The best cameras under $100 are probably much better than you're expecting. The major manufacturers have done a solid job of filling out the low ends of their offerings, and many models here can do a surprising amount for the money.
Also worth noting is that the low cost of these cameras make them an ideal choice for kids who want to learn the basics of photography, without the danger of them accidentally breaking an expensive camera. We've even included a waterproof tough camera on the list, which is available for a great price.
Of course you aren't going to find cameras on this list with all the latest and greatest functionality, but they're all solid buys that do everything you'll need them to. You'll find Nikon, Canon and Sony models in our top ten picks, along with ever-popular instant film cameras which are great fun to play with and use to make memories. Bear in mind with these models that you'll also have the ongoing cost of film to consider, so this will add to the initial asking price.
Prices change all the time, but all of our choices should be for around $100, or under – as prices can vary from week to week, some models may be just over the $100 mark on occasion. If you're feeling a little more flush, check out our guide to best cameras under $200.
Now's a great time to pick up one of the incredibly-popular instant cameras from Fujifilm.
The latest analogue SQ6 model has a retractable lens (a focal length of 65.75mm which is 32mm in 35mm terms, and prints 62x62mm images at a 1:1 ratio.
You'll find a front-mounted selfie mirror to ensure you perfect your pout before printing, and with dedicated modes for macro, landscape and double exposure, as well as three color filters, it gives you a certain amount of creative control.
For more ambitious youngsters, there's a tripod socket, and an LED display lets you see shooting information and take control of flash suppression, brightness and a handy self-timer.
Of course, film will regularly need buying too, and most of the buying options we found didn't come with packs, so bear that in mind when budgeting.
The Blush Gold, Graphite Grey and Pearl White models are all available at the same price, but you'll have to shell out extra if you're after the black and gold Taylor Swift edition.
If you are looking for a good value camera, that offers you plenty of fun and features for your money, then an action camera could be a great choice. There are quite a few budget action cameras – but this one is one of our favorites. It is a 4K model – allowing you to shoot decent quality video footage from its fixed wide-angle lens. But you also get 16MP photos and two-inch touch screen. There’s electronic image stabilization too, while the waterproof housing enables it to withstand depths of / 131 feet. Included in the box is a remote control that straps to your wrist, Wi-Fi is included here, as is the ability to achieve time-lapse special effects, so in all this is an option worth further investigation.
Nikon's supremely affordable Coolpix A10 is routinely the cheapest model from any big name manufacturer. It might only have a 5x zoom lens, but with both image and video stabilisation, it's a good entry-level option.
Like many other models in this price bracket, it features a 2.7 inch LCD screen, and with the emphasis on user-friendly button layout and controls, it's a really simply camera to use. Best of all, you'll get up and running with just two standard AA batteries, making it simple to keep powered up.
You can forget any extra sophisticated features from the Coolpix A10 - and it's not an option for those who want to shoot full HD video. But at this price, who's complaining? This model is no longer being manufactured, so you may now need to shop around to find it.
Canon's Powershot ELPH models (known as IXUS outside the United States), remain a very popular budget choice - and rightly so. Combining a low price with a fairly generous feature set, the 190 is ultra-slim and light, and incredibly easy to carry as a spare or travel camera.
You should be able to find the most recent Elph 180 or IXUS 185 model at just over the $100 mark. Slightly more expensive it the Canon Powershot Elph 190 which gives a slightly longer 10x zoom and wifi communication – if you can stretch your budget further.
With a 20.5MP sensor, sharp picture quality, and easy controls, this PowerShot is a small and slim compact with broad appeal that's available in a range of colors.
For those who hanker after the styling and size of the Leica Sofort, Lomography’s Lomo’instant Automat is the closest instant camera you'll get under $100.
For your money, you'll get a camera equipped with a 60mm lens with an aperture of f/8. There's a lens ring to dial in the focus distance from 60cm to infinity, and the front-mounted shutter release doubles up as a mirror for those essential selfies.
The viewfinder is a little on the small side, but build quality is otherwise good, and it takes instax mini film which means convenience in buying new packs.
Overall, there's not much to quibble over between the Automat and its Fujifilm Instax peers, apart from the aesthetics and personal choice.
Sony's Cybershot range offer a number of models that available just above the $100 price point (so worthy contenders if you can stretch your budget slightly), with a variety of zoom options being the main difference between them.
Our TOOP pick, the DSC-W810, is a 6x zoom model with 20.1MP sensor, and a few other features to get younger snappers happy, such as Sweep Panorama, Night Scene, Beach and Pet modes.
One of the lightest models we could find, it's perfect to slip into your pocket. And while it's not going to set the world on fire, (with only 720p video capture, and no WiFi), it's routinely available for a great price. Also keep a look out for the similar Sony DSC-W830 , which offers a longer 8x zoom.
This compact camera may usually cost a bit over the $100 budget, but we have seen "refurbished" stock being sold for less – and this makes this a sensible contender for the budget buyer.
With that familiar specs line-up of 20.1MP, 8x zoom and 2.7" LCD screen, there's little in the way of standout features to recommend the A300 above its peers. Although the built-in Wi-Fi and SnapBridge means it's a reasonable choice for those who want to sync and share their pictures with ease.
The LCD screen wasn't the best we've seen, but it's another super light and small compact that's perfect for travel and as a back-up camera, and like many of the others in this list, comes in a range of colors to choose from (black, pink, red, and silver).
If you're after an instant, and don't mind smaller shots, the mid-range Mini 70 fits the bill. Printing credit card-size images (62mm x 46mm), it's a lifestyle camera aimed predominantly at younger photographers. As such, it comes in a rainbow of fruity colors to choose from.
Featuring a more retro design than the SQ6, it's just about small and light enough to carry around (despite needing two CR2 batteries). Like Fujfilm's other instants, it's equipped with the all-important selfie mirror, as well as modes for landscape and macro images. Most offers we found bundle 10 shots of mini film to get you started too.
For an even greater saving, the Instax Mini 9 is also available. This even smaller option is a great entry-level instant, but its cutesy design might put off all but the youngest shooters.
The biggest of Fujifilm's Instax range, as the name suggest, the Wide 300 delivers larger prints (via instax WIDE film packs).
Depending on your taste, its size is either a blessing - it feels substantial and well-built - or a curse (it's not a great choice for selfies, small hands may struggle, and it isn't as friendly to carry around).
Control is limited to adjusting brightness, and that huge built-in flash, while the 95mm lens is extended via a level next to the shutter release.
It's all a bit on the chunky side, apart from - strangely - the slightly ungenerous viewfinder. Still, if you're after larger prints from an instant camera, and still want change from $100, then the Wide 300 may be for you. Just make sure you handle it and check you're comfortable with the size before buying.
A left-field choice for those wanting a camera for under $100 is to go 35mm - as there are a number of film cameras available at budget prices - and in fact many of the best Lomography cameras can be bought for under $100. But they don't get much more left-field than the Konstructor... which you build yourself out of the plastic bits contained in this kit. It is a great project for those who want to live the analog life - and a great present for a patient teenager. Remember though, the film costs extra.
The best cameras under $200
The best camera under $500
The best camera for kids
The best beginner cameras
The best point-and-shoot cameras
The best waterproof cameras
The best compact cameras
Best budget action cameras under $100