Inexpensive point-and-shoot cameras that are under $100 are designed for people who are looking for an entry-level experience. These cameras are predominantly purchased by those who normally use their smartphones to shoot.
Let’s be honest, over the past two years, smartphones have improved dramatically when it comes to the quality of their pictures. There are a number of digital photographs taken on smartphones that have found their way into national magazines.
That being said, there are a lot of limitations to what smartphones can do. The camera you get on an expensive smartphone is not going to have the versatility, detail, or ability to shoot and reduce lighting that you’re going to get from an inexpensive point-and-shoot camera.
For all of you who want to break away from using your smartphone as a camera and are hoping to try something a little bit more challenging, we have created a review of three point-and-shoot cameras that are under $100. As in our other reviews, we will divide the cameras into three categories.
We have what we feel is our best overall choice, we have our premium choice, which is a bit more expensive (not over $100), and we have our budget choice. We hope you enjoy the review. Please leave any comments you have for us in the comments section below.
Best Overall Choice: Sony’s Cyber Shot W800
Sony’s Cyber Shot W800 is an entry-level camera designed by Sony. This is a great option if this is your first time getting out there and taking photographs. It’s perfect for people who are new to photography and want to see if it’s something that they would like to pursue in the future.
The predecessor to the W800 was the W710 that came out back in 2013. Like its predecessor, the W800 is perfect for people who want to do some casual shooting and want an inexpensive way to do it.
A person might think if they have a smartphone and the smartphone does a decent job of taking photographs, why would they want to purchase a point-and-shoot camera for under $100. The Sony DSC W800 is going to give you a lot of the functionality that you are just not going to get with your smartphone camera. And because of its cheaper price point, it’s not going to break the bank.
What’s nice is that we’re talking about a lightweight camera. So you can put it in your pocket and you can travel with it. It allows you to go out and take photographs in areas where you might not want to take out your $1,000 smartphone to get a shot.
From what we’ve seen, the Sony Cyber Shot DSC W800 has a lot of features that you wouldn’t expect for such of an inexpensive phone. First and foremost, it takes a nice picture. And it gives you a lot of features that you can use to get the most out of every single shot you take. We have seen that this camera offers more value for its money than you would expect.
One of the cool features that we would like to mention right off the bat is the 5X optical zoom. The camera has a 5 cm minimum macro focusing ability. Of course, the camera does not have optical image stabilization.
But that’s not really a surprise, especially when you look at the price tag of the camera as well as its limited zoom ability. What’s great about this camera is that it has a 20.10 megapixel sensor. This means that you can shoot 720P footage. It means that the camera has an ISO range of between 100-3200.
You’re probably interested in how this camera performs. Something you’re going to notice right away is how quickly the lens extends once you turn on the camera. However, if you’re focusing to get a shot, you have to wait a couple of seconds for that focus to kick in. If you are in good lighting, the autofocus feature works beautifully. If you are in lower lighting, it struggles a little bit.
The highlight and shadow detail has a reasonable balance, something that you would expect from a camera under hundred dollars. The auto white balance is surprisingly reliable. You’re not going to get unwanted color cast introduced into your shot. Something else that really caught our eye was how minimal the distortion was and how sharp the corners looked. If you take a photograph that has high color contrast, you’re going to see a little bit of purple fringing.
The Sony DSC-W800 has a very nice finish and a sleek style. Although the phone itself looks like metal, it really is painted plastic. So you have to be careful with it because if you’re not careful, it can easily get scratched. We talked about the compact size of the phone.
It is 96.8 x 55.5 x 20.8 mm and weighs 125 g. So you can stick in your pocket and take it with you wherever you need to go. This is definitely not an high-end camera, but with a little luck and skill, you may find yourself capturing a few images that would make the pros jealous.
Pros and Cons
Things We Liked:
- Mono microphone and mono speaker
- Autofocusing system
- Performs well in bright light conditions
- Attractive style
- Affordable price
- Panorama shooting
Things To Improve:
- It needs a viewfinder
- Its LCD screen does not have the best resolution
- The LCD screen is small
- There is no wireless connection
- We would like to see an improved light sensitivity with this camera
Premium Option: Samsung TL105
This camera was first released in 2010. Over the years, some improvements have been made to the model. The TL105 is a 12 megapixel camera. It has a 4X optical zoom and offers a 35 mm focal length. This camera includes double image stabilization functions.
That means that the camera takes advantage of digital image stabilization to reduce the blur effect in the camera. You can look at your images, frame them, and review them in the 2.7 inch LCD display that offers 230,000 dots of resolution.
The TL105 has face detection capability. The camera can do a skin smoothing and beautifying effect to the shot. The camera includes program auto mode as well as a host of features that let you adjust your image, even if you don’t have a full grasp on the settings that you’re looking to adjust.
If you are the type of photographer who is on the go and you are looking to create something that has more of a fancy feel to it, you are going to appreciate the Fisheye and Lomo functions that this camera offers. With the touch of a button, you’re going to be presented with a host of photographer styles, ranging from normal to classic to negative. The idea is that you are able to take a picture for every occasion.
The Samsung camera comes equipped with HD video. You’re able to shoot and record at a resolution of 720P. To make things easier for you, the Samsung camera offers advanced scene recognition technology. Smart auto has been upgraded on this camera.
You can now use it with video or with your still images. You can automatically select one of the four pre-programmed settings to get the best footage that has the right exposure and the right color balance for the shot you’re going for.
Pros and Cons
What We Liked:
- High quality HD video
- Multiple camera modes
- Easy to use controls
- Sleek design
Things to Improve:
- Does not work as well in low light as we had hoped
- Small LCD screen
Budget Option: Polaroid IEX29-RED HD 18 MP
This budget Polaroid is a slim and compact option that could be just what you are looking for. This is a point-and-shoot camera that you can find for well under $100. The camera has an 18 megapixel sensor. The camera does not come equipped with image stabilization. However, it is a digital camera, so you’re going to get a relatively stable shot.
The ISO range of this camera is between 100 and 400. We’re talking about a basic camera, but it is going to give you the ability to shoot a decent shot. With this camera, you have the ability to shoot at a four stop faster shutter speed.
The majority of the point-and-shoot cameras you’re going to find for under $100 are going to be limited to 720P HD. This is exactly what you get with the Polaroid iE X 29. This camera comes equipped with a built in flash. The flash is going to give you just enough light so that you don’t have shadows. It’s nothing spectacular, and it’s definitely not on par with the flash of the other cameras we’ve reviewed.
The camera has an LCD screen that is 2.7 inches. It’s kind of small, especially since there is no viewfinder. The LCD screen is the only thing that allows you to compose your shots.
Pros and Cons
What We Liked:
- This is a basic point-and-click camera that is easy and fun to use
- It has a flash and built-in stabilizer, allowing you to take photos in just about any light
- 18 megapixel photo resolution is a plus
Things to Improve:
- It’s an inexpensive camera, so it’s made from inexpensive parts. A common problem that we’ve observed is the power button failing to function after around 700 pictures
- The autofocus feature is not as responsive as we would have liked
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the best camera for beginners?
A: The answer to that question is going to vary depending on what your end goals are. There are a number of DSLRs that will give you a better shot than what you are going to get with your smartphone. These cameras are a step up from your smartphone when it comes to image quality.
They might have the same number of megapixels as your smartphone camera, but they have a larger sensor, which leads to superior results, especially when you are dealing with low performance light.
Even an entry level DSLR camera is going to provide you with increased manual control, including the ability to change lenses, which is going to make it easier for you to tackle a number of projects. Many of these cameras have auto modes that make it a lot easier for you to get the shot you want until you learn more about the controls and feel more comfortable with it.
The more features you get with your camera, the more expensive it is going to be. If you are a beginner, you need to ask yourself, what features do you really need? A number of the cameras that we’ve reviewed above are great for point-and-click shots.
They are going to give you a better shot than what you are going to get from your cell phone. But if you are looking for a camera that’s going to grow with you, you may want to purchase one that’s a little bit more expensive. Check out the review we did on mirrorless cameras to find more options.
Q: Can a cheap camera produce good results?
A: Yes. Many people seem bent on getting a pro level camera. But ask yourself, do you really need all of the features that a pro level camera offers? Lighting, composition skills, and technique will make a bigger difference in the overall feel of your shots than a new camera.
Just think, there are a number of photographs from smartphones that have been published in photography magazines. Something that is more important than the quality of the camera is the quality of the lenses. You cannot get the full advantage from the camera if you don’t have good glass. Having a good lens can make a simple camera look better than a professional one.
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