The cameras in today’s smartphones are better than ever, but there are still limitations to even top-tier phones, such as the iPhone 6 Plus and the Samsung Galaxy S7. Wide angles, zoom lenses and aperture adjustments are all areas where smartphones fall short. Plus, there’s always the chance that your phone will run out of juice before you get that perfect holiday shot.
Compact cameras not only produce crisp images but also don’t take up much more space than the average smartphone. Combined with bigger batteries and expandable storage, compact cameras are easy-to-carry devices that can expand your photographic tool kit without weighing you down.
Our favorite compact camera is the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX500, which costs just under $300, and has a wide focal range, flip-up LCD, and a bevy of other features, such as Wi-Fi and image stabilization.
While there are high-end compact cameras with prices to match, we’ve pulled together some of the best budget-friendly compact cameras. All the cameras we’ve listed cost $300 or less—these cameras definitely won’t break the bank.
How We Tested
We tested the cameras under similar conditions for each model to get a comparative overview of their capabilities. For some of the testing, we left the cameras on their default settings. Then, to get a sense of exposure accuracy, we shot the cameras on Auto or Program Auto and, when possible, one of the semi-manual modes (aperture-priority and/or shutter-priority modes) using various ISO settings depending on the conditions. At the same time, we took note of the cameras’ speed and overall performance.
Most of our test shots were outdoors, which also gave us the opportunity to see how well LCDs performed under bright sunlight. In addition to shooting some quick video clips, we tried to check out at least one of each camera’s special creative options.