under the lighting in the setting where you will be taking pictures and press the shutter down. The camera uses that image to set what it recognizes as white in the photograph. Setting a custom white balance is especially useful in settings that are lit by two or more different types of light. For example, you may have energy saving fluorescent bulbs in a frequently used light, incandescent bubs in light you use less often, and sunlight coming in through a window.
The ISO settings in point-and-shoot cameras range from at least 100 to 800. Some have lower and/or higher settings. These settings are the equivalent to the films used in film cameras, and in digital cameras, they adjust the cameras sensitivity to the light it receives as the shutter is activated.
The lower settings are for brightly lit settings. These settings reduce the camera’s sensitivity to light, allowing it to capture a wider range of pale colors in the lighter areas of the image.
The higher settings are for capturing action shots or lowlight or nighttime images. They increase the camera’s sensitivity to light. Obviously, this is important in a lowlight or nighttime setting when there isn’t much light. To capture a person, an animal, or an object like a race car in motion, though, the camera will use a very high shutter speed. That means that, even though the scene may be a brightly lit daytime scene, not much of that available bright light is captured in the short exposure time allowed. So, taking an action shot at a high shutter speed is, in effect, the same as taking a lowlight photograph.
The meter settings tell the camera what area of the picture should have priority when it takes the light meter readings that it uses to choose its settings. Regardless of the type of camera you have, you will have three choices – matrix, center-weighted, and spot focus.
Matrix is used for landscapes and other images that you want to be equally well lighted from objects in the foreground to objects in the background. It tells the camera to use a light meter setting that is an average of readings taken from all areas of the image from the darkest to the lightest.
Center-weighted metering is used for portraits and still life mages. The weighting can be adjusted by changing the camera’s focus point or locking the focus on an off-center subject, but this meter reading gives priority to the readings taken from the area of the image where the main subject is located while also providing sufficient lighting so that background objects are also focused and distinct.
Spot focus metering is used for action shots and long distance subjects. The camera takes the meter readings from an area that is tightly focused around the main subject. Spot focus prevents the meter readings from being influenced by the lighting of the foreground or background because the lighting in those areas can be very different from the lighting directly around the subject.
Within the scene modes, you may see that you have the option of changing the camera’s settings up or down by three settings. These settings are the exposure value or EV settings.
In autofocus mode, your camera takes a reading of the light levels from different areas of the scene, and it selects a midpoint between the lightest and darkest areas and uses that midpoint as if it represents white.
In brightly lit scenes like a snow scene where the darkest areas might actually be a light gray, your camera may select an area to represent white when that area actually contains a range of very pale colors. In this situation, the camera fails to distinguish between these pale tints, and those colors are lost from the image. In the photograph, that entire area of delicate tints appears as white.
Conversely, in dark scenes where the brightest areas might be the mid-tones of the various colors in the scene. In a case such as this one, the camera might select a light gray to represent white. In the photograph, the areas of mid-tone colors will look like darker shades of the colors.
Using an appropriate scene mode helps to tell the camera to adjust its settings to detect very pale colors in brightly lit scenes or to detect mid-tones in a lowlight or nighttime image. In either case, the camera shifts the area it selects to represent white. In some situations, the adjustments made by the preset scene modes isn’t enough to completely correct the problem. Changing the EV settings can help.
In a brightly lit scene, the camera is choosing an area of the image to represent white that isn’t bright enough. The image needs to brightened in order for the camera to detect more of the range of lighter colors in the image. So, if the image still lacks the lighter colors even after you have switched to scene mode, change the EV setting to +1, +2, or +3.
In a dark scene, the camera is choosing an area of the image to represent white that is too dark. The image needs to be darkened so that the camera can detect more of the darker colors within the shadows of the image. So, if the colors in the image still look dark and muddy even though you have switched to a lowlight or nighttime scene mode, change the EV setting to -1, -2, or -3.
This tip is not only useful for helping your camera to focus on scenes with repetitive patterns but also for helping your camera to focus on nighttime scenes.
An image with a repetitive pattern can include a building with a series of identical columns or windows, a mosaic or a section of tiles on a wall or floor, or a still life with a row of identical objects. When shooting a scene with a repetitive images, without moving your zoom lens in or out, lock the camera’s focus on a part of the image that is the same distance from you as the part of the image that contains the repetitive image, such as a door of the building that has the windows. Then, recompose your image to include the repetitive pattern and take your photograph.
For nighttime photography, lock the camera’s focus on the edge of an area where there is a sharp division between dark and light that is the same distance from you as your subject. Then, turn back to your subject to recompose your image and take the picture.
The reason that you should not zoom in to focus on one section of an image with a repetitive pattern and then zoom out again to capture the entire image is because zoom lenses are now designed to automatically refocus the image whenever you change the zoom.
Some point-and-shoot cameras offer P or program mode. This mode lets you fine tune the preset scene modes to better suit the photographic conditions of your setting. Depending on the camera, P mode may allow you to change the metering and the preset ISO, EV, and white balance settings.
When you are ready to take more control of you camera’s settings, you can set your camera to shutter priority mode to select a slower or faster shutter speed or to aperture priority mode to select a wider or narrower lens or aperture opening. These settings help you better control the amount of light your image receives. In shutter mode, the camera selects the aperture setting and ISO sensitivity that correspond to your chosen shutter speed. In aperture mode, the camera selects the shutter speed and ISO sensitivity.
If your camera offers M or manual mode, you will be able to take full control of all of your camera’s settings, including selecting your own combinations of shutter speed, aperture, and ISO sensitivity.
While that may be an overwhelming thought if you are just beginning to look at point-and-shoot cameras, having a point-and-shoot that offers manual control means that you have a camera that you can grow with as you become a more accomplished photographer. You don’t have to use any of these advanced settings right away, but when you are ready to experiment them they will be there waiting for you. You won’t need to invest in another camera to have them.
Another feature that your point-and-shoot may offer is the ability to save one or more custom settings. If you take a lot of photos of similar subjects under similar photographic conditions, you can save the setting you use for that type of photography. Then, when you want to shoot more of those similar subjects, you can simply set your camera to custom mode, and it will be ready to shoot with your saved settings.
To find a camera and begin experimenting with the tips suggested above, choose one from our list of the best point and shoot cameras under 500.
The Panasonic Lumix ZS60 features an 18.1 MP 1/2.3 High Sensitivity MOS image sensor, and a Venus Engine image processor. High sensitivity MOS image sensors reportedly use more power than CMOS image sensors but are more sensitivity to light and produce pictures of more uniform quality by suppressing areas of uneven color and brightness. Panasonic’s five-axis hybrid O. I. S. (optical image stabilization) system reduces camera shake vertically, horizontally, and toward and away from your subject. The ZS60’s Leica DC Vario-Elmarit optical zoom lens features a range from 24mm for wide angle shots to 720mm for narrowly focused long distance and action shots.
Intelligent Auto Mode and Intelligent Auto Plus Mode can be set to track moving subjects with Auto Focus. Both modes automatically recognize portraits, baby photos, night portraits, landscapes, nighttime landscapes, hand held nighttime shots, sunsets, food shots, and macro photography. The camera uses HDMI Mode to compensate for scenes with high contrasts between dark and light areas.
Compensation for backlit subjects activates automatically, so there are no specific scene modes for backlit portraits or objects.
Intelligent Auto Plus Mode allows you to adjust the brightness from EV -5 to EV +5 and to adjust the color tone to make the colors warmer and more golden or cooler by adding more cyan.
In P Mode (Program Mode), you can use Program Shift to adjust the automatically selected paired combination of the shutter speed and aperture width to a different paired combination within a limited range of allowed combinations.
In S Mode (Shutter Priority Mode), you can select the shutter speed, and the camera will automatically select a corresponding, complementary setting for the aperture opening and ISO sensitivity setting.
In A Mode (Aperture Priority Mode), you can select the aperture setting, and the camera will select a corresponding, complementary setting for the shutter sped and ISO sensitivity.
In M Mode (Manual Exposure Mode), you can completely control the camera’s exposure settings by selecting the shutter speed, aperture opening, and ISO sensitivity independently of each other.
While most point-and-shoots only allow you to save one custom setting at a time in C Mode, the Lumix ZS60 saves up to three custom settings.
You can use Preview Mode to see the effects of the settings you choose in most of the camera’s recording modes.
Other scene modes are available, such as Glistening Water, Vivid Sunset, and Bright Blue Sky. Many of these achieve their effects by automatically applying some of the cameras artistic or special effects to the image.
Panorama Mode provides two options. When set to standard width, you can take 180° panoramas, but when set to wide, you can take full 360° panoramas.
For Time Lapse Photography, you can choose to start the photography up to 23 hours and 59 minutes from when you setup the camera. Then, you can set the time over which the camera will record images from 1 second to 99 minutes and 59 seconds at intervals of 1 second. You can also set the number pf pictures to be taken from one to 9,999.
When you are shooting movies in Intelligent Auto Mode, the camera automatically recognizes portrait shots (close ups), landscapes, low light settings, and macro photography. You can use the Lumix ZS60 to create slow motion movies by setting the camera to High Speed Video. Set the camera to Silent to minimize the camera’s operating noise while filming.
With the Lumix ZS60, you can use either the digital image finder or the touch-sensitive LCD screen to compose your image. You also can use the LCD touch screen to trigger the shutter.
You can use up to three photos to register the faces of up to six people on the Lumix ZS60.
The Lumix ZS60 captures still images in both RAW and jpg file formats, and it captures movies in full HD with stereo sound at resolutions of both 4K and 1080p.
The ZS60’s built-in Wi-Fi connection allows you to upload 1080p and lower resolution movies and jpg images to the internet and stream movies live as you shoot. You can also control the camera with your Android or iOS device using Panasonic’s Image App. However, some features of Image App, such as Snap Movie, aren’t compatible with iOS as of the date of this review.
While 4K movies and RAW photos can be displayed on HDTVs directly from the camera, whether or not the TV is 4K compatible, these movies and images can be uploaded only to a computer. They can’t, as yet, be uploaded to the internet. Before uploading photos, convert them to TIFF format as this format saves all the details and color gradations. It does not continually compress images with each new save as jpg does.
While some YouTube hosts are converting to 4K videos, most sites still accept only 1080p MP4 files or smaller. Also, while you can burn 4K movies on a CD, you can not save them to a Blu-Blu-Ray disc. So, for sharing movies by email or on most social media sites and for transferring movies to Blu-Ray, you will need to convert them to 1080p. You can use the Image App to make this conversion in your camera, though. This camera is just a bit ahead of the curve.
The bundle that comes with this camera includes a replacement battery and an AC/DC Rapid Charger, a SanDisk 32 MB SDHC memory card, both a full size and a table top tripod, a micro HDMI cable, a DigitalAndMore cleaning cloth, and a carrying case.
Canon’s PowerShot G9 X Mark II comes with the company’s 20.1 MP 1-inch high sensitivity CMOS image sensor and pairs it with Canon’s Digic 7 image processor and an optical zoom lens that ranges from a wide angle 28mm to a mid-range 84mm. In macro mode, you can get as close as 5mm or 2 inches. The digital zoom adds an additional 4x of magnification to the 3x of the optical zoom.
The G9 X Mark II also employs Canon’s optical Intelligent Image Stabilization which selects the type of image stabilization required for the photographic situation. It adjusts for movies made while you are walking and holding the camera, movies and images taken while using a tripod, nighttime images taken while you are holding the camera, and panning scene mode that allows you to move the camera as your main subject moves creating a blurred background that suggests speed. In this latter mode, the camera allows for movement in the direction you are panning, but adjusts the image stabilization to correct for movement in other directions.
In addition to panning mode, the Canon PowerShot G9 offers portrait mode, nighttime mode, fireworks mode, and a nighttime portrait mode for starlit backgrounds that shoots the portrait shot first with the flash and then takes two more shots without the flash to capture the stars. You will need to use a tripod with this mode, and you should tell the person whose portrait you are taking not to move until they have seen the focus assist lamp flash three times.
High dynamic range or HDR mode is another option. In HDR mode, the camera takes three successive shots at different EV or brightness settings and blends them into a single image. When you are taking a photograph of a scene with both very bright and very dark areas, HDR mode helps the camera distinguish the areas that are truly black and truly white so that it accurately captures light grays and pale colors as well as dark grays and very dark colors.
The PowerShot G9 also offers a fish eye lens effect, a miniature model effect, a toy camera effect, and artistic modes that give your photographs the look of oil paintings, water colors, old photos, and vivid illustrations.
One handy feature that will help the camera focus on people who are moving or who may not be facing the camera is the ability to register up to 12 people on the camera. Take a photo of the person as he or she faces the camera, press register, and then enter the person’s name and birthday. Entering the person’s birthday lets the camera recognize infants and young children. You can add a total of five images of the person, so add a photograph of the person looking away from the camera at a slight angle, a photograph of the person smiling or not smiling depending on whether or not they were smiling in the first photograph, and indoor and outdoor pictures. You can register up to 12 people in this way.
When you are taking photographs, the camera will recognize up to three of the people whom you have registered and optimize its lighting settings for the best image of them. It will also record their names on still photographs, so if you don’t want the image labeled, you will need to turn that feature off before taking the photograph. To keep up with the facial changes of growing babies and toddlers, you should re-register their images frequently.
Canon’s Servo Autofocus enables the camera to track a moving subject. The LCD screen of the PowerShot G9 functions as a touch screen for easy access to the cameras features. If you want to change the focus point of the camera, all you have to do is tap the object or the face of the person whom you want to be main subject.
The PowerShot G9 X offers P mode, Tv mode (shutter priority mode), Av mode (aperture priority mode), M mode (manual mode), and C mode (custom mode).
The G9 X captures still shots as either jpg or RAW files. In addition to capturing still images, the G9 X captures movies in full HD at a resolution of 1080p in MP4 format so that you can show your movies on a big screen HDTV. The G9 X also can be set for time lapse photography, and it has a hybrid mode that stores two to four seconds of the action prior to the activation of the shutter. When you’re done shooting the event, the camera will meld all of the images into a highlight reel for sharing with others.
The PowerShot G9 can connect to Wi-Fi networks and hotspots and Bluetooth and NFC devices. You can upload your movies and images directly to the internet, print directly to PictBridge compatible printers, and when you have the CameraConnect app installed, you can control the camera remotely from your cell phone.
The bundle that comes with this camera includes a camera case, a Hi-Speed SD USB card reader, a SanDisk Ultra SDXC 64GB 80MB/S C10 Flash Memory Card, a tri-fold wallet to hold your memory cards, a 12 inch table top tripod with flexible legs, a bubble lever and quick release plate, LCD screen protectors, a lens cleaning pen, and a five piece cleaning kit.
The Sony DSCHX80 contains an 18.2 GB 1/2.3 inch CMOS image sensor, which is the size commonly found in point-and -shoots. It comes with a ZEISS Vario-Sonnar optical zoom lens with a range from 24mm for wide angle photography to 720mm for narrowly focused, long range photography. In macro mode, you can shoot from as close as 5 cm.
The camera offers two fully automatic modes, Intelligent Auto and Superior Auto. Both modes recognize the scene and automatically choose an appropriate scene mode. However, you should use Superior Auto when you are shooting scenes in low light or when your subject is backlit.
When the camera recognizes either of these two photographic situations, if it is set to Superior Auto, it takes multiple shots of the image and blends them into a composite image to capture all of the highlights and shadows. When the camera takes multiple images of the scene, it displays an overlay icon that resembles three stacked sheets of paper. To avoid camera blur, you should use a tripod or avoid moving until the camera has finished shooting.
In either Intelligent Auto or Superior Auto, the Sony DSCHX80 recognizes and uses scene modes for landscapes, night scenes, low light scenes, photos of backlit objects, and photographs of spotlit objects.
When face detection is turned on, it also recognizes and uses the scene modes for portraits, backlit portraits, night portraits, and photos of infants. You can register the faces of up to eight people in the camera.
If you choose to select the scene mode yourself, you can choose from these modes plus iSweep Panorama, Advanced Sports Shooting mode which tracks the main subject, sunset mode, anti-motion blur scenes which allow you to take indoor scenes in the available light without using the flash, twilight scenes photographed without a tripod, pet mode, gourmet mode for photographing food, snow scenes, beach scenes, photographs of fireworks, a skin-softening mode for portraits, and a high-sensitivity ISO mode for shooting scenes in very low light which is especially helpful for capturing movies.
In Intelligent Auto and Superior Auto mode, the camera can tell if you are using a tripod or if you are moving, moving while shooting a brightly lit scene, or moving while shooting a scene in low light. If you have SteadyShot set to Active mode or Intelligent Active mode while shooting a movie, the camera can tell if you are walking while shooting. The camera subsequently adjusts the image stabilization and camera settings to compensate for the movement and lighting.
As with the Canon PowerShot G9 X above, P, or program mode, lets you adjust settings such as brightness or EV settings and the ISO sensitivity in Intelligent Auto, Superior Auto, and scene mode. If you want to adjust the shutter speed, set the camera to S mode. To adjust the aperture, set the camera to A mode. Setting the camera to M for manual mode allows you to take full control of all of the camera's functions. If you want to save custom settings, set the camera to MR, or Memory Recall.
If you are shooting a moving subject, using a faster shutter speed keeps your subject in focus as if frozen in motion. A slower shutter speed displays a trail behind your subject showing its path during the movement.
The aperture setting affects the depth of field. A wider aperture setting or F number keeps more of the foreground and background in focus. A narrower aperture narrows the depth of field and focuses more tightly on your subject.
With the Sony DSCHX80, you can choose whether to compose your shot using the pop-up digital viewfinder or the flip-up LCD screen. The LCD screen offers advantages when you need to hold the camera high or low to take your photograph. You can also flip the screen clear up so that you can see your own image as you take a selfie.
The Sony DSCHX80 captures still images in jpg format and movies in full HD at a resolution of 1080p in stereo sound with the ability to reduce wind noise. It can connect directly to Wi-Fi hotspots and upload your images and movies with an Eye-Fi card. You also can control the camera remotely from your cell phone with the PlayMemories Mobile app and share images with NFC compatible devices.
The Canon PowerShot SX730 includes a 20.3 MP 1/2.3 CMOS image sensor and an optical zoom lens with a range that extends from 24mm for wide angle shots to 960mm for tightly focused action and long distance photography. The digital zoom adds an additional 4X of magnification. The SX 730 does not have a viewfinder. It uses the LCD screen for composing shots. The LCD screen flips up to approximately 180°, however, so that you can see your image on the screen as you compose a selfie. A flip out LCD screen also lets you see your shot when you are holding the camera up high, down low, or to one side or the other.
The timer delay on the shutter can be set to wait until it recognizes that a new face has entered the photo or until it detects a wink, as well as waiting until it detects a smile. Face detection and wink detection both allow the photographer to enter the picture, and wink detection could be used to trigger the shutter to capture the subject’s immediate reaction to a surprise.
As with the Canon PowerShot G9, when you shoot in Auto mode, the camera takes full control of the camera’s settings. In Hybrid Auto Mode, the camera captures the few seconds of action that occur just before you depress the shutter. When you are finished shooting the event, the camera uses the movie/still hybrid photos to create a newsreel highlight of the event that you can share on social media.
In Auto mode, the camera automatically adjusts the settings for shooting people, pets, and objects under normal lighting, when they are backlit, when they are in low light settings, and when they are under a spotlight. It adjusts the settings for shooting moving adults, children, pets, and objects when they are under normal lighting or when they are backlit. It also adjusts the settings when it detects shadows on a person’s face as well as photos of people and babies when they are sleeping or smiling under normal light or when they are backlit. It adjusts the settings for objects shot in the light of a sunset, and it can adjust settings in macro photography mode for normal lighting, for backlit subjects, and for subjects under a spotlight.
As with the PowerShot G7, you can register up to five images of the faces of up to 12 people. The process is identical on both cameras. The SX730 also has the same scene modes and shooting modes – P mode, Tv mode, Av mode, Servo AF, and M mode -- as the G7.
The SX730 also can connect to Wi-Fi networks and hotspots and Bluetooth and NFC devices. You can upload your movies and images directly to the internet, print directly to PictBridge compatible printers, and when you have the CameraConnect app installed, you can control the camera remotely from your cell phone.
The bundle that comes with this camera includes a Canon NB-13L battery, Canon battery charger CB-2LH, a 64 GB Ultraspeed SDHC/SDXC UHS-1 memory card, a tabletop tripod with an ergonomic handgrip, a camera case, and an 8-piece starter kit with a blower and lens pen.
The Canon PowerShot SX620 combines a 20.2 MP 1/2.3 CMOS image sensor with Canon’s DIGIC 4+ image processor, Canon’s Intelligent IS Image Stabilization, and an optical zoom lens with a range of 25mm for wide angle image to 625mm for action and long distance photography.
For those who feel overwhelmed by all of the features of the above cameras, the PowerShot SX620 is a simpler, more basic camera. It offers Auto mode, Servo AF for tracking moving subjects, and P mode that allows you to adjust some of the scene mode settings. It omits shutter priority mode, aperture priority mode, and full manual mode. The SX620 also omits face registration. It can connect to Wi-Fi as well as Bluetooth and NFC devices. If you install CameraConnect on your Android or iOS device, you will be able to control this camera with your cell phone. All of the features that it does have in common with the G9 and the SX730 function in the same way on all three cameras. The SX620 comes with the same bundle as the SX730.
We actually have two winners for the best point and shoot camera under 500.
For those who want a camera they can continue to use as they become more skilled at photography, we recommend the Panasonic DMC-ZS60. You can start using Panasonic’s Intelligent Auto Mode and advance to P-Mode, A and S mode, and finally M Mode. The ZS60 offers a zoom lens that ranges from 24mm to 720mm. It provides automatic scene modes that are comparable to those offered by most point-and-shoot cameras. It shoots still photos in both RAW and jpg formats, and it shoots movies with stereo sound in both 4K and 1080p formats. You can capture time lapse images, 180° and 360° panoramas, and slow motion movies. While the LCD screen is fixed and doesn’t flip up, it does function as a touch screen and can be used to trigger the shutter. This camera also saves up to three custom settings and registers the faces of up to six people. Bluetooth and NFC connectivity would be nice features, but the ZS60 does have built in Wi-Fi. With all the other features it includes, we can forgive its limited shortcomings.
For those who want a simple to operate point-and-shoot camera without a lot of confusing options, we recommend the Canon PowerShot SX620. The range of the zoom lens, from 25mm to 625mm, allows the versatility needed to capture landscape, long distance, and action shots. Servo AF tracks moving targets, and P Mode enables some minor adjustments to assist the camera with difficult photographic situations. The camera offers Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth connectivity so that the camera can upload movies and images directly to the internet. The CameraConnect app allows you to remotely control the camera from your Android or iOS device, which is handy when you want to include yourself in the picture or trigger the shutter without touching the camera to avoid causing camera movement.
Cell phone cameras might be fine for grabbing a quick image or video of something you see during the day that you want to share on social media. You might wish that you could share some of those videos on your large screen TV, though, or enlarge a portrait or a landscape into a poster size print to hang on your wall or to give as a gift. However, the image might be blurred or the sharpness and resolution of a cell phone image might not be high enough to make that transition successfully. When you begin to yearn for higher quality images, you should consider making the transition from your cell phone camera to an easy-to-use, lightweight, dedicated camera with features that let you focus on creating those better quality images that you want.
Here are five cameras on our list for best point and shoot camera under 200 that will help you to make the transition successfully:
Point-and-shoot cameras have several features that contribute to creating a sharper, more detailed image -- the tracking system that focuses the camera, the settings that determine how sensitive the camera is to the light let in through the shutter, and the systems that control the speed at which the shutter operates and how wide of an opening, or aperture, the shutter creates when it opens.
All digital cameras have a fully automatic, point-and-shoot mode that allows you to rely on the camera’s focusing and light metering systems to select the right scene mode and focal point for the image received by the image sensor. All digital cameras also have scene modes with preselected settings that, in most situations, are the standard settings for that particular lighting or photographic situation. Even advanced photographers may sometimes rely on these modes to capture an image when they don’t have time to adjust the settings.
Some point-and-shoot cameras have a manual setting option that will let you take full control of the camera’s settings. While you may be wary of taking full control of the manual settings while you are learning how to operate the camera and improve your photography, having that manual option will allow you to explore those settings when you’re ready. That option means you can keep that same camera as you continue to grow as a photographer.
Image sensors come in two types, CMOS and CCD, and they range in size from 1/1.7 inches, which are the larger ones, to 1/2.3 inches measured across the diagonal. Cell phones pack a lot of features into a slim, compact case, so most use the smaller 1/2.3” image sensors. Camera’s, too, are becoming more compact, so point-and-shoot cameras, and others, now use the same size image sensors as cell phones.
A detailed, and fairly technical, article on image sensors on Wikipedi has a link at the top of the page which leads to a chart farther down in the article that shows the sizes of image sensors used in various cell phones and cameras (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image_sensor_format).
Both types of image sensors use photoreceptors to receive the image from the camera’s lens. In digital cameras, photoreceptors take the place of film, and each photoreceptor represents one pixel in the image. So the more photoreceptors and pixels there are, the more fine details and subtle gradations between colors the image will display. In addition, the more photoreceptors and pixels there are, the higher the resolution of the image and, as long as you are starting with a clear, sharp, well-focused image, the more you can enlarge the image.
Photoreceptors on CCD image sensors are connected to the image processing circuitry in groups. All of the photoreceptors in a single row, or even all of the photoreceptors on the image sensor, might be wired together before being connected to the image processing circuitry. This leaves room for more photoreceptors on the image sensor, but it also means that all the information from all the photoreceptors that have been wired together is processed in a large batch, which can take longer. Consequently, CCD image sensors may capture more actual details from the image, but they also may operate more slowly.
On the other hand, each photoreceptor on a CMOS photoreceptor is connected to the image processing circuitry separately. The information from each photoreceptor is processed more quickly, so CMOS image sensors operate more quickly than CCD image sensors. However, the image processing circuitry that surrounds each individual photoreceptor on a CMOS image sensor takes up space that would be occupied by more photoreceptors on a CCD image sensor.
That means two things:
While all this might seem technical and complicated, its worth keeping in mind when choosing a camera. If you take a lot of photographs of active pets or of your kids as they play sports, or just play, you might notice the lag time, however slight, as a CCD image sensor processes the image. On the other hand, if you enjoy nature or artistic photography and you want fine details with subtle, realistic gradations of light, shade, and color, then you might be unhappy with the way the image processing circuitry fills in the details that are missing from the spaces between the photoreceptors on a CMOS image sensor, however small the space.
Most digital cameras, point-and-shoot cameras included, now use hybrid focusing systems that combine phase detection systems, or motion tracking, with contrast detection systems that make features such as face detection and smile detection possible.
The phase detection system splits the image from the image sensor into two images in a way similar to the way your optometrist splits the image that you are looking at into two images during an eye exam. The camera then measures the changes in the separation between the images from side to side and front to back to track movement by the subject and bring the subject into focus. If you have a stationary subject, then the camera simply adjusts the focus until the two images merge. If you have set the camera to continuous tracking mode to capture an active subject, the camera uses its measurements of the changes in the speed and direction of the two images of the subject to predict where the subject will move in order to keep the subject generally in focus.
The contrast detection system takes over from the phase detection system to achieve an even sharper focus. The contrast detection system compares the part of the image received by each adjacent photoreceptor as it checks for and eliminates overlaps. Contrast detection systems sharpen the focus by making the part of each image received by each photoreceptor as clear and distinct as possible, so it works by detecting and heightening the distinctiveness or contrast of each pixel contained in image. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autofocus)
Contrast detection systems can have problems focusing when a person isn’t facing the camera, when you compose your photograph with the subject off-center, or when contrast between areas of the image is difficult to detect. Many times, you can correct this by locking the camera’s focus and then recomposing your image. Simply turn your camera toward your subject or toward an object that is the same distance from your camera as your subject, press the shutter button halfway down to lock the camera’s focus and continue to hold the shutter button halfway down as you turn back and recompose your image, and then push the shutter all the way down to take the picture. Alternately, for an off-center subject, you can select one of your camera’s focus points that is directly over your subject rather than allowing the camera to choose a focus point at the center of the image.
If a point-and-shoot camera does not offer a setting that allows you to take full control of the camera’s settings, you won’t be able to take direct control of your camera’s choice of lighting settings. You can use scene mode to take control of the scene selection yourself.
Point-and-shoot cameras commonly have scene modes for daylight portraits, daylight landscapes, beach scenes, snow scenes, sunrises and sunsets, food, sports scenes, and indoor or party scenes. Scene modes for fireworks, nighttime portraits, backlit portraits, pet portraits, and nighttime landscapes also are common. It’s less common, but not unusual, to find scene modes for taking photographs in a museum or through glass.
Even point-and-shoot cameras that don’t have a manual option will allow you to lighten or darken the overall lighting of the image by three settings up or down and control some other settings such as:
Flash settings – auto, red-eye correction, fill flash, slow sync, and off
White balance – auto, daylight, cloudy, fluorescent, incandescent, flash, and, usually, custom which allows you to focus the camera on a white card or sheet of paper and set the white balance for the scene yourself when you have two or more different types of light sources
ISO sensitivity – compares to film speeds of 200 or lower for bright light to 1000 or higher for low light and action photography
Metering – spot to create a narrow depth of field and focus tightly on a distant subject so that the camera reads only the lighting conditions surrounding the subject and is not influenced by the foreground or background; matrix for landscapes to create the widest possible depth of field so that the camera reads the lighting conditions across the entire scene; and center-weighted for portraits and still lifes so that the camera gives priority to the lighting conditions immediately surrounding the subject but also reads the lighting conditions for the background and foreground so that the subject is well-lit with sufficient lighting for the background and foreground so that objects in those areas are distinct, sharp, and appropriately vibrant.
Aperture priority – for low light, widen the aperture; for bright light, narrow the aperture; for telephoto subjects that lack sharpness, narrow the aperture to widen the depth of field so that the subject is completely inside the box defined by the depth of field; the camera chooses the shutter speed and ISO sensitivity based on the aperture setting.
Shutter priority – slow the shutter speed to let in low light settings; use higher shutter speeds in bright sunlight, in snow, or at the beach where sand and water reflect bright sunlight; also use high shutter speeds for fast, action shots; the camera chooses the aperture opening and ISO sensitivity based on the shutter speed.
Learning how to use these settings will help you adjust your camera when it has difficulty focusing, improve your photography, and help you to take the clearest, sharpest images your camera can produce.
The Sony DSCW830 pairs a 20.1 MP 1/2.3 CCD image sensor with a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar optical zoom lens that ranges from a wide angle 28mm to 200mm for tightly focused long-distance shots. For macro photography, the Sony DSCW830 closes in to 5 cm.
The Sony DSCW830 offers smile detection and recognizes up to eight faces in group shots. The timer can be set to wait until it recognizes a smile before tripping the shutter. For portraits, you can set the smile detection priority to either a child’s face or an adult’s face. The DSCW830 also can continuously track the movements of one subject. For panoramas, simply sweep the camera across the scene up to 360° as you hold the shutter button down. The camera matches the images up and weaves them together.
Vertical and horizontal optical image stabilization lets you walk or run as you shoot movies or still images. ISO sensitivity compares to film speeds from 80 to 3200, covering a wide range of lighting situations. The DSCW830 captures still images in JPEG format and movies in HD 720p meg-4 format.
The Canon PowerShot ELPH 190 contains a 20.0 MP 1/2.3 inch CCD image sensor and includes an optical zoom lens that ranges from a wide angle of 24mm to a telephoto range of 240mm. In macro mode, you can shoot from as close as 1 cm. The Digic 4+ Image Processor enhances the processing speed and the photographic results from the CCD image sensor. The ELPH 190’s ISO sensitivity settings range from 100 to 1600. In addition to the monitor screen, the ELPH 190 also has an LCD viewfinder.
The ELPH 190 recognizes up to 9 faces for well-focused group shots, and the timer can be set to delay shooting until the camera detects the appearance of an additional face entering the group so that the photographer can join the group. It can also track the movements of a single subject. The ELPH also offers a long exposure mode that allows time-lapse photography of, for example, nighttime urban street scenes. This Canon PowerShot also has “P” or program mode which allows you to take manual control of more of the camera’s settings, so this is a camera that allows you to grow as a photographer.
Canon’s optical Intelligent Stabilization system can be fine-tuned for shooting while walking or running, while panning the camera in panorama mode, or while using a tripod for shooting still images or movies among other situations. The ELPH 190 captures HD movies with monaural sound at a resolution of 720p in MP4 format. It captures still images in JPEG. It offers both Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity. You can print directly to PictBridge printers, share images between NFC devices, and directly upload images and movies to social media sites for sharing or to your internet storage site for later editing. You also can take complete remote control of the ELPH 190 from your Android or iOS or phone.
Use ECO mode when you’re out for extended periods without access to a way to charge the camera’s battery. ECO mode conserves battery power while preserving your ability to store a high number of images.
The Canon PowerShot ELPH 360 offers a 20.2 MP 1/2.3 CMOS image sensor, rather than the CCD image sensor contained in the ELPH 190. The optical zoom lens also has a wider range – 25mm to 300mm. Like the ELPH 190, the 360 has both a monitor screen and an LCD viewfinder and macro mode on both cameras enables you to get as close as 1 cm.
Together, the CMOS image sensor and the Digic 4+ Image Processor improve the ELPH 360’s lowlight performance and power more advanced features such as Hybrid Auto and Full HD video with monaural sound at a resolution of 1080p in MP4 format. ISO sensitivity settings range from 80 to 3200, further enhancing the camera’s versatility. The ELPH 360 captures still images in JPEG format.
Use Hybrid Auto when you are shooting special occasions such as birthdays, graduations weddings, anniversaries, and family reunions among others. When you take a photo, the camera records up to 4 seconds of video along with the still image and then combines all of the Hybrid Auto images of the day into an HD highlight reel of the event with a resolution of 720p that you can share or give as a commemorative gift. When you take a group portrait, the ELPH 360 recognizes up to nine faces, and the shutter timer can be tied to smile detection, wink detection, or new face detection. The ELPH 360 also tracks single subjects.
As with the ELPH 190, the 360 offers a long exposure, time-lapse mode. Switching to P mode gives manual access to the camera settings so that you will not outgrow this camera as you grow as a photographer. Canon’s Intelligent Stabilization system can be adjusted to cover a wide range of shooting conditions. Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity allow you to immediately share photos and videos with other NFC devices, upload videos and photos directly to the internet, print directly to PictBridge printers, and control your ELPH 360 from your iOS or Android phone or tablet.
If you shoot portraits, selfies, landscapes, and architecture, but you don’t zoom in on distant or fast moving subjects, then the wide angle lens of the Nikon COOLPIX L32, with its range of 26mm to 130mm, is exactly right for you. The COOLPIX L32 comes with a 20.1 MP 1/2.3 inch CCD image sensor.
The L32 automatically recognizes faces, and when in Smart Portrait mode, it detects smiles and shoots automatically. In blink-proof mode, the Nikon L32 recognizes when your subject blinks and takes two shots, saving the image in which your subject’s eyes were open. It can track a single active subject, and it uses Nikon’s electronic Vibration Reduction (VR) to stabilize images. It captures images in JPEG format and HD videos at a resolution of 720p in Motion JPEG AVI format for compact files you can share by email or on the internet. With an ISO sensitivity range of 80 to 1600, it can handle most lighting situations.
The Kodak AZ361-WH PIXPRO Astro combines a 16 MP 1/2.3 inch CCD image sensor with an optical zoom lens that ranges from 24mm to 864mm, so this camera captures wide-angle group selfies, architecture, and landscapes as well as zooming in for tightly focused action shots or for nature photography that lets you catch wild animals and birds without disturbing them. With macro mode, you can shoot from as close as 5 cm.
In addition to the standard modes, the Kodak AZ361 offers separate pet portrait modes for dogs and cats, a mode for photographing text, a mode for taking ID photographs, a mode for shooting inside of a museum, and a mode for shooting through glass. It can shoot panoramas up to 180°, and in panning mode, you can pan to follow a fast moving object, creating a blurred background that demonstrates the movement and speed. The ISO sensitivity settings range from 80 to 3200, covering almost all lighting conditions.
It can be set for up to nine focal points and includes face detection, smile detection, and blink detection. The shutter timer can be tied to smile detection. The Astro can track a single subject.
Like the ELPH 190 and 360, you can take full manual control of the AZ361 Astro. Unlike any of the above cameras, though, you can create and save your own custom setting. So, if you will be taking a lot of pictures under fairly consistent lighting and photographic conditions, once you find the perfect setting for that scene, you can simply save those settings and, when you’re ready to take more pictures, you can then select your custom setting just as you would a scene mode. With this feature, you can simply start shooting without having to set up the camera each time. The Kodak Astro retains the last custom settings that you saved in its memory until you replace it with a new set.
The Kodak Astro uses Kodak’s optical image stabilization system. It captures images in JPEG format and movies in at a resolution of 720p. With an Eye-fi SD card, which you will need to purchase separately, the Kodak Astro can print to PictBridge printers and upload images and movies to the internet.
Actually, that should be “Our Two Best Point and Shoots Under 200” because we have chosen co-winners – the Canon PowerShot ELPH 360 and the Kodak AZ361-WH PIXPRO Astro. Both cameras have manual options, so if you or someone in your family wants to grow as a photographer and experiment with the camera’s settings, these cameras allow that. These aren’t cameras that you will outgrow, and yet anyone in the family can still take quality photographs using these cameras in automatic point-and-shoot mode.
The ELPH 360 does have the edge when it comes to its built in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity and its ability to capture movies in full HD with a resolution of 1080p in MPEG format. The Kodak Astro’s movies with a resolution of 720p in MOV format are fine for sharing in emails or on the internet, but they will not display well on a big screen TV. In addition, as far as we are concerned, people are accustomed to being able to share their videos and photos on social media immediately from their cell phones, so any camera that wants to compete with cell phones should have Wi-Fi and NFC built in.
What gives the Kodak Astro an edge, though, are its super zoom optical lens that extends over a range from 24mm to 864mm and its less common scene modes, such as the one designed to take photographs through glass, not only display cases, but also windows. You could capture candid shots of your kids as they play outdoors, birds at your birdfeeder, wildlife in your yard, or snow scenes without having to be out in the snow. Finally, the Astra lets you store a custom setting, so once you find a setting that works for the location you’re in, you can just select it and keep using it as long as the shooting conditions remain unchanged.
Point and shoot cameras take up the largest segment of the digital camera market and understandably. They offer an affordable and simple way to take great pictures. After all, you just need to press the shutter button to automatically adjust the aperture, shutter speed, light sensitivity and focus. Compared to digital DSLRs that offer interchangeable lens, larger image sensors and more manual control, point and shoots can easily slip into jeans pocket and are cheaper. With hundreds of models available on the market, knowing which is the best point and shoot camera under 300 isn't the easiest task. This post explores the factors to consider when making your purchase and reviews the best models to ease your search.
The size of an image sensor directly impacts on the level of detail on photographs. The reason why images taken with smartphones appear grainy is that mobile devices have a sensor that's roughly the size of the nail on your small finger. Point and shoot cameras are a nice upgrade, with the high models offering a full frame 35 mm sensor. This makes a huge difference in image quality.
Some of the most basic point and shoots offer some assistance when it comes to shooting moving objects. This often comes in the form of autofocus that locks to keep sharp focus on the subject. Other models have a continuous shooting mode that allows you to capture several photos per second. Faster shutter speeds are a nice bonus as they make it easy to freeze moments in time.
You will be using the LCD screen to review and frame your shots and as such, quality is crucial. Go for a camera that has a display of at least 2.5" although a larger size would be better. In terms of resolution, 230K-dots should suffice. Cameras with a 460K or 921K LCD will provide better performance when shooting outdoors. You can also consider larger and high-end models that are equipped with articulating screens that rotate 360 degrees, thus allowing for angle shots. A touch screen, on the other hand, eliminates the need for physical control buttons.
The focal length tells you more about the field of view and is generally expressed as a 35mm equivalent value. On the other hand, zoom expresses how far the lens reaches. If two cameras have a 5x zoom factor but one covers 28-140mm while the other covers 28-120mm, the latter will perform better when shooting in tight spaces while the former will offer a longer telephoto lens. The downside of a budget camera with 35mm focal length is that it has difficulties framing shots with several people in a tight space.
Optical image stabilization compensates for the shakiness of your hands when capturing photos. Unless you plan on shooting on tripod all the time, it's important that your point and shoot camera have an optical image stabilizer. Almost every camera on the market has this feature so finding one with a less than $300 budget should be easy.
Almost every point and shoot camera on the market has the ability to record video. Aim for a camera that can record HD videos. Some include a micro HDMI output port for high definition playback on your television or computer. Don't forget to check whether a camera has an inbuilt microphone and allows for zoom when recording.
ISO is a measure of a camera's sensitivity to light. The amount of light passing through the sensor increases with increase in the ISO setting. A camera that allows for higher ISO settings will allow you to shoot blur-free images in low light conditions. It's important to remember that an increased ISO setting also means more image noise.
The Canon PowerShot SX530 captures your still images at a resolution of 16 MP. The optical zoom lens has a range of from 24mm to 1200mm with an additional 200x of digital zoom.
With this camera, you can choose scene modes for portraits, low light settings, snow scenes, and fireworks. The camera also has automatic settings for backlit portraits, backlit subjects, and sunsets.
You can set the camera to track your subject, and the SX530 automatically detect smiles, winks, or faces. You can delay activation of the shutter until a wink, smile, or additional face is detected.
In addition to auto mode, the PowerShot SX530 offers auto hybrid mode which combines movies with still photography. In this mode, each time you take a still photo, the camera also captures and saves a few seconds of video of the action prior to when you depressed the shutter. Use this mode for capturing special events like birthdays, graduations, weddings, or anniversaries and when you are done shooting, the camera automatically combines the videos into a movie that you can present as a gift to the subject of the celebration.
In P mode, you can access and customize some of the camera’s setting, such as ISO sensitivity. Use Tv mode if you want to select the shutter speed and let the camera select the aperture and ISO settings. In Av mode, you can select the aperture size while the camera chooses the corresponding ISO and shutter setting. M mode gives you full manual control of all of the camera’s settings.
The Canon SX530 takes advantage of Canon’s Intelligent Stabilization system with its nine different types of stabilization for various photographic situations. And it captures video in full HD at a resolution of 1080p and HD at a resolution of 720p.
The SX530 includes both built in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity and allows you to use Canon’s Gateway to control your camera from your tablet or cell phone, upload photos and videos directly to the internet from wherever you have a Wi-Fi connection, and print pictures with a PictBridge enabled printer.
This is a basic camera that's worth considering if you are looking for great features at a budget cost. Its main selling point is the 20 MP optical zoom that equates to 25-500mm focal range. The S7000 also offers full HD video recording, a back-illuminated CMOS sensor as well as Wi-Fi an NFC connectivity. It has a fairly standard construction, with the control buttons located at the far right hand side.
This camera performs best when shooting bright light, which is to be expected for a small sensor. The colors are vibrant and if you zoom to 100%, you will notice some image smoothing at any sensitivity level. There is a noticeable loss of detail when you shoot at higher ISO sensitivities but the good thing is that image noise is kept to a minimum.
The Nikon Coolpix L340 is a low budget camera designed as an upgrade of the L330. It is equipped with 28x optical lens zoom with a focal range of 22.5 – 630mm. The 20.2 megapixel sensor is capable of a maximum light sensitivity of ISO 1600. You can use the L340 to record 1280 x 720 HD video. There are six special picture effects to customize your shots. Other unique features include the scene-detecting automatic mode and Smart Portrait Mode, which softens the skin and even warn you if someone blinks.
This is a relatively compact camera that weighs 430 grams. It boasts a chunky design, rear thumb rest and large rubberized hand grip. While it is styled like a bridge camera, the L340 has much more in common with a compact point and shoot snapper. The controls are restricted to the essentials like scene modes, flash mode, self timer, video recording and macro mode. The 3" LCD screen offers a good viewing experience with decent color reproduction and 460K-dot resolution.
This is an entry-level Cyber-shot camera that offers great features at low price. It is equipped with a 20.1 megapixel CCD sensor with an ISO range of 100-3200. The 5x optical lens offers a focal range of 26-130mm and allows for a 5cm minimum macro focusing ability. The camera doesn't have an image stabilization feature, which isn't much of a surprise considering the limited zoom lens reach not to mention the less than $100 price tag.
If you love taking control, you can easily adjust the white balance, ISO sensitivity and exposure compensation. There are four Picture Effect filters to customize your shots. Controls are kept at a minimum for ease of use and the body is quite sleek with black/grey finishes. The 2.7" screen has a 230K-dot resolution and isn't touch sensitive, but that's as much as you can expect at the price.
If you are a casual photographer looking to spend little on your equipment, the FZ53 is a good contender. It comes with a sleek, attractive design and a familiar brand name. You get a 5x zoom lens, which lags behind every model on this list. At just 3.7 ounces, it is lightweight and has a compact design that slips easily into your pockets.
Control buttons include Zoom, Play Mode, Set button and menu button. There is a 4-way control pad with directional buttons that allow you delete images, control the flash, set focus and adjust display settings. The 2.7" 230K-dot LCD screen is smaller than what you get with most point and shoots but at less than $90, this isn't a big deal.
Choosing the best point and shoot camera under 300 comes down to your personal needs and what features you're willing to forego at such a low budget. The trick is to find what strikes the best balance of zoom range, ISO sensitivity, video recording capabilities and other important features.