The 8 Best Cameras to Buy in 2018 for Under $300

Buy some of the best digital cameras for under three Benjamins

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

The Rundown

  • Best Overall: Nikon COOLPIX B500 at Amazon, “Will probably deliver the most effective balance of megapixels, zoom range, video capabilities, connectivity, and ISO range.”
  • Runner-up, Best Overall: Canon PowerShot SX720 at Amazon, “The 4.3 x 2.5 x 1.4-inch camera packs a 20.3-megapixel CMOS sensor and DIGIC 6 image processor.”
  • Best Budget: Bonna 21 at Amazon, “An HD camera that offers 21 megapixels and is perfect for any beginner photographer.”
  • Best Zoom: Canon PowerShot SX420 at Amazon, “One of the best superzoom cameras you can buy in the sub-$300 price range.”
  • Runner-up, Best Budget: Nikon COOLPIX L32 at Amazon, “Delivers solid image quality in a sub-$120 package.”
  • Best Waterproof: Fujifilm FinePix XP130 at Amazon, “Not only waterproof up to 65 feet, but freeze proof to 14 degrees, shockproof to 5.8 feet and even dustproof.”
  • Best Budget Waterproof: Nikon COOLPIX W100 at Amazon, “For those who prefer the worry-free appeal of a camera that can be tossed in the pool, lake, or ocean.”
  • Best Budget Zoom: Canon PowerShot SX530 at Amazon, “We’re fans of refurbished units if you’re looking on a budget, and this unit has a 90-day warranty.”

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Nikon COOLPIX B500 Digital Camera

Nikon COOLPIX B500 Digital Camera
Courtesy of Amazon.com
4.2

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.

Check out our other reviews of the best Nikon cameras available on the market today.

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Canon PowerShot SX720

The PowerShot SX720 is the latest in Canon's superzoom lineup offering an outstanding 40x zoom lens for capturing subjects up close. The 4.3 x 2.5 x 1.4-inch camera packs a 20.3-megapixel CMOS sensor and DIGIC 6 image processor, offering the equivalent of a 24-960mm zoom lens in a tiny package. With a single battery charge powering 250 shots, the SX720 continues Canon’s tradition of crafting a compact-sized camera with a full suite of manual controls.

Built-in Wi-Fi makes transferring shots to a smartphone or tablet incredibly intuitive and adds extra functionality for remotely controlling the camera from a smart device. The three-inch touchscreen on the rear lacks touch controls, but the navigation-friendly external buttons make moving through Canon’s well thought out menu simple. A plethora of settings and scene modes help add a little touch of creativity to each shot while the lightweight size makes it a highly portable camera to take on the go. 

Best Budget: Bonna 21

The Bonna 21 is an HD camera that offers 21 megapixels and is perfect for any beginner photographer. It includes features such as face and smile detection, anti-shaking and a rechargeable 550mAh lithium ion battery.

Measuring at 6 x 6 x 2.5 inches and weighing 9.6 ounces, the Bonna 21 has a 2.7” TFT LCD display and produces a maximum HD resolution of 720P. The camera supports an external memory expansion of up to 64GB on an SD card, so beginner users can upgrade while growing more competent with usage. The beginner friendly and affordable camera includes modes such as continuous shot, self-timer, an 8x digital zoom, integrated photo editing, printing and even sharing pictures via e-mail. It comes with a one-month money back guarantee even if you don’t like it.

Take a look at other product reviews and shop for the best digital cameras under $100 available online. 

Best Zoom: Canon PowerShot SX420

Canon PowerShot SX420
Courtesy of Amazon.com

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.

Check out our guide to the best Canon cameras you can buy today. 

Runner-Up, Best Budget: Nikon COOLPIX L32

Nikon COOLPIX L32
Courtesy of Amazon.com

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.

Best Waterproof: Fujifilm FinePix XP130 Waterproof Digital Camera

The neatly designed and savvy Fujifilm FinePix XP130 is a digital camera that’s not only waterproof up to 65 feet, but freeze proof to 14 degrees, shockproof to 5.8 feet and even dustproof.

The Fujifilm FinePix XP130 Waterproof Digital Camera offers a 16.4 MP BSI CMOS sensor, perfect for dark settings and a Fujinon 5x (28-140mm) wide-angle optical zoom that allows for high-quality photos and 1080p HD videos up to 60 frames per second. It includes built-in Bluetooth sharing, so you can transfer your photos instantly without a manual hookup. It features a built-in remote camera operation, allowing you to take pictures with it using your smartphone through its Fujifilm Camera Remote app. The camera measures 8 x 5 x 5 inches and weighs only one pound.

Take a look at other product reviews and shop for the best waterproof cameras available online. 

Best Budget Waterproof: Nikon COOLPIX W100

Nikon COOLPIX W100
Courtesy of Amazon.com

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.

Best Budget Zoom: Canon PowerShot SX530

Canon PowerShot SX530
Courtesy of Amazon.com

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.

Tested by

How We Tested

Our reviewers spent six hours testing one of our readers’ favorite sub-$300 cameras. We asked them to consider the camera’s most important features, including photo quality, durability, and value. We’ve outlined a few of those major considerations here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.

What to Look for in a Camera Under $300

Picture quality - If you’re after the best picture quality for your dollar, look at the image sensor. The sensor is generally the most expensive part of the camera, and the bigger the sensor, the more expensive the camera. There are two different types of sensors: CCD and CMOS. The latter is less expensive to produce — thus more commonly found in budget cameras — but also more susceptible to image noise and has lower light sensitivity. In a budget camera, sensors range from around 16 to 20 megapixels.

Durability - As with most pieces of technology, it’s important to consider how you’ll be using your new camera. Will you be taking photos at family gatherings, or will this camera be rafting down the river with you? If you live a more active lifestyle, make sure your camera can stand up to water, shock, dust, and extreme temperatures.

Zoom - Zoom is one of the most-used features on a basic camera and it’s measured in two ways: optical zoom or digital zoom. Optical zoom measures the actual increase in the lens’s focal length (the distance between the center of the lens and the image sensor). Digital zoom, on the other hand, simply adjusts the image in the camera itself, essentially cropping the image. Optical zoom in the sub-$300 price category ranges anywhere from 5x to 42x.

Test Results: Nikon COOLPIX B500 Digital Camera (Best Overall)

4.2

What We Like

  • Good photo quality

  • Great battery life

  • Lightweight and portable

What We Don't Like

  • No touchscreen feature

  • Photos in low-light settings could be better

Nikon COOLPIX B500 Digital Camera
Nikon COOLPIX B500
Nikon COOLPIX
Nikon COOLPIX Digital Camera
Nikon Digital Camera

For the price, the Nikon COOLPIX B500 Digital Camera offers everything you could want — from its long battery life to its portability. One reviewer said, “Nikon claims 600 photos from a single charge, but I took around 1000 pictures and the camera still had some battery left.” That same tester liked the camera’s DSLR-like look and its small size and weight.

Our reviewers found the camera’s photo quality to be good but noted that photos taken in low-light settings were only “decent” and the quality of photos taken on full zoom could have been better.