Other than the recent explosion in first-time digital SLR buyers, many people are becoming very interested in ultra-compact digicams. In an attempt to assist you in picking the camera that is right for you, we have tested 4 popular ultra-compact digicams that share a similar size, price, and feature-set. The Canon PowerShot SD400, Nikon Coolpix S1, Olympus IR-300, and Sony DSC-T33 are all recently-released 5 megapixel ultra-compacts that we decided to compare in this review. Each camera is different in terms of its overall responsiveness and image quality. It is our goal to present these differences to you in order to inform you in your quest for the right ultra-compact digicam.

In our review, we discovered that with the exception of the Olympus IR-300, the other three cameras were very competitive in many respects. In terms of pure speed, the Canon SD400 and Sony T33 were top performers. When it came to image quality, the Canon SD400 was the best followed closely by the Nikon S1. Overall, the Olympus IR-300 fell short on its promises. We feel that given its performance and lack of features, it is not really on par with the competition. Read on for our in-depth coverage of each camera.

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  • dooner - Wednesday, September 07, 2005 - link

    When the reviewer can't distinguish between a metal body and a plastic one - am I to believe he is competent enough to properly operate the cameras in question. The Olympus has a magnesium body. Magnesium is NOT plastic. I wish the review was done by someone with at least a modicum of believability! Reply
  • J Borsh - Tuesday, August 09, 2005 - link

    I wish AnandTech included the Fuji FinePix F10 in this comparison. I believe it fits into this segment and, from the reviews I've seen, would have been a good competitor to this lineup.

  • golive - Monday, July 25, 2005 - link

    Hi Stephen,
    thanks for the great review, really shed some light on a lot of things for me. I've done some of my own research after reading your review, and one thing that I was wondering about was the "effective price" of these cameras if you include the difference in the prices of the media options. If Sony's memory stick format is significantly more expensive, this hidden cost is just as noteworthy as that of buying a car with lower MPG.

    Another question I have is about the read/write speed of these cameras. In offering a high speed version of their memory formats, are they attempting to increase the speed at which the camera writes to its memory, or the speed at which the pictures can be transmitted from camera to PC?

    thanks again!
  • Jazic - Saturday, July 23, 2005 - link

    Great review!
    One question though: On page 2 it says the Sony T33 has (3.7V 680mAh) and on page 8 (3.7V 760mAh). I wonder if anyone else noticed this...
  • stephencaston - Sunday, July 24, 2005 - link


    It is supposed to be 680mAh, I've corrected the mistake on page 8. Thanks!

  • Tujan - Friday, July 22, 2005 - link

    Wanted to add to my previous comment.

    Im only learning this stuff myself.However the cameras strength is in the keeping the light it contains in one piece.Further processing,a computer,and the expense and knowledge for software necesary to do so is a considerable stake in this equation.If actual usage involves ignoring the cameras strength through them.

    First with any of these cameras.You can take your photos perhaps to Walmart,or online developer and have them developed using its memory card...ok..

    ________ Comment..It about the Camera,not the format.

    The reviewer sais that the 'Cannon does the best video.Then when you look,and you see that the video it produces is an .avi. Well .avis run on computer hardware,wich are built for computers.etc.

    Just a look at the file sizes for the movie downloads from Anandtech article "An In-Depth Look at 4 Ultra-compact Digicams":

    Cannon PowerShot SD400 19 MB .AVI
    Nikon Coolpix 6.48 MB .Mov
    Olympus IR-300 5.11 MB .Mov
    Sony DCS-T33 14.11 MB .MPG

    With the usage factors of each of these cameras of course the digital nature of the files allows the use of sending them over the web. The time for each file though differs for each format.Then as each movie for each camera is 11 seconds long. You can take your choice of criteria for scoring on this for each Cameras formats.

    Noting the hardware you are paying for here.The processor that each camera utilizes usually isn't specified via an articles review.Being aware of what processing is necesary for each of these formats could lead me to think that perhaps the Sonys may have the strongest processor. Since .MPG takes a large amount of processing to 'encode. I have no idea of amounts of processing necesary for the .MOV formats created by the Nikon Coolpix,or Olympus IR-300.

    You might take a hint from a Cameras format,as to the strength of its processors hardware then.

    When the reviewer had stated the CannonSD400 make the best video.Its .avi format does in fact display the best full screen video.Then when you look at both the .mov Cameras the Nickon Coolpix,and the Olympus IR-300 with a smaller Window,these look exceptionaly good along with the Sony DCS-T33.*1

    Then look at the neccasary equipment for playback of each of these formats:
    For both Cameras wich use the .mov 'Apples Quicktime application is necesary. Roll the software tv set up called 'Apple Quicktime to look at your cameras movies with your computer.
    With .AVI,this is a fairly wide known format. Wich has been used for quite sometime in Windows. Windows Media Player,is the magic tube here. Usually .avis on a Microsoft Windows computer will have Windows Media Player onboard.
    MPG..*2 It is only recently the .MPGs where a somewhat 'marketed computer format. I have onboard my Windows XPHome machine along with the Creative Audigy2 soundboard,a software player called 'Creative Media Source. The Sony DCS-T33 was 'processed via this player onboard my XP Windows computer.Few proprieties have available suites in wich to author,edit using the .MPG formats. With the exception of the very most recent offerings.

    Guess what Im telling here. Is that a lot can be ascertained via the cameras 'formats. If the format is limited,or output changes with differing format. There are other creditials to consider for the camera.
    The Cannon SD400 will require further processing to use for a DVD.And creates a large file,needing long times to communicate via the web.It will also require extra encoding to process it to DVD.
    Both the Nikon Coolpix,and Olympus IR-300,are 'Apple format cameras.If you have a desire for quick transport,an Apple software player,(or Apple Machine Computer),or dont have a problem with a smaller windowed player. These cameras may do you well.Im not aware of any software suites wich can change .mov into usable DVD files.

    The Sony wich utilizes the only MPEG seen from the review.Will probably look very good on Standard Resolution Screens.As well putting it onto DVD 'may be easier than those of the others seen from the review.

    Finishing up here.I cannot first be satisfied that a camera is considered reviewed without considering what end result is also considered to be of that produced by the camera.It is highly likely that the procesing strength in the cameras are some better than others in its hardware.If you notice most all digital cameras will slowly max out at 7 Mpxls by dropping the use of video in them. Where consumers will not see a digital video camera until at last paying somewhere in the range of 2grand for a HD style camera to utilize those formats.
    Also likely is that the sellers point is to maintain a propriety such as Apple,Microsoft,to be the users venture and expense.Wich should be noticed.

    To the poster here speaking of the JVC camcorder.If you notice only 1Mpixel of processor strength is used for photos in that device.While the rest of what processor strenght it has is used to create its files.
    MPEG4 is 'around.But it is what an angel to a ghost can be mentioned between them.With a certainly usable transportable file.But very little if any editing available ,along with certainly proprietary commonalities between an end output file.And device destination. (MPG4 DVD ? Well I dont know ).MPEG4 is showing up with latest mini-hardrives for storage.

    I'll note the review did not involve anything of the traits of the suites offered from each of the cameras.Or the ubiquity of whats involved in solving for them.The tested 'results,would deem what is used to solve for them when acertaining with different formats necesary in some instances.

    *2 Note a lot of software playback Players can do many different formats.
    *1 Recognize that a 'Display Resolution of a given screen usually only differs with a display controled via a computer.Up until very recently with the advent of DTV,and HTDV the typical resolutions for display of medias was only on a Standardized Telivision with limited horizontal,and vertical lines.The file formats composition ,and size is considered one of the criterion for scaling traits of it to the display via processing.

  • araczynski - Friday, July 22, 2005 - link

    perhaps my point was more to the thought that if your intent is to 'retain/store' memories, then getting all excited about a camera as opposed to video is more or less a waste of time.

    there are still plenty of good uses for cameras as opposed to videos.

    so maybe just ignore my initial post, since the article didn't make any assumptions about either :)
  • araczynski - Friday, July 22, 2005 - link


    your comparisons are flawed in that you're comparing completely different mediums, i mean a book and tv?? different 'styles/varieties' of things??

    i'm talking about a photograph and a video, both use digial pixels (the review wasn't about analog cameras) to show the same thing. granted, digital pictures (based on the source object's price) are still better and cheaper then those from a video camera.

    but i'm still willing to bet that if you look at a digital picture 20 years from now, and a digital movie 20 years from now (when we're older and more senile) you'll get much more of a 'flooding' effect of memories/emotions by seeing the video rather then a still.

    a picture may be worth a thousand words, but a video is worth millions :)

    granted, if all you want is to post ebay pictures however, no reason to spend more then $200 :)
  • DerekWilson - Thursday, July 21, 2005 - link

    araczynski ...

    Please excuse me, but your statement about photographs is either ignorant or an obvious troll. I suppose it is my roll to enlighten, and I also like to feed trolls, so here ya go.

    Should we throw out pen and ink or paint and brush as well? Who needs a portrait when you can filter an image with photoshop to look like one and hang it on your wall, right? Wrong.

    How about anime vs. american animation vs. computer generated movies?

    Graphics novels? Books? Who needs that when you can watch TV ... /me supresses the vomit reflex.

    Aside from art applications, photographs can concentrate the attention of a viewer on a single scene ad infinitum. Nothing changes, nothing moves, all focus is controlled in a still image. Motion and lighting and infinite detail can be described by one well taken photograph. All this may be lost in a video of the same thing.

    And if you are talking about taking stills from a video being the same as taking photographs with a camera ... well ... let's just say we've got a while to go before video can come close to a nice camera for still images.

    So that's my 0.02 USD. Sorry for the dissertation.
  • araczynski - Wednesday, July 20, 2005 - link

    not sure why people still bother with cameras when you can have video. i mean what will be more impressive 10 years from now? a picture you took, or a video you took?

    every since i bought my old Kodak DC240 (used) back in the day, i've had no need for another camera, been waiting patiently for a video camera worth buying, and now i've found it in the upcoming JVC Everio G series... 30 gig hard drives and no stupid media to mess with.

    forget the cameras, that's so... 90's ;)

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