Last updated on June 4th, 2021
A category almost as crowded as New York subways in rush hour. An opening that will help you begin your journey as a photographer — beginner cameras on a small budget.
With so many brands with hundreds of different cameras and thousands of additional features, it gets difficult to choose just one. This is where this list might help you. Whether you want a proper DSLR-like feel or you are looking for something small and portable, this list of top cameras under $400 has you covered.
Let’s dive in!
Best Cameras Under $400 that Perform Well for 2021
Our list of the best cameras under $400 provides options that can complete simple photography tasks and some advanced ones too. The price point is great if you’re on a tight budget. If you later increase your budget, you may want to look at our best DSLR cameras under $1500 list.
1. Canon EOS Rebel T6
Also known as the Canon EOS 1300D, the Rebel T6 is a good start for a beginner photographer. The older brother of the new Rebel T7, the T6, is built with an 18-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, Canon’s DIGIC 4+ processor, and built-in WiFi for transferring photos quickly. What this means is that you get a larger-than-average sensor, which will give you excellent image quality.
However, one drawback you should keep in mind is that this 18 MP sensor is almost a decade-old technology. It limits the range of light and shadows your photos show compared to other cameras. The sensor’s age will be especially apparent in low light, making the Rebel T6 a less than ideal street photography camera.
The distinctive advantage of a DSLR camera is that you get an OVF, an optical viewfinder, and the ability to put on different lenses. The T6 will not only give you the feeling of using a lightweight DSLR, but will also allow you to see the scene as it is through the OVF. In contrast to the OVF is the EVF, which is an electronic viewfinder.
The disadvantage of the T6 OVF is that it has a coverage of only 90-95% and won’t show the edges of the image that will be captured. But this is not a problem for most photographers because the edges can be cropped in photography software.
The T6 will also not show how changes in camera settings affect the final image in real-time, which can be useful as a beginner.
The Rebel T6 also offers a 9-point autofocus system and 1080p video in 30 fps. Although these are features that most beginner DSLRs offer, a disadvantage of the T6 is its live view focus, which is slower than the competition but not a deal-breaker. Most photographers prefer the OVF.
The 18-55 mm kit lens is a great value for the price and includes image stabilization. Landscape photography enthusiasts will love the shorter focal range in order to capture a wide area.
You can choose the Rebel T6 for its pleasing colors and excellent image quality. But for photographers who demand more than just the bare minimum, and are not deeply attached to a DSLR-style body, there are certainly better but expensive options.
2. Sony Cybershot DSC RX100
The Sony RX100 is an excellent choice if you are looking for a portable travel camera. The DSC RX100 boasts of a 20 MP 1-inch sensor, which is much smaller than an APS-C sensor but doesn’t significantly compromise image quality.
What’s great about this point-and-shoot camera is its pocket-friendly body and an easy to use interface. You can customize the controls the way you want, but the intelligent auto mode with accurate face detection features means that you can also leave the camera set up the way it is.
Add to this a very compact Zeiss 28-100 mm non-interchangeable lens with image stabilization, and you have a perfect family camera for all situations.
The Cybershot RX100 will also appeal to the more-demanding enthusiast crowd because of the ability to shoot RAW, full manual modes, multi-shot noise reduction, and decent continuous autofocus capabilities. You can even use it for shooting casual sports or your pets running around since the RX100 can shoot at 10 fps: which is far more than what the Canon T6 offers.
The camera also comes with the usual beginner camera gimmicks like picture effects and creative styles like B&W, Sunset, Landscape, etc. An incredibly useful feature for fun travel photography is the sweep panorama.
The camera comes with basic video features as well, 1080p at 60 fps is a welcome addition, along with the option of using fully manual settings.
Apart from the lack of a tilting touchscreen LCD, WiFi and Bluetooth, there are no real downsides to the RX100. The pricing is right, and comparing it with other bodies in this class of point-and-shoot cameras shows that it gives you more bang for the buck.
3. Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300
Panasonic FZ300 is a bridge camera that literally bridges the gap between a DSLR and a compact zoom camera.
At the heart of the FZ300 lies a 12.1 MP 1/2.3″ sensor, which is slightly behind the competition. However, Panasonic has included a Venus image processor and the 49-point autofocus system — Panasonic’s latest technology back in 2015 and still works well.
The first thing you’ll notice about this fixed-lens camera is its body design. Shaped like a DSLR, but with an EVF and a tilting LCD display, the FZ300 is not easily portable.
However, one major advantage is that the body is weather-sealed and will withstand mild rain, and there are more physical controls to customize.
Perhaps the most useful feature of the FZ300 is its Leica lens. With a range of 25-600 mm and a constant wide aperture of f/2.8, this lens will cover almost every shooting situation, even in low light. The weather sealing and an all-rounder lens make it an excellent choice for travel and hiking.
Other notable features are the in-built image stabilization, Panasonic’s depth-to-defocus AF system for quick focusing, and a burst rate of 12 fps, increasing to a whopping 60 fps when the electronic shutter is active.
The FZ300 has some tricks up its sleeve on the video side too. It offers 4K video at 24 and 30 fps. The usual 1080p video features combined with image stabilization and a flip screen, make for a great home-video package.
Although the image quality under low-light isn’t as good as the competition, and the resolution is low, the FZ300 isn’t all bad. If you are looking for a tough all-purpose camera and don’t mind a bulky body and lack of WiFi, it should be on your list.
4. Olympus Tough TG-6 Digital Camera
As the name suggests, the Olympus TG-6 is an ultra-rugged waterproof and crushproof point-and-shoot, with which you can literally go diving.
Apart from being rated for underwater usage, the TG-6 is equipped with WiFi, a GPS, a thermometer, a manometer and a compass. This will allow you to record more than just photos, and can save extra details of the environment and the places you’ve been — provided you have enough charge left.
Although the camera is built like a tank, it doesn’t excel when it comes to image quality. A 12 MP sensor coupled with a 25-100 mm lens is nothing extraordinary, and creates JPEGs that look soft on close examination.
Further, the lack of a full manual mode means that you cannot control every camera setting in most situations. However, shooting in RAW helps a bit.
The saving grace is that the lens has an aperture of f/2 at the widest end and basic image stabilization ability, which will help you gather as much light as possible and not worry about shutter speed.
It also comes with excellent macro capability, and the microscope control lets you shoot objects just 1 cm away.
The 25 point autofocus system — along with manual focus option — works surprisingly well underwater. A burst rate of 20 fps means you can capture that perfect shark dive once in a while. With video features like 4K at 30 fps and 1080p up to 120 fps, the Tough TG-6 is a basic point-and-shoot in a fantastic body.
If you are looking for a durable backup travel camera — or something to take underwater — and do not need the best image quality, the Olympus TG-6 might be the right choice.
5. Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ80
Sitting below the FZ300 we saw earlier, the Lumix FZ80 is another bridge camera, aimed at beginner photographers who want a nice body design and manual controls.
The 1-inch camera of the FZ80 is a respectable 18.1 MP and provides image quality better than most compact cameras.
This camera’s highlight is its 60x optical zoom, provided by a stabilized f/2.8 – 5.9 lens and covering a full-frame sensor equivalent of 20-1200 mm. This means you can take hand-held shots of the moon with proper settings, although the quality won’t be good enough for large prints.
Another feature that makes the FZ80 a good family camera is the WiFi and its 3-inch touchscreen LCD, which is easy to use and dramatically improves usability. It works well for video, offering 4K video at 30 fps with a bitrate of 100 Mbps, along with 1080p — and all this with a full manual mode. One word of caution, though, the LCD does not tilt and flip like in the FZ300.
Although the video quality is great, the inherent problem of a superzoom is that the lens makes a lot of noise when moving, sadly affecting the audio in your recordings.
Another factor to keep in mind is that although the lens has a vast range, it comes at the cost of sharpness, especially at the telephoto end.
Other user-friendly features of the camera which are fun to explore are the 4K photo modes, which allow you to capture 8 MP photos at a burst rate of 30 fps, a dedicated macro mode, and post focus, a nifty trick which lets you choose the part of the image you want in focus after you’ve shot it.
All in all, the Panasonic FZ80 is a cheaper version of the FZ300. It’s a great choice if you want an inexpensive all-rounder camera that can handle video well and has RAW capture, and do not need the best possible image quality or the most portable body.
6. Canon PowerShot SX620 HS
A close rival of the Sony RX100, the Canon SX620 is another point-and-shoot camera that will easily fit into your jacket pocket.
Although both utilize a 20 MP 1″ sensor, the SX620 HS has the advantage of a superzoom lens, which offers 25x zoom at a range of 25-625 mm equivalent. Another notable addition in this Canon point-and-shoot is that the sensor is back illuminated, resulting in better image quality than similar compact cameras.
The lens of the SX620 has in-built image stabilization, that with different modes like Dynamic IS and Active Tripod IS. With Dynamic IS turned on, the camera will detect the extra wobbly shakes that occur when recording at wide angles — like in the case of vlogging — and adjust the stabilization accordingly.
The Canon is decent image quality-wise, but certainly not spectacular. While new and expensive smartphones might be able to match its images, the SX620 will be cheaper, far more versatile, and give you more control over the settings. And let’s not forget the unique Canon colors. This camera is perfect for family portraits.
Autofocus in the SX620 is near-instant in good light, and the burst rate is 7 fps, which is usual for modern compact cameras.
This camera’s body is good for the price point, and the textured grip and high-quality plastic will not let you down when compared to the more-expensive Sony RX100.
However, a tilting LCD or at least touchscreen capabilities would have been great.
If you are on a very limited budget and looking for a camera that comes with excellent zooming ability while also being portable, the Canon SX620 is the best low-cost option. The idiot-proof Smart Auto mode, easy to use WiFi, and good image quality make it a compelling choice, even though you will miss out on shooting RAW and having full manual control.
7. Nikon COOLPIX B500
The first and last Nikon camera on the list is the Coolpix B500, a point-and-shoot in a DSLR-like body and a cheaper price tag. The design and build of this bridge camera are what you will notice first. And that’s one of the few advantages of the B500.
The body of the B500 feels well-made, and although it is bulkier than other zoom cameras, it does not feel uncomfortable, mainly because of the excellent grip. The 3″ back LCD is bright and detailed, and tilts up and down – though not forward for selfies.
The B500 is paired with a 40x zoom lens, which will give you a coverage of 22-900 mm with an aperture of f/3-6.5. The lens is not optically amazing, and the aperture could have been wider, but with vibration reduction and a 16 MP 1/2.3″ sensor, it is not something beginner’s need to worry about.
What is missing from the B500 are the PSAM modes, which means that you cannot control aperture and shutter speed, or use manual focus like in DSLRs. There is no EVF and no RAW support too, which means an enthusiast photographer will quickly find image quality limitations with this camera. What you can control is ISO and the autofocus point which you want to use.
Other features of this camera are pretty basic – 1080P video at 30 fps, simple subject tracking, picture effects and filters, face recognition, in-built Bluetooth and WiFi, and a burst rate of 7 fps.
A neat trick that helps this camera stand out is its use of AA batteries, which can be useful when you are out camping and run out of charge. Using Lithium AA batteries will allow the B500 to take up to 1200 shots on a single charge, which is the highest on this list.
Although the Coolpix B500 is not a very well-featured camera, it might be a good choice if you have large hands and don’t mind the bulk. Otherwise, there are other portable options to consider. It will serve you well as a casual travel camera, albeit without many manual control choices.
8. Canon PowerShot SX740 HS
An upgrade over the SX620 we saw before, the Powershot SX740 is a 2018 model. The recent technology brings with it a newer 20.3 MP sensor, a newer DIGIC 8 image processor, and a better optical zoom of 40x with stabilization. Not surprisingly, it is more expensive than the 620, and slightly heavy too at 300 gm.
The camera itself is slim, and that is despite housing a lens that covers a range of 24 – 960 mm equivalent. The grip is textured and protrudes out a bit, but you will still be able to fit it in your jacket pocket.
The good news for selfie-lovers and vloggers is that the back LCD rotates fully, and gives you direct options to control background blur and skin smoothing effects.
One small drawback is that the buttons are flush with the body and relatively small, which means that getting used to the controls will take some time if you have large hands.
Other significant upgrades are the 4K video and time lapses at 30 fps. Canon’s DIGIC 8 processor helps boost the shooting speed to 10 fps, with continuous autofocus locked on the subject. The newer technology is a good thing for travel and street photography, since low-light image quality and in-camera sharpness will be improved.
The SX740 offers full manual controls, but enthusiast photographers will be disappointed with the lack of RAW. Further, even though there are different AF modes like Face, Tracking and Single frame, you won’t be able to choose the actual autofocus point itself.
The Canon SX740 is not a spectacular upgrade over its predecessors, but it has a few modifications which make it a decent all-purpose camera.
Although hobbyists will miss the lack of EVF, RAW shooting and manual autofocus controls, you get what you pay for. A portable body with good image quality and features like a rotating LCD, WiFi and 4K video under $400 is not a bad deal, although you can save money with cheaper cameras and still not lose out on many of these features.
9. GoPro HERO8 Black
No 2021 list of cheap and durable cameras can be complete without a mention of GoPro. The Hero8 Black is their latest creation, adding more features that will be especially compelling for action videographers and vloggers.
Talking about photography first, the Hero8 is capable of 12 MP stills in bursts of 30 fps. The lens has also been updated to allow four fields of view – Narrow, Linear, Wide and SuperView, which opens up to 15 mm.
The small camera now features a Live Burst mode. What it does is record 1.5 seconds before and after you have taken the photo, from which you can select the perfect frame. There is even a GoPro app that you can download to let your Hero8 work as a webcam on your computer.
There is even more, to talk about on the video side. The Hero8 Black can shoot at various resolutions, from 1080p at 240 fps to 4K at 60fps, that too at 100 Mbps. The standout feature of the Hero8 is its Hypersmooth 2.0 stabilization, which comes with different settings – standard, high or Boost. Although there is a slight crop when using the Boost mode, the footage has an almost gliding feel and churns out quality better than the competition. There is also a timelapse option called Time Warp 2.0, where you can change the timelapse speed with just a touch on the rear LCD.
The Hero8 Black has quite a few tricks which make it the current champion of waterproof action cams. The sleeker body has a built-in base for mounting the camera, which folds up into the body to save space. It also recognizes 15 voice commands like “GoPro, take a photo,” which makes selfies and group photos super easy.
With the Hero8 Black, you won’t get a traditional camera with lots of manual controls. But that is not the point anyway. If you are considering a GoPro to record your trips or make Youtube videos, the Hero8 Black is the best they have to offer, and it will certainly do its job well.
10. Canon Powershot ELPH 190 IS
This is a short bonus recommendation for those of you who don’t even know if they really like photography as a hobby. The Canon ELPH 190 is a simple, low-cost, point-and-shoot camera, perfect for a birthday gift or as a replaceable backup. Featuring a 20 MP 1″ sensor, 10x optical zoom, image stabilization and WiFi, this pocket-friendly camera is great for fun family photos.
The major drawback is that the video capability is capped at 720p videos, although if you are buying this camera, it won’t be for videos anyway.
You can consider the ELPH 190 for its affordability, average image quality and ease of use. All you’ll have to do is turn it on and shoot.
Which camera is right for you is entirely your choice. To make the right decision, don’t just go by technical features like megapixel count and sensor size. Ultimately, your style of photography and your needs will decide what is suitable for you.
This list is just a starting point for beginner photographers on a limited budget and need a camera under $400. The next thing you should do is go to the nearest camera store and try a few in your own hands. For example, the Canon Powershots and Sony RX100 we discussed will fit into your pocket, but will not offer direct buttons to control different settings and will be uncomfortable for people with large hands. Try everything.
Comparing different designs and sizes will help you figure which type of body design works well, after which you can worry about specs like camera sensor size, type of lens, video features, etc. Remember, great photos do not need great cameras.
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