The 6 Best Cameras to Buy in 2019 for Under $400

You don't have to shell out a ton of money for a great camera

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The Rundown

Our Top Picks

Best Waterproof: GoPro HERO7 Black

5

Coming in at just under $400, the latest GoPro HERO7 Black isn’t exactly a budget-priced camera. But if you’re going for a GoPro, then chances are you’re in it for features like great action performance and a rugged build. The HERO7 is no exception to that legacy, offering up to 33 feet of waterproof protection and an ultra-tough design not dissimilar to the previous HERO models. This is actually an advantage for people who have owned a GoPro before — if you already have cases, grips, and other accessories for your older camera, then they’ll probably work with this one, too.

The true standout feature on the HERO7 is the new GP1 chip which powers the updated optical image stabilization. In fact, it works so well that it can replace a gimbal in most shooting situations. The footage itself goes up to 4K and 60fps, and if you’re looking to grab stills, there’s a 12MP peak and a really interested SuperPhoto HDR function (sort of like the software we’ve been seeing on phone cameras). Add that in with some other great features right out of the box like TimeWarp hyperlapse footage, up to 8x slow motion video, and voice control, and you’ve got yourself a great, weatherproof camera at a mid-range price.

Need some more help finding what you're looking for? Read through our best waterproof cameras article.

Best Value: Nikon Coolpix L340 20.2 MP Digital Camera

Nikon Coolpix L340

Amazon

The Nikon Coolpix L340 strikes a welcome balance of price, quality and portability. It has a very pronounced grip, which makes it comfortable to hold, and it has a fairly pared down array of buttons for easy shooting. Our favorite feature is its 28x optical zoom, which yields an equivalent of 22.5-630mm in 35mm terms, plus a 56x digital Dynamic Fine Zoom.

Inside, you’ll find a 20.4 million-pixel CCD sensor. It can shoot video in 720p, features High Performance VR (Vibration Reduction) and has a variety of automatic and scene shooting modes, including Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Cyanotype, High Contrast Monochrome, and more. While it lacks a viewfinder, you can review all your shots on its three-inch, 460k-dot LCD screen. It can be hard to see in the bright sun and isn’t touch sensitive, but these are tradeoffs we will happily make at this price point.

Best DSLR: Nikon D3300

If you’re on the hunt for a DSLR under $400, you really can’t do better than the Nikon D3300. While it retails for around $450, you can score a certified refurbished model within budget. It’s tested and certified to work like a new camera and ships with all its accessories, including a 18-55mm lens, and has a 90-day warranty.

The camera itself is perfect for entry-level photographers, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t pack some powerful specs: It has a 24.2-megapixel DX format (APS-C) sensor, an Expeed 4 processor and a three-inch, 921k-dot LCD screen. It shoots HD video in 1080/60p, though doesn’t offer 4K. It has an ISO range up to 12800 (25600 with expansion) and shoots five fps in burst mode.

Need some more help finding what you're looking for? Read through our best entry level DSLR cameras and our best DSLR cameras under $2,000 articles.

Best for Sharing: Canon PowerShot SX730

Sharing features are becoming somewhat standard on cameras these days, so while the PowerShot SX730 makes it super simple to shoot and share photos quickly, we recommend it for its other fabulous features beyond sharing. It has a 40x zoom lens, which is equivalent to 24-960mm in 35mm terms, and its 20.3 megapixel 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor with a DIGIC 6 Image Processor takes sharp photos in various settings. But if sharing is your priority, you likely also care about selfies too, which means you’ll appreciate its 3-inch tilting screen that flips up to 180 degrees to get you the best angles. The Self Portrait Mode can be accessed via the menu, or automatically when you flip up the screen, and also lets you change the background blur and smooth skin.

Need some more help finding what you're looking for? Read through our best Canon cameras article.

Best Mirrorless: Sony a5100

Canon EOS M10
Courtesy of Amazon.com

Mirrorless cameras are a rather new category of cameras that allow you to swap out lenses but still circumvent the complex mirror system. By virtue, this makes them smaller and more compact than similarly capable DSLRs. The Sony a5100 is conveniently compact, measuring 1.42 x 4.33 x 2.48 inches and weighing just .62 pounds. Still, it features a 24MP CMOS sensor, a Bionz X processor, on-chip phase detection covering 92% of the frame and Wi-Fi with NFC. Its 3-inch LCD display has 921,600 dots and touch functionality and also flips up 180 degrees, making it ideal for selfies. On top of that, it has a built-in GN4 flash and supports full HD video recording at 1080/60p and 24p with XAVC S. This is a great choice for vloggers, YouTubers, Instagrammers, and just about anyone who anyone needs something light to tote around.

Need some more help finding what you're looking for? Read through our best mirrorless cameras article.

Best Point and Shoot: Nikon COOLPIX A900

Nikon COOLPIX A900
Courtesy of Amazon.com

No one ever said the compact point-and-shoot category was lacking in quality. In fact, some fixed lens devices could compete right alongside the top mirrorless and DSLR shooters on the market — just don’t complain when you need to capture some close-up macro or a long-range telephoto shot. High-end point-and-shoots are general-purpose cameras, and when it comes to sub-$400 devices, there’s nothing better than the Nikon A900. It features a 20-megapixel 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor with a fixed NIKKOR f/3.4-6.9 ED lens (24-840mm). It offers a 35x optical zoom range with a dynamic (digital) zoom function that effectively doubles that. It also features a 3-inch tilting LCD, the full suite of connectivity options (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, NFC), and, perhaps most impressive of all, UHD 4K video recording, effectively future-proofing the camera for a while.

Tested by

How We Tested

We bought a top-rated camera for under $400 and our reviewers tested it for 10 hours. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using this camera, from its size and weight to its zoom and Wi-Fi capabilities. We’ve outlined the key takeaways here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.

What to Look for in a Camera Under $400

Type of camera - You can snag a nice point-and-shoot camera for under $400, but you can also get a more basic mirrorless or DSLR version for that price point. When thinking about which type is best for you, consider what kinds of pictures you want to take.

Sharing features - If you don’t have Wi-Fi on your digital camera, you’re likely aware of how frustrating it can be to get pictures from your camera onto your computer. It may be worth looking into a model that has sharing features, like onboard Wi-Fi and built-in Bluetooth.

Zoom - One common complaint about point-and-shoot cameras, as opposed to mirrorless and DSLR cameras, is that their zoom capabilities can be poor. If you’re considering a point-and-shoot model, take a close look at its optical zoom before you buy; optical zoom refers to how far the lens extends to zoom in, while digital zoom merely enhances the picture digitally (and often leads to blurriness).

Test Results: GoPro HERO7 Black (Best Waterproof)

5

What We Like

  • Great video stabilization

  • Waterproof

  • Easy to use

What We Don't Like

  • Short battery life

GoPro HERO7 Black
GoPro Black
GoPro HERO7
GoPro
GoPro HERO7 Black camera

One of our testers — who used this camera while running and doing water-based activities — thought that it was “very useful and handy” for the outdoors: “The video comes out really clear and the stabilization was really nice,” he added. Also, according to our reviewers, it was easy to use, durable, and waterproof. Its battery life, on the other hand, was slightly disappointing, but one tester said it was “similar to other models.”