Whether you are just getting started, or you are looking for a secondary budget camera to take your skills up that next level, choosing the best digital camera under $200 will depend on a few factors.
Your primary goals with your affordable digital camera will dictate where to spend your money. Among other factors, deciding whether you will use your camera for filming, photography, or both will determine which features you need the most.
We break it down for you in this guide, helping you understand the most effective and essential functions a camera should have for any circumstance, and what additional features you may need. If you are focused on taking videos and vlogging, you can consider buying a camcorder, or see our top cheap video camera picks here.
In this review, we take a look at what works and what doesn’t for each camera that fits under a $200 budget, and which one we think is the best of these five finalists:
Best Digital Cameras Under $200
If you are new to digital photography, or capturing video without your smartphone, here are some handy tips for beginners from Matt Granger.
Choosing The Best Budget Camera
Even if you are looking for an affordable camera for beginners, there may be more specifications to evaluate than you realize. Because of the multi-purpose capabilities of most digital cameras straight out of the box, buyers are looking for a solid balance across a range of important features.
This kind of versatility not only leaves open a lot of opportunities for creativity, but it means more power for the money that you will spend. However, this can make choosing the best camera a little more difficult when you’re not sure which features are going to work best for the shots you want to take now.
Knowing the typical sort of lighting situation you’ll be using is a key factor to consider since it determines what kind of shutter speeds and exposure times you’ll use. Natural and low-light photography and filming requires different settings than artificial and studio setups.
Many cheap digital cameras come with automated settings, but most buyers with serious plans for professional-level use will prefer being able to manually change these settings if their lighting and exposure are subject to change frequently.
If you’re buying a digital camera in order to film and photograph subjects in fixed lighting, finely-tuned manual overrides may not be as imperative when deciding what to purchase. You might want to consider bumping up your budget and finding a cheap DSLR.
If you want to keep your camera budget to less than $200, then you will need to prioritize what features you want to spend money on, and what features you won't miss if they are limited.
Which Features Matter The Most
Focusing on features like the exact number of megapixels or claims of digital zoom won’t matter much if the essential components of the digital camera aren’t achieving a certain degree of quality. For example, just because an ISO setting has a high threshold doesn’t mean it takes a great picture at that range. Knowing what factors directly impact photo and video quality when finished will help you compare your options best.
Unfortunately for $200 or less, there are some features that you won't be able to find in 2018. Amontg ther things finding a camera with a good flip screen, or 4K video won't be possible within this budget.
Generally speaking, the smaller the sensor size, the less likely the resulting shot will have clarity and quality. Some small sensors struggle with light processing and can create a noisy, pixelated picture.
These are commonly found in cellphone and most point-and-shoot digital cameras. Digital cameras at the higher end of quality will have larger sensors that can be paired with different lenses to achieve professional grade shots.
Digital Camera Optics
Not only does the quality of a digital camera’s lens change the kind of picture it can take, the shutter speed, or the aperture, must also function properly in order to maximize the amount of light (the camera is able to capture. The wider the aperture, the more light the lens lets in. This is crucial in settings with low light, so look for apertures with f-stops rated between f/1.4 and f/2.8 if you need that capability often.
Your Camera Processor
For a digital camera, the image processorcan make a break how effectively you find your camera operates even with the best sensor and lens. If the processor cannot quickly capture an image and be ready for the next, then you will experience a noticeable delay when trying to take continuous shots like the ones used for action or animation.
Fast processors can also improve quality for low-light settings. Good low-light cameras for the money include:
Best overall digital camera under $200
Cheap portable digital camera
Cheapest digital camera recommended
Cheap digital camera with good video capability
Cheap Digital Camera Reviews
The Kodal PIXPRO Astro Zoom AZ361 has the look and feel of an authentic 35mm film camera but the modern features that digital camera buyers typically want. The 36x optical zoom paired with the 24mm wide angle lens promises crisp, clear photo capture even at a distance. Image stabilization and object tracking features mean action shots can come out looking exceptionally.
Features & Specs
While the look and feel of the AZ361 definitely has a cool factor, it does make some sacrafices in terms of convenience when compared to some other cheap cameras on this list. It is relatively bulky and wouldn't fit into a typical pocket.
However, the added bulk makes room for the significant 36x optical zoom lens and opens up more possibilities when it comes to distance phtography. The wide-angle lens allows for long-distance shots that maintain crisp capture.
At 720 HD video capture, any vlogs or video content that you might be creating will be the best available for the money at well under $200 for this camera.
The UI is relatively user friendly, but is not always the quickest to move from setting to setting.
Overall, if your focus is image quality and you are prepared to invest in a camera bag and carry a bit more weight, this is a powerful camera that will fit most budgets.
The Sony DSH300/ B is an affordable digital camera that is built to be a highly intuitive piece of equipment for the enthusiast who is ready to experiment but still wants a full array of presets to help keep things simple.
Features & Specs
The DSH300 is particularly strong for those looking to caputre video on a budget.
While it does not capture video in HD, it is filmed in 1280 x 720 (30 fps) and the image stabilization works better than you would expect for the price which helps for content creators who want a cheap video camera on the go.
The DSH300/ B has a maximum aperture of f/3 which works best for portrait, close-up and video recording.
For photographers, images are very satisfactory for a camera that is less than $200, though it does not perform especially well in low-light.
If you are looking take pictures outdoors or during travel, the panorama feature does a nice job of capturing clear wide-angle shots with its standard lens.
As far as accessories goes, the DSH300/ B is a bit limiting because it does not include a hot shoe that is typically useful in leveraging a tripod or gimbal stabilizer.
The Canon Powershow ELPH 190 is most lightweight budget camera on the list, and it still holds up impressively in almost every category. For well-lit shots or and fast-action video footage, this camera maintains continuous shots and clarity better than most compact, bargain-priced digital cameras.
Features & Specs
When it comes to the the point-and-shoot market, the Canon PowerShot line is a great halfway point between fixed-lens cameras and higher-end styles that work like professional DSLRs. This particular model has a maximum aperture of f/3 and a minimum shutter speed of only 1 full second.While the ELPH 190 is a good compact camera, the cheap price does not indicate cheap components. The camera is well made and relatively durable which makes it a great choice for a companion camera that you want to take with you anywhere you go.
The image stabilization works relatively well, and there are multuple presets depending on the scenario that you will be using the camera in. The auto-focus on the other hand, doesn't exactly shine. While it usually gets the job done, it isn't as snappy as we would like considering it is a good convenient camera to whip out at a moment's notice.The built-in Wi-Fi and NFC for image sharing is handy, but the propietary phone application doesn't always work reliably.
Beginners will be comfortable with this digital camera because of the friendly interface, and 'Help' button which can provide useful explanations of different controls and features.
Overall the ELPH 190 from Canon is a very strong choice for someone on a budget looking for a compact digital camera under $200.
Features & Specs
For a compact digital camera, the Nikon COOLPIX L32 has a wide aperture range, between F3.2-F6.5, making it capable of clear shots in uneven lighting when the settings are manually configured for the circumstances. The built-in flash and contrast detection features help illuminate subjects without washing out the white balance of the photo.
Considering how cheap this camera is, that level of performance in suboptimal lighting conditions is impressive.
As we mentioned, this camera is ideal for photographs of people for a few reasons. For one, it has multiple presets that are optimized for portraits and fixed-subject shots.
Unlike many other budget cameras, the L32 is equipped with Nikon’s Smart Portrait System software for in-camera editing and capturing portraits and people and giving them a touch-up on the go.
While the video looks ok, it is not in HD, and it only capture in Motion JPEG.
The Kodak PIXPRO Astro Zoom AZ361 ranks on top of this list due to its robust functionality and feature-rich settings that perfectly suit the kind of pictures and videos that people with any budget want to take. It’s hard to beat a digital camera that offers HD video capture, a 36x optical zoom, and wide-angle lens at this price point.
Have we missed any budget digital cameras that you are a big fan of? We are evaluating new options all the time - let us know in the comments what cameras you think deserve consideration on the list.