While incredible improvements to smartphone cameras have made point and shoot cameras less popular than before, there are still plenty of reasons to buy a point and shoot camera:
- Better ergonomics for photography
- Superior optical zoom capabilities
- Convenient manual controls
- RAW support*
They’re also just a lot of fun to use and are great for recording family trips, especially since everyone can get in on the action.
So if you’re in the market for a point and shoot camera that costs less than $300, here are our top picks:
Best Overall: Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ80
When Panasonic introduced the FZ70 back in 2013, it proved to be a game changer in its category. With amazing build quality and features at an affordable price, it was a popular option among point and shoot photographers.
The FZ80 builds upon the success of its predecessor to offer more at the same great value. While it sports the same 1/2.3-inch BSI-CMOS sensor, it’s resolution has improved to 18.1 megapixels. This makes for even better image quality.
The 60x optical superzoom, Panasonic’s crowning achievement with the FZ70, allows you to capture moments and subjects from a variety of ranges and distances. It combines this with some fantastic optical image stabilization that means that camera shake is minimized even when zoomed into longer focal lengths. (Of course, a tripod is highly recommended when you’re maxing out its zoom)
The ability to capture 4K video at 30 frames per second is another seriously impressive feature of the FZ80, especially at this price point. And thanks to the aforementioned built-in stabilization, unwanted camera shake is greatly reduced.
The FZ80 also features an incredibly high resolution 3-inch touchscreen (1,040,000 dots) and WiFi capability that allows you to wirelessly transfer files and control the camera remotely on your smartphone via the Panasonic Image App.
The Panasonic FZ70 packs so many premium specs and features, all without breaking the bank. It’s our pick for the best bridge camera.
Runner Up: Canon PowerShot SX540 HS
If you’re a more budget conscious photographer but still looking for a great overall package that delivers awesome image quality, consider the Canon PowerShot SX540 HS bridge camera.
Even at a cheaper price and slimmer design compared to the Panasonic FZ80, you still get a variety of great high-end specs. Photos taken with the SX540 HS are impressive, thanks to its 20-megapixel 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, DIGIC 6 image processor, fast autofocus and shutter speed, and 50x zoom lens.
It’s capable of recording at 1080p with great optical image stabilization, making for fantastic videos. It also features a well-sized 3-inch LCD screen so you can view photos and videos directly from the device. The SX540 HS comes with WiFi and NFC connectivity, allowing for easy and convenient transferring of files to your devices.
The SX540 HS won’t come with some of the more premium features you see on the FZ80. There’s no 4K video recording or a high-resolution viewfinder. However, it consistently ranks high among camera enthusiasts because what the SX540 HS does have in the way of core features, it excels in and does so at a comparatively lower price point.
If you’re an everyday photographer who primarily focuses on still shots, the Canon PowerShot SX540 HS provides a first-class experience at a great value.
Runner Up: Nikon COOLPIX B500
The Nikon COOLPIX B500 is another great option for those looking for an affordable bridge camera. While its Nikkor lens may come up short against the Canon SX540 HS in megapixel count (16-megapixel vs 20-megapixel for SX540 HS) and optical zoom (40x vs 50x for SX540 HS), the B500 does offer some unique advantages that entice some photographers to choose it as their camera of choice.
Its 3-inch tilting LCD screen allows you to view your images at different angles – perfect for those sunny days. With a comparatively faster shutter speed, you won’t be missing too many picture-perfect moments. And with Bluetooth connectivity, you can maintain a constant connection with your favourite devices at all times, continuously transferring your files with ease.
The Nikon COOLPIX B500 is also powered by AA batteries as opposed to a rechargeable lithium battery. While this may be a polarizing feature, it does undoubtedly provide some convenience to users, especially on longer outings where access to outlets is scarce. Just pop in some fresh AA’s when the juice runs out and you’ll be able to continue shooting without interruption.
If you like viewing photos directly on your camera, appreciate connectivity and prefer an alternative to rechargeable batteries, the Nikon COOLPIX B500 is a solid option for you.
Best Compact: Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS70
Also known as the TZ90, the Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS70 is a great option for photographers on the go who want a shooter that can take high quality shots and be stashed away in their pocket or bag in an instant.
With a 20.2-megapixel 1/2.3 inch image sensor and 4K video recording at 30 frames per second, the DC-ZS70 is very comparable to its FZ80 big brother, and at half the weight!
The inclusion of an electronic viewfinder gives you plenty of flexibility to compose your shot. Meanwhile, the titing LCD touchscreen can be rotated 180-degrees to capture those all-important selfies.
Panasonic has since come out with the updated ZS80. However, there’s not much value to be had for the added cost as the overall specs are comparable to the ZS70, with the exception of Bluetooth capability and a higher resolution viewfinder. The ZS70 offers better value for money and is definitely the smarter buy for the budget conscious.
For the more serious photographer, we’d still recommend the FZ80 as it has superior focal lengths, higher maximum aperture and a faster shutter. The result (in a nutshell) is that you’ll be able to take better pictures (and video) on a much more diverse range of subjects.
The bulk of the FZ80 could be an issue for some people so if you’re needing a camera that’s travel friendly that takes great shots for any occasion, consider the Panasonic DC-ZS70.
For Travel: Canon SX620 HS
If you’re driven by wanderlust and looking for a companion to document your adventures, the Canon SX620HS should make for a worthy partner. This digital camera takes some impressively great shots for something its size.
It has a 20.2-megapixel CMOS sensor and an excellent Digic 4+ image processor, resulting in sharp and crisp images. With its 25x optical zoom lens, you’ll have the ability to really capture your travels at any distance. Add in WiFi and NFC connectivity, and you’ll be able to share your experiences with anyone, from wherever you might be.
Sure, with a camera this small and at this price point, there’s bound to be some compromises compared to some other compact cameras like the Panasonic ZS70. The 3-inch LCD display is fixed and not a touchscreen. The lack of a viewfinder means you’ll have to look through the screen when you’re shooting. And there’s no 4K video recording, although video quality is otherwise good.
But if you’re an avid traveller who likes to pack light, you might be willing to make these types of trade-offs if that means a smaller form factor (and less space taken up in your bag). And if size and portability is your top priority for a point and shoot camera, you can’t beat the Canon SX620HS.
Also Consider: Sony Cybershot HX80
Coming in slightly over our $300 budget, the Sony DSC-HX80 is another pocket-sized camera that makes a fantastic travel companion. Although we don’t think it does enough to justify paying $100 more over the SX620HS, it is worth considering if you’re after something a little more luxurious.
The image quality delivered by the ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T* Zoom Lens is more comparable to the bulkier Lumix ZS70 than the SX620HS, despite being packaged in a much more pocket-friendly enclosure. The impressive lens is backed by Sony’s top-notch BIONZ X image processor and SteadyShot image stabilization, so you get crisp shots even when conditions are less than ideal.
Other than that, its 30x optical zoom, superior wide and long focal lengths and faster continuous shooting speed are what makes it objectively better than the cheaper Canon SX620HS.
While it’s on the expensive side, if you can snag this camera for less than $300, it’s a no-brainer.
For Beginners: Canon PowerShot ELPH 190
Lucas Gentry famously said “Photography has nothing to do with cameras”.
And it’s completely true. You don’t need to shell out on a fancy DSLR or mirrorless camera to take photos that evoke emotion or spark inspiration.
If you’re a newcomer in the world of photography, it’s best to focus on learning photography, as opposed to learning how to operate all the features of a sophisticated camera. The Canon Powershot ELPH 190 is suited for just that.
This digital camera is easy to use, cheap, and nails all the basics. With a 10-megapixel image sensor, 10x optical zoom and 720p video recording, you won’t be getting the best image quality or recording high-definition videos, but it’s not half bad.
Point and shoot at any subject and you’re going to get a pretty decent photo. And its low price makes it perfect for any beginner looking to start playing around and experimenting with photos and videos.
The WiFi and NFC capabilities are also great additions to such an affordable digital camera, allowing you to easily share your files to your desired devices. You’ll want to be mindful of your shooting conditions, though. The light sensitivity range (ISO 100-1600) is quite limited, making it less than ideal for low light photography.
Photography doesn’t have to be expensive, especially for a beginner. The Canon PowerShot ELPH 190 is the perfect option to get you started on your path to mastering the basics of this craft.
Waterproof: Fujifilm FinePix XP140
The Fujifilm FinePix XP140 is a rugged compact camera fit for just about any environment, whether it be at the beach, the lake, or in the snow. It’s waterproof up to 25m (82ft), shockproof to 1.8m (5.9ft), freezeproof up to -10ºC (14ºF), as well as dustproof. It features a 16.4-megapixel sensor, 5x optical zoom, 4K video recording at 15 frames per second and a 3-inch LCD display. All at an amazingly low price.
Now, it won’t come close in specs to some other compact cameras. But with its very specific value proposition, it doesn’t have to. It can withstand the unpredictability of nature (and of human clumsiness) and still come out in working condition. This is what makes the FinePix XP140 attractive amongst families and outdoor enthusiasts.
The FinePix XP140 can take decent photos and videos in some pretty harsh conditions. These same conditions would prove challenging – perhaps impossible in some instances – for its contemporaries. So, if you’re not bothered by a lack of some premium features, don’t care about recording 4k video at 30 frames per second, and just need something that can handle the tough conditions you find yourself in, the Fujifilm FinePix XP140 is a no-brainer.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What Else Do I Need To Buy?
Point and shoot cameras are designed to be used out of the box. You don’t need to worry about lenses, flash accessories or external mics.
However, you will need an SD card, and preferably one with at least 16GB of space. We highly recommend getting a Class 10 or UHS speed 3 (and above) SD memory card to avoid slow loading in the gallery and facilitate quick uploads to your computer.
You may also be interested in other optional accessories, like tripods, carrying cases, and backup batteries.
2. Optical Zoom vs Digital Zoom: What’s the difference?
When buying a point and shoot (or any camera for that matter), you always want to consider the optical zoom, and not the digital zoom.
Optical zoom measures how far you can zoom without losing image quality, as it involves a physical change in the lens. Digital zoom is merely the camera’s software magnifying the image by cropping out the rest of the photo.
Some manufacturers boast impressive zoom numbers, but make sure you’re looking at optical zoom and not digital zoom.
3. What’s a Bridge Camera?
Bridge cameras are digital cameras that take inspiration from traditional high-end DSLRs and your standard pocket compact camera.
Their large bodies are similar to DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, and offer superior ergonomics. They’re a joy to hold in your hands, and they are big enough to house superzoom lenses.
However, unlike DSLR/Mirrorless cameras, they are simple to operate and have a fixed lens that can’t be interchanged. That makes them highly convenient, akin to a standard point and shoot camera.
4. What can I get if I increase my budget?
Increase your budget and you’ll have access to point and shoot cameras with 1-inch image sensors. If you have time, check out my rundown of the top point and shoot cameras under $500.
I’m a photographer and the chief editor of Capture Guide. After spending several years in parts of South America with my trusty old Nikon D7100, I’m now back home patiently waiting for borders to re-open.