Best Digital Cameras Under $300

Planning to shoot all your holiday photos with a smartphone? Consider this: Almost all stand-alone digital cameras have a number of powerful features that will give you much better pictures and videos.

That's why digital cameras, like the ones listed here, are worth taking a look at—both for yourself and for the people on your gift list.

Few smartphones, for instance, come with optical zoom, which gets you closer to the action without degrading image quality. Digital cameras also have a powerful built-in flash. The LED types that come on smartphones are significantly weaker and provide far less illumination.

Some cameras allow you to go where most smartphones dare not tread: Namely, they’re waterproof and rugged. We’ve included three models below that work when the weather outside is frightful.

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But what you might like most is that you don't have to pay a lot for these cameras, whether they’re an inexpensive point-and-shoot, a model with a really long zoom lens (which we call a superzoom), or a rugged-and-waterproof camera to take skiing, sleigh riding, or—if you’re in a warmer climate—into the pool or ocean.

Nikon Coolpix S9900

This $260 superzoom packs a lot of features and performance into a lightweight, slim camera body. It has a 30x optical zoom lens and also includes a swiveling LCD, which is great for capturing selfies and hard-to-reach shots. Travelers will appreciate its built-in world map, which includes points of interest, an electronic compass, and built-in GPS for geotagging.

Canon PowerShot SX710 HS

Compared with the larger, bulkier superzooms of the past, this $280 Canon has a much smaller footprint. It’s slim and lightweight but still has a 30x optical zoom lens. Because it has a higher megapixel count than most point-and-shoots, you can generously crop without losing too much detail. It includes some fun shooting modes, too. For instance, its Creative Shot mode applies Instagram-type filter effects to your shots.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX30

Looking for a childproof point-and-shoot? This $230 Sony Cyber-shot point-and-shoot could be a great first camera. It's rugged and waterproof—which provides welcome backup for even the most responsible kid. It’s thinner and lighter than most cameras, and it captures very good flash shots and video. This Cyber-shot model even has a burst mode that captures 10 frames per second, for young photographers who want to shoot a snowball fight.

Olympus Stylus TG-860

What makes this $230 stylishly designed, wireless rugged-and-waterproof model stand out is that it has a very-wide-angle zoom lens (21mm-105mm), which is great when you're shooting landscapes or underwater seascapes and you want a broader vista. This is also helpful when you want to get more people into a group portrait. It has a very good quality LCD that swivels, which is helpful for shooting selfies and hard-to-reach shots. And the camera can fire off seven frames per second in burst mode.

Fujifilm FinePix XP90

If you’re looking for a waterproof camera that won’t sink your budget, the $200 Fujifilm FinePix XP90 is one to train your sights on. It has a bold design and comes in blue, green, orange, or yellow. But it has more going for it than just a pretty face. It performs well and even has geotagging, so it’s easy to prove whether the photos were taken in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the one in Las Vegas.

Nikon Coolpix S7000

This $200 wireless point-and-shoot takes very good still photos, and good flash photos and video. It also has a good quality LCD, includes built-in WiFi, and has a long 20x optical zoom lens but is still thin and lightweight. Plus, it comes with an excellent quality optical image stabilizer, which helps you avoid blurry shots in low light due to hand shake.

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