Updated on December 21, 2020 by Lyric Fergusson
While smartphones have largely taken over the job of traditional cameras in recent years, there are still a few important reasons you might want to own a camera.
Generally speaking, smartphones can’t equal cameras in terms of image quality, no matter how many megapixels they pack into their specs. Additionally, they often have specialized modes and features you can’t find on a smartphone. For example, they are often waterproof.
Then there are the popular instant models. You can use these to capture fun photos and have a print-out of the image instantly to hand out to your family and friends.
In short, there’s something special about capturing moments with a bit of vintage charm that can’t be replaced with a smartphone and a selfie stick. But cameras can be expensive. Luckily, I’ve found a few cameras under $200 that I absolutely love.
Here are my recommendations for the best cameras under $200.
Best Cameras Under $200
(Best slim design)
Why it’s great: This camera is slim, and we are talking slim at less than 1-inch thick. It is compact and versatile, two must-haves in the digital camera department. The 12x optical zoom means you can get up close and personal with the subject of your photo. The built-in WiFi means you can transfer images without having to use a physical cord to connect the camera to a computer.
With HD video capabilities, you can take some pretty high-quality videos with this camera as well. In short, it ticks all the boxes for an all-purpose camera, without breaking the bank.
Keep in mind: This camera comes with a battery, but it is always wise to buy a second battery to have on hand just in case.
Good for: Beginning photographers that want to try out basic photography principles.
2. Sony DSCW830
(Best for those who take shaky pix)
Why it’s great: With 20.1 megapixels, a slim design, and plenty of picture effects and settings, this camera will keep you busy (in a good way) for hours. But its main selling point might be its image stabilization capabilities. They are so powerful that you can take crystal clear shots even while you are running… or jogging… or chasing down your toddler.
Looking for something geared more toward social media use? This is a great pick. The included face detection and beauty effects will create Insta-worthy portraits with ease. Just click the Beauty Effect for smoother skin, teeth whitening, and other cosmetic adjustments.
Keep in mind: This camera doesn’t come with a memory card, and its internal memory is a bit small. You’ll want to buy a memory card to store all your data.
Good for: Those that have a knack for taking shaky, blurry pictures.
(Best for kids)
Why it’s great: Digital images are great for sharing instantly on social media, but nothing beats the nostalgia of instant photos. Watching the little square of paper jump out of a camera and the image magically appear is something that never fails to charm, no matter hold old you get.
But kids find a particular charm in this process. Being able to take photos of their own and experience the instant gratification of their creativity is what this camera was practically made for. It even includes a “Kids Mode.” This features a faster shutter speed, allowing your kiddos to take great pictures, even with the shakiest of hands.
Keep in mind: The film these cameras use can be sensitive to cold temperatures – so trying to get Insta-shots outside in wintery wonderlands might not be such a good idea.
Good for: Engaging your kids in a bit of photographic creativity.
4. GoPro HERO7
(Best for taking action photos)
Why it’s great: GoPros need no true introduction. Users love them for their hands-free, first-person views of various sports and other activities. They can be set, worn, and left to capture the action without constant monitoring.
This GoPro is waterproof and durable and features 1080P video capabilities and 12mp photos. And with its emphasis on frame rate, you can capture the nuances of just about any high-speed moment in startling detail. This allows you to truly watch moments as they unfold. Pretty amazing stuff!
Keep in mind: This GoPro is waterproof up to 33 ft. deep in water – but it might not be the best option for deeper dives.
Good for: Close encounters with high-speed, rugged outdoors.
(Best rugged camera in a compact package)
Why it’s great: This camera is ready to hit the road, the ice, the desert, the mountain top, and anywhere else you might want to take it. Its bragging rights center around how rugged it is. It is dust-sealed, shockproof, waterproof, and freeze-proof. Its image specs aren’t shabby either, with high-resolution stills of up to 10 fps and HD 1080p video.
Keep in mind: The compact size means smaller buttons, which are all placed on the right side of the camera. This might not be for everyone.
Good for: A compact camera that can take you virtually anywhere you want to go and not break in the process.
(Best retro fun)
Why it’s great: Insta-cameras like this have frequently been of the best-selling products on Amazon for a reason. There’s just something about being able to see instant results in print of your photography that can’t be surpassed by digital. Tape the snapshots on your fridge, your corkboard, your bathroom mirror…
This camera has all the charm of the full-sized models but in a smaller package that can be easily slipped into a purse or bag and make its presence a bit less known. It offers all the fun of the bigger models in a lighter, more compact package.
Keep in mind: This is a film-only camera. It doesn’t store any kind of digital images, so if you want digital copies, you will have to scan and save them onto your computer.
Good for: A retro feel that gives you instant pix to share with family and friends.
(Best underwater camera)
Why it’s great: This camera comes with all the basics you want in a digital camera. It features a waterproof depth of 36 ft., along with being shockproof and freeze-proof. But what sets this camera apart is the special filters and settings specific for capturing underwater stills and footage. It is often difficult to capture all of the colors of beautiful coral and ocean life with a typical waterproof camera. This one considers the ocean’s specific colorization (hint: there’s a lot of blue) and integrates filters to balance everything out with its Advanced Underwater Mode.
Often, with excellent water cameras, dry land photos take a hit. That’s not the case with this camera. This one is solid both in and out of the water.
Keep in mind: Because this model’s emphasis is on being waterproof, it might take a bit more time to open various compartments like the battery door.
Good for: Underwater dives and snorkeling trips.
FAQs about cameras
1. What features should I look for in a digital camera as a beginner?
If you are just getting started in photography, congratulations! It can be a fun, rewarding, and creative endeavor. With a bit of practice, you are sure to be well on your way to crafting fantastic shots.
My first advice is to keep well within your budget, which should be easier with the cameras on this list. Watch for cameras that can stand up to the wear-and-tear you are sure to give them as a beginner. Having WiFi capabilities to be able to quickly transfer and save your images is a plus.
Don’t get too caught up in all the fancy terminology. Learning many of the tricks of the trade can start with a simple point and shoot. Someday you might be so enchanted with the hobby that you can upgrade to one of those fancy DSLR or Mirrorless cameras with dozens of lenses.
2. What are megapixels?
Megapixels are the number of pixels that make up an image. Megapixels are a critical component in determining the quality of an image, but they aren’t the final and most decisive factor. In general, the higher a megapixel count, the more detail you can get for your image. If you are only viewing your photos digitally, you might not notice the differences between megapixels. But if you print your images out, you might want to make sure you have a generous amount of megapixels.
3. How many megapixels is good for a camera?
This depends a lot on how you plan to use it. In general, the more megapixels means the larger you can print the image. So if you are printing billboards, for example, you’ll need a tremendous amount of megapixels. However, as previously mentioned, megapixels aren’t the end-all, be-all when it comes to cameras. Watch for other features, for example, quality sensors and lens that will unsure an ultimately superior image.
4. How big are the pictures from an instant camera?
This depends on which model you purchase. The Instax film that we included in our round-up of favorites has the following specs: the mini comes in at 1.8 in × 2.4 in., the Wide comes in at 3.9 in × 2.4 in., and the square comes in at 2.4 in. by 2.4 in.
5. How deep underwater can a waterproof camera go?
This depends on which model you choose. Most waterproof cameras can go at least 8-10 feet without needing extra casing. The models we included on our list can go much deeper. The Panasonic Lumix, for example, can go a full 36 ft. deep without needing extra casing.
Digital cameras can be an incredibly creative way to capture the important moments of your life. With the above models, you can not only express your creativity but find a bit of adventure along the way. After all, your cell phone can’t take you into the deep blue sea or face the hazards of a dusty mountaintop—nor do they offer the instantaneous gratification and party-pleasing fun of the FujiMax cameras.
Whether you are heading to a party or a ski slope, these cameras should have you covered for the adventure. We can’t wait to see what you create!