The 5 Best Cameras for Quality Images Under $250

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

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The best cameras under $250 shouldn't compromise on key features like image quality or durability. Despite the affordable price it's possible to find good cameras that let you take attractive photos and video without feeling to cheap. Our top pick with all these features is the Canon PowerShot SX620 at Amazon. It's a versatile camera with solid optical zoom, has a compact build, and is capable of shooting 1080p video at 30fps.

For another set of affordable options, take a look at our list of the best digital cameras for under $200. They don't have all the same features as the cameras on this list, but there are plenty of high-quality options there as well. For all others, read on to see the best cameras under $250.

Best Overall

Canon PowerShot SX620 HS

Canon PowerShot SX620 HS
Courtesy of

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 Zoom

Canon PowerShot SX420 IS

Canon PowerShot SX420

Lifewire / Gannon Burgett

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

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

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.

Best Action Cam

GoPro HERO7 Black

GoPro HERO7 Black
Courtesy of Amazon

The GoPro HERO7 Black is an excellent rugged action camera that can take high quality video and photos. The durable, waterproof build lets you take it anywhere, including 33 feet underwater, and it can take 12-megapixel still images and 4K video at 60fps. On top of that, it's capable of live streaming in 720p with HyperSmooth stabilization, making it a great camera for vlogging. It's capable of TimeWarp allowing stabilized time lapse videos that are perfect for putting on Instagram or Facebook, and it even supports voice commands in a number of different languages.

Final Verdict

The best camera for under $250 is undoubtedly the Canon PowerShot SX620 HS (view at Amazon), a 20.2-megapixel camera with 25x optical zoom. It's also capable of 1080p video at 30fps and boasts a compact build. As a second option, we like the Canon PowerSHot SX530 HS (view at Amazon), it's a solid 16-megapixel camera that comes with a useful bundle including an SD card, case, and other accessories.

What to Look for in a Camera Under $250

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.

  • How important is resolution?

    Resolution is an overall measure of how many pixels make up an image and thus a good indicator of image sharpness/clarity, and will matter largely depending on what you're shooting and for what purpose. For amateurs, particularly those on a budget, it's not as much as a concern, but for pros looking to wow their clientele with beautiful footage, high resolution is absolutely crucial.

  • What features do I need?

    This again depends largely on your use case, but most photogs will benefit from high quality zoom functionality, a large, clear viewfinder for previewing the action, and manual balance, exposure, and focus adjustment controls.

  • What are the top camera brands?

    While there's a growing field of competition in the camera space, there are a number of brands that have an established pedigree. These brands tend to provide reliable, high-end cameras supported by generous warranties and customer service, and include manufacturers like Canon, Nikon, DJI, and Panasonic.

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