Which is the best cheap compact camera you can buy in 2014?

Better than a phone but on a budget

Best cheap compact camera

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 10x optical zoom with image stabilisation to give them an edge over a camera phone. If your budget can stretch slightly further, a 22x focal range can be had, meaning even the most distant subjects will fill your frame.

Each camera also packs wireless image sharing that'll make it a breeze to fire an photo across to your phone or tablet and upload it to the web. Add NFC pairing to the mix and the connection process is even quicker, providing your mobile device has compatible tech.

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 recording though, as while you'll be hard-pressed to find a camera that won't record HD video, not all offer the highest Full HD quality.

Canon Ixus 265

Canon IXUS 265 HS / Canon PowerShot ELPH 340 HS


  • Sensor: 16.0 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CMOS
  • Lens: 12x optical zoom, 25-300mm-equivalent focal range
  • Screen: 3-inch LCD, 461,000 dots
  • Max continuous shooting rate: 3.9fps
  • Max video resolution: Full HD 1080p

If you're after an easy to use compact camera for taking on holiday or capturing a night out, something from Canon's IXUS range has long been a smart choice.

The IXUS 265 HS isn't a flagship model, but it still packs a 16-megapixel sensor that's back-illuminated to improve low light performance. There's also a 12x optical zoom lens squeezed into the sleek chassis that provides a useful focal range of 25-300mm (in 35mm camera terms).

You get plenty of features too, like Full HD video recording and Wi-Fi image sharing, with the added bonus of NFC pairing that'll let you connect a compatible device with a simple tap. Another nice touch is the Hybrid Auto mode which captures a couple of seconds of video before each shot and compiles everything into a funky montage.

The camera's performance doesn't let the side down either. Images impress right from the off with bright, punchy colours and there's plenty of detail when you look closer. Low light performance is also very good, as is the exposure metering and autofocus system.

It's a pity the 460k-dot monitor isn't touch-sensitive and you won't find many manual controls, but otherwise it's hard to fault this sleek and simple snapper.

Read our full Canon IXUS 265 HS review.

Nikon Coolpix S9600

Nikon Coolpix S9600


  • Sensor: 16.0 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CMOS
  • Lens: 22x optical zoom, 25-550mm-equivalent focal range
  • Screen: 3-inch LCD, 460,000 dots
  • Max continuous shooting rate: 6.7fps
  • Max video resolution: Full HD 1080p

Not so long ago you'd have needed a bridge camera costing big bucks to get your hands on 22x optical zoom. These days the svelte Coolpix S9600 boasts a whopping 25-550mm 35mm-equivalent focal range and does so for relatively modest money.

Images are captured by a 16-megapixel sensor with a maximum sensitivity of ISO6400. Don't expect stunning image quality at this setting, but the S9600 does do a good job of minimising image noise up to ISO1600, though some detail is smeared in the process.

With this much zoom on tap, the camera's Vibration Reduction is essential for helping you shoot sharp shots. The lens also keeps chromatic aberration (purple fringing) in check and produces very little image distortion.

There's plenty to play with too, like a Smart Portrait mode with blink and smile detection, plus Glamour Retouch editing options to whiten teeth, smooth skin and even lift bags under the eyes. Nikon's Easy Panorama mode makes light work of capturing panoramic scenes, but the results lack detail.

If you're after a versatile travel companion that'll deliver decent performance in a variety of conditions and packs plenty of toys, the Nikon Coolpix S9600 should definitely be high on your shortlist.

Sony Cyper shot DSC WX220

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX220


  • Sensor: 18.2 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch Exmor R CMOS
  • Lens: 10x optical zoom, 25-250mm-equivalent focal range
  • Screen: 2.7-inch LCD, 460,800 dots
  • Max continuous shooting rate: 10fps
  • Max video resolution: Full HD 1080p

At a mere 92.3 x 52.4 x 21.6mm and 121g ready to shoot, the DXC-WX220 is the smallest and lightest camera of the bunch by a noticeable margin. Yet despite this, Sony has still managed to cram in a 10x zoom lens with a 25-250mm focal range (in 35mm camera terms). It's also got the most megapixels here thanks to an 18.2-million pixel Exmor R CMOS sensor which is paired with Sony's latest BIONZ X image processor.