By Kara Reinhardt, Cheapism.com
For years now consumers have been turning to smartphones instead of cameras to shoot and share good-enough-for-Facebook photos. For those who lack a fancy phone with a decent camera or still prefer a dedicated device, respected names such as Canon and Olympus make well-reviewed digital cameras for less than $100. The best budget models promise reliable image quality and include features such as 10x optical zoom. That’s something you won’t see in a smartphone camera.
Here are the top picks from Cheapism.com.
- The Canon PowerShot A3400 IS (starting at $89) is yet another excellent entrant from a brand that seems to consistently excel in the budget arena. This camera has a touchscreen LCD -- an unusual feature for this price range -- and reviewers say the controls are simple to navigate. (Where to buy)
- The Olympus VR-340 (starting at $89) boasts a 10x zoom lens in a category where 5x is the norm. The 3-inch LCD also has a higher resolution: 460K dots, compared with the standard 230K. Expert reviewers note the camera’s solid metal body and laud its overall quality. (Where to buy)
- The Canon PowerShot A2400 IS (starting at $88) earns plenty of praise for its performance. Experts point to the sharpness of the photos and outstanding color accuracy. On the features front, this model looks much like the A3400, but for a 2.7-inch LCD in place of a 3-inch touchscreen. (Where to buy)
- The Fujifilm FinePix T400 (starting at $89) stands out for its ease of use, according to expert reviews. Automatic settings on this and other point-and-shoot cameras take the guesswork out of shooting a portrait, sunset, sporting event, or any number of other scenes. This camera’s slim body houses a 10x zoom. (Where to buy)
In general budget cameras tend to struggle in low light, producing images marred by “noise” or graininess and other distortions. In more favorable conditions, however, the best models continually turn out frame-worthy photos. The four cameras listed above can also record 720p HD video.
It would be remiss not to mention that these are all 16-megapixel cameras. High resolution does not necessarily make for high-quality images, however. In some cases the megapixel count may even be too high, as NBC News explains. Regardless, digital photos taken at 16MP will be plenty large enough to blow up to poster size and beyond. More megapixels may not translate to better pictures, but it certainly translates to larger image files. Luckily consumers can find high-capacity SD cards for less than $10.
One thing to check for as you compare the specs on digital cameras is an optical image stabilizer, which helps keep pictures taken in low light from turning out blurry. Low-cost models used to rely largely on digital machinations to produce sharp photos without a tripod, but now any camera you buy should have optical image stabilization built in.
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