Canon PowerShot A495 and A490
One of the best $100 cameras you could buy in 2009 was Canon's PowerShot A480. It had minimal shooting options and features and shooting performance was slow, but its photo quality was great for the money. That model was split into two models for 2010: the A490 and the
The PowerShot A490 is about $20 less expensive than the $129 A495, but it's available in silver only, sacrifices some shooting features, and has a less powerful Auto mode. Fortunately, though, they both have the same excellent photo quality; does that make them worth buying?
It really all depends on your expectations for a camera that inexpensive. Neither has optical or mechanical image stabilization. The Movie mode maxes out at a resolution of 640x480 pixels, so no HD video--and the short 3.3x zoom lens doesn't operate while recording. The LCD is small, at 2.5 inches. They are both slow performers, with long shutter lags and shot-to-shot times. They run on two AA-size batteries, and though some find this a plus, the cameras get only up to 150 shots from a pair of alkalines.
If some or all of that turns you off, then the A490 or A495 (or the A480, for that matter) are not worth buying. However, despite all those shortcomings, it's still tempting to say the A490 is the best budget camera you can buy, because it's uncomplicated and, again, has excellent photo quality considering its price.
It's early yet, and with Fujifilm putting HD video capture in even its sub-$100 camera, Casio continuing to load its attractive budget-priced models with features, Olympus offering a $120 ultracompact with a 5x zoom and 2.7-inch LCD, and Sony's $120 and Nikon's $130 12-megapixel models with 3-inch LCDs, well, the competition below $150 is fierce. It's hard to say right now which will offer the best combination of features, performance, design, and photos. But, for the time being, the A490 and A495 are in the lead.