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GEAR: Digital cameras





13 February 2017


Eastman Kodak Company employee Steve Sasson constructed the first digital camera in 1975. It was crude, chunky and resembled the lovechild between a tape deck and an image projector. Nowadays, the digital camera has taken over the world, relegating the film camera to the history archives. We take a look at some mainstream digital camera options for less than R5 000.

It’s all quite simple: press a button, or touch the screen, and an image appears. No need for any costly film development or darkrooms. That, basically, is the modern phenomenon that is the digital camera. But, the future has arrived earlier than anyone anticipated and the cellphone market, with all its bells and whistles, has left the digital camera in the proverbial cold. It’s true, cellphone cameras have  amazing abilities; more than some people care to explore. However, a cellphone is not a dedicated photographic device, specifically crafted around the sole purpose of taking stunning photographs. It’s a phone, a compact computer, a calendar and a bedside alarm with some camera internals squeezed into whatever space remains.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are the digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras. One of these has all the super-camera functionality imaginable. It can freeze a water drop mid-air and create that blurry effect (also called depth of field) around the subject of a photo. With the correct lens, you can count the ticks on a lion’s pelt 50 metres away and capture beautiful sunsets. Seeing through a wall is pretty much the only thing it can’t do. Yet.

It comes at a price, though. Some DSLRs cost more than a small car. That’s before you invest in a set of lenses. In a DSLR application you can, of course, swap between lenses to create the ideal effect you are after. Lenses, especially the professional type, are expensive and can retail for the price of a small house. Cue the compact digital camera. It’s a rather broad niche with various products that offer a good compromise between the two ends of the photography scale. There’s the budget-orientated point-and-shoot cameras, the intermediate range known as advanced compact cameras that are filled to the brim with clever features; and the so-called bridge cameras.

As the name suggests, the latter bridges the gap between a run-of-the-mill mik-en-druk and the premium DSLR variety.  And lastly there are the rugged adventure cameras. These cameras are mostly waterproof, shockproof, dustproof, freeze- resistant and basically immune to any reasonable outdoors type of punishment you can dish out at them.

What to do with it? What to do?
Before buying a camera, it’s important to decide what you want to use it for. If you plan to take it out of the drawer for the annual family portrait, a cheap point-and-shoot will do just fine. If you’re a regular at the Kruger National Park, a more high-end product with a zoom functionality can perform wonders. In this comparison we selected the best digital cameras available in South Africa for under R5 000. Besides the price, we also considered the weight of the unit, estimated battery life, optical zoom abilities and Full HD video recording abilities.

What constitutes a digital camera?
A compact digital camera is the unit of a body and a fixed lens. Lenses for these compact digital cameras are not interchangeable as is the case with DSLRs. Instead, the camera relies on a limited optical zoom function that enlarges the subject in much the same way as a magnifying glass.

Some cameras come with a digital zoom function that takes over from the optical zoom when it reached its limit. This compromises the quality of a photograph since it’s a computer software generated image and not a true image. Basic digital cameras offer users very little and mostly no control to adjust shutter speed, aperture or the ISO (sensitivity of the image sensor). So the user simply presses the shutter release button and the camera’s electronics sort out the rest. Yes, you capture the image, but it leaves virtually no space for getting a bit creative with your snaps.

However, these cameras normally come with editing software for your computer so you can, after taking the photo, create some interesting effects and edit your photos to your liking.

Here’s a guide to some photo terms
Maximum image resolution The amount of pixels embedded in the height and width of an image. The bigger the number, the more detail and definition in an image.

Pixels The total amount of detail in an image, or the smallest controllable and measureable element of a picture represented on a screen. Contrary to popular belief, a higher pixel count doesn’t mean a better quality photo. To clearly view an image on a computer monitor requires no more than three megapixels (MP), while an A4 sized page doesn’t need anything more than 8MP.
Weight The total weight of a camera including its battery and memory card.
Optical zoom The maximum mechanical zoom capability of a camera thanks to its lens.
Digital zoom A process that digitally enlarges an image. Enlarging an image digitally, however, means enlarging the pixels too, which usually causes
a picture to be grainy. It’s best to avoid digital zoom altogether and stick to optical zoom. For this reason, we’ve ignored digital zoom in our test.
Screen The diagonally measured size of  the camera monitor in inches.
Screen resolution The quality of the image displayed on the camera monitor.
Battery life: The average number of shots taken between recharges.
Full high definition (HD) video 1 920×1 080 video resolution.
Global positioning system (GPS) function Images embedded with GPS co-ordinates, perfect for travel.
Wi-Fi function Wireless image sharing between devices.

Point-and-shoot

samsung-st150f

1. Samsung ST150F (Our pick)
Price: R1 199
Where to buy: Nimboo.co.za
Max image resolution: 4 608×3 456
Megapixels: 16.2MP (effective)
Weight: Approximately 114g
Optical zoom: 5x
Screen: 3 inch
Screen resolution: 230 000 dots
Battery life: Approximately 250 shots
Full HD Video: No
GPS: No
Wi-Fi: Yes

nikon-coolpix-a100

2. Nikon Coolpix A100
Price: R1 999
Where to buy: Cameraland
Max image resolution: 5 152×3 864
Megapixels: 20.1MP (effective)
Weight: Approximately 119g
Optical zoom: 5x
Screen: 2.7 inch
Screen resolution: 230 000 dots
Battery life: Approximately 250 shots
Full HD Video: No
GPS: No
Wi-Fi: No

samsung-st200f

3. Samsung ST200F
Price: R1 792
Where to buy: First Shop/ Shop Mania
Max image resolution: 4 608×3 456
Megapixels: 16.1MP (effective)
Weight: Approximately 143g
Optical zoom: 10x
Screen: 3 inch
Screen resolution: 460 000 dots
Battery life: Approximately 240 shots
Full HD Video: No
GPS: No
Wi-Fi: Yes
Special features: Panoramic
photo capability

canon-ixus-180

4. Canon IXUS 180
Price: R1 799
Where to buy: Cameraland
Max image resolution: 5 152×3 864
Megapixels: 20MP (effective)
Weight: Approximately 138g
Optical zoom: 10x
Screen: 2.7 inch
Screen resolution: 230 400 dots
Battery life: Approximately 190 shots
Full HD Video: No
GPS: No
Wi-Fi: Yes

samsung-es95

5. Samsung ES95
Price: R899
Where to buy: Nimboo.co.za
Max image resolution: 4 608×3 456
Megapixels: 16.1MP (effective)
Weight: Approximately 90g
Optical zoom: 5x
Screen: 2.7 inch
Screen resolution: 230 000 dots
Battery life: Approximately 280 shots
Full HD video: No
GPS: No
Wi-Fi: No
Special features: Panoramic photo capability

Advanced compact cameras

canon-powershot-sx620-hs

1. Canon Powershot SX620 HS (Our pick, overall best value for money)
Price: R3 495
Where to buy: Orms Direct
Max image resolution: 5 184×3 888
Megapixels: 20.2MP (effective)
Weight: Approximately182g
Optical zoom: 25x
Screen: 3 inch
Screen resolution: 921 600 dots
Battery life: Approximately 295 shots
Full HD Video: Yes
GPS: No
Wi-Fi: Yes

canon-ixus-285-hs

2. Canon IXUS 285 HS
Price: R2 699
Where to buy: Cameraland Sandton
Max image resolution: 5 184×3 888
Megapixels: 20MP (effective)
Weight: Approximately 147g
Optical zoom: 12x
Screen: 3 inch
Screen resolution: 460 800 dots
Battery life: Approximately 180 shots
Full HD Video: Yes
GPS: No
Wi-Fi: Yes

canon-powershot-sx720-hs

3. Canon Powershot SX720 HS
Price: R4 995
Where to buy: Orms Direct
Max image resolution: 5 184×3 888
Megapixels: 20.3MP (effective)
Weight: Approximately 270g
Optical zoom: 40x
Screen: 3 inch
Screen resolution: 921 600 dots
Battery life: Approximately 250 shots
Full HD Video: Yes
GPS: No
Wi-Fi: Yes

nikon-coolpix-s9900

4. Nikon Coolpix S9900
Price: R4 799
Where to buy: Makro
Max image resolution: 4 608×3 456
Megapixels: 16MP (effective)
Weight: Approximately 289g
Optical zoom: 30x
Screen: 3 inch
Screen resolution: 921 000 dots
Battery life: Approximately 300 shots
Full HD Video: Yes
GPS: Yes
Wi-Fi: Yes
Special features: Tilting screen

panasonic-lumix

5. Panasonic Lumix
DMC-TZ57
Price: R3 699
Where to buy: Cameraland
Max image resolution: 4 608×3 456
Megapixels: 16MP (effective)
Weight: Approximately 249g
Optical zoom: 20x
Screen: 3 inch
Screen resolution: 1 040 000 dots
Battery life: Approximately 350 shots
Full HD Video: Yes
GPS: No
Wi-Fi: Yes
Special features: Tilting screen

Bridge cameras

1-canon-powershot-sx540-hs

1. Canon Powershot SX540 HS (Our pick)
Price: R4 795
Where to buy: Orms Direct
Max image resolution: 5 184×3 888
Megapixels: 20.3 MP (effective)
Weight: Approximately 442g
Optical zoom: 50x
Screen: 3 inch
Screen resolution: 461 000 dots
Battery life: Approximately 205 shots
Full HD Video: Yes
GPS: No
Wi-Fi: Yes

2-nikon-l340-coolpix

2. Nikon L340 Coolpix
Price: R2 499
Where to buy: Makro
Max image resolution: 5 152×3 864
Megapixels: 20.2MP (effective)
Weight: Approximately 430g
Optical zoom: 28x
Screen: 3 inch
Screen resolution: 460 000 dots
Battery life: n/a (disposable batteries)
Full HD Video: No
GPS: No
Wi-Fi: No

3-canon-powershot-sx420-is

3. Canon Powershot SX420 IS
Price: R3 495
Where to buy: Orms Direct
Max image resolution: 5 152×3 864
Megapixels: 20MP (effective)
Weight: Approximately 325g
Optical zoom: 42x
Screen: 3 inch
Screen resolution: 230 400 dots
Battery life: Approximately 195 shots
Full HD Video: No
GPS: No
Wi-Fi: Yes

4-nikon-coolpix-p530

4. Nikon Coolpix P530
Price: R4 999
Where to buy: Makro
Max image resolution: 4 608×3 456
Megapixels: 16.1MP (effective)
Weight: Approximately 494g
Optical zoom: 42x
Screen: 3 inch
Screen resolution: 921 000
Battery life: Approximately 240 shots
Full HD Video: Yes
GPS: No
Wi-Fi: No

5-panasonic-lumix-dmc-fz70

5. Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ70
Price: R4 499
Where to buy: Cameraland
Max image resolution: 4 608×3 456
Megapixels: 16.1MP (effective)
Weight: Approximately 606g
Optical zoom: 60x
Screen: 3 inch
Screen resolution: 460 000
Battery life: Approximately 400 shots
Full HD Video: Yes
GPS: No
Wi-Fi: No
Special features: Panoramic
photo capability

Adventure cameras

1-fujifilm-finepix-xp90

1. Fujifilm Finepix XP90 (Our pick)
Price: R3 385
Where to buy: Outdoor Photo
Max image resolution: 4 608×3 456
Megapixels: 16.4MP (effective)
Weight: Approximately 203g
Optical zoom: 5x
Screen: 3 inch
Screen resolution: 921 600 dots
Battery life: Approximately 210 shots
Full HD Video: Yes
GPS: No
Wi-Fi: Yes
Special features: Waterproof (15m), Shock resistant, High Dynamic Range (HDR)

2-nikon-coolpix-aw130

2. Nikon Coolpix AW130
Price: R3 499
Where to buy: Makro
Max image resolution: 4 608×3 456
Megapixels: 16MP (effective)
Weight: Approximately 221g
Optical zoom: 5x
Screen: 3 nch
Screen resolution: 921 000 dots
Battery life: Approximately 370 shots
Full HD Video: Yes
GPS: Yes
Wi-Fi: Yes
Special features: Waterproof (30m), Shockproof

3-canon-powershot-d30

3. Canon Powershot D30 Waterproof camera
Price: R4 495
Where to buy: Orms Direct
Max image resolution: 4 000×3 000
Megapixels: 12.1MP (effective)
Weight: Approximately 218g
Optical zoom: 5x
Screen: 3 inch
Screen resolution: 461 000 dots
Battery life: Approximately 300 shots
Full HD Video: Yes
GPS: Yes
Wi-Fi: No
Special features: Waterproof (25m), Shockproof, Dustproof

4-olympus-tg-850-ihs

4. Olympus TG-850 iHS
Price: R3 599
Where to buy: My Camera
Max image resolution: 4 608×3 456
Megapixels: 16MP (effective)
Weight: Approximately 218g
Optical zoom: 5x
Screen: 3 inch
Screen resolution: 460 000 dots
Battery life: Approximately 300 shots
Full HD Video: Yes
GPS: No
Wi-Fi: No
Special features: Tilting screen, Waterproof (10m), Dustproof, Shockproof

Before buying a camera, it’s important to decide what you want to use it for.