Product Reviews

Welcome to Consumer Reports.

We’re so glad to have you as a member. You now have access to benefits that can help you choose right, be safe and stay informed.

Best Digital Cameras Under $300

Yes, they beat a smartphone camera. These models have optical zoom, a big image sensor, and a great price.

Illustration of 15 cameras on a yellow background, for an roundup of cameras under $300
When you shop through retailer links on our site, we may earn affiliate commissions. 100% of the fees we collect are used to support our nonprofit mission. Learn more.

If you’ve bought a smartphone in the last few years, you’ve got a good-to-great camera in your pocket. But a stand-alone camera—even a digital camera that costs less than $300—still has features that make it worth bringing to your next BBQ or holiday event.

Why? Even a compact point-and-shoot will have a better lens and a larger sensor than your phone, meaning you get better raw pictures. “Smartphone pictures go through extreme processing to get that picture looking decent,” says Artur Pietruch, a Consumer Reports camera-testing expert. “A camera, on the other hand, has a lot less work to do, so the picture is a lot less noisy.”

Dedicated cameras also have optical zoom, something only a few high-end smartphones like the iPhone XS and the Samsung Galaxy S10 provide. An optical zoom means the lens actually moves glass elements to get you closer to the action, while smartphone’s digital zoom just enlarges the image without enhancing the resolution, creating an blurrier image.

The larger sensor and higher-performance lens in a dedicated camera tends to produce better lowlight photos, too, whether it's from your kid’s piano recital or the critical blowing-out-the-candles moment at a birthday party. And when shooting in low light, a dedicated camera will use a bright xenon flash, freezing the action. Smartphones use a dimmer LED flash.

But most important, if you’re carrying a dedicated camera, you’re more likely to take a moment to compose a photograph instead of merely snapping a picture. Having the right tool makes you feel like a craftsman.

You can find each of the digital cameras listed here for $300 or less, and they score well in Consumer Reports testing. They don't have interchangeable lenses, or the high-end glass and sophisticated controls of our top-scoring cameras. But they are compact, easy to use, and have generous zooming chops—and the price is right for many casual photographers. (If you have more to spend, we've rounded up the best cameras under $500, as well as a buying guide for the best high-end cameras overall.)

Like all products Consumer Reports reviews and rates, we bought these cameras from retailers, the same way you’d buy them—we don’t accept free review samples from manufacturers. If you’re a Consumer Reports member, you can compare and contrast ratings of the more than 170 models of cameras we’ve tested.

1

Canon PowerShot SX720 HS
Canon PowerShot SX720 HS

    Canon PowerShot SX720 HS

    With its slim, lightweight body and an impressive 40x optical zoom, the PowerShot SX720 HS is a great choice for snapping pictures of wildlife or a sporting event, while its wide-angle lens is well suited for shooting vistas or group shots. The image stabilization is top-notch, so even fully zoomed-in photos remain crisp. And it handles lowlight shooting extremely well, something many cameras with a long zoom can struggle with. You can find it for just $250, making it a lot of camera for not a lot money.

    2

    Sony Cyber-shot WX350
    Sony Cyber-shot WX350

      Sony Cyber-shot WX350

      Perfect for slipping into your pocket, the Sony Cyber-shot WX350 is barely thicker than most cell phones. A stand-out star in this price range for lowlight shooting, the Sony Cyber-shot also has extremely long battery life. Its 20x optical zoom is impressive, as is its stellar image stabilization, meaning even fully zoomed-in photos remain crisp. If you're dead set on getting the camera in white, it'll run you $445.95 due to the vagaries of Amazon, but the matte black version can be had for just $268.

      3

      Canon PowerShot ELPH 360 HS
      Canon PowerShot ELPH 360 HS

        Canon PowerShot ELPH 360 HS

        A perfect party companion, the PowerShot ELPH 360 HS's high-quality lens and large sensor help it excel at both outdoor and indoor events. It powers up quickly, and is quickly ready to take the next shot—that's important when you're shooting fast-moving or squirrelly subjects. A 12x optical zoom can help you get in close when need be, and sub-$200 price makes this Canon a great value.

        4

        Nikon Coolpix B500
        Nikon Coolpix B500

          Nikon Coolpix B500

          One of the easiest-to-use cameras on this list, the Coolpix B500 feels great in the hand when shooting and has an intuitive menu that other cameras could take a lesson from. Unlike many cameras on this list that use rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, the Coolpix B500 takes standard AA batteries, meaning you can easily carry extra power if you know you're going to be out for a long day of shooting. (The notably long battery life means you likely won't need to use those backup batteries, however.) And while we find the red finish on the camera to be attractive, not to worry—it also comes in standard black. 

          5

          Canon PowerShot SX610 HS
          Canon PowerShot SX610 HS

            Canon PowerShot SX610 HS

            This $215 point-and-shoot has an 18x optical zoom and comes WiFi-enabled, making image offloading easy. Its wide-angle lens excels at snapping the big stuff, from mountains to monuments. Also a nice bonus: It's very quick to start up, meaning you won't miss a shot while waiting for the camera turn on. 

            Jake Swearingen

            I write about electronic doodads, geegaws, and gimcracks. Before joining Consumer Reports, I was a technology writer at New York magazine. During my off hours, I enjoy time with my wife and daughter in Bayonne, N.J., working on my baking and BBQ skills. Follow me on Twitter (@JakeSwearingen).