Even while the top camera phones can compete on picture quality, the best cheap cameras continue to offer features that make them worthwhile to acquire for specific purposes.
For starters, they might be an excellent choice for children or those learning the basics of photography. In contrast to more complex DSLRs or mirrorless cameras, the best affordable cameras are often simple to use, with few controls and a short learning curve. They’re also an excellent option if you require robust or submersible capabilities. All of the cameras we recommend are less than $160 and shoot good images for the price.
Our top selections for the best cheap cameras include both digital cameras and instant cameras, the latter of which prints a shot seconds after you shoot it. Furthermore, some of them keep digital versions that you can share on social media.
Finally, if you’re heading somewhere where you don’t want to risk your expensive smartphone — or at least don’t want to take it out of your pocket frequently – the best cheap cameras can be a fantastic alternative. After all, dropping a $70 camera off the side of a mountain isn’t as bad as losing a $700 phone.
Continue reading for our selection of the best affordable cameras.
What are the best cheap cameras?
After testing and reviewing several models, we recommend the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-W800 as the best affordable camera; it costs under $100 but produces high-quality photographs, and it features a 5X optical zoom (the equivalent of a 35-130mm zoom lens), which should allow you to get closer to the action. If you’re willing to spend a little more money, the Sony DSC-W830 boasts an 8X optical zoom.
The W800 sports a 20.1MP image sensor that functioned admirably in most conditions, as well as a 2.7-inch LCD display on the back. There is no viewfinder, so you must rely on the screen to frame your photographs.
We also loved the W800’s small size; at 2.1 x 2 x 0.9 inches and weighing only 3.5 ounces, this camera fits neatly into our pockets, making it an excellent travel companion.
If you want a camera that can withstand a few knocks and spills, we recommend the $127 Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS30. This tough shooter can endure submersion in up to 26 feet of water and drops from up to 5 feet onto hard surfaces. It also features a 4X optical zoom and is small enough to fit in most pockets. It’s also available in three different colours: blue, black, and red.
Most instant cameras are also less than $160, making them eligible for our list of the best inexpensive cameras; we have a few here, but you should also check out our collection of the finest instant cameras.
10 Best Cheap Cameras 2022
1. Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-W800
When you switch it on, the lens telescopes out of the front, providing a 5x zoom excellent enough for distant shots of a friend. It captures 20.1-megapixel photographs that are saved to an SD card (not provided) that fits alongside the thin battery. The 2.7-inch liquid-crystal display screen is adequate in size, but it appears blocky and is difficult to read in direct sunlight. It’s also easy to mistakenly cover the flash with your fingertips.
When shooting in bright light, the W800 captures images with vibrant colour and detail. However, the quality immediately degrades as the light level lowers; nighttime and indoor images without a flash have a dull colour and display grain.
Nonetheless, $100 gives you a highly portable camera capable of producing appealing photographs. It’s the one to get if you’re searching for a low-cost upgrade from a cellphone camera. Just keep in mind that Sony appears to be gradually discontinuing it, so buy now before it’s too late.
2. Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-W830
The 2.7-inch screen on the back is crisp and reasonably sharp, but it is difficult to view in direct sunlight and does not have a touchscreen. Instead, there are a number of buttons and sliding switches, such as a three-position slider for the camera, panoramic, or video-shooting mode. The zoom lever at the top of the camera back is modest but well-positioned for one-handed shooting – you can zoom with your thumb while still reaching for the shutter with your index finger to take a photo.
Aside from the dust, the W830 captured superb shots with bright colour and decent detail. However, near the end of the zoom range, the images become a touch fuzzy.
3. Canon PowerShot Elph 190 IS
This camera is one of the cheapest we’ve seen with Wi-Fi, which can be used to transfer photographs to a smartphone, Facebook, Twitter, and cloud services like Google Drive. It’s a clever technique to back up your photographs without needing to use a laptop.
Image stabilisation works nicely at wider zoom levels but not at longer zoom settings. We did notice that the 190 IS’s sleek plastic shell was a little slick. Its 2.7-inch LCD screen is clear but difficult to read in bright sunlight.
Images and video (720p max) are both outstanding, with tiny details captured precisely and bright, but not overly vivid, colour.
4. Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS30
If you like to go on outdoor excursions, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS30 is a good choice. It’s a robust tiny camera that can withstand drops from up to 5 feet onto hard surfaces and up to 26 feet of water. It will also continue to shoot in the cold: Panasonic promises that it will continue to work in temperatures as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing it to endure all but the most extreme skiing and snowfall activities. It’s without a doubt the most difficult selection among our top inexpensive cameras picks.
The DMC-TS30 captures 16.1MP photos and has a 4x optical zoom, which is sufficient for group shots or spotting a pine marten on a branch. The images it captures are good, but not great: the colour was flat and got noisy in low light. The screen isn’t much better, either: it’s blocky and pale in comparison to more costly cameras. They are, however, fair tradeoffs for a camera that can withstand your adventures and won’t bankrupt you if you drop it in roaring rapids.
Because the device does not float, use the provided wrist strap or it may end up sleeping with the fishes. Check out our complete list of the finest rugged and waterproof cameras.
5. Kodak PixPro AZ421
If you want to get close – really, really close — to a subject at a low price, the Kodak PixPro AZ421 may be the camera for you. This low-cost camera features a 42X zoom lens, which is similar to a 24-1008mm lens on a 35mm camera, so you should be able to see the Moon in all its grandeur or record animals from a distance.
The PixPro AZ421 boasts an ISO range of 80-3200, a 3.0-inch 460k-dot rear LCD monitor (but no touchscreen), optical image stabilisation (though you’ll still need a tripod), and a 3.0-inch 460k-dot front LCD display. There are some drawbacks: its f/stop range is limited, ranging from f/3 to f/6.8, and it can only shoot video at 720p.
6. Kodak PixPro FZ53
FZ stands for Friendly Zoom, and it’s an appropriate moniker for Kodak’s low-cost, straightforward camera. This compact device (3.6 x 2.2 x 0.9 inches) provides a lot of features for the price, such as a 5x zoom lens, a 16-MP sensor, and a 720p video. Its 2.7-inch LCD screen isn’t particularly bright, but it’s adequate for use at the beach with a shady hand. In low light, the camera changes to a slow-speed preview mode, so you only get an updated image every half second or so.
The FZ53 comes with a good selection of shooting settings, including numerous scene modes, a burst mode (although at just one frame per second), and a time-lapse mode that records photographs at 30-second or 10-minute intervals. There’s also a manual mode that allows you to adjust the exposure by adding exposure compensation. It’s not as powerful as the full manual mode found on more advanced cameras, but it gives you more control than most low-cost cameras.
The photographs captured by the PixPro FZ53 exhibit clear, true colour and good detail, especially in macro shots. However, while using the zoom on the longer settings, the photos become slightly soft and blurry, especially towards the corners of the frame.
7. Kodak Smile
The Kodak Smile is one of the greatest low-cost cameras available, as well as one of the best instant cameras. The Kodak Smile is a simple but effective instant camera that prints your photographs on Zink paper; we didn’t enjoy the quality as much as other instant cameras, but the Smile’s were good for the price.
The Smile’s simple slide-to-open operation appealed to us, however, it takes a few seconds longer than most other instant cameras to prepare for the initial image. The Kodak Smile, on the other hand, allows you to keep photographs on a microSD card and, unlike other instant cameras, does not require you to print out every photo you take. Given the high cost of picture paper, this will save you a lot of money in printing costs if you have a quick trigger finger.
8. Polaroid Snap
The Snap, as you might imagine from the Polaroid name, is all about instant satisfaction. The Snap has a printer; after taking a snapshot, a duplicate appears on the side of the camera in about a minute. A pack of 30 sheets of unique photo paper it utilises costs around $15, making each print less than 50 cents. Its Zink print paper comes in a range of colours, making it ideal for scrapbooking or employing as a pass-around camera during a party.
Aside from printing, it’s a really simple camera. You get a fixed focus and focal length lens (no zoom), no LCD screen, and no ability to see the 10MP photographs it records. Images are saved on a micro-SD card and can be uploaded to a computer using the provided USB adapter.
The shutter, a 10-second delay shutter, the print button, and a mode button that selects between regular colour, vivid colour, and black and white are the only buttons on the camera. The photos are framed using a pop-up optical viewfinder, which also turns on the camera.
The Snap recorded digital photographs with reasonable quality, but the colours were fairly flat.
9. Canon Powershot Elph 180
The Elph 180 is the Elph 190’s predecessor, and it is less expensive, but it has a shorter 8x zoom lens, no Wi-Fi, and no optical image stabilisation. You still get a decent camera that shoots 20MP photos and 720p video, as well as a digital image stabilisation feature that adjusts for minor hand movements.
Images captured by the Elph 180 exhibit pleasing colour and a high level of detail. However, photos degrade at night, as do the majority of even the best affordable cameras; they become grainy and bleached out.
The decision between this model and the Elph 190 is based on how much you value the extra features: the wider zoom of the more costly camera is a definite benefit, and Wi-Fi is a useful function to have. However, if you don’t want or need such features, the Elph 180 is a solid, less expensive option.
10. Kodak PixPro FZ43
If you want a cheap camera that can do most jobs but won’t break the bank, the FZ43 is a solid choice. Just don’t expect cutting-edge technology; it takes 16MP photos, has a 4x zoom, and has a bright 2.7-inch LCD screen. The FZ43 is powered by two AA batteries, which don’t last long; ours died after about a day of moderate use.
The FZ43’s photos were good, with clear details and vibrant but not overpowering colour. We did notice that, as with many low-cost cameras, image quality deteriorated at the further end of the zoom range, with fine details becoming lost in a soft haze at the frame’s border.
Still, it’s a terrific deal for those looking for a simple camera to take pictures of the kids (or to allow the kids to take pictures of themselves) at the beach without worrying too much about the device falling in the sea.
How to choose the best cheap camera?
When looking for a low-cost camera, keep your needs in mind. There are many low-cost cameras available, however, a low-cost camera is not always the same as an excellent value camera.
For starters, cameras under $150 will not provide the same quality photographs as those costing even $50 to $100 more. Indeed, many of the most recent smartphones will be capable of taking superior images. Image quality, on the other hand, should be adequate for children and people looking for an inexpensive camera to play with. Cheap cameras from Canon and Sony generated the greatest photographs in our tests.
While many low-cost cameras have rear displays, they aren’t always touchscreens, so you’ll have to rely on the camera’s physical controls. It’s a slight annoyance for folks who are accustomed to huge smartphone touchscreens.
If you intend to take the camera on outdoor adventures, it should be able to withstand being wet as well as a few drops against rocks or another hard surface.