The 8 Best Cameras to Buy in 2017 for Under $300

Buy some of the best digital cameras for under three Benjamins

When it comes to digital cameras in the sub-$300 category, it’s all about trying to strike the best balance possible. The most important specs here are probably megapixels, zoom range, video recording capabilities, connectivity options and ISO range. It’s hard to find the perfect match for every shopper’s needs, but this guide will help you sift through all the details to (hopefully) find the right camera for you.

For most people, the Nikon COOLPIX B500 will probably deliver the most effective balance of megapixels, zoom range, video capabilities, connectivity and ISO range. And the price is a steal. Why? Because the B500 has a 16-megapixel CMOS sensor with a NIKKOR f/3.0-6.5mm ED lens. The zoom range extends to an impressive 40x, with a dynamic (digital) zoom function that essentially doubles that range. It includes Full HD (1080p) video recording at 30 fps, a three-inch tilting LCD and the full-range of connectivity options: Bluetooth, WiFi and NFC, allowing you to fire off your photos to a mobile device for quick and easy sharing. It’s also got an ISO of up to 6400 and a 7.4 fps continuous shooting mode. All this points to a versatile camera that will work well in most shooting situations. Really, for the price point, you can’t ask for a whole lot more.

Sometimes you just want a camera that can slip easily into your pocket — something that’s slim and lightweight with a retractable lens, yet still has the power and versatility to serve as a go-to shooter. More so than any other camera at this price point, the Panasonic DMC-ZS40K is that camera. Unlike the Nikon B500, which is a somewhat bulky, oddly shaped device, the DMC-ZS40K is quite small (2.52 x 1.34 x 4.37 inches), weighing just over half a pound. It looks like a high-end point-and-shoot, but offers the price and hardware of something much cheaper. There’s an eye level viewfinder (EVF) for more framing your shots, an impressive Leica 30X Super Zoom lens (24-720mm) with a control ring for added functionality and versatility. It features GPS, WiFi and NFC connections so you can geo-tag your photos and immediately share them to your mobile devices. It’s also got an 18.1-megapixel sensor with a long 30x optical zoom. This is powerful enough to be our top pick for the sub-$300 category; between this and the B500, it really just comes down to your preferred form factor.

Sony is a respected name in digital photography, and has been for many years. When it comes to devices as cheap as $90, you really want to go with a reputable brand, since anything else just isn’t trustworthy when it comes to quality. You have to be skeptical. The Sony DSCW800 delivers the quality you should expect from a respected brand while still maintaining that super affordable price point. To be clear, though, the specs are pretty basic. You get a 5x optical zoom, 720p HD recording, a Super HAD 20.1-megapixel CCD sensor and a few shooting modes and filters for novice shooters. Apart from the superior sensor, the DSCW800 is marginally better than your average smartphone camera. That said, the price is the main selling point here. Don’t buy this if you’re taking a stab at professional photography. Buy this if you (or the recipient) are in need of a basic, zoom-capable gadget that can take pictures.

Another example of an affordable yet capable compact point-and-shoot, the Nikon COOLPIX L32 delivers solid image quality in a sub-$120 package. While sparse on next-gen specs, it is in many ways just as capable as the main budget pick, the Sony DSCW800. It features an impressive 20.1-megapixel CCD sensor, a 5x wide-angle NIKKOR zoom lens, HD (720p) video recording and a suite of smart portrait features and shooting modes. The only downside, when compared with the Sony DSCW800, is the price; it costs more money for little extra by way of specs and features. If you’re familiar with Nikon devices and would prefer to “stay in the family,” then this is a great budget option for the point-and-shoot category.

Olympus is one of the most respected brands in digital photography, but few people realize it is also one of the top names in waterproof camera tech. Its line of waterproof shooters frequently beat the competition in terms of usability, performance, design and plain-old toughness. And in the sub-$300 category, the Olympus TG-870 is certainly the best you’ll find. The camera includes some truly impressive weather-proofing tech. This thing is waterproof down to 50 feet, shockproof (drop-proof) up to 7 feet, crush-proof up to 220 pounds and freeze-proof down to 14°F. It’s got a 21mm Ultra-Wide Angle 5X optical zoom lens, Full HD (1080p) video recording, a 180° flip LCD monitor, a bunch of filters and shooting modes, as well as built-in GPS and WiFi and geo-tagging and quickly sharing your photos. Weather-proofing aside, this thing is just a great camera with great specs; add in the rugged design and you have a truly impressive little shooter.

For those who prefer the worry-free appeal of a camera that can be tossed in the pool, lake, or ocean (wether intentionally or accidentally) you can’t do much better than the Nikon COOLPIX W100 — at least not at this price point. The W100 has the most basic weather-proofing specs you need to take this thing with you on your vacation: it’s waterproof up (or down) to 33 feet, shockproof (drop-proof) up to 5.9 feet and freeze-proof down to 14°F. It’s also got a 3x wide-angle NIKKOR glass zoom lens, a middling 13.2-megapixel CMOS sensor, Full HD (1080p) video recording and an intuitive interface with large buttons for underwater handling. It’s a simple camera for simple use; buy it if you’re looking for a basic waterproof camera for the family. If you’re willing to spend a but more, you should check out either the Olympus TG-870 or Olympus TG-4.

The Canon PowerShot SX420 is one of the best superzoom cameras you can buy in the sub-$300 price range. It offers a full spectrum of mid-range specs in a fixed-lens point-and-shoot form factor. Specifically, it features a 24–1008mm wide-angle lens with 42x optical zoom — not incredibly impressive for the overall superzoom category, but when you factor in the price tag and the rest of the specs it’s quite something. The SX420 also has a 20-megapixel CCD sensor with Canon’s DIGIC 4+ image processor, high-speed autofocus (AF) for quick and easy shooting, a Smart AUTO function that automatically selects the proper settings for the shooting situation and WiFi and NFC for quick and easy sharing of your photos. The downside? It only shoots video in 720p. But when it comes to sub-$300 superzooms, you’re going to have to make a few sacrifices. This is still an impressive little shooter for the money.

If you’re trying to get great zoom on a budget, sometimes your best route will be getting a certified refurbished camera. With this in mind, we recommend the Canon PowerShot SX530, a well-rounded camera with spectacular zoom capabilities.

The Canon PowerShot SX530 has a stunning 50x (24-1200mm) optical zoom and 4x digital zoom, so tricky far-away shots will not be a problem. It also has a 16-megapixel high-sensitivity CMOS sensor, intelligent image stabilization, a three-inch LCD screen for viewing photos, as well as the ability to take 1080p HD videos at 30 frames per second. Oh, and let’s not forget WiFi and NFC connectivity, so you can quickly send photos to smartphones and tablets for easy sharing.

While reviews are not plentiful on this refurbished unit, customers that have bought this camera elsewhere have been quite happy with the camera. We’re fans of refurbished units if you’re looking on a budget, and this unit has a 90-day warranty, so you can send it back if something doesn’t work correctly.


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