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The best budget cameras offer many features that make them a worthwhile purchase, even compared to some of the best camera phones, which can now compete with cameras in image quality.
Best Affordable Digital Camera For Beginners
The best budget cameras can be great options for kids and beginning photographers, providing an affordable way to learn about photography without the risk of a large investment in a camera kit that can break or be left unused. Plus, they’re great options if you’re looking for a rugged or underwater camera, and if you’re looking for something a little less stealable than an expensive flagship smartphone. Having a $70 camera stolen or dropped off a mountain will bother you a lot less than losing your $1,200 iPhone 14 Pro Max.
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After testing and evaluating several models, the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-W800 is our pick for the best budget cameras; It’s around $100, but it produces good-quality images with its 20.1MP image sensor and has a 5X optical zoom (the equivalent of a 35-130mm zoom lens), which should help you get up close to the action. .
However, that may not be the best option for you, so our list of the best cheap cameras includes instant cameras, which can print photos in seconds, as well as compact digital cameras, none of which will set you back more than $160. . Without further ado, here are the best cheap cameras.
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The Sony DSC-W800 is at the top of our list of the best budget cameras because it offers good image quality in a compact package, measuring just 2.1 x 2 x 0.9 inches when turned off and weighing 3.5 ounces.
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When you turn it on, the lens telescopes out from the front and offers a 5x zoom that’s good enough for capturing shots of a friend from a distance. It takes 20.1-megapixel images that save to an SD card (not included) that fits together with the slim battery. The 2.7-inch LCD screen is a decent size, but it looks blocky and is very difficult to see in direct sunlight. It’s also easy to inadvertently put your fingers on the flash.
Images captured by the W800 have rich color and detail when shooting in bright light. However, the quality decreases rapidly as the light level drops; night and indoor shots without flash are dull in color and show grain.
Still, $100 gets you a very portable camera that can take good-looking images. For those looking for a wallet-friendly step up from a cell phone camera, this is the one to get. Just keep in mind that Sony seems to be phasing it out, so buy now before it’s too late.
If you have a few more bucks to spend, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W830 packs a surprising number of features into a small package, including high-definition video, panoramic images, and a long 8x zoom lens. When you turn it on, the lens folds out from the front in three sections, but the whole thing feels rather flimsy. The DSC-W830 also has holes that could collect grains of sand or dirt, clogging the camera. In fact, our review model had a bit of dust stuck to the lens mechanism that showed up as a black shadow on enlarged images.
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The 2.7-inch screen on the back is clear and fairly sharp, but it’s pretty hard to see in direct sunlight, and it lacks a touchscreen. Instead, you get a selection of slider buttons and switches, like a three-position slider for camera, panorama, or video recording mode. The zoom control at the top of the camera’s back is small but well-placed for one-handed shooting—you can zoom in with your thumb and reach for the shutter with your index finger to take a photo.
The W830 captured excellent images (dust aside), with rich colors and good detail. However, images softened a bit at the end of the zoom range.
If your adventures include the great outdoors, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS30 might be for you. It’s a tough little camera that can handle up to 26 feet of water and up to 5-foot drops onto hard surfaces. It’ll keep shooting in the cold, too: Panasonic claims it’ll keep working in temperatures as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit, so it can handle all but the toughest ski and snow adventures. It’s certainly the toughest option among our top picks for cheap cameras.
The DMC-TS30 shoots 16.1MP images and includes a 4x optical zoom, good enough for group shots or picking out a marten on a branch. The images it captures are good, but not great: color was pretty flat, and it got pretty noisy in low light. The screen isn’t great either – it looks blocky and pale compared to more expensive cameras. Still, they’re acceptable compromises for a camera that can survive your adventures and won’t bankrupt you if you drop it in raging rapids.
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The device does not float, so be sure to use the included wrist strap, or you might end up sleeping with the fish. Be sure to check out all of our picks for the best rugged and waterproof cameras.
If you want to get very, very close to a subject for less, then the Kodak PixPro AZ421 might just be the ticket. This budget-friendly camera has a 42X zoom lens, the equivalent of a 24-1008mm lens for a 35mm camera, which means you should be about to see the Moon in all its glory or capture wildlife from far.
The PixPro AZ421 has a 3.0-inch, 460,000-dot rear LCD (but no touchscreen), optical image stabilization (though you’ll still want a tripod), and an 80-3200 ISO range. There are some compromises: Its f/stop range is limited, from f/3 to f/6.8, and it can shoot video at a maximum of 720p.
The Kodak Smile is one of the best budget cameras and also one of the best instant cameras. Simple but effective, the Kodak Smile prints your images on Zink paper; We didn’t like the quality as much as other instant cameras, but the Smiles were good for the price.
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We liked the Smile’s simple slide-to-open mechanism, although it takes a few seconds longer than most other instant cameras to get ready for the first shot. However, the Kodak Smile also allows you to store images on a microSD card, and unlike other instant cameras, the Smile doesn’t force you to print every photo you take. Considering photo paper isn’t the cheapest, this will save you a lot of money on printing costs if you have a happy trigger finger.
As you’d expect with the Polaroid name, Snap is all about instant gratification. Built into the Snap is a printer; after taking a photo, a print comes out of the side of the camera in about a minute. A 30-piece pack of the specialty photo paper you use will set you back about $15, so each print costs less than 50 cents. The Zink printing paper it uses is also available in a variety of colors, making it ideal for scrapbooking or to use as a party camera.
Apart from printing, it is a very basic camera. You get a fixed focus and focal length lens (no zoom), no LCD screen, and no way to view the 10MP images you capture. Images are stored on a micro-SD card and can be transferred to PC using the included USB cable.
The only buttons on the camera are the shutter, a 10-second delay shutter, the print button, and a mode button that toggles between normal color, vivid color, and black and white. You frame photos through a pop-up optical viewfinder, which also powers up the camera.
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If you’re looking for a budget camera that can handle most tasks but don’t want to spend too much, the FZ43 is good value for money. Just don’t expect cutting edge technology; it takes 16MP images, has a 4x zoom, and features a bright, clean 2.7-inch LCD screen. The FZ43 runs on two AA batteries, which don’t last long; ours wore out after a day of moderate use.
Photos taken with the FZ43 were good, with sharp detail and bright but not overwhelming colours. We found that, like many cheap cameras, image quality dropped off at the longer end of the zoom range, with fine details somewhat lost to a soft haze at the edge of the frame.
Still, it’s a great bargain for those who want a simple camera for taking photos of kids (or letting kids take photos) at the beach without worrying too much if the device falls into the sea.
When buying a cheap camera, you have to consider your needs. There are many cheap cameras, but one cheap