Point and shoot cameras take up the largest segment of the digital camera market and understandably. They offer an affordable and simple way to take great pictures. After all, you just need to press the shutter button to automatically adjust the aperture, shutter speed, light sensitivity and focus. Compared to digital DSLRs that offer interchangeable lens, larger image sensors and more manual control, point and shoots can easily slip into jeans pocket and are cheaper. With hundreds of models available on the market, knowing which is the best point and shoot camera under 300 isn't the easiest task. This post explores the factors to consider when making your purchase and reviews the best models to ease your search.
The size of an image sensor directly impacts on the level of detail on photographs. The reason why images taken with smartphones appear grainy is that mobile devices have a sensor that's roughly the size of the nail on your small finger. Point and shoot cameras are a nice upgrade, with the high models offering a full frame 35 mm sensor. This makes a huge difference in image quality.
Some of the most basic point and shoots offer some assistance when it comes to shooting moving objects. This often comes in the form of autofocus that locks to keep sharp focus on the subject. Other models have a continuous shooting mode that allows you to capture several photos per second. Faster shutter speeds are a nice bonus as they make it easy to freeze moments in time.
You will be using the LCD screen to review and frame your shots and as such, quality is crucial. Go for a camera that has a display of at least 2.5" although a larger size would be better. In terms of resolution, 230K-dots should suffice. Cameras with a 460K or 921K LCD will provide better performance when shooting outdoors. You can also consider larger and high-end models that are equipped with articulating screens that rotate 360 degrees, thus allowing for angle shots. A touch screen, on the other hand, eliminates the need for physical control buttons.
The focal length tells you more about the field of view and is generally expressed as a 35mm equivalent value. On the other hand, zoom expresses how far the lens reaches. If two cameras have a 5x zoom factor but one covers 28-140mm while the other covers 28-120mm, the latter will perform better when shooting in tight spaces while the former will offer a longer telephoto lens. The downside of a budget camera with 35mm focal length is that it has difficulties framing shots with several people in a tight space.
Optical image stabilization compensates for the shakiness of your hands when capturing photos. Unless you plan on shooting on tripod all the time, it's important that your point and shoot camera have an optical image stabilizer. Almost every camera on the market has this feature so finding one with a less than $300 budget should be easy.
Almost every point and shoot camera on the market has the ability to record video. Aim for a camera that can record HD videos. Some include a micro HDMI output port for high definition playback on your television or computer. Don't forget to check whether a camera has an inbuilt microphone and allows for zoom when recording.
ISO is a measure of a camera's sensitivity to light. The amount of light passing through the sensor increases with increase in the ISO setting. A camera that allows for higher ISO settings will allow you to shoot blur-free images in low light conditions. It's important to remember that an increased ISO setting also means more image noise.
This is a basic camera that's worth considering if you are looking for great features at a budget cost. Its main selling point is the 20 MP optical zoom that equates to 25-500mm focal range. The S7000 also offers full HD video recording, a back-illuminated CMOS sensor as well as Wi-Fi an NFC connectivity. It has a fairly standard construction, with the control buttons located at the far right hand side.
This camera performs best when shooting bright light, which is to be expected for a small sensor. The colors are vibrant and if you zoom to 100%, you will notice some image smoothing at any sensitivity level. There is a noticeable loss of detail when you shoot at higher ISO sensitivities but the good thing is that image noise is kept to a minimum.
The Nikon Coolpix L340 is a low budget camera designed as an upgrade of the L330. It is equipped with 28x optical lens zoom with a focal range of 22.5 – 630mm. The 20.2 megapixel sensor is capable of a maximum light sensitivity of ISO 1600. You can use the L340 to record 1280 x 720 HD video. There are six special picture effects to customize your shots. Other unique features include the scene-detecting automatic mode and Smart Portrait Mode, which softens the skin and even warn you if someone blinks.
This is a relatively compact camera that weighs 430 grams. It boasts a chunky design, rear thumb rest and large rubberized hand grip. While it is styled like a bridge camera, the L340 has much more in common with a compact point and shoot snapper. The controls are restricted to the essentials like scene modes, flash mode, self timer, video recording and macro mode. The 3" LCD screen offers a good viewing experience with decent color reproduction and 460K-dot resolution.
First introduced in January 2016, the Canon Powershot ELPH 160 offers a lot for a low-cost point and shoot. It boasts a 20 MP sensor that pairs nicely with a 10x zoom lens covering 24-240 mm field of view. Its on/off button, zoom control and shutter release are found on the top plate while the record, menu, Wi-Fi and play buttons are on the rear of the camera.
This camera uses the Elph face detection to automatically frame portrait shots. It doesn't have a true manual exposure mode but you can use the Program Shooting feature to adjust the white balance, ISO, exposure compensation and other settings. There are also a variety of Scene modes an artistic filters that give you increased freedom to customize your photos. At 2.7 inches, the 230K-dot LCD monitor is quite small but that's to be expected given the small frame. The inbuilt WiFi and NFC connectivity allows you to connect your camera to a smartphone via the free Canon Camera Connect app.
This is an entry-level Cyber-shot camera that offers great features at low price. It is equipped with a 20.1 megapixel CCD sensor with an ISO range of 100-3200. The 5x optical lens offers a focal range of 26-130mm and allows for a 5cm minimum macro focusing ability. The camera doesn't have an image stabilization feature, which isn't much of a surprise considering the limited zoom lens reach not to mention the less than $100 price tag.
If you love taking control, you can easily adjust the white balance, ISO sensitivity and exposure compensation. There are four Picture Effect filters to customize your shots. Controls are kept at a minimum for ease of use and the body is quite sleek with black/grey finishes. The 2.7" screen has a 230K-dot resolution and isn't touch sensitive, but that's as much as you can expect at the price.
If you are a casual photographer looking to spend little on your equipment, the FZ53 is a good contender. It comes with a sleek, attractive design and a familiar brand name. You get a 5x zoom lens, which lags behind every model on this list. At just 3.7 ounces, it is lightweight and has a compact design that slips easily into your pockets.
Control buttons include Zoom, Play Mode, Set button and menu button. There is a 4-way control pad with directional buttons that allow you delete images, control the flash, set focus and adjust display settings. The 2.7" 230K-dot LCD screen is smaller than what you get with most point and shoots but at less than $90, this isn't a big deal.
Choosing the best point and shoot camera under 300 comes down to your personal needs and what features you're willing to forego at such a low budget. The trick is to find what strikes the best balance of zoom range, ISO sensitivity, video recording capabilities and other important features.