Quality On A Budget: Finding The Best Camera Under $300 For Travel

As smartphones continue to increase in memory capacity and photo/video quality, it is become tougher to find a dedicated camera to match them for price and quality. Join me on my journey to find the best camera for under $300 for travel. Let's go!

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What Is Your Primary Goal With Your Travel Photography?

Each of us travels for a different reason and may choose to capture a certain moment in a different way from the next person. Take me, for example. As a lover of animals and candid shots, the camera I am looking for would have to have very fast exposure, hence allowing me to freeze movement or refuse blur.

On the other hand, nature photographers may prefer cameras that cater to a slower exposure. This would open up the door to nighttime photography. Portrait photography is also becoming more and more apparent, which would require a camera with a smaller aperture.

While working on a budget, you will want to find out exactly what you want and looking for cameras that provide that. Cameras, especially digital ones, are not as expensive as they once were, but you still want to make sure to get one perfect for your purpose!

This is a great little guide to exposure and aperture.

Waterproof?

Do you find yourself caught in the rain unprepared from time to time? Do you trek a bunch and find yourself waist deep in a river chasing the perfect photo? If so, it is probably a good idea to let waterproofing be one of your criteria for picking your camera!

Obviously, there are many different levels of waterproofing, from water resistance to waterproofing to a certain depth. Each will allow you to take more and more adventurous photos and will obviously cost more as the camera is more protected.

Furthermore, a lot of these waterproof camera are also dust and dirt-proof, giving you a peace of mind when you're so desperately trying to photograph the dragonfly you had been chasing for hours!

If there is a camera that you are eyeing that is not waterproof, maybe this D.I.Y guide can help!

Zoom

Many people take the zoom lens on a camera for granted these days, seeing as most choose to use a smartphone. This, however, could be the difference between making the shot you want and one you have to settle for.

When talking about zoom, it is important to note that we are mostly talking about digital cameras. DSLR and SLR cameras usually have lenses you can purchase for different levels of zoom. Those cameras are generally out of the preferred price range here, so let's stick to digital cameras for now.

In digital cameras, there are two types of zoom to look out for - digital and optical zoom. Optical zoom is the act of the lenses focusing and bringing the image closer, while digital zoom is the act of taking a picture, then digitally zooming into said picture.

With that being said, you can find digital cameras that claim to give you up to 300 times digital zoom! That may sound great on paper, but remember that zooming into a still image kills the quality and is something that can be done with even the simplest of editing software.

Optical zoom should be your only focus here. This, of course, refers to the capability of the lens when it comes to zooming in and staying in focus. This piece goes into far more detail about the ins and outs of zoom!

For The Fast-moving, High-energy Monster In You.

Action cameras have suddenly popped into the spotlight over the last few years. With its waterproof, hands-free, and image stabilising approach, these cameras are not to be scoffed at.

Most of the action cameras in the market today are being used almost solely for capturing high movement videos. Many of them, however, also have quite competitive image resolution built into them, which would be useful as you're hanging off a cliff edge and want to capture the moment.

There are many things to consider when choosing one of these cameras, however. Battery life, connectivity, weight, field of view, and memory are but some of the things you will need to seriously consider. Before you rush out and get yourself one of these action cameras, read here to find out a little more!

Busting Some Common Myths About Cameras

Other than Zoom, which is pretty much self-explanatory (other than digital against optical, which can be misleading), there are a few other things to clear up before we start shopping. Resolution is a common misconception - the higher, the better. Technically, of course, this is true, and that a higher megapixel count would allow you to take better photographs.

For a regular point-and-shoot travel photographer like me, however, 8-20 megapixels is more than enough. This will not only allow you to print photos of most sizes in optimum quality, but it also frees up two things - one, room in your memory space as size increases with resolution, and two, room in your budget for some cooler features.

The Fit is also very important. You want a camera that you feel good holding so you will be more willing to take it out and shoot more photos with, right? Exactly! Don't get too hung up on finding the 'best' or most popular camera, find the one that is right for YOU.

Now that we're past that, let's talk about the five best cameras I found while shopping around recently!

**Below, you find more detail reviews, but you also can click links above to see current prices and read customer's reviews on Amazon.

Panasonic "Lumix DMC-FZ70"


Pros:

  • All-in-one - As a dSLR, it has all the functionality of a point-and-shoot digital camera with the precision of an SLR. It combines perfectly for the amateur and the professional.
  • Ultra zoom - For such a basic camera, you would not be wrong in expecting a short digital zoom. Amazingly, the Lumix provides up to 60 times optical zoom, perfect for shots of the moon or a spot on the horizon.
  • No frills - The Lumix comes with the body and not much else. This means all its functionality is packed into its body, making it a breeze to carry about. Definitely a check in the traveler's list!

Cons:

  • Small LED - One of its digital features is the LED screen. It is a little on the small side, which could hinder you if your sight is not 20/20.
  • Action shots - When I was testing the camera out, I could not seem to capture a moving animal perfectly. Granted, these were hummingbirds, which are both small and speedy, but it is something to consider.

Canon "PowerShot ELPH 110 HS"


Pros:

  • Auto-focus - As a fully digital camera, I was very pleasantly surprised with the auto-focus. Entirely no need to press the button down to halfway for the focus, just point and shoot!
  • Light-sensitive - The colours that come out of this camera are extremely vivid! Who needs Instagram filters when colours pop like these, right?
  • Size - Again, being fully digital means that this sleek, light, small body is all you need to carry around while taking gorgeous photos.

Cons:

  • Low-light performance - While Canon promises exceptional low-light performance with this camera, I personally found otherwise. Photographs taken in low light/without flash turned out quite grainy and blurred, not great for 16.1 megapixels.
  • Shutter time - Ever wanted to capture a moment that you know will never return? Yeah, this camera will probably not help with that. The shutter speed is found wanting, unfortunately.

Canon "PowerShot SX500 IS"


Pros:

  • Stable - The first thing that popped into my head when handling this camera was the stability. Obviously sometimes, when you are zoomed in, it can be hard to stabilize for the shot. The stabilizing function built into this camera does a wonderful job for you.
  • Automatic - As long as the camera is set to 'Automatic', it is an absolute breeze for the amateur to use. No fiddling around with aperture and shutter speed for you!
  • Close-up - As a nature photographer, I love taking closeup shots of anything, from the dogs in my yard to a spider hanging out in its web. At this price, there is hardly a sharper closeup picture you will be able to take.

Cons:

  • Not for the beginner - When venturing into low light situations, you may be tempted to switch to the low-light mode. Unfortunately, this mode is not very good, pictures become fuzzy, and the sound kicks up a notch. You will need to mess with the manual settings for this, making it not so amateur-friendly.
  • Bright flash - Yes, the flash is supposed to be bright. The flash on this camera, however, was far brighter and caused the photos to come out looking a little washed out. Something to consider.

Sony "Cyber-Shot DSC-W570"


Pros:

  • Cheap - Compared to the other digital cameras I looked at, this was the cheapest of them all. Basing this purely on megapixel value, this is comparable to the four above it, while being on the lower end of the price scale. Bargain!
  • Good under low-light - Oddly enough, the cheapest camera on the list has allowed it a function many others above it have neglected - low light functionality. No fiddling with many buttons, you just select the feature and take a good picture.
  • Intelligent - This is also the only camera here that has an 'intelligent auto-mode'. The camera senses its surroundings and picks the appropriate mode for the setting. How easy is it to just pick the camera up, turn it on, and shoot away?

Cons:

  • Build does not feel sturdy - Sony obviously had to cut a corner somewhere and it looks like they did it with the physical build. The exterior does not look cheap but does feel a little flimsy compared to the others.
  • LED screen not sharp - Despite just testing the camera inside the store, the LED looked a little fuzzy. Imagine this after constant use and having to try and see what the screen is saying in the daylight. It could be a problem.

GoPro "Hero3+: Silver Edition"


Pros:

  • All-action - As an all-action video camera that also takes photos, the GoPro does not skimp on quality. The built in stabilization of the machine is immense, and short of throwing it in the air and expecting a crystal clear photo, I'd expect it to be perfect for anything from mountaineering to skydiving.
  • Truly waterproof - As expected, this is the only truly waterproof camera on the list. Take photos of yourself swimming with sharks without the hassle of a waterproof casing. Handy!
  • Hands-free - Needless to say, all you have to do it strap it onto a helmet, your backpack, or anything on you, and you're good to go.

Cons:

  • Video first - Unfortunately, one of its strengths is really a weakness for this purpose. Because it was made with the express purpose of taking amazingly stable action videos first, photographs have taken a back seat. Shutter speeds are considerably slower and low-light photography is basically non-existent.

**Below, you find more detail reviews, but you also can click links above to see current prices and read customer's reviews on Amazon.

Personally, I will have to go for Panasonic's "Lumix DMC-FZ70".

Both Canon cameras felt good in my hands, despite being of entirely different builds. Unfortunately, I really enjoy photographs in low light, especially of sunsets. As such, being a relative newbie to the hobby, even the "SX500 IS"s manual settings would not be of much use to me.

As a complete sucker for a deal, I was seriously considering Sony's "CyberShot DSC-W570". Unfortunately, in the end I could not sacrifice form, despite its relatively great function. I want a camera that would last.

Finally, the GoPro is a magnificent piece of machinery which needed to be talked about. Personally, however, it is not my go-to as I am a photographer first and foremost, and the "Hero3+" was made for Action Videography, something I do not take part in very much.

With its crazy zoom, wonderful precision, and ease of use, it is easy to see why Panasonic's "Lumix DMC-FZ70" is the camera I will be purchasing!

P/S: If you found this article helpful, click on the link to purchase your items (whatever brand you go with) and no extra cost for you. The small commission helps me keep the website running, community supported, and advertiser free.

Hopefully, this piece helped you. Travel Safe!

About the Author James Wilson

Hi! My name is James Wilson, adventurer and traveler. I was born in New York City, am 28 this year, and have been traveling since I was 19. New places fill me with an unexplainable joy, so let me share some of my experiences with you!

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