Best point-and-shoot camera under $500

Camera & Photo

With image quality superior to smartphones, point-and-shoot cameras are great for those who wish to print their photos.

BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details.

Which point-and-shoot camera under $500 is best?

Despite the advancements of smartphones, point-and-shoot cameras are still great photographic tools. Because they provide larger images than smartphones without the complicated features and heft of DSLR models, point-and-shoot cameras are popular with casual photographers who desire convenience but don’t want to sacrifice quality.

For those looking to upgrade their photo equipment for less than $500, the Panasonic LUMIX ZS100 4K Point and Shoot Camera is an excellent choice. With its advanced but simple features and tough metal construction, this sturdy camera will impress both seasoned and novice photographers alike.

What to consider before you buy a point-and-shoot camera under $500

Advantages to using a point-and-shoot camera over a smartphone

Point-and-shoot cameras, unlike smartphones, are designed from the ground up to capture fantastic images. They make this possible thanks to the following:

  • Larger sensors. Smartphones have to sacrifice camera sensor size to keep the devices compact and fit in their other components. They are therefore incapable of achieving the depth of field that point-and-shoot cameras can with their larger sensors. While some phones use filters and algorithms to approximate the artistic, blurry background that a shallow depth of field allows for, their artificial intelligence can get confused while differentiating foreground and background objects. This results in unpleasant digital artifacts. The larger sensors in point-and-click cameras also allow for superior low-light photography.
  • Better image size and quality. Smartphones are great for posting photos directly to social media, but point-and-shoot cameras produce much bigger images and, therefore, are more appropriate for editing and framing. A high-resolution image allows you to enlarge your photo without losing detail. If you are looking to print your photos, a point-and-shoot camera will provide far superior results compared to a smartphone.
  • More customization options. Smartphones may allow you to throw a filter over your image as a special effect, but only a proper camera will allow you to make foundational changes to how you capture the image. Many point-and-shoot cameras allow you to change your aperture size, exposure and more in ways that smartphones generally do not accommodate for.

Consider your desired usage as well as your end result

A camera, no matter the type, is merely a tool to achieve your artistic vision. It is therefore critical that you select the best tool for the job.

For example, suppose you are interested in taking high-definition nature photos using telephoto lenses to get results that look like they are from a magazine. In that case, a proper DSLR camera will better suit your needs.

If you are looking to take high-quality, printable photos quickly and are willing to accept a few limitations concerning lens customization and advanced options, a point-and-shoot camera will keep you satisfied for years to come.

What to look for in a quality point-and-shoot camera under $500

Size

An advantage that point-and-shoot cameras have over DSLR models, and even some smartphones, is their convenient size. Most can easily slip into your pocket. Select a camera that will be easy for you to transport and keep on hand.

Zoom

A point-and-shoot camera will have the capability to zoom optically using its lens. Choose a camera that allows you to zoom in as much as possible to maximize artistic flexibility. Many cameras also allow you to zoom in even further digitally, although this will result in the low image quality associated with smartphone photography.

Viewfinder

As screens have come to dominate every electronic device in our lives, viewfinders have become less common on point-and-shoot cameras. However, a viewfinder can prove invaluable if you are taking photos in bright sunlight that can make a screen hard to see. Consider your intentions with your camera to determine if a viewfinder is necessary for your needs.

4K video capture

Many point-and-shoot cameras allow for 4K video capture. While this feature will devour your memory as well as your battery life, the ability to quickly and easily grab footage in ultra-high definition is a feature that was unthinkable on these devices as recently as a few years ago. If you don’t need or desire to create 4K video with your point-and-shoot camera, try to avoid spending more on models that include this option.

Low-light image capture

While just about any camera will capture great photos outdoors in the sunshine, be sure that the camera model you select is also able to grab great shots in low light. The larger a camera’s sensor, the better image quality it will achieve in dim conditions.

Display screen 

Select a camera with a screen size that will allow you to see what you’re pointing it at clearly. Most cameras will have a touch screen that allows you to select what part of the frame you wish to focus on and scroll through and choose menu options without having to use any clumsy button presses.

Image stabilization

Image stabilization technology, whether for photography or video, will significantly improve the quality of your shot by reducing blurriness and vibration. This feature is vital if you don’t intend to mount your camera to a tripod for added stability.

How much you can expect to spend on a point-and-shoot camera under $500

High-quality point-and-shoot cameras, even from premium brands, can be purchased for $250-$480.

Point-and-shoot camera under $500 FAQ

Can you put a different lens on your point-and-shoot camera?

A. The ability to swap lenses is a characteristic of DSLR cameras. It is not a feature that you should expect to find on a point-and-shoot model.

Can you use a point-and-shoot camera to make videos?

A. Yes. While your video will be at the mercy of the limited features available on your camera, many point-and-shoot models can capture 4K video at the expense of storage space and battery life.

Are point-and-shoot cameras waterproof?

A. Not usually. If you are in the market for a camera that can endure rough handling and exposure to the elements, it would better suit you to use a GoPro or similar model.

What’s the best point-and-shoot camera under $500 to buy?

Top point-and-shoot camera under $500

Panasonic LUMIX ZS100 4K Point and Shoot Camera

Panasonic LUMIX ZS100 4K Point and Shoot Camera

What you need to know: This model captures 4K video and has a huge sensor.

What you’ll love: Great for low-light photography, this point-and-shoot camera from Panasonic features one of the largest sensors available at this price. Metal construction makes this camera sturdy and durable.

What you should consider: This camera’s small size and touch screen might make it a challenge to use for those with larger hands.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon 

Top point-and-shoot camera under $500 for the money

Canon Powershot SX720 Point Shoot Digital Camera

Canon Powershot SX720 Point & Shoot Digital Camera + Accessory Bundle

What you need to know: This camera and accessory pack from Canon delivers on the brand’s reputation for quality.

What you’ll love: Able to record 1080p HD video at 60 fps, this point-and-shoot camera from Canon is an excellent starting point for any budding photographer. Its 40x zoom allows you to get up and close and personal with your subject. This bundle is a great value with its included tripod, cleaning cloth, memory card and more.

What you should consider: This pack does not include a USB cable, which will have to be purchased separately for those with a computer that does not have a memory card reader.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Nikon Coolpix A1000

Nikon Coolpix A1000

What you need to know: Nikon’s entry into the point-and-shoot under $500 market features a powerful zoom and an excellent sensor.

What you’ll love: With its ability to capture 4K video with stereo sound, its 35X optical zoom, image stabilization and advanced low-light sensor, this point-and-shoot camera from Nikon checks all the boxes.

What you should consider: Many users report that this camera is heavier than they would prefer.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Derek Walborn writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.