My Search for the Best Compact Camera

Today, digital cameras are an integral part of our lives and after misplacing my family’s camera on the ski trip, I was ready to search for a great new compact camera.  I decided to take some extra time to research the new purchase and have come away happy with my result. It wasn’t an easy process and I learned a few things about using the internet and other sources to buy the best compact camera.

As my search began, I didn’t really know what I was looking for in a camera, and I quickly learned that there are a lot of choices. I was specifically looking for a compact camera, but with so many features packed into such a little box things can get hairy fast. I decided to lean on some trusted sources for information.

My Sources of Information

  • CNET – my favorite tech site offers great articles and reviews from professionals
  • Amazon – probably the best site for real life reviews along with decent prices
  • eBay – up to date information on real prices for cameras
  • Best Buy – test out your potential electronics in person
  • RedLaser – a great iPhone app that scans barcodes and provides local and online prices plus reviews
  • Friends – both my family and friends offered great personal input on what they really expected from a camera

Most Important Camera Features

After doing some research I finally decided on my key features. Determine this for yourself and the process will get much clearer.

  1. Megapixels (8+) and Optical Zoom (4x+) are the frontrunners
  2. Image Quality – High megapixels doesn’t always translate so features like image stabilization help
  3. Ease of Use – Includes button sizes and location and the menu interface. Find your balance of features and simplicity
  4. Speed – I hate cameras that take naps between pictures. I’ve got things to do like write my blog

Note that other features like cameras with dual view (a screen on the front for self-portraits) didn’t win me over. Also, some cameras are completely touch screen but the interfaces aren’t half as good as the iPhone, so I wasn’t ready for that.

And the Winner Is…

In the end, the purchase came down to the Canon SD 1300 and the Panasonic Lumix FP8. Canon is the big name and has a great interface plus the SD 1300 is a new model but not the newest so I knew I could get a good deal on eBay. One downside was that a lot of reviews said the pictures inside were often blurry. The Panasonic was not the most stylish nor from a brand I had heard much about, but great reviews on Amazon and CNET along with an apparent number one ranking from Consumer’s Report (according to reviews I read) made it a great choice. In the end, the Lumix won because of comments that it has the best speed and takes great pictures with great image stabilization and automatic settings. Also, I was able to find a used version in excellent condition on eBay for $25 less than the best prices online making it a steal.

Takeaways from Buying a Compact Camera

  • Consider what features matter most to you – ignore crazy people who complain about things you don’t care about
  • Read reviews on Amazon and CNET, test out potential favorites at a store like Best Buy, and talk to friends
  • Find a good deal in no time buy using eBay or an app like RedLaser – also consider last year’s model for extra savings

What tips do you have on buying cameras or other electronics? Let me and others know in the comments below.