No matter what kind of videographer or photographer you are, there are situations where compact cameras come in handy. Going further than that, there are some situations where compact cameras are just as good as bigger, more expensive cameras, namely in daylight. In fact, one great reason to buy a small camera like this is that for a low price, you can get a huge amount of zoom power that’s effective in situations under the sun or in well-lit environments. This is because compact cameras have small sensors and don’t need huge, expensive lenses to see much farther than the human eye.
Here’s some other reasons you may want a compact camera: to bring into places where bigger cameras aren’t allowed (concerts, Disney World, etc), to capture moments quickly (almost always more quickly than a phone camera, no “slide to unlock” here), and to own a device that lets you focus on one thing: recording video and stills. $200 is a formidable budget for a camera of this type whether you’re shooting video or stills.
Let’s take a look at the best compact cameras.
1. Sony Cybershot X220
This is one tiny camera you don’t want to miss. Boasting lightning-fast FPS at ten frames per second (FPS) and liquid smooth HD video with 1080p at 60fps, this is a pocket cannon that is bound to please. For all those friends who will pose the classic compact camera question, “Why don’t you just use your phone?” This camera answers firmly, “10x optical zoom. 50 percent more resolution.”
Not that everything’s perfect for everyone, some users report that this camera is tough to use, particularly those with big fingers. That said, most report finding it simple. It’s praised for its compatibility with vlogging, and extensive feature list (three to five image sizes, adjustable color temperature, and panoramas). For people who like slideshows, this camera also outputs full 4K to a television or monitor so you can show off your shots on the big screen.
- Extremely compact, some compared it to a credit card
- Camera is simple and straightforward
- Takes better pictures than a cell phone, allows one to zoom
- Records 1080p at 60 frames per second
- Small size makes navigating menus difficult for users with large fingers
- Some users found menus to be unclear
- Low light quality is better than a cell phone, but some users report expecting more
2. Canon PowerShot ELPH 190 IS
Boasting 10x zoom, a 20 megapixel sensor, and 720p video recording, this is one little camera you don’t want to snooze on. It boasts a wide array of features including image stabilization (hence the IS), a variety of scene modes, smart auto, and you can download a Canon app which can trigger the camera without touching it. You can also use Wi-Fi to sync up your photos and share them.
This camera is great if you want to take simple shots and immediately integrate them with a phone. Many praise its ease of use and speed in going from out of your pocket to capturing the moments you want. It is a point-and-shoot in the truest sense of the term: simple, fast, and effortless.
- Many praise battery life and photo quality
- Ergonomically designed and easy to hold
- Wi-Fi feature is useful once you set it up
- Pictures are clear and beautiful
- A few users mentioned issues with focusing while zooming and using video
- Some users complain construction feels cheap
- Wi-fi feature is hard to set up
3. Ghost Hunting Camera
For someone looking for something a little different, the Ghost Hunting Camera may be what you’re after. While it won’t offer any of the conventional modes or features of normal photography cameras, it will let you take 24 megapixel pictures. It’s not the smallest camera on our list, but it should easily fit into a back pocket or jacket pocket.
Onto the exciting part: it lets you record ghosts or people playing soccer, and everything in between. This camcorder excels with video, shooting 1080p at 30 frames per second. It has a switch that permits the user go between full spectrum (normal mode) or into infrared mode (mode that lets you see in the dark or record ghosts if any are around). The one big drawback to these cool features is that the camera’s battery life only lasts an hour.
If you’re looking for an adventure and don’t need all of the features of a normal stills camera, this camcorder might offer you one heck of a good time.
- Films in two modes: normal and infrared, permitting to see in the dark
- Takes 24 megapixel pictures in either mode
- Three inch view screen lets you see what you’re recording
- Recommended by people who hunt ghosts as being a good value
- Short battery life of about one hour
- No conventional photography features
- On-board infrared (invisible) light isn’t very bright meaning you can’t see far in the dark
- Some users find image quality poor
4. Nikon Coolpix L32
If you’re looking for a simple, fun camera the Coolpix L32 is the one for you. It takes just regular AA batteries and offers a 5x zoom. This red cam is the perfect gift for a kid with an interest in photos, or for the practical person who never wants to worry about charging batteries. Boasting a large three inch LCD and 720P video recording, it’s a feature set well-rounded enough to please most people and at a price that’s hard to beat.
It also has built-in effects and a smart portrait mode. Plus, there’s an anti-red eye lamp that prevents those obnoxious raccoon eyes from ruining photos. The camera includes two AAs and a strap to keep it safe when in use.
- Attractive red, playful design
- 320 shots of battery life, taking AA batteries
- Great camera for those looking for something simple and easy
- Multiple effect modes and smart portrait feature
- Some users complain of image quality when using zoom feature
- Does not upload or sync to computers or smartphones, must be plugged in through USB
5. Sony DSCW830
Not the fastest gun in the west, but for the slow and steady, this camera delivers. The DSCW830 is a budget Sony compact with 8x optical zoom. The worst thing one can say about it is that it’s not very responsive when shooting pictures. For those looking to catch lightning fast-moments, those exact split seconds, this is not the camera for you. For everyone else, it’s superb.
Boasting many features including tracking focus, live view, and face detection, it’s able to help you grab the pictures you want. At 20.1 megapixels, these pictures can stand to be blown up and are sharp as a tack. The camera’s tiny size means it’s easy to bring along with you no matter the situation.
- Shoots nice 20.1 megapixel stills
- Boasts different focus modes and picture effects
- Optical SteadyShot helps keep your photos sharp
- Shoots 720P video with sound
- Camera is slow to take a picture
- Some users complain battery life is on the short side
- A few users report poor image quality
6. Kodak PIXPRO Astro Zoom
For those looking to get close to the action, the Kodak PIXPRO Astro Zoom may be the choice for you. While it’s definitely got its limits (namely for anything indoors or low light), there are few cameras in this price range and size (relatively compact) that permit one to zoom this much (for instance, the last camera on our list zooms farther and has better images, but it’s more expensive).
The camera also offers several interesting, unique features including: face detection that works for cats and dogs, face beautifier, and blink/smile detection to help aid in capturing those fleeting moments of smiles (fake or otherwise). The camera also has a panorama mode.
Price: $146.85 (18 percent off MSRP)
The video above shows off the fun you can have with the 25x zoom feature on this camera.
- Camera boasts tremendous zoom power
- Great for outdoor shots
- Takes AA batteries so you never have to worry about charging
- Can detect dog and cat faces and focus on them (albeit slowly)
- Some users say focus doesn’t work when zooming
- Low-light ability is very poor, including focusing; you’ll need to use flash
- Noticeable shutter delay means you can miss those quick moments
7. Kodak PIXPRO Friendly Zoom
For the budget-minded photog looking for a simple solution, the PIXPRO Friendly Zoom has got you covered. Boasting 4x zoom, a variety of modes, and a look that says, “I’m practical and easy,” this is the ideal camera for those looking for a cheap, simple photography solution.
It’s a no-frills camera, but it covers all of the bases: it records video. It zooms. It has enough modes to capture any kind of moment (including sports, so you can catch quick movements). At this price, it’s a great value particularly for beginners and those looking for the basics.
Price: $74.34 (7 percent off MSRP)
- 4x optical zoom means you can get close-ish to the action
- Easy to use with a variety of modes
- Large screen allows one to view their photos
- Takes AAs, but many users complain of it going through them quickly
- Will consume batteries even when not in use
- A few users found it confusing to use
8. Apple iPhone 5S
While technically this is not a camera, the iPhone 5S has a camera that is very decent. Boasting 8 megapixels and full 1080P video recording, what you lose in megapixels you make up for in recording options. The iPhone 5S lets one record slow-motion 120 frames per second video. This is unique in this price range.
The iPhone 5S is also very small. Battery life is decent, and it comes with all the goodness an iPhone allows: apps, flashlight, and yes, a second camera (the selfie camera on the front). It may not be what you had in mind when you thought about compact cameras, but it can make a great gift for the photography-minded.
Note: Just above this price, one could also buy an iPod Touch 6 ($199.99 on Amazon), but AppleInsider compared the iPhone 5S and iPod Touch 6 and concluded, “for camera enthusiasts, we’re going to have to give the edge to the iPhone 5s.”
- Decent camera with capable and easy-to-use device
- No memory card needed; the iPhone 5S has ample onboard storage
- Slow-mo video is a rare feature in this price range
- Camera has low megapixels compared to other cameras in this price range
- Built-in memory means you’re limited to what can fit on the phone, but at 16GB this is quite a lot
- Relatively complicated compared to other devices
- No zoom (digital only, which doesn’t permit for more detail)
9. Sony DSCW800
With 20 megapixels and 5x zoom, this is a powerful Sony camera. It records 720P video and has special features like Panorama mode, which can capture a sweeping 360 degrees.”Smile Shutter,” another unique feature, automatically captures smiles.
The camera also has SteadyShot Image Stabilization and excellent auto modes, meaning you can always grab the moments you want without doing too much work. If even that seems overwhelming, one popular aspect of this camera is the “Simple” mode, which makes everything as easy as it can be.
- 20.1 megapixels and 5x optical zoom mean your moments can be close-up and detailed
- Menu has a simple mode to keep things super easy
- Captures video in 720P
- Good battery life
- Struggles with noise and focus in low light
- Uses proprietary charging cable meaning you better not lose the cord
- Some users complain about battery latch being insecure
10. Nikon Coolpix L340
If this camera is in your price range and compactness isn’t a major factor, this still small (yet DSLR like) camera will blow you away. Boasting 28x optical zoom and 20.2 megapixels, one can get extremely close to the action with amazing detail. This is the point and shoot camera you are looking for.
Unlike most cameras in this price range, it can handle low light decently and autofocuses well in many environments. Unlike most cameras in this price range, it bizarrely takes four AA batteries (but they last a long time). Unlike many cameras in this price range, this camera blows the rest of them out of the water. This camera might even work as a suitable B-camera for those who own a nice DSLR, but don’t want to invest in a huge zoom lens. 28x magnification is hard to beat.
- 28x optical zoom has amazing quality
- Use AA batteries (four) but lasts over 300 shots
- Does decent in low light photos (but there is visible noise starting at ISO 400
- Takes 720P video
- Uses four AA batteries (that adds up)
- Focus is slow but only for macro images
- No advanced video recording features, 30 frames per second only
- One second delay in recording video