By Louis DeNicola, Cheapism.com
Looking for a camera to capture an upcoming graduation or summer vacation? Many amateur photographers turn to their smartphones these days, but some still like to carry a dedicated camera. For one thing, even the simplest digital cameras offer optical zoom, a feature that smartphones lack. And many digital cameras capable of producing high-quality images can be found for around $100. Take a look these budget-minded picks from Cheapism.com:x
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The Canon PowerShot A3400 IS (starting at $90) features an easy-to-use 3-inch touchscreen, something you don't often see at this price, and receives high marks from experts. They appreciate features such as the optical image stabilizer, which proves effective at keeping photos from turning out blurry. Reviewers have found that the battery lasts through about 180 photos before it must be recharged.
The Olympus VR-340 (starting at $97) has a high-resolution, 3-inch LCD and a strong metal body. With a little help from decent lighting conditions, this budget digital camera can turn out very good images, reviewers say. Perhaps most notably, the camera boasts 10x optical zoom, which doubles many competitors' offerings.
The Canon PowerShot A2400 IS (starting at $99) is similar to the other Canon model above but has a 2.7-inch display and caters to consumers who don't care to fiddle around with touchscreen controls. The photos are likewise commendable; reviewers consider the vibrant and accurate colors a definite selling point. With the two Canon cameras often priced at about the same point, the choice comes down to which type of screen you prefer.
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The Fujifilm FinePix T400 (starting at $99) is about as simple as it gets, with a lot of automatic settings that may be helpful for the less tech-inclined. The general consensus is that the picture quality is more than satisfactory in good lighting, but this model stands out mainly for its ease of use and 10x optical zoom.
Generally speaking, budget cameras struggle under certain lighting conditions. If you're shooting with ample light, the resulting images should turn out sharp and vivid, but in low light they may turn out grainy or fuzzy.
For the record, the digital cameras listed here can take up to 16-megapixel photos. A high megapixel count doesn't necessarily equate to high quality, but it does allow users to blow up pictures to poster size without worrying they'll become pixelated. Like many modern cameras, all four of these models can also record video in 720p high definition. They have rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, whereas some cheap alternatives take AA batteries, an added expense.
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Whichever camera you choose, make sure it has optical image stabilization. This helps keep low-light images from becoming blurry when you're not using a tripod. Although the feature should come standard on most digital cameras these days (and does on the ones listed above), that's not always the case with the cheapest models.
Another point of difference among budget cameras is the optical zoom. The standard among budget digital cameras is around 5x. That's not to be confused with the digital zoom, which may be much higher but artificially magnifies the photo and can result in lower image quality. If you're looking for close-ups of a child playing in the water or a graduate walking in a cap and gown, go for a camera with a higher optical zoom.
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