A New Camera-Shopping Landscape
Buying a digital camera is a very different experience than it was a few years ago. Smartphone cameras keep getting better, so there are a lot fewer buyers out there for budget pocket shooters. And because of that, there aren’t that many good, inexpensive point-and-shoots. Meanwhile, entry-level SLRs have serious competition for your dollar from mirrorless rivals, and if you’ve got a bigger budget you can opt for premium pocket models with large image sensors, midrange interchangeable lens models, or bridge-style superzooms that bring distant subjects into close, clear view.
We’ve highlighted our favorite model from each of the categories we cover in the chart above, but read on if you want to know more about your options in today’s market.
Pocket Friendly: The Entry-Level Point-and-Shoot
It’s no secret that smartphones have seriously hurt the demand for entry-level point-and-shoot cameras. You can buy any number of sub-$100 no-name cameras at online retailers, but none are worth your money if already own a decent smartphone. But if you move up to the $100 to $200 bracket, you have some solid options from Canon and Nikon.
These slimline shooters pack zoom lenses, which set them apart from smartphones, but for the most part use dated CCD sensor technology, which limits image quality when shooting at high ISO settings and cuts the maximum video quality to 720p. But if you’re looking for a small camera to carry on vacation or nature walks, you still have a few inexpensive alternatives to a smartphone.
Moving up to the $200 to $400 price nets more modern CMOS image sensors and very long zoom lenses—30x is the standard at this point. For the most part video is still 1080p, and you’ll also see some cameras with small electronic viewfinders, Raw shooting capability, and very quick autofocus. Pure image quality is better than a smartphone, with the real advantage being the zoom lens. There are also several models that are waterproof available in this price range.