Buying Guide: The best camera bargains of 2018
Last updated: December 4, 2018
If you're looking for a high-quality camera, you don't need to spend a ton of cash, nor do you need to buy the latest and greatest new product on the market. If you're willing to miss out on some features, you can save a lot of cash by picking up a last-generation model or shopping around for deals on refurbished or older, but still current, cameras.
In this buying guide we want to direct your attention to some great-value cameras, which are still available. We'll start with the least expensive options and go up in price from there.
Street prices listed below are current as of December 4th, 2018.
- Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 $369
- Nikon D3400 w/18-55 lens $399
- Canon PowerShot G9 X II $399
- Canon EOS M100 w/15-45mm lens $399
- Sony a5100 w/16-50mm lens $449
- Sony a6000 w/16-50mm lens $499
- Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100 $499
- Fujifilm X-E3 $799
- Nikon D7200 $799
- Sony a7 II $899
- Nikon D750 $1399
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100
$449 MSRP, $369 street
While not as capable as later models, Sony's original Cyber-shot RX100 is an inexpensive way to snag a genuinely compact camera with a 1" sensor. It has a 28-100mm equivalent lens that will do well in low light at the wide end of the lens, but not-so-great at telephoto. You miss out on the faster lenses, electronic viewfinders and improvements in autofocus and JPEG image quality that arrive in the latest models.
Nikon D3400 w/18-55mm lens
$499 MSRP, $399 street
While it's since been replaced by the D3500, the Nikon D3400 is essentially the same camera but in a slightly different (but still very compact) body. Like other Nikons, the D3400's 24MP APS-C sensor has excellent resolution and dynamic range. Its autofocus system is dated and it can't take many photos in a burst, so a sports camera it is not.
Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II
$529 MSRP, $399 street
The Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II is one of the cheapest and smallest compact cameras with 1" sensor that you can buy. The larger-than-average sensor will produce better-looking images than your typical compact, though the slow-ish lens will reduce that advantage in low light.
Canon EOS M100 w/15-45mm lens
$599 MSRP, $399 street
The Canon EOS M100 is one of least-expensive mirrorless cameras you'll find. It's packed with Canon's latest features, including its excellent Dual Pixel autofocus system and also has a flip-up touchscreen display. It's not as good at shooting action as the newer M50 model, which can also capture 4K video.
The M100 features Full HD video capture and Wi-Fi with Bluetooth. While there aren't many native EF-M lenses available, the M100 is compatible with Canon's enormous selection of EF and EF-S glass with an optional adapter.
Sony a5100 w/16-50mm lens
$549 MSRP, $449 street
It's hard to believe but, five years after its introduction, Sony is still making its a5100 mirrorless camera. The compact Sony a5100 is a good choice for those on a tight budget seeking a point-and-shoot experience, but with interchangeable lenses. It hasn't seen the improvements in video, autofocus or JPEG color that have arrived in newer Sonys, meaning you don't get the excellent Eye AF feature.
Sony a6000 w/16-50mm lens
$649 MSRP, $499 street
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100
$699 MSRP, $499 street
|The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100 (TZ100 in some regions) is a compact camera with a 1" sensor and 25-250mm equiv. lens. It fits easily in your pocket, making it an ideal camera for travel. Its lens has a relatively slow maximum aperture, so it won't perform terribly well in low light, though it will still out-do compacts with smaller sensors. It doesn't get the nicer JPEG colors of newer Panasonic models.
The ZS100 has a fixed touchscreen display and a 'better than nothing' electronic viewfinder. In addition to taking 4K video, the ZS100 also has genuinely useful features like 'Post Focus' and '4K Photo'. For those looking for a portable, versatile travel camera, the ZS100 is a bargain.
$899 MSRP, $799 street (body only)
The Fujifilm X-E3 is a rangefinder-style mirrorless camera that produces excellent images straight out of the camera courtesy of its modern 24MP X-Trans APS-C sensor. Its well-built body has direct controls for shutter speed and exposure compensation, and most buttons are customizable.
$1099 MSRP, $799 street (body only)
The Nikon D7200 is a midrange DSLR with a 24MP APS-C sensor that produces sharp images with excellent dynamic range and solid high ISO performance. It's reasonably small and light and is sealed against the elements. The D7200 has a large optical viewfinder and a fixed 3.2" (non-touch) LCD.
Sony a7 II
$1399 MSRP, $899 street (body only)
The Sony a7 II is a solid full-frame mirrorless camera that currently sells for a remarkably low price. It has built-in 5-axis image stabilization, a 24MP sensor, fast hybrid autofocus system and Full HD video capture. The camera has a relatively rugged, with some weather-sealing, high resolution EVF and tilting (non-touch) LCD. It misses out on the further improvements Sony has made in terms of JPEG color, autofocus and user interface in its latest models.
$1999 MSRP, $1399 street (body only)
Despite being released way back in 2014, the D750 is still one of the most attractive full-frame DSLRs on the market and an incredible bargain as it approaches its fifth year of production. The D750's 24MP sensor produces beautiful photos with low noise at high ISOs and plenty of dynamic range. Its autofocus system tracks subjects with ease, though the camera's buffer fills quickly when shooting bursts.