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What's the Best Digital Camera for Around $100?

Question: I need a new digital camera. But since money is tight these days, I can't spend much over $100. Is there a camera around that price that's worth any money at all?

Our Advice: Yes. These days, most camera makers sell surprisingly capable point-and-shoots for just over $100. At that price, you won't get the latest and greatest photo technology. But you will get an inexpensive camera that takes good pictures and offers a useful array of automatic features. Our current favorite is Fujifilm's 10-megapixel Finepix J20, which you can pick up for about $120.

The J20 has a more compact, sturdy, and stylish design than many of its budget-priced competitors. And its 2.7-inch LCD provides a clear view in a wide range of lighting situations, from bright sunlight to dim interiors. It also produces impressively sharp and colorful images at ISO (light sensitivity) settings as high as 1600. That allows you to shoot without the flash in low light and still capture photos with minimal graininess. All those qualities lend the J20 versatility and easy portability, making it a good all-purpose snapshot camera.

In addition to the basics that you'd expect from any digital camera, the J20 gives you a few features that you wouldn't have found in a budget camera just a year or two ago. For example, its face-detection effectively focuses on friends. And it can automatically analyze scenes to set the camera for the appropriate shooting mode, such as Portrait, Landscape, Night, Macro, Night Portrait, or Backlit Portrait.

We also like the fact that Fujifilm didn't keep the J20's price low by skimping on the lens, LCD, or video resolution, or by leaving out a rapid-fire shooting mode -- all typical drawbacks of inexpensive cameras. Its retractable 3X zoom lens gives you a usable focal-length range from 35.5mm wide to 106.5mm telephoto. And it shoots 30-frames-per-second video at VGA (640-by-480-pixel) resolution -- equivalent to standard-definition TV.

Tags: bargains, digicams, features, justtellmewhattoget, recession, shopping, top



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