How does one get a good camera for under $100? And don’t say garage sales! Here’s the thing, many people would like to have a better camera than what’s in their smartphone, but they don’t want a lot of bulk and price. That’s why smartphone photography is so big in the first place, the camera is with you and it’s included.
However, the best cameras under $100 can expand your photographic success rate.
One of the biggest reasons to move to another camera is the lens. A phone camera tends to zoom primarily by digital means, as opposed to optical. Optical zoom generally gives better results.
Can you even get a good camera under $100?
Is it even worth looking at inexpensive cameras? Short answer, yes. To go into detail, the lens is pretty much the major reason why a camera under $100 is worth considering. But there are additional reasons.
Besides the zoom range, the lens aperture is usually faster and has the ability to stop down more, too. Some of the lens designs are from very reputable optics companies like Zeiss, Leica, Schneider-Kreuznach, Nikon, and Canon. All other things being more or less equal, a better lens will result in better photographs.
Other than optical reasons, a small camera will often have extra features. Some of the extra features may be special exposure modes, like nighttime settings, landscape, portrait, or sports settings.
Other features may include ultra close up macro focusing, time lapse photography, image stabilization, and even multiple video modes.
Flash is another feature that smaller cameras are good at. The flash in a small camera is often more powerful than what’s in a phone. Couple that with the faster lens and that results in more flash range and better exposures. Last but not least, you gain a tripod mount, letting you use a table top or travel tripod for even more photographic options.
These cameras aren’t toys, they are quality photographic instruments, capable of delivering excellent results for even the most demanding of photographers. So… that was the long answer.
How I found the Best compact cameras under $100
- To be honest, I will admit to being a bit of a brand snob at times. The worry about looking for an inexpensive camera that will be good enough can be alleviated quite a bit by sticking to well known brands with good reputations.
- Sensor size. Many of these cameras have very high MP sensors, so image quality issues shouldn’t be a concern either.
- Since this is likely one of the reasons we’re choosing to use a small camera, we want it to be high quality and have a decent zoom range. Close focusing is nice, too.
- Camera size. If we’re wanting to have a camera that can be with us in many different situations, it should be small enough to be easy to carry. Pocket size is desirable.
- Extra features. If we’re going to be carrying around a separate camera, let’s get some good use out of it.
- Image quality. A camera is really only as good as the results you get from it.
Top 5 Best Compact Cameras Under $100
1. Sony DSCW800/B 20.1 MP Digital Camera Review
A 5X Zeiss zoom lens and a 20.1MP sensor gives this camera a great capability for fantastic images. He zoom lens is a Zeiss lens, as are many lenses for Sony cameras, and is a good mix of zoom range, pretty fast aperture, and high quality.
This lens won’t give you what an ultra fast lens on a DSLR is capable of, but it delivers a whole lot more than the tiny lenses and digital zooming on smartphone cameras can.
The size of the camera is a major plus. It is small enough to fit into most pockets when the camera is turned off and the lens is completely retracted. Though truly tiny, it is comfortable to hold and use, partially due to the low profile handgrip, and also because of the large-ish and well placed shutter release button.
Camera flash is powerful for such a small camera, but it still lacks in range compared to accessory strobes on a larger camera. You can’t get super power out of super compact flashes, but this flash is good enough for most snapshot use.
Using the camera is simple, it can be just as easy as pick it up, turn it on, and shoot. The zoom function takes a little getting used to, because it uses two separate buttons instead of a lever or ring control. The battery lasts a long time, long enough to fill up a card with video files or pictures.
2. Canon PowerShot A2500 16MP Digital Camera Review
Canon has made a fully capable imaging tool in this very small sized camera. A 16MP sensor and a 5X zoom lens that starts out a little wider than many other point and shoot cameras give fantastic performance for the around $100 price point.
Like Sony, Canon is a leader in digital video, and they added that function to this inexpensive camera. It is really easy to shoot video with this camera, and the resulting recordings look fantastic even when played back on larger TV sets.
With the lens completely retracted, this camera easily fits into a regular sized pocket or purse pouch. You could keep a camera this size in the glove box or side door pocket of your car, too.
Since this camera doesn’t even have a hand grip bulge to affect the profile, it really can fit almost anywhere. The draw back is that you don’t have much to grab onto for steadier hand held shots. With the excellent image stabilization, that isn’t a big draw back, just something to consider if you have larger hands.
The eco mode for the battery makes this camera a great choice for walking around all day long, like you might when you are on vacation.
The battery never seems to run out! Of course, filming video or using flash a lot will drain the battery faster. Lens zooming is accomplished by a lever around the large shutter release button.
This is a nice camera to have on hand all the time, but you may need to exercise a little care before getting used to holding the camera, as it really is small and has a smooth profile.
3. Canon PowerShot ELPH 180 Digital Camera Review
An even smaller camera than Canon’s ELPH line would hard to imagine, especially when you consider the features of this fun little camera.
Basic features include a wide-ranging 8X zoom lens and a 20MP sensor. The lens is a little slower in maximum aperture, but to get a camera this tiny, you have to give up something else. The digital image stabilizing helps make up for any hand-holding issues in lower light levels.
As with the other Canon P&S cameras, the lens starts out a little wider than many competing cameras, which is useful for landscapes, city scenes, and even groups of people perhaps at a family gathering, school picnic, or a business gathering.
The ELPH also has the extra modes and features of fish-eye effect, toy camera effect, and various smart modes. Full featured and very capable for all sorts of shooting situations.
It is so small and smooth, you might have a little issue keeping it in your hands if it’s really cold out or so hot your hands are sweating.
Being so small, though, you could carry it pretty much without thinking. Having such a high quality instrument always on hand will open up many imaging possibilities.
4. Nikon COOLPIX A10 Review
One of the interesting features of the Nikon A10 is that it uses regular AA batteries. It is hardly wider than the batteries themselves. Lithium and special Nikon rechargeable batteries are an optional AA power source.
A Nikkor 5X zoom lens records stills and video with the 16.1MP sensor. Nikkor lenses are world renown for quality and versatility. It is also a little wider than many competing point and shoot cameras, so it captures excellent images in a wide variety of picture taking situations.
Close focus capability adds another layer of usefulness. It’s not very fast, but the image stabilization aids hand holding in tricky light conditions.
Smart Portrait System is a fun feature to use. With it, you get face priority autofocus, blink warning, and skin softening. Other scene modes like Beach, Snow, Night Portrait, and Sunset can be chosen for those situations. You could even let the camera automatically pick the scene mode based on the programmed parameters.
Video quality is very high, including sound, as long as you don’t zoom in and out while recording.
Battery life is shorter than some of the competitors, but since it uses readily available AA batteries, that shouldn’t be a huge liability. If you add the optional Nikon rechargeable batteries, battery life is longer.
5. Samsung WB250F 14.2MP CMOS Smart Camera Review
Slightly larger than the other cameras on this list, the Samsung WB250F also has quite a lot of zoom range. It sports a zoom range of 18X and a 14.2MP sensor.
The bigger camera is easy to hand hold but won’t fit into smaller pockets. Again, you trade off one thing for another. The handgrip bulge is nicely proportioned and provides a comfortable grip.
A dial on the top plate is the mode switching control and a lever around the shutter release button controls the zoom lens. The lens doesn’t retract flush to the camera body, bit it is a whole lot of zoom for such a small camera body.
It’s also the only camera among the top 5 best compact cameras under $100 to record video in Full HD 1080p. Audio quality is also slightly better.
These cameras are wonderful, high quality imaging tools that you can take with you virtually anywhere.