Reviews of The Best Digital Camera Under $300
- Our Best Digital Camera Under $300 For 2020
- Reviews of The Best Digital Camera Under $300
- Image Quality and the Image Sensor
- Lenses – Magnification and Focal Length
- Image Stabilization – Optical or Digital
- Optical Zoom and Digital Zoom
- Autofocus Assist Lamps
- Wi-Fi and NFC (Near Field Communication)
- File Formats for Stills and Movies
Our Best Overall Choice
Best Overall Digital Camera Under $300
• Point and Shoot Long Range Zoom
• High Resolution
• 4K Video Capturing
• Low Light Performance
• USB Charging and Wifi Connectivity
About This Camera:
This is the ideal option for anyone who needs a competent all-in-one point-and-shoot digital camera with all of the bells and whistles. The Panasonic LUMIX digital Camera DC-FZ80 is an awesome choice for taking photographs and videos in essentially any scenario. It offers users impressive image capturing with an easy-to-use overall design, plenty of built-in features, and great quality. It also offers 4K video recording. With built-in WiFi, you can shoot videos and pictures quickly and then stream them to your other devices right away. You’ll be able to enjoy more creative freedom with its various modes and light level settings as well. Plus, it has an 18.1 megapixel MOS sensor, optically stabilizes long-zoom, high-resolution touch screen, and various travel features. All in all, it’s the best overall option in its category.
• 18.1-megapixel MOS sensor
• 20-1200mm (60X) LUMIX DC VARIO lens
• 1,170k-dot viewfinder
• USB charging and WiFi
Best Value For Money
Most Impressive Value for the Money
• Powerful 25x Optical Zoom
• IS Motion Sense Technology
• 20.2 Megapixel CMOS Sensor with DIGIC 4+ Image Processor
• LCD Display Screen
• Built-in WiFi
About This Camera:
If you want a digital camera with great zoom features and high-quality imaging, but don’t want to overpay, you might just want to consider the Canon PowerShot SX620. A great overall value, this camera is lightweight and easy to use with an abundance of impressive features. Capable of recording video at 1080p FHD with 25x optical zoom, you can shoot pictures or videos wherever you go. This is an intuitive and versatile option, with good battery life, and various useful playback features. The intelligent IS motion sense technology allows for suitable shake correction so your images will be detailed and clean, Additionally, it can give you the high-resolution stills you expect from a high-end camera at a lower overall cost. It also has built-in WiFi for easy sharing and playback which can save you time when uploading images or videos. All in all, for the price, you get a lot with this Canon digital camera at a comparatively good price.
• Optical zoom 25x
• Optical sensor resolution 20.2 megapixels
• Video resolution FHD 1080p
Best Manual Bridge Camera
Best Manual Bridge (Between DSLR and Point and Shoot) Option
• DIGIC 6 Image Processor
• Built-in WiFi
• Built-in NFC
• Highly Sensitive CMOS Sensor
About This Camera:
With a great zoom range and a plethora of useful features, you can easily shoot HD video and take quality pictures without breaking the bank. The built-in WiFi of this camera is also helpful, as it lets you quickly stream images and videos directly to your smartphone. Anyone who wants the simplicity of digital photography with the quality of a zooming lens will find this camera to be an awesome in-between option. The Canon Powershot SX540 seamlessly bridges the gap between DSLR and Point and Shoot digital camera variants. With this camera, you get the best of both worlds. Other features include the 3-inch LCD screen, zoom framing assist features, built-in near field communication (NFC), and DIGIC 6 image processor. Finally, this Canon PowerShot camera boasts a 20.3 Megapixel High-Sensitivity CMOS Sensor for powerful imaging performance and high sensitivity ISO capturing with reduced noise.
• 1080p HD video resolution
• Zoom framing assist
• Optical sensor resolution 20.3 megapixels
Most User-Friendly Option
A User-Friendly Option for Effortless Picture Taking
• Lightweight With Great Grip
• Automatic Scene Selection and Easy Auto Mode
• VR Image Stabilization
• Easy to Use and Handle
About This Camera:
This is a lightweight camera that’s easy to grip, simple to use, and offers various intuitive features. This makes it ideal for travelers and extremely user-friendly. This Nikon COOLPIX camera features a 60x optical zoom lens with shift vibration reduction (VR) for clear high-quality images. It also has various simplified menus so there’s not much of a learning curve. You’ll be a pro with this camera in no time. You can easily shoot video at 1080p HD and view it on the crisp display screen, which measures 3-inches. This intuitive camera is also uncommonly user-friendly. It can automatically select from six modes so you don’t have to set the scene selection mode before taking pictures. With 60x optical zoom and q20x dynamic zoom, the large lens can capture pictures and videos at fair distances making it an awesome option for far-off shots.
• 1080p HD video resolution
• 60x optical zoom, 120x DFZ
• Optical sensor resolution 16 megapixels
Best Travel Camera
Most Compact Digital Travel Camera for High Quality Images Abroad
• Pocket-Sized Digital Camera With Zoom
• 10x Zoom G Lens
• Multiple Modes and Effects
• Comes With Accessory Bundle
About This Camera:
If you don’t want to drag heavy equipment with you to capture impressive high-quality images and videos as you travel, this camera is probably the way to go. Not only does this camera include built-in WiFi for quick and easy sharing, but it also has an 18.2 megapixel Exmor R CMOS image sensor. This means that you’ll get high-quality images with impressive clarity at great speeds. Its Anti Motion Blur capabilities are very helpful for snapping fast photos or taking clear and stabilized videos as well. The LCD screen lets you quickly review what you’ve shot, and various one-touch features make this camera easy to use. Finally, it’s ultra-compact size makes it an awesome option for anyone on the move.
• 1080p HD video resolution
• Optical zoom 25x
• Optical sensor resolution 18.2 megapixels
Image Quality and the Image Sensor
The number of pixels per inch is one indication of image quality, but it is the type and size of image sensor that determines how many pixels per inch your camera has.
There are two types of image sensors – CCD and CMOS, and they can range in size from 1/2.3 inches to 1/1.7 inches, measured on the diagonal. Cell phone cameras and compact mirrorless cameras use smaller image sensors, while larger digital cameras have room for larger image sensors. At the beginning of a detailed, technical article on image sensor formats, Wikipedia includes a link to a chart showing the sizes of the image sensors used in various devices.
Both types of image sensors use photoreceptors to constantly record the image from the camera’s lens, and each photoreceptor equals one pixel.
The more photoreceptors the image sensor contains, the more pixels per inch the images contain and the more details each photoreceptor records. The fewer photoreceptors there are, the larger the portion of the image that each photoreceptor receives and the less detail it contains. The difference between the two types of image sensors lies in the way the photoreceptors are placed on the image sensor and in the way the image is processed.
On CCD image sensors, the photoreceptors are connected to the image processing software in batches. The connection may be at the end of each row or at one corner of the sensor. This allows more photoreceptors to be placed on CCD image sensors, but the batch processing of the image slows the operation of the sensors.
On CMOS image sensors, each photoreceptor is surrounded by image processing circuitry, and the part of the image received by each photoreceptor is processed independently. That speeds up the operation of the sensors, but the circuitry takes up space that would be used for more photoreceptors on a CCD sensor. Further, part of the image falls on spaces occupied by circuitry rather than on a photoreceptor. To compensate, the image processing software must use the parts of the image provided by adjacent photoreceptors to fill in what is missing. However, miniaturizing circuitry and more advanced image processing software both continue to improve CMOS image sensors, making these more affordable, mass-produced sensors more common.
Lenses – Magnification and Focal Length
The magnification factor only reveals how much larger the subject appears when you look at it through the lens as compared to how large it looks when you look at it with your eyes. Focal length, on the other hand, tells you how wide of an angle the lens will capture in a picture. So focal length provides you with an idea of how much will be included in the image.
Lenses with smaller focal lengths capture wider angles and are the best choice for group portraits and selfies, panoramas, and photographs of skyscrapers and other tall or expansive buildings. Although it used to be common for digital cameras to come with general purpose lenses with focal length ranges of from 35mm to 100mm or 150mm, that has changed with the popularity of selfies. Cameras now are more likely to come with a zoom lens with a wider angle that can capture selfies of large groups and even crowds. Arstechnica.com and PC Magazine’s online edition, PCMag.com, both recommend zoom lenses with a wide angle range of at least 28mm for group portraits of family and friends. ArsTechnica.com suggests lenses of 24mm for landscapes, panoramas, and photographs of architecture.
Lenses with longer focal lengths have smaller angles that allow them to zoom in tightly on distant subjects. These lenses are best for capturing candid shots, wildlife, or athletes or performers in action. To capture these images, ArsTechnica.com suggests zoom lenses with a range of at least 200mm or even super-zoom lenses with a range of 400mm or more.
Image Stabilization – Optical or Digital
Image stabilization systems compensate for camera movement while you are taking a picture or filming a movie. These systems even can allow you to walk while shooting so that you can keep up with active subjects.
Optical image stabilization occurs in the camera lens as tiny gyroscopes sense movement and adjust the elements within the lens to compensate. Because the corrections occur before the picture is ever taken, optical image stabilization is less likely to introduce noise or distortions into the image.
Digital image stabilization consists of corrections applied to the image by the camera’s image processing software after the photo is taken. Some image editing software has adjustments for movement that allow you to make corrections similar to those applied by the camera.
If you have attempted to make corrections for movement yourself, you may have discovered how easy it is to introduce noise or distortion into the image. For that reason, optical image stabilization is a better solution for eliminating camera movement, although some cameras offer both.
Optical Zoom and Digital Zoom
Optical zoom simply refers to the physical range of the angles that the zoom lens can photograph. Digital cameras then add digital zoom to help focus on subjects that are so far distant that they are beyond the physical range of the lens.
Digital zoom uses the same process as image editing software uses when you crop a picture to better focus on the intended subject and eliminate distractions in the background or to either side. Consequently, just as there is a point when you cannot crop in on your intended subject any more tightly because the image loses focus and becomes blurred and indistinct, there is also a point when the image will become blurred and indistinct when using digital zoom.
It’s better to choose a camera or lens with a longer optical zoom range than to rely too much on digital zoom if you want to practice wildlife photography or capture your kids in action performing on stage or in the middle of a competition.
Even if you are ready to take more control of your camera’s settings, a camera with a continuous or tracking autofocus, makes it easier to capture images of moving targets. Wikipedia provides a thorough if sometimes technical article outlining how various autofocus systems work, how they evolved, and how they compare with each other.
The best autofocus system is a hybrid that combines a tracking, or phase recognition system, with a contrast recognition system.
Phase recognition or tracking systems let you set one or more focus points, which the camera then identifies by features such as comparative size, shape, and color. The camera uses predictive software to track the speed and direction of the subject or subjects to keep them in focus in general.
To bring the subject or subjects into the sharpest focus, the camera uses contrast detection. The contrast detection system measures how blurred the image is by determining the amount of distinct contrast between adjacent photoreceptors on the image sensor. It continues to improve the focus until it achieves a clear distinction between each pixel received by the photoreceptors. This is also the system that cameras use for features such as face detection, pet detection, smile detection, and blink detection.
Autofocus Assist Lamps
Cameras that use optical focus systems, such as phase and contrast recognition systems, rely on an autofocus assist lamp to operate in low light.
The best type of lamp uses red light, which is the least likely to be noticed by your subjects. It won’t startle wildlife subjects and frighten them away, and it won’t awaken a sleeping pet, child, friend, partner, or spouse if you happen to capture one of these subjects in a cute, goofy, odd, or otherwise priceless pose.
Some cameras use a quick strobe-like flash of white light. This will definitely startle wildlife, and it is likely to startle people as well. These types of assist lamps can ruin photo opportunities, especially if you are trying to capture a candid shot.
Wi-Fi and NFC (Near Field Communication)
With the continuing popularity of sharing photos on social media, some cameras come with the ability to connect to the internet on their own. As long as you have a Wi-Fi connection, you can upload your photos as soon as you take them. Some cameras also allow you to use the Wi-Fi connection to control some or all of your camera’s functions remotely from your smartphone or tablet. This capability makes it easy to include yourself in a group shot, make sure that every person in a large group is included, or film yourself giving a demonstration or engaging in some other activity for a vlog post. A Wi-Fi ready camera also may allow you to transfer pictures directly to wireless printers.
NFC capabilities allow you to share photos from your camera with friends and family members who have phones, tablets, or cameras that also have NFC capabilities. Simply touch the devices together.
File Formats for Stills and Movies
At one time, cameras offered the choice of taking photos in RAW or JPEG. The RAW, TIFF, and PNG formats preserve all of the details in your photographs, but that means they also require more storage space on your camera, computer, tablet, or phone. JPEG, on the other hand, conserves space by condensing the image as it saves it. However, each time you open a JPEG image to edit it and then resave it, it is condensed yet again. So, each time you resave an image in JPEG, you are losing more and more of the image. For that reason, before editing your images, you should use your photo editing software to save them as either TIFF or PNG files. The PNG format has become one that is commonly used, and images in that format can be uploaded to most sites.
MP4 is a popular format for movies, and HD movies with resolutions of 720p are fine for sharing on the internet. If you want to show your movies to family or friends on a widescreen TV, though, they will look better in full HD with a resolution of 1080p or higher.