The quality of cameras on cell phones have improved massively over the years.
Long gone are the days where you could only take grainy photos that were the digital equivalent of the pictures you drew at the age of five. It leads many people to wonder “Why should I buy a digital camera at all?”
The honest answer is many people might not benefit from a digital camera but haven’t you ever wanted to be able to take really cool pictures while zooming in on the important bits and cutting out the clutter?
That’s the difference between a digital camera and your phone's camera, and they’re a lot more affordable nowadays. There are a plethora of cameras to choose from so here are five of the best digital cameras under $200.
Cheap Digital Cameras - Comparison Table
Reviews of the Best Digital Cameras Under $200
Another advantage of digital cameras over a cell phone is the advances in camera technology.
Sometimes you’re trying to record a video, but you’re in a situation where you’re not able to keep the camera completely still, or there might be some other conditions that make the camera shake. It ruins your video!
An excellent example of something your cell phone doesn’t offer is the Nikon COOLPIX’s high-performance vibration reduction. Even if you have steady hands, a minuscule shake can have the effect of an earthquake when you’re zoomed out 50 times.
Being able to smoothly track a far off animal or object because of your camera's built-in technology is priceless!
The Nikon L340 also does well in various lighting conditions, has a high megapixel count (more explained on these specifications in the buyer’s guide) and runs on AA batteries.
When you’re out on your travels, you might not always be able to charge your devices, and nothing sucks more than having shelled out a few hundred dollars on a really cool gadget, but you can’t use it because it ran out of power just when you needed it the most.
If you carry a couple of spare AA batteries around, you eliminate that frustration completely and can snap away to your heart's content!
- 28x Optical Zoom, 2x Digital Zoom, 56x Combined
- 20.2 MP with 720p HD Video
- 3” LCD
- Focal Length: 22.5 – 630 mm
- Dimensions: 3” x 3.28” 4.37”
- Battery Type/Life: AA / 370 Shots
- High-Performance Vibration Reduction
- ISO: 80-1600
- Ports: USB x 1
The Nikon Coolpix is a great digital camera that comes highly recommended. If you want a much better camera than your smartphone can provide, but you have a strict budget to follow, you could do a lot, lot worse than by picking this one up.
We’d all like to be genius photographers but are sadly lacking the necessary skills. Just because you bought a brilliant digital camera, it can take you a good while before you get the best out of it.
Luckily, for people like us, the Canon PowerShot utilizes an advanced form of detection called SmartAUTO.
It works by automatically detecting various different factors that are in your view and calculates how to get the best shot of the person/object you want to photograph. It uses 32 predefined shooting settings, and it works whether you’re taking a picture or a video. All you have to do is press the button to take the picture!
The Canon PowerShot works well even in low light conditions, but the low light can sometimes allow degradation due to how long it takes to process the picture.
To combat this, the ELPH135 uses DIGIC 4+ image processing to greatly increase the speed at which the shot is compiled and also significantly reducing the negative effects that can affect low-light pictures.
If you like to take stunning photos as the sun sets or maybe snap pictures of nocturnal creatures on the move, this feature will weigh heavily in importance to you.
- 8x Optical Zoom, 4x Digital Zoom, 32x Combined
- 16 MP with 720p HD Video
- 2.7” LCD
- Focal Length: 28 – 224 mm
- Dimensions: 2.13” x 0.87” 3.74”
- Battery Type/Life: Lithium / 150-165k Shots (depends on file size)
- SmartAUTO for great automated shots
- ECO Mode
- Help Button for easy info
- ISO: 100-1600
The Canon PowerShot is a great piece of tech to acquire, especially when you consider the ECO mode that basically means the battery will last you longer and let you take more shots before a recharge is required. The rest of the specs match to make it a contender for the best digital camera under $200.
If you’re looking for your photos to stand out in a unique and imaginative way, the Olympus VR-340 has you covered. The main draw of this camera is the 12 special effects created by the art filters for both stills and videos.
With settings such as Punk, Reflection, Pop Art, Drawing and Fish Eye, you can turn a great picture into a spectacular one, with no extra effort required.
Whether you want to take pictures for portraits (day or night), action, candlelight, night scenes, or pets, the Olympus VR-340 provides excellent settings for each and every one of them plus much more.
It’s so useful to have a gadget do all the work for you rather than studying for a couple of years!
The 10x optical zoom will give you great looking pictures of distant objects on the horizon, and if you want to go really far, you can increase the zoom up to 40 times by using the digital zoom.
The 3” LCD screen is pretty much as big as they get and the battery will last you around 370 shots, which is probably more than you take on most trips, right?
- 10x Optical Zoom, 4x Digital Zoom, 40x Combined
- 16 MP with HD Video
- 3” LCD
- Focal Length: 24 – 240 mm
- Dimensions: 2.24” x 0.75” 3.78”
- Battery Type/Life: Lithium / 370 Shots
- Art Filters Still & Video – 12 special effects
- ISO: 100-3200
- Ports: USB x 1
The Olympus VR-340 has a lot going for it and comes at an affordable price without seeming cheap. You’ll treasure this camera as much as the beautiful photos you will take when using it.
When you’re surrounded by beautiful scenery, you want to capture as much of it as you can. It can sometimes be a bit tricky to piece everything together with multiple shots, and the Sony DSCW830/B has a great little feat to get around this: 360° Sweep Panorama.
Panoramic sweep is nothing new in the picture world, and many smartphones are capable of this, but imagine being at the top of a hill, mountain, or canyon, with no civilization in sight. Then you're zooming out to 8x optical zoom and taking a grand, majestic photo of the distant surroundings with the benefit of 360° panoramic sweep.
These kinds of photos let you show your full surroundings in just one shot, and they can be a lot more impressive and immersive than the standard view shots.
You can use it for an acute or as obtuse an angle as you need, so whether Frank doesn’t fit in the shot and you need a bit more room, or you want to show the full beauty of a room you just decorated, the Sony DSCW830/B is your instrument of success.
- 8x Optical Zoom, 2x Digital Zoom, 16x Combined
- 20.1 MP with 720p HD Video
- 2.7” LCD
- Focal Length: 25 – 200 mm
- Dimensions: 2.05” x 0.91” 3.66”
- Battery Type/Life: Lithium / 210 Shots
- 360° Sweep Panorama
- ISO: 80-3200
- Ports: USB x 1
The Sony DSCW830/B is a great tool for those wanting more from their camera. It's considered by some to be the best digital camera under $200, and it’s easy to see why.
It has top end specs in many areas and comes with full functionality for a wide variety of shots and videos that you might want to take. It’s definitely worth a strong consideration.
You just bought a new camera, and you excitedly take it to the bathroom to take shots of your beautiful new décor, and the worst happens…you drop it into the toilet!
Most cameras would then be completely useless, and hopefully, it’s either under warranty and can be repaired/traded in, or you have rich parents/partners who will replace your new soggy device. If neither of those options are available, you’re left with a very wet and worthless piece of junk.
This is where the Fujifilm FinePix swims into action!
If you are in the category of people who like to take bathroom photos or you like to go snorkeling/diving and taking pictures of marine wildlife, the Fujifilm is an excellent bargain to be had.
It’s waterproof up to 50ft which is deep enough for the vast majority or snorkeling locations and deep enough for some decent diving as well.
Even if you don’t want to submerge your head, the 5x optical zoom will give you some great pictures of creatures far away, and you might even try taking photos of deep dark canyons to see what shows up.
It’s also darker underwater which is where the Fujifilm’s high-end ISO rating comes into play. You’ll be able to get some really unique and unusual photos in places that are too dark for the human eye to see.
You could go into your closet and close the door so it’s completely dark, and take a photo of your clothes rack, and it will show up as though you had a light turned on! You can just imagine the kind of photos that you’ll be able to take with a camera capable of that.
- 5x Optical Zoom, 2x Digital Zoom, 10x Combined
- 16.4 MP with 1080p HD Video
- 2.7” LCD
- Focal Length: 28 – 140 mm
- Dimensions: 2” x 5.5” 5.5”
- Battery Type/Life: Lithium / 210 Shots
- Waterproof 50ft/Shockproof 5.8ft/Dustproof/Freezeproof (14 Degrees F / -10 Degree C)
- Fujifilm Underwater/Underwater macro modes
- ISO: 100-6400
- Ports: USB x 1, Micro USB x1
The Fujifilm FinePix isn’t just for underwater. It’s for anyone looking for a tough little model capable of withstanding drops, submersion, very cold conditions, and dusty terrain.
It’s hard to find a weak point in the camera's specs, and it’s a must have if you’re the adventurous type.
If you’re looking at digital cameras, it’s because you want better pictures and more dynamic options than you can get from your smartphone or current camera.
There are many, many digital devices to choose from and it can be worrisome that you’re actually getting a decent camera from your money, especially if it might be cheaper than another similar camera.
The 5 cameras reviewed here have been picked due to their top ratings and specifications, and there’s a model for you here regardless of what you’re going to be using it for. They’re also all relatively inexpensive, and any one of them can be said to be the best digital camera under $200.
Consider Your Needs
It’s time to narrow the list down. Even if you don’t have a solid idea of which camera to go for, the following questions will help you formulate the idea of your perfect camera for your needs.
Are you going to be doing mainly close up work or do you want to take photos of picturesque scenery on the horizon? Are you the adventurous type and you want a solid, sturdy camera that won’t break from a 6ft?
Are you going to be doing some underwater pictures and you need a waterproof camera? Do you like taking pictures at night time or is it going to mainly daylight photos that you take?
Do you need a high level of zoom for macro photos or is it just family snaps of people nearby that you want? Are you looking for any extra features like automatic settings or automatic correction for camera wobble?
Are you going to be able to charge your camera or do you need a long battery life? Are you even going to take hundreds of photos or is fifty the maximum you’re probably going to take in one outing?
The next section will explain the specifications and how they affect each of these questions.
The rating for optical zoom is how many magnifications you can zoom the camera up to. If you see an object that looks 1cm tall in the distance, the 8x optical zoom will make it appear 8cm, and you won’t get any blurriness or loss of quality because optical zoom works just like a film camera.
The digital zoom rating is how much you can then blow the image up, whether you’re at 1x optical zoom or 50x optical zoom. If you take a photo of a 4cm tall object and then use the digital x2 zoom, the image would appear 8cm tall.
Digital zoom doesn’t work in the same way as optical and, depending on how big the picture is, how many megapixels the camera uses and a few other factors, the image quality can vary from perfect to grainy.
The combined zoom is the maximum zoom rating if you times the optical zoom by the digital zoom. Useful for anyone who wants to know exactly how far the camera can actually zoom.
More megapixels can mean a better quality image, but when you’re talking about the difference between 16mb and 20mb, the human eye isn’t going to be able to tell them apart.
There are some techniques where the number of megapixels does become important – for example how big do you want to blow the picture up? If you’re just using the camera for social media sites, you don’t need to worry about this one.
If you’re going to be using the photos for billboards, then the amount of megapixels becomes an important factor!
The size of the LCD screen is what how you’re going to see the image before you take the photo. In general, the bigger the screen, the better but, again, there’s not a big different between 2.7” and 3” to most people.
It’s just your personal preference and if the only thing putting you off one camera to another is 0.3”, don’t let it worry you unless you have something very specific in mind.
In a nutshell, the focal length determines how zoomed in your lens will be. The range of focal length determines how close or far away an object can be and still appear in focus for your photos.
24-35mm is considered to be a wide angle shot, which is perfect for most people’s pictures, whereas 105-300mm is considered to be a telephoto shot, which is perfect for distant landscapes on the horizon.
The rating on each camera will give you an idea of the range of photos it’s going to be able to take for you.
How long is the battery going to last before needing a recharge and is it easily replaced? Any camera with AA batteries is easily replaced.
You could buy spare batteries for the lithium types, too, but most people just recharge them, so it’s important to have a think about how many photos you take in general and whether a high capacity/easy-to-replace battery is necessary to you or not.
This rating lets you know how well the camera performs in bright to low-light conditions. If you want to take photos in pitch black areas that are too dark for you to see, the higher the rating, the better.
Similarly, if you take photos in bright areas, the lower the rating, the better to avoid any degradation in photo quality.
Owning a digital camera like this opens up a world of exciting new possibilities. I’m sure there’s dozens if not hundreds of past events where a digital camera would have given you a better photo as well as a plethora of options not available to smartphones.
They’re very handy to have and useful for all types of occasions. Your future memories will be even better with your new digital camera!