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I’ve picked the best camcorders, SLRs and mirrorless cameras you can buy in the entry-level price range. All of these cameras can shoot 1080p Full HD.
I’ve explained the differences between these kinds of camera, and their advantages and disadvantages here. Basically, camcorders are smaller and easier to use, but SLRs and mirrorless cameras offer more creative possibilities and a more ‘film-like’ look.
If you’ve got a good smartphone (e.g. iPhone 6S or later) I’d seriously consider kitting it out for video rather than buying an entry-level camcorder. You could add a better camera app, a microphone, and a electronic stabiliser for well under $200.
Avoid very cheap camcorders with unfamiliar brand names: most are poor quality and have fixed non-zoom lenses (they only have digital zooms).
Camcorder with microphone input: Canon HF-R800
The Canon HF-R800 can record in a range of AVCHD and MP4 formats, including the 24fps that filmmakers like.
The zoom doesn’t go that wide – only 32.5mm equivalent – but there’s a filter ring so you could fit a wide angle adapter. It has a fairly large 3 inch touchscreen. Most importantly, it’s the cheapest good-quality camcorder you can buy with a microphone input socket. The older HF-R700 is almost identical.
Small wide-angle camcorder: Panasonic V180K
The big advantage of this little Panasonic is its genuine wide angle lens (28mm equivalent). So you can get in close for dramatic perspective and better audio.
It’s the first low-end Panasonic with optical image stabilisation. It’ll shoot in AVCHD and MP4, so it’ll be compatibile with most editing programs. If you use a Mac and want to save space, it also records in iMovie’s native iFrame mode. You can shoot time-lapse, and it can also record full 1080p HD with 50% slow motion.
But there’s no microphone input, headphone socket or viewfinder. The 2.7 inch touchscreen could be fiddly if you have large hands. Low-light performance from the 1/5.8” sensor – and battery life – isn’t great.
SLR or mirrorless
If you want an SLR or mirrorless camera in this price range, you’ll need to buy used.
The Canon EOS T4i DSLR has a large APS-C sensor, which is good for shallow depth of field, and it has Canon’s excellent color rendition. It’ll accept all current Canon SLR lenses, and you can fit other makers’ lenses with adapters. It’s the first entry-level video Canon DSLR with a tilt-and-swivel touchscreen. It can shoot slow-motion, but only at 1280×720 rather than Full HD 1080. Like the other two cameras in this category, it doesn’t have a headphone jack.
You can install free Magic Lantern firmware (at your own risk) to add more video features.
It’s bigger and heavier than the camcorders, though it’s relatively light for a DSLR. Battery life is better than mirrorless cameras.
Find used Canon EOS T4i on eBay
The original Canon EOS-M was the first mirrorless camera with a Canon APS-C sensor. At around $200 or less used, it’s the most affordable camera you can buy for creative filmmaking.
As with Canon SLRs, colors are great and you can get good shallow depth of field effects. There’s a limited range of small lenses devised specifically for the M series, but you can get adapters enabling you to mount any current Canon lens (or older manual focus lenses). It has a solid metal body, but it’s much smaller and lighter than an SLR. It has a fixed million-dot touchscreen.
I own one: it’s really small and neat and produces lovely images. Downsides: the touchscreen interface is slow to use, there’s no eye-level viewfinder, and battery life is poor so you’ll need spares.
It has the same range of video options as the T4i, and you can install Magic Lantern firmware for extra video features.
Find used EOS-M on eBay
If you can afford a bit more it’s worth seeking out the newer EOS M3 (review). It has a tilting screen, better controls, and the option to add an electronic viewfinder.
Panasonic Lumix FZ80 4K Digital Camera
In the world of superzoom cameras, Lumix FZ80 is one of the few that shoots 4k video at 30 fps.
On the outside, the FZ80 has a very familiar Panasonic look to it.
It is equipped with a 60x zoom lens with an 18 Megapixel MOS sensor that can be zoomed in and out using the toggle button that surrounds the shutter button.
Controls on the top of the camera are also very familiar to anyone who has been using Panasonic cameras. The position of the movie record button is really easy to access.
The 3-inch screen on the back is bright and crisp and works well outdoors. 4K video mode allows you to set the center focuses required in snapping a picture. It offers mind-blowing low-light capture to take photos and videos at night with impressive results.
It has built-in Wi-Fi, Micro USB, and USB 2.0 provides additional connectivity to your favorite devices.
The only thing missing is the articulating screen which makes changing screen angles to capture creative shots, selfies, and vlogs much tougher.
On the whole, it’s a great “all rounder” camera for everyone.
If you have a higher budget, I recommend checking the Panasonic Lumix G7 mirrorless camera.
Canon PowerShot SX530
If you’re looking for a compact model with an ultra-zoom lens, Canon PowerShot SX30 is an excellent choice with some truly amazing features.
The main feature is 50x optical zoom that uses a 16-megapixel CMOS image sensor that supports 1080p video capture and Creative Shot mode which lets you capture wide-angle landscapes and zoom in distant objects that make your photography stand out.
The optical stabilization system delivers crisp and clear results at the maximum distance range.
Additionally, there are digital filters in the camera that allows you to shoot full HDD movies.
The built quality feels rather good but the plastic body somehow looks cheap. With a big lens out, it looks similar to the small DSLR or low-cost mirrorless camera. The deep handgrip feels secure in the hand due to the textured coating and goes a long way to keep the camera steady.
Equipped with built-in Wi-Fi and NFC it makes the sharing of photos between compatible devices fast and convenient.
The only turn-off is that it lacks an electronic viewfinder and the video is limited to 1080p30.
Overall, it’s a good pick that will help you capture the best moments of your life.
Canon PowerShot SX620
Canon is well-known for making a wide range of high-quality cameras. However, they have also introduced some digital camera gear for people who are tight on budget and Canon SX620 is the prime example. This camera is a digital perfection compared it to “older” Canon point and shoot film cameras.
Introduced in May 2016, it’s a really simple digital camera made for your pocket. It features a 20.1 Megapixels sensor with an extra zoom power lens that doesn’t disappoint when it comes to capturing high-resolution photos and videos.
The 25x optically stabilized lens gives a 35mm-equivalent focal length of 25-625mm to capture shake-free images. It supports 1080p full HD video quality and a DIGIC 4+ Image processor enables you to capture stunning images even in low light.
Auto-zoom feature helps to automatically zoom in on subjects and helps keep them in focus. And the generously sized rear thumb rest helps make it secure in the hand.
Wi-Fi connectivity with NFC pairing lets you sync the camera with your smartphone and tag images with GPS coordinates.
The Canon SX620 is a great camera for those looking to capture their daily adventures.
Sony DSCWX350 Digital Camera
This camera option from Sony would make an ideal travel camera for is looking for a budget-friendly model to take some holiday snaps.
The body is made of metal and it only weighs 137 grams which is really light to carry around.
It has 18.3-megapixel Exmor R CMOS and 20x optical zoom and a 35mm equivalent of 25-500mm that can extend up to 40x. Despite being compact, the camera features a large 3-inch ClearPhoto LCD with 460k-dots of resolution.
The WX350 also features some high-performance specs under the hood. It has the same BIONZ X image processor as other mirrorless cameras of Sony and 10fps continuous burst shooting capability.
On the video side of things, apart from 1080/60p full HD video shooting capabilities, the MP4 option is available in AVCHD format at lower resolutions.
The built-in optical “SteadyShot” helps to reduce blur and capture 10fps when shooting handheld. The “Motion Shot” video mode lets you create a video sequence with superimposed shots of moving subjects for a frame-by-frame effect.
Equipped with enhanced digital image stabilization technology Sony claims that you can record steady videos even while running.
It’s a perfect camera for those looking for excellent image quality and a vast range of features.
Nikon Coolpix B500
Nikon Coolpix B500 is an ultra-zoom bridge camera that combines functionality with style.
This camera owns absolutely massive zoom which makes it one of the best everyday cameras to capture anything far away from you.
It looks kind of similar to the old camcorders or a point-and-shoot. It has a 40x optical zoom lens with a 16 Megapixel sensor which zooms from a wide-angle 22.3mm to 900mm equivalent terms.
Nikon Coolpix B500 has a built-in Vibration Reduction optical image stabilization to keep the shorts sharp and crisp while shooting in the low-light. Also, it features a large handgrip with a grippy texture that fits consummately in your hand with a decent hold.
The camera also offers a number of modes to choose from including automatic modes, creative effect modes, and scene modes. You can record full HD video while using optical zoom.
It comes with built-in stereo microphones, Wi-Fi, and NFC connectivity for easy and low-power image transfer.
This camera has no viewfinder so you have to use the rear screen to frame your shots. The camera is quite easy to use with the menu clearly laid out and text easy to read.
In short, it is one of the best cameras under $300 with a combination of great features, classic look that other rival cameras can’t easily match.
How to Choose the Best Camera Under $300?
There are plenty of reasons why you should invest in a separate camera such as better battery life, storage, ease of use, and more.
Having a separate device for photography ensures you have the power you need to capture all your special moments.
Most people think that a decent quality camera usually has a very high price.
Well, that is not true.
You can purchase a high-quality camera with many advanced features under $300.
Here are some main features you should look for while choosing a camera:
- Great picture quality (and satisfying low-light performance)
- Decent Zoom
- 4K or HD videos
- Good-quality microphone
- Wi-Fi or Bluetooth Connectivity
Many camera models are over-priced and offer the same features as mid-range cameras. On the flip side, many models under $300 does pretty decent and even better job than so-called pricey high-end cameras.
It’s important to consider what you need or what you want to do with your camera.
To choose the best affordable camera, it is best to familiarize yourself with the features a camera must-have. Ideally, you don’t have to break the bank to find the camera that’s right for you.
Finding a camera in a particular price range that will perfectly suit your needs with high photo and video quality can be a tricky task.
Smartphone cameras are getting smarter day by day. Some even give better mobile photography results than cameras as they have the same size sensor and equal or better photo-resolution with advanced features.
However, most of the smartphones are no match to the cameras reviewed above.
Our favorite pick is the Panasonic Lumix FZ80 since it has the best features for such an affordable price.
These cameras under $300 have amazing features and sometimes can even shame some other high-priced cameras.
It’s always important to do your research on the available models before making a purchase. See if any of those might be suitable for you and what other people are saying about them.