Digital cameras for photographers of all skill levels
Whether you're a novice or a seasoned pro, there's a compact digital camera that's right for you. Luckily, you don't have to break your budget to capture impressive photos and videos, tests show. Our Best Reviewed picks start at just $350.
There are three main types:
- Digital cameras: These pocket-sized workhorses deliver better-quality photos than under-$250 point-and-shoot cheap digital cameras (which we cover in a separate report). They can handle challenging situations -- dim light, super close-up macros and fast action -- that stymie cheaper cameras. They'll also give you more control over settings, so you can get creative with your shots. Expect to pay $450 to $750, depending on whether you want advanced features like full manual video controls. (Note: The cameras in this report have up to 12x zoom lenses. Longer zooms are covered in our report on ultra-zoom digital cameras.)
- Compact interchangeable-lens cameras: These have swappable lenses like bulky digital SLR (single-lens reflex) cameras, but in a scaled-down package. Most are about the size of an index card, and less than 2 inches thick, so they're more discreet and portable than a DSLR. You can get a good one for about $800 with a versatile zoom lens included, but for DSLR-like blazing speed and stunning images, expect to pay $1,000 to $1,400.
- Waterproof cameras: Rugged cameras promise to survive deep dives underwater, freezing weather, being dropped or crushed -- but some take abuse better than others. The toughest model we found costs $350 and shoots very nice photos and videos, too.
To find the best digital cameras, professional testers shoot photos and videos in all kinds of situations -- glaring sun, murky darkness, fast-action sports, intense close-ups -- and then inspect them closely for telltale flaws. They take note of how easy the cameras are to use, how durable, how full-featured. Owner reviews are key, too; sometimes real-life use reveals flaws the pros don't find. We scour reviews to find out which cameras satisfy experts and owners best.