The 6 Best Cameras to Buy in 2016 for Under $250

You don't have to spend a lot of money to get a quality camera

When it comes to digital photography, the $250 price range is the sweet spot for mid-level point-and-shoots and the kinds of camera you’d look at if you’re trying to take your game to the next level. If you’re just learning the craft and trying to get a feel for how digital photography works, this is the place to start. None of these shooters will overwhelm you, nor will they send you into debt. Here is our guide to the best cameras for under $250.

1
Best Overall: Panasonic ZS40S

Panasonic ZS40S
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The Panasonic ZS40S seems to be an exercise in versatility. It’s a compact, fixed lens camera with a whole lot of beefy specs that work together to deliver exceptional image quality. It features an 18.1-megapixel CMOS sensor with a 30x Leica Super Zoom lens (24-720mm). It has a handy lens mounted control ring designed to provide shooters with a bit more control over their images—an invaluable feature for photographers who prefer the versatility of interchangeable lens cameras.

The ZS40S is also compatible with GPS, WiFi, NFC standards, allowing you to quickly and easily upload your images to other devices or directly to the web via social media. The GPS function allows you to geo-tag your images so you don’t have to worry about documenting that data yourself. For an extra dose of control, the ZS40S also has an electronic viewfinder (EVF), allowing you to frame your shots the old-fashioned way. It’s an all around solid camera that doesn’t overdo it in any one area.

2
Best Package Deal: Canon Powershot SX410

Canon Powershot SX410
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The Canon SX410 fixed lens Super Zoom camera is a worthwhile investment on its own. When you add in a slew of extra accessories and features you have something that's a must-own. Here’s what the kit features: a spare battery, a compact deluxe camera and gadget bag, a 16 GB SD memory card, a flexible mini table-top tripod, a USB 2.0 SD card reader, an LCD screen protector, a tri-fold memory card wallet, a three-piece lens cleaning kit, and a microfiber cleaning cloth. The SX410 features a 20-megapixel sensor, 720p HD video and an impressive 40x optical zoom lens that doubles as a 24mm wide-angle lens. It’s also got intelligent image stabilization, a slew of smart shooting modes and a three-inch LCD. While it’s not the best camera money can buy, but it’s the best package you can buy for less than $250.

3
Best Value: Nikon Coolpix L340

Nikon Coolpix L340
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The Nikon L340 is another steal for the sub-$250 price range, a fixed lens Super Zoom that competes directly with the Canon SX410. It features a 20.2-megapixel CCD sensor ideal for low-light conditions. The 28x optical zoom (56x dynamic fine zoom) lens allows for an impressive telephoto range, and it has one of the smallest bodies in its class. It’s compact as well as versatile. When put together, these specs don’t make for the most impressive point-and-shoot you can find, but when it can be found for at such a great price point, it makes for a great value. The lack of a rechargeable lithium-ion battery feels a bit old fashioned, as does the lack of Full HD (1080p) video, but what can you expect? This is a solid, reliable camera from one of the best names in photography, something any novice shooter would appreciate before upgrading to a more serious interchangeable lens device.

4
Best Compact: Samsung WB350F

Samsung WB350F
Courtesy of Amazon.com

Here’s a point-and-shoot for the 21st century. The Samsung WB350F defines “compact” shooter, weighing just over half a pound. It’s slim, pocket-sized and equipped to snap some truly impressive images. It’s also easy to use with a bunch of connectivity options. With WiFi and NFC, you can quickly upload images to social media, email, cloud storage or other mobile devices. It features a 21x optical zoom lens, which is pretty hefty for a camera this size. It shoots Full HD (1080p) video and is compatible with all MicroSD formats. The WB350F features a 16.3-megapixel CMOS sensor, which isn’t exactly earth-shattering, but is still perfectly adequate. The build is sturdy and refined, capable of being slipped into any pocket or bag without risk of damage. It’s a camera that’s designed to compete with a smartphone, so of course it is small and easy to use.

5
Best Zoom: Nikon COOLPIX L840

Nikon COOLPIX L840
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The Nikon COOLPIX L840 is an impressive little fixed lens shooter meant for fans of super zoom technology. The optical telephoto lens is capable of zooming up to 38x, which is almost unheard of at this price point. The included vibration reduction tech further ensures high quality images at full telephoto, and the 16-megapixel CMOS sensor promises high-quality shooting in low light conditions. The L840 shoots Full HD (1080p) video with stereo sound, and it comes with built-in WiFi and NFC connectivity for quick and easing sharing of your images. It also features a three-inch tilting LCD display, target finding autofocus and a number of handy shooting modes. This is another camera for novices who are looking to step up their game, but also want a lot of control over their telephoto options.

6
Best Waterproof: Olympus TG-860

Olympus TG-860
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You may love the convenience of having a camera on your phone, but there are few downsides to this feature—the most obvious of which is the lack of lens options. The other drawback is the delicacy of the phone itself. Maybe, for these reasons, you want a dedicated waterproof point-and-shoot. The Olympus TG-860 is mostly likely the best sub-$250 waterproof camera you can find. It’s waterproof down to 49 feet, shockproof (drop-proof) up to seven feet, freeze-proof down to 14°F, and crush-proof up to an astounding 220 pounds. It features a 16-megapixel CMOS sensor with a 21mm ultra-wide-angle lens with 5x optical zoom and a 180-degree tilting LCD. It features built-in WiFi for easy sharing and GPS for geo-tagging your images. It has a number of shooting modes and filters to help you capture the ideal shot, and it shoots 1080p video. The TG-860 is not just the ideal camera for underwater shooting—it’s an all-around robust shooter for all outdoors activities.

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