The 7 Best Budget Digital Cameras

Updated May 21, 2018 by Daniel Imperiale

7 Best Budget Digital Cameras
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. If you're looking for a capable and user-friendly digital camera, but you don't want to spend all that money on a DSLR, search no further than this list. Perfect for recording all your favorite memories with friends, family, and loved ones, these budget devices will give you beautiful, high-quality photos that won't break the bank. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best budget digital camera on Amazon.

7. Polaroid Snap Touch Instant

Giving you the best of both worlds, the Polaroid Snap Touch Instant is an option with a twist: it can print images instantly while also saving a version for your computer. This throwback is compact and has a minimalist design, while still capturing high quality photos.
  • comes with adhesive backed paper
  • smartphone compatible
  • fragile build so may break easily
Brand Polaroid
Model POLSTBP
Weight 14.1 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

6. Nikon Coolpix A900

You can get nearly DSLR-quality images in a decidedly small package with the Nikon Coolpix A900. It is available in black as well as a silver color that gives it a nice vintage look, almost like you'd see on an old rangefinder.
  • 180-degree-tilting lcd screen
  • 70x dynamic zoom
  • phone connection is finicky
Brand Nikon
Model 26505
Weight 15.2 ounces
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

5. Nikon Coolpix L32

Users who might be nervous about getting their settings right don't need to worry if they choose the Nikon Coolpix L32. It's an incredibly easy to use option that does a great job of achieving a nice even exposure, especially outdoors.
  • large movie button
  • 3-inch lcd screen
  • battery door is poorly made
Brand Nikon
Model 26482
Weight 6.4 ounces
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

4. Nikon Coolpix S7000

With its built-in vibration reduction technology, the Nikon Coolpix S7000 lets you zoom in all the way through its 20x optical range and shoot still pictures that are free of blur from shaky hands, as well as movies that seem steadier.
  • eighteen diverse scene modes
  • easy to share to your phone
  • large fingers may block the flash
Brand Nikon
Model 26483
Weight 13.6 ounces
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

3. Panasonic Lumix FZ85

The body shape and 60x optical zoom on the Panasonic Lumix FZ85 classify this unit as a bridge model toward more expensive and professional options, but it maintains a reasonable price point by employing a small, capable sensor.
  • automatic pop-up flash
  • manual controls available
  • records movies in 4k
Brand Panasonic
Model DC-FZ85-K
Weight 2 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

2. Canon PowerShot Elph 190

The Canon PowerShot Elph 190 is one of the most user-friendly options available, which is why this line has always been so popular. It comes in at a particularly agreeable price, as well, especially considering its image quality.
  • 10x optical zoom
  • records hd video
  • four attractive colors
Brand Canon
Model 1084C001
Weight 11.2 ounces
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

1. Canon PowerShot SX730

If you're looking for a low-priced shooter with some significant telephoto reach, then the Canon PowerShot SX730 is likely your best bet. It features an impressive 40x optical zoom, making it ideal for concerts and sporting events.
  • available in black or silver
  • wi-fi and bluetooth capable
  • 20-megapixel sensor
Brand Canon
Model 1791C001
Weight 1.3 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

A Brief History Of Cameras

The first thing that comes close to the contraption that we now recognize as a camera is probably the camera obscura, which dates as far back as 500 B.C.E. The camera obscura is what happens when a tiny, pinhole image in a screen (such as a wall or strip of animal hide) is projected on the other side of that screen.

Of course, one thing the camera obscura was missing was the ability to actually capture an image. Still, it was all mankind had to work with (other than paintings) until around 1825, when the French inventor Nicéphore Niépce devised a system known as heliography.

Niépce would die a few years later, but his partner, Louis Daguerre, soldiered on with their experiments, ultimately creating a process he named the daguerreotype. This process was laborious and painstaking, but created reasonably good pictures.

It would be the standard until the latter part of the 19th century, at which point George Eastman started using celluloid film in his new invention, the Kodak camera. Eastman would also pioneer mass-market photography with his Brownie box camera, which was the first model capable of taking snapshots.

The next big leap forward came when manufacturers went digital. News media made the jump long before average Joes did, but by the dawn of the 21st century, digital cameras were nearly as good — and equally affordable — as their analog counterparts. Most regular shutterbugs made the switch as a result, and few have looked back.

Today, there are digital cameras everywhere. It's truly the dawn of the photography age, as just about everyone can be found constantly documenting their lives and uploading the results for the world to see.

The Difference Between High-End And Budget Digital Cameras

Before we get started, it's worth acknowledging that, if you're a professional photographer, you probably don't want to scrimp on your digital camera unless you absolutely have to.

That said, most people aren't shooting fashion shows or reporting from war zones. For the vast majority of users, a basic camera can do everything they need (and probably a whole lot more).

The build quality will be the first tell-tale sign of the camera's overall worthiness, as it's unlikely that you'll find a premium model housed in a cheap plastic case. Of course, all users won't necessarily want a premium camera in a high-end case, especially if they have young kids or tend to be butterfingers. The cheaper housing might even be a selling point in those situations, as if you drop the camera and it breaks, it's no big loss, whereas cracking a fancy camera could set you back thousands of dollars.

Cheaper options usually take all of the guesswork out of snapping a pic, making everything fully automatic, while higher-end models allow you to tinker with every little detail. Unless you know what you're doing, though, it's probably better to let the camera do all the thinking.

Sensor size and lens quality are worth checking out, as well. These control everything from depth of field to autofocus speed, with more expensive models offering you better specs across the board. Again, however, the difference is such that you likely won't notice it if all you're trying to do is get a quick pic with Mickey and Minnie.

Ultimately, it's a question of how picky and dedicated you are. If you can't handle even the slightest flaw in your photos, then sure, spring for a fancy model that costs thousands of dollars. If you just want to capture memories without a lot of fuss, though, you can save a lot of money by going with a budget option — and chances are you won't even realize what you're missing.

Why You Need A Digital Camera

The fact of the matter is, while smartphones have eliminated the need for cameras in many situations, there are still quite a few scenarios when you'll be grateful to have a dedicated unit.

For special occasions, you'll be glad you have an actual camera — one that's higher quality and whose lens hasn't been dropped a couple hundred times. These are the moments you know you'll want to remember, so make an effort to capture them in as much detail as you can. Your phone can still work for those spur-of-the-moment shots.

Also, if you're interested in photography at all, you'll want your own camera. One of the great things about the selfie era is that it's introducing a lot of people to the wonders of photography, so if you feel like you've caught the bug, by all means invest in proper equipment.

Anyone who goes to lots of live events will want an actual camera, as well. They're much better for taking photos of subjects in motion, so you won't come home from the Blur concert with nothing but, well, blur. Even better, you'll look like a sophisticated professional, rather than just another stooge with their cellphone in the air, ruining the view for everyone.

Strictly speaking, you may not need a digital camera if you've got an advanced enough smartphone. However, you'll be grateful you have one when you're going back over old photos and you find you actually captured certain moments just the way you remembered them.


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Last updated on May 21, 2018 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel is a writer, actor, and director living in Los Angeles, CA. He spent a large portion of his 20s roaming the country in search of new experiences, taking on odd jobs in the strangest places, studying at incredible schools, and making art with empathy and curiosity.


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