Best cheap camera: top cameras for tight budgets

You'll be amazed what you can get for your money

Best cheap compact what can you get for your money

Buying a compact camera can be a tricky business thanks to the mind-boggling range of models to choose from, so here's our pick of the best budget-conscious models available today.

All have at least 3x optical zoom and some even offer image stabilisation to help tame camera shake and give them an edge over a typical smartphone. 16 megapixels or more is also the norm even at this price point, so you can print big whilst spending small.

Nobody wants to lug around a brick of a camera, but these entry-level cameras don't sacrifice style or compactness. One of our recommendations is a little pudgier than the others, but it hides some tricks that easily compensate for the extra bulk. You needn't have to worry about buying batteries either, as all pack a proper rechargeable Li-ion power pack.

But what really matters is image and video quality. It's easy to get sucked into the megapixel myth that more pixels equal better results, but that's not always true. Extra resolution is important when it comes to video capture though, and these day's you shouldn't accept anything less than HD video recording with at least 720p resolution.

Canon IXUS 150/Canon PowerShot ELPH 140 IS

Sensor: 16.0 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD Lens: 8x optical zoom, 28-224mm-equivalent focal range Screen: 2.7-inch LCD, 230,000 dots Max continuous shooting rate: 0.8fps Max video resolution: HD 720p

• Read our full Canon Ixus 150/PowerShot Elph 140 IS review.

Canon Ixus 150 PowerShot Elph 140 IS

The IXUS 150 may be light on your pocket, but it isn't light on features, packing a 16-megapixel sensor and Canon's powerful Digic 4+ image processor. It'll also record HD video and there are several art filters to play with, too.

It's a breeze to use as well, thanks to features like Live Mode that allows you to see the effect of setting changes in real time, plus there's a help button to explain various functions. Once you get familiar with the camera, you've also got the ability to manually tweak several settings.

Unlike some cut-down compacts, the IXUS 150 doesn't sacrifice speed. It's quick to focus and you won't have to waste time waiting for the screen to clear before you can snap another shot.

There are no unpleasant surprises with image quality either. Keep the sensor sensitivity at ISO 800 or below and noise is well controlled, resulting in detailed, vibrant and accurately exposed images. Optical performance is also respectable, with no noticeable distortion and very little color fringing.

Despite its budget price tag, the IXUS 150 manages to produce quality images and is an excellent choice for novice photographers.