Life can throw you a multitude of great moments. Nature can show you beauty that you didn’t know existed. Perfect moments will stick in your mind for as long as you live, but without a camera, you don’t get to share them with anybody else!
You don’t want to have to lug around a bulky DSLR camera in order to get a great picture. A compact camera can be a real neat and handy thing to have whenever you go to the great outdoors (or even the great indoors). Being able to snap a perfect pic can net you an awesome feeling, and in this digital world we live in, it can last forever.
There are plenty of cameras to choose from which can cause a lot of headaches so to make it easier, here are five of the best inexpensive point and shoot cameras!
Top-Rated Affordable Compact Cameras - Comparison Table
Best Point and Shoot Cameras Under $500
If you’re looking for the best point and shoot camera under $500, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better device than the Panasonic LUMIX.
The battery life of around 400 pictures means you can have a whole day’s worth of camera action or days of family usage on extended trips without it going dead.
It’s more than adequate for any kind of lighting conditions, whether you’re peeking into a dark cave, or have the sun blazing overhead.
One of the main features of this amazing camera is the 60x optical zoom. Snap scary wildlife from safety, far off buildings zoomed up close or minute creatures up close and personal, and all while maintaining excellent picture quality.
If you’re looking for a top quality camera that you can also use to record incredible videos, the LUMIX includes Dolby Digital Audio built in so you may never miss a sound again.
A button on the top of the camera enables you to record videos while you’re still taking photos so you can get the best of both worlds without missing those once in a lifetime moments.
- 60x Optical Zoom / 2x Digital Zoom
- ISO: 100-6400
- 16.1 Megapixels with 1080/60i HD Video
- Focal Length: 3.58 – 215mm
- Average Battery Life: 400 Images
- Viewfinder: 3” + 202k dots
- Dimensions: 5.13” x 4.65” x 3.82”
It’s easy to see why the Panasonic LUMIX makes my list among the best five cheap compact cameras. It ticks all the boxes for a variety of endeavors and will be a real asset to your future photography.
The Sony DSC-RX100 comes with a USB port, micro HDMI, and micro USB. This is really useful if you like to plug your camera into a TV to show off all your holiday pictures to the family or friends or if you want to easily store them on your computer or laptop.
It’s a very affordable gadget with a 54x Digital zoom to get close to what’s important, and it functions fantastically well in all types of daylight.
If you like to show off your images in as large a format as you can, the 20.2 megapixels will cater to that particular need rather well, whether it’s a wide angle shot or close range.
For a more personal “feel” the Sony DSC-RX100 utilizes manual controls so you can fine tune every shot to your liking if you prefer.
There’s also a memory recall mode that memorizes three groups of your settings including everything from zoom magnification to grid lines, meaning you can take shots in quick succession in the same 3 settings that you’ve previously used before.
Even if you’re more amateur than pro and you’d rather leave it all up to the camera, the plethora of modes like “Intelligent” mode will leave you with awesome looking pictures with minimum effort.
- 3.6x Optical Zoom / 54x Digital Zoom (VGA)
- ISO: 125-6400
- 20.2 Megapixels with 1080/60i HD Video
- Focal Length: 28-100mm
- Manual Controls
- Ports: 1xUSB, 1xMicro HDMI, 1xMicro USB
- Average Battery Life: 330 Images
- Viewfinder: 2.95” + 1.2million dots
- Dimensions: 4” x 2.29” x 1.41”
The Sony DSC-RX100 is an excellent mid-priced camera that delivers a lot in a small package. Prepare to be amazed at its magical witchcraft of photography!
Sometimes you’d like to take pictures in hard to reach places, or you want to take a family photo, but nobody’s around to take the picture for you.
With the Canon PowerShot, you can easily control the camera via your smartphone or tablet to take pictures. If you like to travel solo, this is a really useful feature as it allows you to include yourself in the exquisite pictures you’re taking.
The self-timer means you won’t have to be holding up a smartphone during the picture and you can see the results on your phone/tablet without having to check the camera.
There’s a free app that allows the PowerShot to work in this way and it just requires a one-time registration to get started.
The 20.3 Megapixels will make your photos stay stunning even when blown up, allowing you to play around with your pictures in even more ways.
The battery life is decent for most enthusiasts with a more than adequate sized screen that gives you a sharp, clear view with 922k dots.
It’s not too big or bulky either, sitting in the average weight category of compact cameras.
To help you take advantage of the 40x zoom, the zoom framing assist button will zoom out while held so you can pinpoint the exact object or creature you want to capture.
Upon release, it will zoom back out to the previous setting and automatically track the target you selected, waiting for you to pick the perfect moment for your snap.
- 40x Optical Zoom
- ISO: 80-3200
- 20.3 Megapixels with 1080/60i HD Video
- Focal Length: 24-172mm
- Control with your Smartphone/Tablet with Camera Connect App
- Average Battery Life: 250-355 images
- Viewfinder: 3” + 922k dots
- Dimensions: 4.3” x 2.5” x 1.4”
The Canon PowerShot really has a lot going for it, and it’s an excellent purchase for its average asking price. All of its features mean you won’t go looking for a replacement or substitute for the foreseeable future.
Like the PowerShot, the Nikon COOLPIX also utilizes their own app called SnapBridge that allows you to connect your camera to your smartphone. The benefits of this are many and can allow for some fun and cool pictures without ever leaving the camera guy out of the picture.
The COOLPIX runs on AA batteries which means that if you’re able to carry spare batteries around with you while you’re out and about, the number of snaps you can take is almost limitless.
Even if you’d rather not carry batteries, the average battery life for the COOLPIX is 600 images. That’s a lot of pictures!
With the 40x Optical zoom, you can take excellent quality pictures of far off places. Don’t fancy walking all the way to the beach from your hotel? Just take a zoomed in picture and photoshop yourself in!
It’s also really handy for focusing on a particular point, feature or creature that otherwise you can’t get close enough to.
One last feature I’d like to outline for you is the tilting LCD display. Sometimes, if you’re lying prone for example, it can be hard to see the picture you’re going to take.
You might want to take a picture of something high up or in the sky, but the sun blinds you every time you look that way. With the tilting feature, those problems are removed, and you can take the pictures you want with less hassle.
- 40x Optical Zoom
- ISO: 125 - 6400
- 16 Megapixels with 1080/60i HD Video
- Focal Length: 22.5-160mm
- Tilting LCD Display for Unique and Exciting photos
- Average Battery Life: 600 images
- Viewfinder: 3” + 921k dots
- Dimensions: 4.5” x 3.8” x 3.1”
The Nikon COOLPIX is a true piece of photography kit that’s perfect for the novice or professional alike. With the mid-range price, it won’t break the bank. If you’re looking for the best point and shoot camera under $500, the COOLPIX is a great choice.
Have you always wanted to buy a compact camera but you’re accident prone, and you’re sure you’ll break it too easily? Perhaps you want to take the camera with you but the terrain is rugged, and there’s a chance you’ll drop the camera?
Are you looking for something you can take with you snorkeling or swimming so you can get some unique underwater pics? The Olympus TG-4 is the one for you!
With a 4x optical zoom, you can get some great looking close-ups of marine life, desert scenery or anything else you can imagine.
It doesn’t have the zoom of the Panasonic, but this camera is made for those who need their camera to do the work up close and personal yet still be able to zoom into a decent standard when necessary.
Able to withstand drops of up to 7ft, it’s safe to drop it on the floor for all but the tallest of people. The Olympus is also waterproof up to depths of 50 feet which is more than adequate for any of the popular snorkeling spots.
You’ll be able to get some good pictures without even going underwater yourself with the 4x zoom.
To help you navigate on your far-flung adventures, the Olympus TG-4 also touts an e.Compass. Really handy for those that want to get lost in the wilds yet find their way back out again!
- 4x Optical Zoom / 4x Digital Zoom / 2x Super Resolution Zoom
- ISO: 100-6400
- 16 Megapixels with 1080/60i HD Video
- Focal Length: 25-100mm
- Shockproof to 7ft (2.1m)
- Waterproof to 50f (15m)
- Crushproof to 220 lbf (100 kgf)
- Enhanced GPS & e.Compass, USB port, HDMI port
- Average Battery Life: 380 images
- Viewfinder: 3” + 460k dots
- Dimensions: 4.4” x 2.6” x 1.2”
None of the other cameras I’ve reviewed can compare to the Olympus TG-4 if “tough” is what you’re looking for. It’s definitely a niche-market camera which is excellent for those rough rides or snorkeling holidays.
If you’re looking at cameras like these then taking photos is at least a serious hobby for you and you want the very best camera for your needs.
The five compact cameras reviewed here are all mid-priced and have been picked out for their excellent customer feedback along with great and unique features.
There’s something different about all of them, and it’s going to be important for you to pick the right one which is why I’ve tried to point out the main features and what’s different about them, along with the main specifications, if you’re looking for them.
You want the best point and shoot camera under $500 that you can get, and this article is designed for just that purpose.
Things to Consider
Firstly, before the explanation, take a few moments to consider your needs. You may already have a specific purpose and/or use in mind for the camera and have already picked one out.
In that case, you’re probably not reading this and are already clicking the button to add a point and shoot into your shopping cart! If you are still with me, let’s touch on a few points.
Where are you going to be using the camera? Is it mainly for social/family gatherings and mostly indoors? Having a long camera zoom is probably not as important as the other features then.
You can concentrate more on how well the camera performs in lighting conditions (the ISO spec) or whether it can be controlled remotely by your smartphone or tablet.
If you do want to take pictures outdoors, the zoom value can be very important, but less so depending on what you’re going to do with the pictures after you take them.
If you’re just uploading them to social media, the zoom can be less important as you can crop the images yourself if needed and still maintain quality. The amount of megapixels the camera has will also impact the quality of the pictures.
If you like recording videos, you’re going to want one that has high quality and isn’t going to run dry before you’re done. Depending on what you’re recording, you might need features like time lapse.
On the other hand, if it’s family/social recordings, the extra features may not be necessary.
If you are going to be doing a lot of hiking, climbing, snorkeling or you just want a camera that is tough, the Olympus TG-4 is going to be more down your street. You can drop it, get it wet, get it dusty and generally mistreat it and it will still be functional and take great pictures.
Those features won’t benefit everybody though, especially if you’re using a tripod or taking pictures in parks for example and you would benefit better from the better zoom of other cameras.
There’s also a lot of different attributes to cameras which can be confusing, so I’ve taken the liberty of explaining some of them below.
Explaining the Specs
Touch Screen vs. Manual
A touch screen is more modern and can have some benefits like the camera’s settings being automatically tuned, so you don’t have to play around with it yourself, but if you prefer the more hands on approach, manual buttons would be preferable, so you can tweak them to your heart's content.
How many megapixels is enough? Can you have too many? It really depends on what you’re going to be doing with the photos.
If you’re mainly uploading them to social media, pixels will be automatically deleted to make the photo fit during the downsize and can affect the picture in negative ways. The more pixels in an image, the larger the file size which will eat up memory and take longer to upload, etc.
If you delete your photos after uploading or if memory isn’t an issue then the file size becomes a moot point.
As an example, 6-10 megapixels would be more than sufficient for social media, whereas the sky’s the limit for large-scale professional photos.
In all honesty, for most people, don’t worry about the megapixels in these five cameras as they’re all perfect for 99% of pictures.
Optical Zoom vs. Digital Zoom (And how much zoom!?)
Optical zooms work just like professional cameras, in that it uses a lens to adjust the zoom.
Digital zooms act just like a human would in Photoshop if they wanted to enlarge something. They’d zoom in on one point and then crop the edges. The result can be a poorer quality picture due to the pixels being enlarged.
This can also save on file size though, and if you’re not zooming in too much, it hardly makes a difference.
As to how much zoom you’d need or want – again it depends entirely on what you’re going to be using it for. Are you looking to take fully zoomed pictures of far off places, or perhaps a spot of macro photography?
The zoom factor plays a significant role in how well you’ll be able to accomplish your goal.
Perhaps you want to take photos of places that are hard to reach, in which case you’d need more zoom. If, however, you’re more focused (pun intended) on taking family photos and the like – generally in rooms or of objects within 50-100m or so, a couple of zoom levels will do the trick.
The size of the viewfinder (in inches) is an indication of how large the image you’re looking at will appear on the camera screen. You’d typically want a larger value so you can see it more easily, and the number of “dots” indicates how crisp and clear the image is going to be.
If minute detail isn’t the top priority, the size of the viewfinder and the amount of dots become less important than other features.
What is ISO an Indication of?
Put simply, ISO is a measure of how well a camera can perform in low light situations. The higher the maximum range, the better the camera can handle dark areas.
The range will usually start low, around 100, which you want if you’re going to be taking pictures in broad daylight, and go up as high as the thousands.
If you like to take many pictures in one outing, you’re going to want as long a battery life as you can get. It’s the same with recording videos. It’s going to serve you much better to have a longer lasting battery if you want more than an hour or so of video.
However, if you are able to charge the camera on the fly or you just don’t use it enough to completely drain it before you get home, the battery becomes less important. A bigger battery can mean a chunkier camera too which has positive and negative benefits.
If you want a manual camera with controls you can constantly manipulate, you might have trouble with a small camera if you have large hands/fingers.
If fat fingers aren’t your problem and you don’t need the maximum battery, you might opt for a more petite camera because you’re going to be lugging it around all day!
Photography can be an exciting and rewarding experience. The pictures you take will capture great moments forever, and you’ll be able to look back on them for the rest of your life and remember those great experiences.
The tool you use to get those images has a massive impact and can make or ruin the shot. With these 5 reviews and the buyer’s guide, you have all the tools you need to make a well-informed decision and start to take great pictures as soon as your new camera arrives!