The advances in camera technology in recent years is nothing short of breathtaking. Picture quality and features that were once reserved only for professional shooters and hobbyists with a lot of disposable income are now available to the masses. The average consumer can purchase a suitable camera for a relatively low cost — which we will discuss in a minute — but there are technical specs and preferences you should know before making your choice.
For instance, you want to know about megapixels. Megapixels determine how many pixels the camera can capture. It's not as big of a deal as it used to be, since most cameras have at least 10 megapixels. At 10 megapixels or higher, you can be sure your prints will come out beautifully.
What about digital zoom versus optical zoom? Optical zoom provides a sharper image by focusing on a smaller area. Digital zoom magnifies a smaller area but does not sharpen the focus. As such, you want to look for a camera with good optical zoom.
As with any technology purchase, you should get to know your camera as well as possible before you buy it. The camera will likely be with you for a long time. You'll use it to capture the moments in your life — whether they are tender, silly or timeless.
The cameras listed here are some of the best you can buy for under $200. Each of them are made by reputable manufacturers and come with all the options and features you could want in an everyday, inexpensive digital camera.
1. Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8
The picture quality on this intuitive, versatile superzoom camera is excellent. With 14 megapixels and a 1/2.3-inch CCD, the camera also offers excellent video quality; audio capture is good as well. It handles some of the problems found in inexpensive digital cameras well, with a quick response time and a short shot delay. It's not the quickest camera we found, and it takes a long time to get started.
However, the Panasonic has many unexpected positives for a superzoom. It has excellent battery life and is light and compact for a camera in this category.
2. Canon PowerShot SX260 HS
The Canon PowerShot is a good fit for both expert shooters and amateurs as well at a reasonable price. It has a 20x 25mm ultrawide angle lens, 12-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS sensor, and a Disc 5 image processor that lets it shoot in bursts of 10 frames per second.
The camera also offers very good HD video quality, which you can watch on your computer, mobile device or even a big screen HDTV without a loss in picture quality.
3. Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX50
Here's a camera with 5x zoom and 16 megapixels that will fit comfortably in your pocket. Small, light, and built with the quality you've come to expect from Sony, this this Cyber-shot model takes excellent photos with a nice, even flash that will illuminate whatever you're shooting, wherever you're shooting it. Even in dark settings, this camera will get it done. Its ability to produce good skin tones is also of note.
Finally, the DSC-WX50 records 1080i video at 60 frames per second.
4. Nikon Coolpix S600
This Nikon model is a little on the heavy side compared to similar models, but it takes sharp pictures with 10 megapixels and a vibration reduction feature. The 3D photo mode and 1080p video are nice features for a camera at this price point. It has a lightning fast shutter speed and a convenient scroll wheel for setting adjustments. The video looks good and the camera features a mini-HDMI port so you can connect it to your HDTV.
5. Canon PowerShot ELPH 300
The slim, attractive Canon ELPH features Canon's HS System and a DIGIC 4 Image Processor, making low-light shooting situations possible without the flash. Despite its petite stature it features 1080p HD video (with optical zoom) and excellent stereo sound that is easy to use with the dedicated movie button.
This is the kind of camera for people who just want to take fun photos (it has 12 megapixels) and video without having to adjust the settings — thought you certainly can. However, even if you leave it on the auto setting you'll be impressed with the picture quality from the ELPH.