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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 Waterproof: Fujifilm FinePix XP130 Digital Camera 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."
Best Zoom: Canon PowerShot SX420 at Amazon
"One of the best superzoom cameras you can buy in the sub-$300 price range."
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.
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-megapixel 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.
For those who prefer the worry-free appeal of a camera that can be tossed in the pool, lake, or ocean (whether 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 degrees Fahrenheit.
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 bit more, you should check out either the Olympus TG-870 or Olympus TG-4.
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 Wi-Fi 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.
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 Wi-Fi 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.
Our writers spent 128 hours researching and testing the most popular cameras under $300 on the market. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.
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.