Let's have some fun! We've rounded up a bunch of budget cameras that are stylish, easy to use and very reasonably priced. There's a mix of digital SLRs and CSCs (compact system cameras), each of which weigh in at under £600/$800, complete with a kit zoom lens. Some of them cost considerably less.
Whether you're buying a camera as a present for someone else or are just treating yourself, there are some little treasures to choose from. Even if you already own an expensive outfit, there's a lot to be said for having one you can take anywhere without feeling too precious about it.
Best budget cameras: the contenders
1 Canon EOS 100D with 18-55mm IS STM lens £330/$500
2 Canon EOS 750D with 18-55mm IS STM lens £550/$750
3 Nikon D3300 with 18-55mm VR II lens £350/$450
4 Nikon D5500 with 18-55mm VR II lens £590/$795
5 Olympus OM-D E-M10 with 14-42mm EZ lens £475/$500
6 Panasonic DMC-GF7 with 12-32mm lens £340/$460
7 Pentax K-S1 with 18-55mm lens £420/$340
8 Sony Alpha 5100 with 16-50mm OSS lens £430/$530
Best budget cameras: Canon EOS 100D with 18-55mm IS STM lens
Lighter than any other SLR on test and smaller even than the diminutive Pentax K-S1, this is the baby of Canon's current line-up.
It's a generation older than the 750D in terms of image sensor, processor and the hybrid sensor-based autofocus system for use in Live View and movie modes.
The regular phase-detection autofocus module is also quite basic. It features just nine AF points, of which only the central point is cross-type, able to resolve detail in both vertical and horizontal planes.
The image sensor's megapixel count of 18MP is lower than in any other SLR here, but it's still higher than in either the Olympus or the Panasonic Micro Four Thirds cameras.
Handling feels good rather than great: the 100D is a little cramped for a full-blown SLR.
Image quality is very pleasing overall, with good results in a decent range of scene modes, along with enough manual adjustments to please more experienced photographers. The maximum burst rate of 4 frames per second is the slowest in the group.
Build & Handling: 3/5
Best budget cameras: Canon EOS 750D with 18-55mm IS STM lens
The 750D is similar to the concurrently released 760D. Lacking that model's top-panel info screen or rear-mounted quick control dial, the 750D has a more traditional layout for entry-level Canon SLRs.
Its cheaper price tag also qualifies it as more of a budget camera. It's a larger and heavier camera than the older Canon 100D, and its handling feels more assured and comfortable as a result.
New and improved features include a 24.2MP image sensor, a Digic 6 processor, a 19-point (all cross-type) phase-detection autofocus module, and a new-generation hybrid autofocus system for Live View and movie shooting.
Even so, Live View autofocus isn't as fast as in most CSCs. Further attractions include an articulated and touch-sensitive rear screen, Wi-Fi and NFC (Near Field Communication).
The 5fps burst rate and hybrid autofocus system are both faster than in the 100D. The autofocus system delivers better accuracy for off-centre objects, especially moving targets. Retention of fine detail is also better.
Best budget cameras: Nikon D3300 with 18-55mm VR II lens
Like the Nikon D3000-series cameras before it, the D3300 offers an interactive Guide mode. It acts like a built-in photography course and makes this SLR particularly beginner-friendly.
It also adds an Effects shooting mode, lacking in the previous D3200, with options like toy camera, colour sketch and night vision for entertainment.