If you do your homework and take your time researching the right camera, you will be amazed what you can get for your money
Buying a compact camera can be a tricky business thanks to the enormous range of models to choose from. Here, we have collected some of the best ones for budget-conscious individuals.
All have at least 3x optical zoom and some even offer image stabilization to help tame camera shake and give them an edge over a typical smartphone. 16 megapixels or more is also the norm even at this price point, so you can print big whilst spending small.
These entry-level cameras do not sacrifice style or compactness. One of the recommendations is a little pudgier than the others, but it hides some tricks that easily compensate for the extra bulk. You need not have to worry about buying batteries either, as all pack a proper rechargeable Lithium-ion power pack.
What really matters is image and video quality. More pixels don’t always equal better results. Extra resolution is important when it comes to video capture though, and these day’s you should not accept anything less than HD video recording with at least 720p resolution.
Canon IXUS 150/Canon Power Shot ELPH 140 IS
Sensor: 16.0 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD Lens: 8x optical zoom, 28-224mm-equivalent focal range Screen: 2.7-inch LCD, 230,000 dots Max continuous shooting rate: 0.8fps Max video resolution: HD 720p
The IXUS 150 may be light on your pocket, but it is not light on features, packing a 16-megapixel sensor and Canon’s powerful Digic 4+ image processor. It will also record HD video and there are several art filters to play with, too.
It’s a breeze to use; thanks to features like Live Mode that allows you to see the effect of setting changes in real time, plus there’s a help button to explain various functions. Once you get familiar with the camera, you also have the ability to manually tweak several settings.
Unlike some cut-down compacts, the IXUS 150 doesn’t sacrifice speed. It’s quick to focus and you won’t have to waste time waiting for the screen to clear before you can snap another shot.
There are no unpleasant surprises with image quality either. Keep the sensor sensitivity at ISO 800 or below and noise is well controlled, resulting in detailed, vibrant and accurately exposed images. Optical performance is also respectable, with no noticeable distortion and very little color fringing.
Despite its budget price tag, the IXUS 150 manages to produce quality images and is an excellent choice for novice photographers.
Nikon Coolpix S3600
Sensor: 20.1 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD Lens: 8x optical zoom, 25-200mm-equivalent focal range Screen: 2.7-inch LCD, 230,000 dots Max continuous shooting rate: 1.1fps (6 shots)Max video resolution: HD 720p
The S3600 is Nikon’s new entry-level offering in its super-slim Coolpix Style range. It replaces the popular S3500, but you will have a tough job telling the two apart as they share the same pixel count and a very similar case design.
Nikon has given the S3600 a new 8x zoom lens though, with more wide angle and telephoto range, as well as Vibration Reduction to help minimize camera shake.
The S3600 isn’t short on features either, boasting selective color and toy camera effects, in addition to Nikon’s nifty Smart Portrait system that’ll detect a face, shoot only when he or she smiles, alert you to any blinking and give you some touch-up options.
The S3600 manages to churn out reasonably sharp shots that are well exposed and usually in focus. Low light performance is very good, providing you avoid the maximum ISO 3200 sensitivity that is limited to 4MP.
Overall, the S3600 does not excel in any particular area, but it is a small, stylish, and simple cameras that offers decent performance at a modest price.
Nikon Coolpix S32
Sensor: 13.2 megapixels, 1/3.1-inch CMOS Lens: 3x optical zoom, 30-90mm-equivalent focal range Screen: 2.7-inch LCD, 230,000 dots Max continuous shooting rate: 4.7fps (11 shots) Max video resolution: Full HD 1080p
The Coolpix S32 is a fun camera!
- It is dust proof
- It is waterproof to 10m/33ft
- It will survive drops from up to 1.5m/5ft.
- The go-anywhere theme extends to the simple, chunky button layout and a menu system that is very simplistic.
Inside, the specs are not quite as impressive, as the S32’s sealed lens packs only a 3x optical zoom range, whilst the 13.2-megapixel sensor is physically smaller than the norm.
Nikon has equipped the S32 with Full HD video capture though, as well as a proper rechargeable Lithium-ion battery pack. The camera also has plenty of scene modes, and several image effects filters.
Despite accurate exposure metering and quick autofocussing, performance is bottlenecked by the S32’s small sensor. Detail levels are not bad at close range, but shoot a landscape and things start to look very smoothed over and painterly. Low light performance is also mediocre, and you cannot manually select ISO sensitivities.
However, if you are not too fussed about image quality or zoom range, the Coolpix S32 is incredible value for thrill-seeking photographers on a budget.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W800
Sensor: 20.1 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD Lens: 5x optical zoom, 26-130mm-equivalent focal range Screen: 2.7-inch LCD, 230,000 dots Max continuous shooting rate: 0.52fps Max video resolution: HD 720p
The W800 is Sony’s starter Cyber-shot compact camera, yet it still packs a 20.1-megapixel CCD sensor with a sensitivity range of ISO100-3200, plus a 5x optical zoom lens and HD 720p video recording.
The W800 is aimed at novice photographers; but if you fancy getting creative, there are four Picture Effect filters to help spice you your shots, plus a 360° Sweep Panorama mode.
Operating the camera is a cinch, thanks to the simple menu system, especially when this is set to Easy mode, whereby all non-essential functions are hidden. The W800’s reliable exposure metering also ensures you get shots that look true to life.
There are some quality issues with this model to keep in mind. Image quality does let the side down though, as despite the high pixel count, detail levels are poor. Shoot in low light at higher ISO sensitivities and you’ll have to put up with even softer shots. The Sweep Panorama mode is another disappointment, producing blurry, low-resolution results.
If you are after a simple point and shoot camera that will slip easily into a pocket or bag and perform reliably, the W800 certainly fits the bill, but spend slightly more and you can get noticeably improved image quality.