The 5 Best Cameras for Under $250 in 2020

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

Best Overall: Canon PowerShot SX620 HS

When you’re trying to find the most versatile camera option for around $250, you need to check off several boxes. First, it needs to have a decent optical zoom, so you can take shots up close and from afar. Second, it should be relatively compact, as many budget camera buyers would prefer a camera that doesn’t need to be carried in a camera bag. The Canon PowerShot SX620 HS checks these boxes off and more.

The Canon PowerShot SX620 HS has an impressive 25x optical zoom with intelligent image stabilization and can handle low-light photos with its 20.2-megapixel CMOS sensor. It measures 2.3 x 5.7 x 6.3 inches and weighs just .38 pounds, so it’s easy to carry around no matter if you’re on your way to work or the beach.

For video, it captures 1080p HD footage at 30 frames per second and both video and photos can be viewed instantly on the device’s three-inch LCD screen. This camera can even send photos directly to your smartphone via Wi-Fi or NFC.

Best Package Deal: Canon PowerShot SX530 HS Bundle

If you’re looking to get a lot of extras when buying a new digital camera, the Canon PowerShot SX530 HS bundle on Amazon is for you. This bundle comes with a camera bag, a 32GB SDXC memory card, memory card case, extra battery, mini tripod, a mini-HDMI to HDMI A/V cable, LCD screen protectors and a microfiber cleaning cloth.

This sounds like quite the deal, so now you’re starting to wonder if the camera’s any good. Let us put your fears to rest. The Canon PowerShot SX530 HS is a reliable, well-liked shooter with a 16-megapixel CMOS sensor and 50x optical zoom for getting quality photos from far away. The camera also has a three-inch LCD screen for viewing photos on the fly and a built-in flash for when your shot is too dark.

Customers noted this was a great first-time camera and that they liked the camera more than any of the accessories. One other important note from owners: make sure you always charge the camera before using it or always keep the included spare battery charged, as the battery life lasts roughly an hour.

Best Zoom: Canon PowerShot SX420 IS

Zoom can play an incredibly important role for photographers, depending on what you’re shooting. For example, if you’re a nature photographer, you need a good zoom to get a close-up of a bird without scaring it away. Or if you’re shooting sports photos, you need zoom to get action shots because you can’t go on the field.

For powerful zoom on a budget, the Canon PowerShot SX420 IS is the camera for you. It has 42x optical zoom (24-1008mm) with a 24mm wide-angle lens, enabling great landscapes, portraits or anything else. The camera’s 20-megapixel CCD sensor enables you to get plenty of detail and color, and it all can be viewed on the fly via the camera’s three-inch LCD screen. Oh, and you can send photos straight to your smartphone or tablet via Wi-Fi and NFC, so you can post your new family photo immediately on Facebook and Instagram.

Reviewers of the device have given the camera high marks for its excellent zoom and ease of use. They suggest avoiding digital zoom and sticking to optical zoom for the best shots. 

Best Waterproof: Nikon Coolpix W100

Designed with families in mind, the Nikon Coolpix W100 is a waterproof camera that looks as good as it performs. Without an overwhelming number of external controls, the 13.2-megapixel W100 — with its CMOS sensor (for strong low light capturing) — is simple to operate no matter your age or skill level. Dustproof, waterproof (up to 30 feet) and shockproof (up to six feet), the IP6X-rated Nikon Coolpix W100 can operate in environments with temperatures as low as 14-degrees Fahrenheit.

The key to operating the camera is the four-way navigation pad which assists with selecting the proper shooting mode as well as controlling the 3x optical and 6x digital zoom. The 2.7-inch 230K-dot resolution display fits nicely on the 4.4 x 2.7 x 1.5-inch frame of the W100 which is a pocket-friendly size for on-the-go use. Transferring photos off of the W100 is also easy thanks to Nikon’s Snapbridge technology which connects via Wi-Fi, NFC or Bluetooth to Nikon’s smartphone app. 

Best Compact: Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-WX220

This compact point-and-shoot offers an 18.2-megapixel CMOS sensor for beautiful low light image capture and records up to 1080p video at 60 frames per second. Sized just right to fit comfortably in a front pocket or small purse, the Sony measures a mere 3.6 x 0.9 x 2 inches and weighs only 4.3 ounces. Despite its puny size, with 10x optical zoom and 20x Clear Image digital zoom the lens is just as capable of getting up close and personal with your subjects as a larger model. 

Two of the compact camera's particularly impressive features are 10 frames per second shooting (which makes capturing fast-moving subjects a cinch) and anti-motion blur which assists in reducing the effects of shaky hands. Once images are captured, transferring them off the Sony Cyber-Shot is a breeze thanks to one-touch connectivity with Wi-Fi and built-in NFC technology. Additionally, the Sony adds Smart Remote Control for syncing directly with a smartphone for remotely controlling shutter release.

Our Process

Our writers spent 223 hours researching and testing the most popular cameras under $250 on the market. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.

What to Look for in a Camera

Included lens - All models here have built-in lenses, but the glass in front of them varies. Note the optical zoom and lens distance specifications. If you plan on capturing shots of wildlife or your kid’s sporting events, choose a camera that can view at various distances.

Video capabilities - If you plan to record video, consider the quality of the recording; videos recorded in at least 1080p high definition deliver the best clarity upon playback.

Portability - Are you taking your camera to a soccer game or on vacation? Consider the size and potential uses. Although a super-zoom camera is excellent for capturing beautiful imagery from afar, you might not want to carry it on a five-hour walking tour.