Help Needed: Suggestions for a Digital Camera

Before coming to Australia, I bought myself a mobile phone that would also double as a digital camera. This was a Sony Ericsson K750i and it had a 2.0 megapixel camera that could both take pictures and record video. I knew I wasn't getting much of a camera but I wasn't planning to do much more than upload pictures to my blog/website or e-mail photos to friends and family back home so it was sufficient.

The K750i's phone capabilities are still pretty much what I want them to be -- it stores all my contacts, syncs well with my laptop, has great reception and battery life, and so on -- but now I really want to upgrade to a proper digital camera.

My Basic Requirements

Fortunately, there are lots of good, cheap digital cameras out there that'll do the trick for me. My three basic requirements are:

  1. A resolution of at least 5 megapixels (MP); preferably over 7MP and ideally closer to 8MP
  2. The ability to record decent-quality video with audio (suitable for basic video blogging)
  3. A price tag of less than $200; preferably closer to $150 if I need to expand its memory, buy a stand/tripod, or get a good cover for it

Lots of Camera Options

Unfortunately, too many cameras fit this bill. Here's a list I compiled from some quick research on the 'net:

Make/Model Photo (MP) Video (px, fps) Price ($)
Canon PowerShot A470 7.1 640x480 20fps 150
Canon PowerShot A580 7.1 640x480 20fps 200
Sony CyberShot S730 7.2 320x240 30fps video 180
Samsung S760 7.2 640x480/320x240 30/15fps 160
Samsung L100 8.2 640x480/320x240 30/15fps 160 (online)
Olympus FE-340 8.0 640x480/320x240 30/15fps 200 (online)
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LS850 8.1 640x480/320x240 30/10fps 190
Fuji FinePix F480 8.2 320x240 30fps 180 (online)
Fuji FinePix J10 8.2 640x480/320x240 30fps 180
Kodak EasyShare C813 8.2 640×480 15fps, 320×240 30fps 130
Kodak EasyShare M863 8.2 640×480 15fps, 320×240 30fps 180
Pentax Optio E40 8.1 640×480/320x240 30fps or 15fps w/sound 130
Pentax Optio E50 8.1 640×480/320x240 30fps or 15fps w/sound 180
Pentax Optio S10 10.0 640×480/320x240 30fps 180 (online)
Casio Exilim EX-Z9 8.1 848x480/640×480 30fps, 320×240 15fps 180 (online)
Casio Exilim EX-Z80 8.1 848x480/640×480 30fps, 320×240 15fps 200 (online)

Yeah. That's a lot.

Mobile Phone Options

And it's not just cameras that I need to look at since a couple of mobile phones, not only cover my requirements, but are awesome in many other ways:

Make/Model Photo (MP) Video Price ($)
Nokia N95 5.0 640x480 30fpx 150 up front + 2-25 monthly
Sony Ericsson K850i 5.0 (not specified) 150 up front + 2-25 monthly
Sony Ericss
on C905
8.1 (not specified) (coming soon)

So I'm a little spoilt for choice.

Oh, and to make things more complicated: some of the cameras have quirks that are potential deal breakers. For example, some have limits to how long your video file can be (e.g. you can record only 10 minutes at a time), others need to reduce their frame rate if you're going to record audio along with your video (e.g. 30 to 15fps), and one or two may not be available in Australia at the listed price.

What Now?

So, what now? Well, after this preliminary round of research, I'll move on to doing in-depth research on each of those models. This will involve reading reviews, making more detailed comparisons, finding out exact prices and availability, and so on.

I'll also check online to see what other people -- particularly video bloggers -- are using and what they recommend. For example, which is better: a higher video resolution or a higher frame rate (or is there no simple answer to that)? And what frame rate is sufficient (whatever that means)? I'll also compare videos made with different resolutions at different frame rates to see how they vary.

Finally, I'll ask for advice, which is why I've written this blog post. So, does anyone have any advice for me? Any brand preferences, any previous experience with any of these products, any general suggestions? Should I forget the phones and focus on just the cameras (which is what I'm leaning towards anyway)? Any and all suggestions are welcome and thanks in advance for all your help!