Compact cameras for under £150 reviewed

Introduction

Since all of us are watching the pennies, this month we’re seeing what £150 will buy in the way of a digital camera. Will this modest sum mean compromising on a product with conservative features? Not necessarily. As we’ll discover, a little consideration of which features are most useful to you plus a bit of shopping around can net a bargain. For example, focusing on cameras nearing the end of their shelf life – those that were announced about a year ago – can often throw up better value in terms of features than the latest purposefully cheap camera.

So, given the budget, what should you be looking to achieve in terms of specification? For starters, image stabilisation now appears on many compacts and is a very useful way to combat the bugbear of camera shake when shooting without flash in less than bright light, its blurring effects being more pronounced when photographing close up objects or those at the maximum reach of the zoom – another must-have at this price point.

Also aiding low-light photography is a high(ish) light sensitivity setting, with most compacts now offering ISO1600, ISO3200 or ISO6400 in some cases. Be aware that higher settings can also increase visibility of image noise – or grain – so it’s also worth examining how well each camera handles that issue.

Face recognition – whereby the camera automatically biases focus towards faces in the frame – is another regular feature and can make for sharper portraiture, while some models now boast higher resolution and longer movie clips than ever before – though admittedly we’ll be hard pressed to find High Definition footage at this price point.

Looks and size still matter of course. So ask yourself whether you require a camera that’s ultra compact and will slip into a shirt pocket, and is a metal or plastic build. Then choose between a rechargeable or non-rechargeable battery, a powerful zoom and/or an optical viewfinder. Plus how large does the LCD monitor have to be, or, at this price, how small are you prepared to settle for?

Finally, if saving money is the overriding factor, there’s always the second hand and online auction market to consider, though that would be a whole separate article in itself. To ensure a fair and level playing field, all the models featured here were current and recommended by the individual manufacturers as fair representation at the time of writing. With that in mind let’s find out how each of our compacts fares...

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