Choosing the Best Point and Shoot Camera under $100
Today, we are going to find the best point and shoot camera under $100.
$100 Camera vs Smartphone
The under $100 point and shoot segment is an entry level segment aimed at consumers who predominantly shoot with their smartphones.
Despite their improvements over the last five years, a smartphone has a limited number of shooting features. For example, it does not have a zooming lens, at least not in the usual way we know of.
Even a basic point and shoot camera under $100 comes with optical zoom. This allows you to change the perspective of your shots. This unlike with smartphones where you have to use your feet to zoom.
The sensor inside these cameras is larger compared to what’s inside a smartphone. Even though that difference is small but it is still a difference. And in this war of ‘minuscule’ sized sensors, even a small difference is significant regarding the final image quality.
Another advantage is with point and cameras you have a significantly more powerful flash than smartphones. Built-in LED flash on smartphones are tiny when compared to the ones on point and shoots. In low light or backlit situations, the pop-flash on point and shoot systems can make all the difference.
Finally, image stabilization is the fourth most important feature that separates a smartphone camera from a proper camera. Yes, these days electronic image stabilization has improved in leaps and bounds. But electronic stabilization is no match when it comes to optical image stabilization regarding quality.
All these reasons make a proper camera a better photography device compared to smartphones. Now to take a look at a few options.
Top 4 Picks: Best Cams in 2017 for Less than $100
1. Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-W800 Digital Camera
- MP Super HAD CCD sensor for beautifully detailed images
- Sony Lens w/ 5x Optical Zoom
- Reduced blur with SteadyShot Image stabilization
- Capture your videos in 720p HD Movie mode
- Simplify camera menu with Easy Mode.
The Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-W800 is built around a 20.1 megapixel 1/2.3″ Super HAD CCD sensor. This is one of the best point and shoot camera under $100 you can buy.
It has a built-in fixed 5x optical zoom lens. In other words, the lens has a focal range of 4.6mm – 23mm (in 35mm parlance that would be the equivalent of 26 – 130mm). The built-in software inside the camera can further produce a 10x zoom effect digitally. Small sensor cameras don’t perform optimally when you stretch the zoom past their optical limits. Thus, we will refrain from more details on the digital zoom part.
Maximum aperture denotes how wide the lens opening can open up to allow light to enter the camera. The built-in lens on the DSC-W800 can open to f/3.2 (in wide angle) and f/6.4 (in telephoto mode).
At its widest focal length, the lens can focus as close as 5cm to infinity. That at its telephoto extreme is 1.97′ to infinity. Thus, the lens is extremely suitable for shooting macro photos as well.
Maximum Image size
Maximum resolution pixel size of the images produced by the camera is 5152 x 3864 pixels.
The lens comes with optical image stabilization. Sony calls this the SteadyShot Image Stabilization. Optical image stabilization will come in handy when shooting at the tele-end of the camera’s focal range.
Built-in ISO sensitivity range is 100 – 3200. Small sensors are invariably plagued with the problem of higher noise. The problem simply gets worse when the resolution increases.
The DSC-W800 has some interesting features, despite being a sub-$100 point and shoot. One of them is its continuous shooting speed. It can shoot a maximum of 100 frames at one fps at full resolution.
It has a less-than-par video shooting capability. The camera can shoot 720p HD videos at 30 fps. A built-in sound recorder can record mono quality sound along with the videos. Maximum clip length is 29 mins.
The built-in flash has a decent range which is enough for wide angle group shots as well as portraits in less than perfect lighting conditions.
At the back of the camera is a 2.7″ LCD screen. The absence of a viewfinder means this is your one point composing and reviewing window. The screen has a subpar resolution of 230k pixels.
This is a lightweight camera. It weighs only 133.2 grams. Regarding dimensions the camera measures 3.8 x 2.2 x 0.8″.
2. The Nikon Coolpix A10
- 16.1-megapixel CCD image sensor for excellent photos and 720p HD videos
- 5x optical zoom NIKKOR glass lens
- 2.7-inch large, bright QVGA LCD display; It accepts alkaline, lithium and Nikon rechargeable batteries, available as an optional accessory
The Nikon Coolpix A10 is a digital point and shoot camera designed around a 16.1 megapixel 1/2.3″ CCD sensor.
The A10 has a 5x optical zoom capacity. The built-in lens on the A10 gives it focal length coverage of 4.6mm – 23mm. On 35mm parlance that is the equivalent of 26 – 130mm.
Maximum aperture possible on the built-in lens of the A10 is f/3.2 when the lens is zoomed out. That is f/6.5 when the lens is fully zoomed in. As a result, you cannot hope to get a fast shutter speed when zoomed in, especially when shooting in low light conditions.
When shooting at a wide angle, the lens will be able to focus as close as 50cm to up to infinity. When shooting at the telephoto range, the lens will be able to focus at 80cm to up to infinity. There is also a wide macro mode. Switching to this mode will allow focusing as close as 10cm. The A10 is, thus, a decent enough camera for close-up photography.
Maximum Image size
The maximum image size possible by the A10 is 4608 x 3456 pixels. It may seem a little less. But when you consider that a full HD resolution computer monitor can display only 1920 x 1080 pixels it doesn’t sound too bad. If you love to make an occasional print or two, you can easily make an 8 x 11″ print at the industry prescribed 300 DPI resolution and still have pixels to spare. Not bad at all.
The A10 has no optical image stabilization. Just digital image stabilization. What that means is images are ‘stabilized’ using the digital software.
A small sensor with a high resolution isn’t the perfect recipe for great low light imagery. And this is one area where small point and shoot systems tend to lag behind. The native ISO range of this system is 80 – 1600. Using too high an ISO number is ill-advised. The noise to signal ratio of these small sensors is not that good. You will invariably end up with images that are unusable.
Unlike the DSC-W800 that we discussed right at the start of this discussion, the A10 does not have a great burst speed to write home about. It shoots at 1.2 fps when in continuous mode, but for six frames only before the buffer overruns. Thus, if you feel like photographing sports or anything moving, you better be lucky with those six frames. As a matter of fact, neither camera is ideal for shooting sports.
Video recording on the A10 is limited to only 720p HD. The frame rate is a modest 30 fps. That should be enough for shooting everyday moments. However, with 4K TVs becoming a standard, 720p HD is fast becoming obsolete. You need at least full HD. There is a built-in mic on the camera that records mono sound along with your clips.
The built-in flash on the A10 is decent too. It is more powerful than what you would have come to expect from a smartphone. You can shoot decent portraits and group shots using it in backlit and low light conditions without issues.
Small point and shoots rarely have a viewfinder on them. The only composing window is the LCD screen at the back of the camera. The LCD screen on the A10 is a 2.7″ with a resolution of 230k-pixels. The coverage of the screen is only 98% of the frame. That means you have to be watchful of any elements at the fringes of the frame when composing.
Small is the operative word here. The A10 measures 3.8 x 2.3 x 1.1″ and weighs just 160 grams.
3. Kodak PIXPRO FZ53
- 4X Optical Zoom
- 27mm Wide Angle
- 16 Megapixels
- 2.7" LCD Screen
- 720p HD Video
The PIXPRO FZ53 is a compact point and shoot from the house of Kodak. It is built around a 16.15 megapixel 1/2.3″ CCD sensor.
A 5x optical zoom ensures that the camera gets a decent amount of change in perspective. The lens zooms in from 5.1mm to 25.5mm which is the equivalent of 28 – 140mm on a 35mm format.
Maximum aperture of the lens is f/3.9 when shooting at wide angle and f/6.3 when shooting in telephoto mode.
When shooting at its widest, the lens can focus as close as 60cm – infinity. When shooting at its longest telephoto range, the lens can focus from 1m to infinity. There is a wide macro mode as well. This helps to focus even closer at just 5cm. This is the mode you would normally shoot in when photographing flowers, jewelry, and stuff.
Maximum Image Size
The small sensor produces images of the maximum size of 4608 x 3456 pixels. As already explained above, this is good enough for every day 5 x 7″ prints as well as for even larger sizes.
The PIXPRO FZ53 comes with digital image stabilization. Digital image stabilization ensures that the camera can capture steady shots even when hand holding the camera and even in low light conditions. However, the PIXPRO FZ53’s image stabilization is digital based and not optical.
ISO is a built-in function that amplifies the light signals and therefore produces the same result as slowing down the shutter speed or increasing the aperture opening. Not absolutely but the effect is similar. But there is a downside. At higher ISO signal amplification also leads to noise amplification. This leads to noise. The built-in ISO range of the PIXPRO FZ53 is 80 – 1600.
The video mode on the camera can shoot at a maximum frame rate of 30 fps. While that is acceptable, the camera can shoot only in 720p HD. There is a built-in mic which records mono sound with the clip.
Despite their diminutive size, a built-in flash is one of the four major reasons why even a compact point and shoot camera under $100 is a better bet to shoot good quality images compared to a smartphone. The flash on the PIXPRO FZ53 has a coverage of more than 10′ and should give you enough light to produce well-exposed shots in backlit or low light situations.
All the previous point and shoot systems that we have discussed here have a 2.7″ LCD screen with a display resolution of around 230k-pixels. The PIXPRO FZ53 is no different. It has no touch display and no articulating abilities.
The PIXPRO FZ53 is a small point and shoot camera. Its dimensions are 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.9″ and weighs just 106 grams. Thus, it is the lightest point and shoot camera under $100 on this list.
4. Polaroid iE X29 Digital Camera
- 18MP image sensor
- ISO 100-400
- HD 720p video
- Digital image stabilization
- Built-in flash
This is yet another point and shoot camera under $100. The name of this camera (Polaroid iE X29) sounds like a stealth fighter prototype but is a lot less complicated technology. The camera is built around an 18-megapixel sensor.
The built-in lens has a 10x optical zoom range.
Maximum Image Size
Maximum image size possible with the iE X29 is 4880 x 3680 pixels. Good enough for 5 x 7″ prints and the occasional enlargements.
The iE X29 has image stabilization, but it is digital.
Native ISO range of the camera is 100 – 400. This is basic stuff. But don’t underestimate the ISO range. A four-stop increase in ISO (shooting at ISO 100) gives you the leverage to shoot at four-stop faster shutter speed or an equivalent four-stop smaller aperture.
The video capability of all the cameras that we have discussed has been limited to 720p HD, and the Polaroid iE X29 is no different in that regard.
The built-in flash on the camera is just enough for filling in shadows and stuff. This is not at par with some of the other point and shoot cameras that we have reviewed.
The rear of the camera is dominated by a 2.7″ LCD screen. There is no built-in viewfinder. So, this is the only way to compose your shots.
Conclusion: Sony DSCW800/B Wins
At the start of this review, I had stated four important aspects which make point & shoot cameras stand out from smartphone cameras. These features include:
- optical image stabilization
- larger sensor
- better flash and
- optical zoom
Among the cameras on display here, only the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-W800 has all of these.
It has a 5x optical zoom capability, comes with optical SteadyShot image stabilization and has the distinct advantages of a better flash and larger image sensor.
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