I'm a happy DSLR owner, but I'm looking in the opposite direction here: I want a really small (smaller than the regular P&S) and cheap (ideally below $50) digital camera.

Given those two requirements, I obviously don't expect anything regarding image quality, zoom, manual control... I'd be happy with a plastic lens and two buttons (on/off & shutter). My only other concern is about the responsiveness of the camera.

I already tried the Vistaquest VQ-2005 (also known as Mr. Digital Clover), which corresponds to most of what I'm asking for, but is waaay too slow (turn on camera, wait 5 secs, hit the shutter, wait 2 secs, picture is taken, wait 5 secs, camera is ready for the next round).

Any idea or recommendation?

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    Why not to use a camera phone? Smaller than P&S, there are plenty of cheap phones, they don't have zoom nor mechanical parts and many are ready to shoot very quickly. – sastanin Jun 13 '11 at 17:18
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    When you say cheap... you really mean it! The only thing that would be fast that I know of at that price is a disposable film camera. – Itai Jun 13 '11 at 17:25
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    @Xavier - Yes but speed is actually the most expensive feature of digital cameras. A few CMOS sensor compacts have some decent performance but expect $350+... even SLDs are slow. They have DSLR-like quality but lack in speed. Disposable film cameras have near instant shutter-lag. Well, it's only a suggestion, I didn't think it answered your question. – Itai Jun 13 '11 at 18:45
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    This may come down to ...very fast, very small, very cheap...pick two. – rfusca Jun 13 '11 at 18:56
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    So you want smaller than a point-and-shoot, but that handles like a camera? I'm not sure you'll find anything like that. – jaxxon Jun 13 '11 at 23:21

DealExtreme is a direct-from-china retailer with lots of oddments, including dozens of Chinese digital camera knockoffs.

They easily have a dozen under $50, with some as low as $20. They're also a bit nicer then the "Mr. Digital Clover", as the cameras above ~$40 actually have LCD viewscreens. Or claim a resolution of 12MP, or are waterproof.

And then they just have bizarre crap.

Furthermore, I have actually purchased stuff from DealExtreme a number of times, so they are at least somewhat reliable (stuff takes a long time to ship, and they suck at proper packaging for delicate things), but it's not a scam, at least as far as I can tell.

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  • I also had a look at DealExtreme offerings, but it's quite hard to tell how fast these cameras are. – Imre Jun 14 '11 at 5:39
  • Yes, deal extreme has some good deals sometimes, but without a first hand experience, I don't really want to wait one month for something that might not be a improvement over what I already have... But still, it's a good starting point, maybe I can find some reference there. – Xavier Jun 14 '11 at 16:46

At a budget of $50, I'd suggest you look at used equipment. I used to have a Canon G3 that took some pretty nice snaps, and I'd bet you could scare one of those up in that price range.

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  • Thanks for the suggestion, but something like the G3 is too big, I'm looking for something more than pocketable. I'd really like to have something that can fit in my closed fist (maybe a little bit bigger than that could be ok too). – Xavier Jun 13 '11 at 18:36
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    Canon A470? Whatever route you go, I think you'll get a lot more bang for your buck at that price point with a used camera. – D. Lambert Jun 13 '11 at 18:53

The 808 appears to be a cheap Chinese spy camera shaped like a car remote well within your budget. Watch the instructional video and decide yourself if it's fast enough for you (about a second to turn on, same for becoming ready after a shot).

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    I believe these are the same cameras used in a lot of mobile phones. Agree that this sounds like it may be a good option based on the criteria set forth by the OP. – jaxxon Jun 13 '11 at 23:20

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