The compact camera segment has evolved significantly in recent years. The most recent smartphones integrate photographic compartments of excellent quality and have entered into open competition with the economic compact, so much so that manufacturers, to recover market share, have had to implement new functions and increase the general quality level of their products.
Best Compact Camera Under $ 400
If compared to the models of a few years ago, the new compact cameras have much larger sensors and are capable of taking better shots than smartphones dedicated to photography, also called camera phones. Not only that, some high-end compacts produce images comparable to those of DSLRs and even the most recent mirrorless .
Best Compact Camera Under $ 400 | Comparison Table 2022
|Canon PowerShot ELPH 360 Digital Camera w/ 12x Optical Zoom and Image Stabilization - Wi-Fi & NFC Enabled (Black)||Canon||Check Price|
|Canon PowerShot SX720 HS (Black)||Canon||Check Price|
|Panasonic Lumix 4K Digital Camera with 30X LEICA DC Vario-ELMAR Lens F3.3-6.4, 18 Megapixels, and High Sensitivity Sensor - Point and Shoot Camera - DMC-ZS60K (BLACK)||Panasonic||Check Price|
|Canon PowerShot SX730 Digital Camera w/40x Optical Zoom & 3 Inch Tilt LCD - Wi-Fi, NFC, & Bluetooth Enabled (Black)||Canon||Check Price|
|Sony DSCHX80/B High Zoom Point & Shoot Camera (Black)||Sony||Check Price|
|Panasonic LUMIX FZ80 4K Digital Camera, 18.1 Megapixel Video Camera, 60X Zoom DC VARIO 20-1200mm Lens, F2.8-5.9 Aperture, Power O.I.S. Stabilization, Touch Enabled 3-Inch LCD, Wi-Fi, DC-FZ80K (Black)||Panasonic||Check Price|
|Canon EOS M200 Compact Mirrorless Digital Vlogging Camera with EF-M 15-45mm lens, Vertical 4K Video Support, 3.0-inch Touch Panel LCD, Built-in Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth Technology, Black||Canon||Check Price|
Best Compact Camera Under $ 400 | 2022 Products Overview
Best Compact Camera Under $ 400 | Unrivaled Guide 2022
WHAT ARE COMPACT CAMERAS
Let’s start by understanding what compact cameras are and how they differ from other camera categories.
The definition “compact” refers primarily to the size of these devices: compact cameras are the smallest on the market, they are not bulky like reflex or mirrorless cameras, they can often be carried safely in your pocket and you can always have them with you.
From a technical point of view, however, the main characteristics of the compact is that they are equipped with a single lens, with zoom or fixed focal length, and do not have the possibility of mounting interchangeable lenses
TYPES OF COMPACT CAMERAS
In this broad category we find a great variety of models, with great differences both in terms of performance and price. They range from the so-called “point and shot” cameras, with prices even below 100 dollars, to high-end compact cameras with costs exceeding 1000 dollars.
It goes without saying that the quality and performance are not the same. We have divided the guide into price ranges, so you can find your way around your budget.
Best compact camera: which one to choose and why
Compact cameras were created to meet the needs of those who did not want to spend a lot and were looking for a small camera to take on a trip or to a party with friends. Over time they have evolved, as it obviously is, reaching practically all market segments. We can say that the compact cameras are the category of cameras with the greatest coverage of price ranges . There are excellent models for those who do not have great needs and do not want to spend a lot, models suitable for those who approach photography and do not want to buy bulky cameras and models also suitable for professional use. In our guide to compact cameras we explained how they were born, to whom they are aimed and what are the main characteristics.
In this guide on best compact camera Under $ 400, you won’t find the absolute best compact camera, but the best compact camera Under $ 400 for your needs and budget. We have divided our guide into three different categories, in order to make the choice easier to use: economic models, mid range models and professional models .
When you have to buy a compact camera you must first understand what will be the uses we are going to make of it. Based on the latter we will have to take into consideration the objective of each model. We have already said that one of the peculiarities of the compact is that of not being able to change lenses, so we must first understand what focal length we need and what brightness. Most compacts have zoom lenses , while others have fixed lenses .
Usually we start from an equivalent focal length of 24 mm , therefore a great wide angle for many types of photography, and we arrive at focal lengths that can vary according to the models. The superzooms can reach up to 200mm , great for taking pictures of very distant subjects during a trip or a trip to nature. The higher-end models instead use lenses that usually range from 24mm up to 70mm equivalent, which is the focal range most loved by professional photographers. Fixed lenses are rarer on compact cameras, but usually have a 35mm equivalent wide-angle focal length. Cameras with fixed lenses are mostly used for genres such as street photography, as the wide-angle lens allows you to take very immersive photos and the compact body allows you to easily carry the device and go unnoticed when taking photos.
Another factor that must be taken into consideration is the brightness of the lens. Inside each lens there is a diaphragm , or blades that open and close to let more or less light into the lens. The aperture is very important because if it is very wide it allows you to take pictures with faster shutter speeds when the light is scarce and above all it allows you to obtain a more pronounced bokeh effect . The aperture can be quantified and two ways are used to do this: the letter “f” followed by some digits, for example f / 5.6, or by the number “1” followed by some digits, for example 1: 5.6. Low digits are used to indicate a larger opening, so a lens with an aperture of f / 2.8 will be much brighter than one with an aperture of f / 5.6. Usually on compact cameras two different apertures are indicated, for example f / 2.8-5.6, as the zoom lenses have different apertures as regards the minimum focal length and the maximum focal length .
Sensor type and image quality
The second important feature regarding the compact is certainly the image sensor . It is the heart of any camera and is most responsible for image quality . The specification that usually everyone takes into account the sensor is megapixels. It is often thought that having more megapixels available means more quality, but this is not exactly the case, because we must also consider the size of the sensor surface. Compact cameras can mount different types of sensors, we could say that this is the category of cameras with the widest variety of sensors.
The sensor surface is responsible for capturing images, so the larger it is, the more detail you can capture. Inexpensive compacts use very small sensors, usually 1 / 2.3 ″ , the smallest that can be found on a camera and that offer good performance for those who do not have many pretensions. On the other hand, most models integrate 1 ″ sensors, that is the best in terms of size / performance ratio. If well optimized, these sensors can offer top-level performance, which is why they are also used for professional models. Thanks to the great development work of the companies, it has also come to use sensors deriving from mirrorless, such as Micro 4/3 sensors and APS-C sensors. Despite having quite large dimensions, some manufacturers have managed to insert these sensors in very compact bodies, in order to have SLR or mirrorless performance in devices that can fit in a jacket pocket. Finally, although very rare, there are compacts that use full frame sensors, i.e. sensors that are used on professional cameras and that can offer exceptional performance. Obviously in this case the weight and ergonomics suffer, but you can make a sacrifice if you need the highest quality.
If you noticed, in the paragraph about the lens, we talked about “equivalent focal length”. In fact, each sensor has a crop factor, which differs according to the size of the sensor itself. With a full frame sensor, to have a lens equivalent to 50mm, you will have to use a lens with a real focal length of 50mm. For smaller sensors, however, a formula based on the size of the sensor will have to be applied. A camera with a Micro 4/3 sensor, to have a focal distance of 50mm, will have to integrate a lens with a real focal length of 25mm, as the crop factor is 2x, therefore 25 x 2 = 50. This is the reason for which on the lens of the compact are indicated focal distances different from the equivalent ones. To learn more, we invite you to read our guide on the photographic sensor .
The world is now made of connectivity , we are always connected to a worldwide network that allows you to exchange thousands of information in a very simple way. The world of photography has obviously adapted too, allowing for devices capable of connecting with products from different segments. The desire to share and control anything via your smartphone is now part of our daily life and being devices designed mainly for travel or trips, compact cameras cannot deprive themselves of these technologies.
When we talk about connectivity we refer to various technologies that allow you to exchange or collect data . Compact cameras can have WiFi , Bluetooth , NFC and GPS. The latter two, NFC and GPS, are the rarest to find integrated on a compact camera. The GPS allows us to collect data regarding the exact point where we took a photo, while the NFC is a small chip that has the task of making the connection with other devices (smartphones or printers) faster and safer. Basically it will be enough to touch the two devices to pair them and establish a connection between them. WiFi and Bluetooth, on the other hand, are the most commonly used technologies on the compact, as they allow you to transfer files and remotely control the camera.Bluetooth is a technology now present on many technological and non-technological devices, which allows two devices to communicate with a data transmission of various kinds. This technology has two main limitations: files that are too large cannot be transferred and the coverage range can reach ten meters .
WiFi has practically the same functions as Bluetooth, but with fewer limitations. There are two WiFi channels: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. The first can be defined as standard, as it is the most used. It has a slower transfer rate than 5 GHz, but at the same time it has a longer coverage range. The cameras can only use 2.4 GHz and are defined as mono band, or they can have both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, in this case they are defined as dual band. The mono band WiFi connection is the most used and works in itself already very well, but if you are looking for a camera that can transfer data even faster, choose the dual band models. As mentioned above, WiFi has pretty much the same functions as Bluetooth, but being more powerful and faster it can be used for more functions. First of all, via WiFi it is possible to transfer any type of file, as opposed to Bluetooth which has a maximum transfer limit. You can transfer a video recorded with the camera or even an uncompressed photo, whether it be a JPEG or a RAW , to your smartphone or tablet . In addition, WiFi often allows you to control the camera remotely, that is, you can use your smartphone to change shooting settings, check framing in real time, and take pictures without touching the camera.
Focus may seem like a minor feature when buying the best compact camera, but it isn’t. The autofocus of cameras has now reached very high performances, but not only with regard to mirrorless and reflex cameras, but also on compact cameras. Obviously, on the cheaper ones, the focus will not be good, but on some medium-high-end and professional models the performance of mirrorless and reflex cameras can be equaled . Usually the specification that is taken into consideration is the AF points, which is the number of areas within the image that are capable of calculating focus. This specification can be very important when you need to take dynamic photos, where you need fast and precise autofocus over most of the frame. For the vast majority of situations, however, it is often enough to use only one focus point: many professional photographers use only one focus point .
However, if it is important for you to have a powerful focus on the whole frame, in addition to taking into account the number of AF points, you must consider the presence of automatisms such as Eye AF , Face AF and Tracking AF . These are focusing modes that, as the name suggests, can tell if there is a face or an eye in the frame in order to focus on it. Tracking, on the other hand, allows you to focus on a subject and always keep it in focus even if it moves. These are very useful modes in dynamic situations where a single point of focus would not be enough.
Video recording is a fundamental feature of compact cameras, as there are many users who buy this type of product for making movies. Obviously you don’t use a compact camera to record a wedding video, but when it comes to vlogs or travel videos they are perfect. They are very portable devices that can give very high quality images, so they are certainly more comfortable than mirrorless or reflex cameras.
There are two main features to consider when it comes to video recording: video resolution and frame rate . The resolution indicates the number of pixels that make up the video, you will surely have seen it on any device capable of recording movies such as 480p, 720p or 1080p. Each acronym indicates a resolution, which is also indicated with specific names, for example HD, Full HD or 4K. With the compact you can get to the maximum resolution 4K Ultra HD , or videos that have a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels . For many uses, Full HD 1080p resolution is also sufficient (1920 x 1080 pixels), as this is the most common resolution of screens used by users. So if you need the highest video quality and you have suitable screens, it is better to focus on cameras capable of recording videos in 4K (now almost all of them manage to reach this resolution even if, as we have seen above, the sensor used affects the final quality). . The frame rate, on the other hand, indicates the number of frames printed in one second(fps). Recording videos with a high number of fps allows you to have very fluid images, we could define them “more realistic”. In the cinema the number of fps that is used is 24, but for the realization of videos that are not intended for television or cinema, it is better not to go below 30fps. Indeed, in these cases, as already mentioned, the higher the number of fps, the better the final result. Recording a movie at 60fps is already very realistic, in fact in a certain sense we could define it almost standard as frame rate. When recording 4K movies, the maximum frame rate is usually 30fps, while using a Full HD resolution, in some cases, it can even reach 120fps. Such a high frame rate, in addition to giving the images an extreme fluidity
For the more demanding, however, there are two other features to consider: image stabilization and recording profile . The latter is present mostly on high-end models and allows you to have images with variations of shadows, lights and colors useful for post-production of videos. In some cases it is possible to record with the FLAT profile, that is, a profile that allows you to record dull and flat images, so that you can post-produce the images of your choice by choosing the best variations. Image stabilization is more important and is also present on mid-range models. As the name suggests, stabilization allows you to stabilize images electronically or optically. Some models have a stabilizer inside the lens, which eliminates vibrations during video recording, so it is useful when recording videos hand-held, perhaps using very strong focal lengths. Obviously, stabilization is also useful for photographs.
Finally, a component that may only be of interest to some users is the viewfinder . All compact cameras obviously mount an LCD display in the back of the body, thanks to which you can change the camera settings, you can consult the image gallery and you can check the framing in Live View. However, some photographers may feel the need to also have a viewfinder in addition to the main screen. In 90% of cases where a compact has a viewfinder, it is an electronic viewfinder . As we have described in our guide dedicated to the electronic viewfinder , this tool is nothing more than a small display mounted inside the camera body . So what you can see in the viewfinder is exactly what you normally see on the main display. The main characteristics of an electronic viewfinder are resolution, frame rate and size. This type of viewfinder allows the photographer to have a real-time preview of the photo being taken, so it is possible to view exposure, white balance, depth of field and much more. These are the reasons why many photographers are directed to electronic viewfinders: placing your eye on the viewfinder you have no distractions, you focus exclusively on the photo you want to take and also you can view the photo even before taking it .
However, there are compact cameras that use another type of viewfinder, namely the optical one. They are very few and are produced by Fujifilm. This manufacturer has in fact devised a particular viewfinder capable of operating both in electronic mode, with all the amenities described above, and in optical mode, as on analog rangefinder cameras. The optical viewfinder is very similar to the viewfinder of an SLR, but with the difference that in this case the image suffers from the parallax error, as the viewfinder and lens are not parallel. To overcome this problem, electronic guidelines are used inside the viewfinder. When using the optical viewfinder there is no preview, so the image is viewed normally, as if you were not using the camera. Some photographers like this particularity, because it conveys a sense of analog.
The total number of pixels found in a sensor is defined in Megapixels (which counts the total million pixels of the sensor). A higher value is not always synonymous with higher shooting quality, with 12 or 16 Megapixels which already represent optimal values for many circumstances, even for prints in the most popular formats. The final quality depends more on the combination of sensor (technology used, amplitude) and objective (quality of the lenses).
The ISO value indicates the sensitivity level of the sensor to light. Setting a higher value on the camera results in brighter shots in low light, but with lower quality sensors you risk increasing noise (noise and artifacts in the image). Each camera behaves differently as ISO sensitivity increases, so to check the aptitude of the model of interest it is good to do an online search on specialized sites.
Lens and zoom
Almost all cameras, even compact cameras, have an optical zoom lens. Each lens supports one or more focal lengths, where focal length refers to the distance between the sensor surface and the center of the objective lens when its focus is set to infinity. 50mm lenses are defined as normal, those below normal wide-angle, those above telephoto. The zooms are lenses that have interchangeable focal lengths, either by means of a button, or by means of a ring on the same lens (especially on mirrorless). There is no need to give too much weight to digital zooms, since they do not add detail to the images but are made through software “tricks”. The optical ones, on the other hand, really offer added value.
Most, if not all, cameras can record video . The standard for recording video is Full HD, which represents a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, while the latest models can even go up to 4K Ultra HD. Videos can be recorded at 30fps (frames per second) or even at 50 or 60fps for smoother, smoother animations. Some models, especially action cameras, also support 120, 240 and more frames per second, useful for recording slow motion videos.
What are the biggest benefits of using a compact camera?
After having seen some of the salient features of the best compact cameras on the market, let’s now briefly see what are the advantages of using a compact camera.
Value for money
Certainly one of the points in favor of a compact camera is its affordability. In fact, if you decide to opt for a compact camera with the best qualities, therefore with a much higher cost, you know that it is an amount you pay only once. In the case of reflex cameras rather than Mirroless, however, at the initial expense, sometimes perhaps not very high (if you do not opt for the best), you must also add the cost of the various lenses and many other spare parts.
Here then, unless you are an enthusiast and are always looking for the best result in a shot, the purchase of a good compact is a good compromise. In our opinion, the compact camera turns out to be the choice with the best quality / price ratio.
Easy to manage
If one of the essential elements for you is handling, then surely you have to move towards cameras such as the compact or the Bridge, certainly smaller in size. This type of cameras, in addition to being more compact, often have a more manageable body.
The compact cameras are also very simple to use, intuitive and do not require special preparation, while managing to return good results, sometimes better than expected. Here then is that a compact camera turns out to be the best choice, if you are not a professional and above all if you are looking for an easy product, easy but that can be perfect for all, or almost, situations.
Compact cameras are also very simple to manage because they do not require lens changes, manual adjustments, evaluation of many elements that those who are not fond of photos do not like to do.
Another element that certainly works in favor of the compact camera is its size. At first glance it might be a rather trivial concept, but if you always have to carry the camera with you on the road, the weight factor is certainly essential. Furthermore, always with a view to always carrying it with you, it must be of such dimensions that it can easily fit in a pocket or in a bag or backpack, compact.
Compact cameras in general have certainly smaller dimensions than reflex cameras and therefore are the best choice for those who love to travel and always have the camera with them to capture every single moment.
The compact size allows you to easily carry this type of cameras even to follow events of various kinds, sports rather than musical. It is true that in some low light situations the compact cameras often suffer a little, especially if they are not the best, but they still offer more than satisfactory results.
Compact, therefore easy to take with you, even “hidden” and increasingly social, to share the shots with all your friends
Three, two, one… Cheese
After comparing the best digital compact cameras on the market in 2022, we went into some important points together. Now you will surely know more about the world of compact cameras, you will have clearer concepts and you will know what the words often used in descriptions refer to. It will be important for you to evaluate among the many compact cameras, which one to choose.
There is always a lot of news in this area but in order to choose the best camera for you, in addition to relying on the opinions of many enthusiasts, you have to ask yourself what you want from the compact camera.
Best Compact Camera Under $ 400 | Infographics
Best Cheap Vlogging Camera | Video Explanation
What will you use your compact camera for?
Thinking about this should really help you narrow things down. If you like to photograph wildlife then you will need a long enough zoom, but if it will be used primarily for group shots at parties then you will worry more about how wide it is.
If you will be using the camera for videos, make sure it has a microphone input, as the built-in microphones aren’t always good enough for fine video. Image stabilization is also an important factor for videos, especially with these tiny cameras, as their form factor makes them more prone to vibration.
What’s the problem with 1-inch sensors?
Some cameras on our list boast 1-inch sensors, but what does that mean? We won’t go into detail here, because all you really need to know is that a larger sensor gives you better low-light performance and allows for a shallower depth of field.
A 1-inch sensor, on cameras of this size, is really big enough. So if you’re going to shoot a lot in low-light situations, you might want to consider the sensor size.
Is a compact camera right for you?
The clue to compact cameras is in the name, they are compact! Most people don’t want to carry around a heavy DSLR and a bag full of lenses, so compacts offer a great alternative with a wide range of built-in focal lengths.
If you’re a smartphone enthusiast, a compact camera can give you true bokeh, as opposed to the AI-based portrait modes that so often cut your subject’s hair or body. The zoom range will also be appreciated, if you’ve ever tried taking a wild animal photo with your phone.
More experienced photographers often love compacts because they are much more discreet. This allows them to get spontaneous shots and perhaps even take photos in areas that don’t allow for more professional looking equipment.
Are there compact cameras around?
Our list includes some products that are currently available at a discounted price [at the time of publication], but we cannot guarantee that the discounts will remain when you visit the website.
What is the cheapest compact camera to consider?
The cheapest compact camera available is Kodak PIXPRO fz53 digital cameras 16.44 Mpix 5 x Optical Zoom. My advice would be to increase the budget, unless you are going to use it for basic work.
As I said above, I have researched many compact camera options available in the market and have also consulted with industry experts and created this list of recommendations. I’m sure by reading this, you would have found the right one for your needs.
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These days all I do is create lists based on research and expert advice (sometimes I pay them for their time) and make sure I get the most honest opinions and a product listing that helps my readers. If you have any questions or need advice on buying something else, please feel free to contact me or comment below.