However, I also realize that opinions differ a bit, and my 5-star camera might not receive quite as good of a rating from other photographers. In addition, you might have a specific feature that you want from your camera that isn't found with the 5-star cameras.
So, with that in mind, here are the best 4-star cameras I've reviewed. Each of these cameras has one or two minor drawbacks that left it just shy of the 5-star rating, but these are still great cameras. In addition, they may have that one must-have feature that you need, meaning one of these cameras may be more appealing to you than any of the 5-star reviewed models.
The biggest drawback to the ELPH 100 for me was the tiny buttons that were tough to use on an otherwise great model. It also would've be nice if the ELPH 100 had a larger optical zoom lens than 4X, but it's tough to beat its sub-$200 price.
Colorful cameras have been a staple of Canon PowerShot cameras for quite a few years, and this recently announced camera follows that formula. The ELPH 100 is part of Canon's new "HS System," short for high sensitivity. Canon designed its HS cameras to work well in low light.
For a camera in its price range, the ELPH 100 includes some nice features, including a 3-inch LCD screen and full 1080p video capabilities. You'll find a 12.1MP CMOS image sensor with the ELPH 100, further improving low light performance.
Canon is offering the ELPH 100 in five body colors -- blue, gray, pink, orange, and silver.
There's a lot to like about the EOS Rebel T3, which Canon announced earlier this year.
You won't find a lot of advanced features in the EOS T3 -- at least when compared to other DSLR models. The Rebel T3 includes 12.2 megapixels of resolution with a CMOS image sensor, a 2.7-inch LCD, live view shooting, and HD video capabilities.
The T3 isn't the best DSLR on the market, but its affordable price and strong feature set make it a really good choice.
The design of the Casio TRYX alone would make it a 5-star camera, but its photography features are just slightly below the 5-star level. The TRYX camera provides a very interesting looking model that can provide support for odd-angle photos.
From a photography standpoint, its two biggest drawbacks are that it has no flash (using an LED to light subjects instead) and no optical zoom lens.
The award-winning TRYX introduces a new form factor from Casio, as a thin frame surrounds the camera. The frame can rotate away from the camera body, providing the ability to support the camera at odd angles -- as shown in this photo -- or to provide a grip for an odd-angle shot. If you leave the frame in place, it works just like any digital camera.
The Casio TRYX includes a 12-megapixel CMOS image sensor and a 3.0-inch touch-screen LCD. It includes some wide angle capabilities and the ability to shoot 1080p HD video.
The T300, which is called the T305 in some parts of the world, carries 14MP of resolution, a 10X optical zoom lens, a 3-inch LCD screen, and 720p HD video recording.
You'll have plenty of colors to choose from in the camera body as well, as Fujifilm is offering the T300 in black, blue, gunmetal gray, champagne gold, and red. The T300 measures only 0.9 inches in thickness.
The 10X zoom lens is a great feature for a camera in this price range.
The T300 just misses 5-star status because its overall response times are a little less than ideal, but they're certainly more than good enough for a sub-$200 camera.
The D3100 is a solid model that just missed out on a 5-star rating because it doesn't quite offer the advanced features you may find in other DSLRs, but it also doesn't carry some of the high prices you often see with a DSLR.
The D3100, which is a CES Innovations honoree and which made my list of the best cameras for 2010, includes on-screen help guides for giving photographers more opportunities for learning how to use their cameras.
The Olympus PEN E-PL3 digital interchangeable lens camera attempts to bring advanced photography options into a camera body more similar to a point and shoot model. Also called the PEN Lite, this model just missed a 5-star ranking in my review, mainly because it has a slightly larger price than the PEN Mini.
The PEN Lite includes a tiltable 3-inch LCD, which is handy for shooting odd-angle photos. It offers 12.3 megapixels of resolution with a CMOS image sensor, and it can shoot at up to five frames per second. The PEN Lite will be available in a variety of body colors, depending on where it's sold in the world, but white, red, silver, and black camera bodies are most common.
The latest "mini" camera from Olympus, the PEN E-PM2, should be another very nice DIL model to build upon the recent success of the Olympus Mini PEN E-PM1, which made my list of the best cameras in 2011 last year.
The E-PM2, which is now available in silver, black, white, or red camera bodies, features 16.1MP of resolution, interchangeable Micro Four Thirds lenses, a 3.0-inch touch screen LCD, and full HD video. The PEN Mini 2 features a much larger resolution and a touch screen LCD as its primary improvements over the PEN Mini 1. An external flash is included as part of the E-PM2 starter kit.
Olympus has packed plenty of features into a sub-$200 camera with its 14MP SZ-10 digital camera. The SZ-10 offers an 18X optical zoom lens, which is nice to find in this price range. This combination of price and feature set is why this camera received such a high ranking in my review.
You'll also find a high-resolution 3.0-inch LCD with the SZ-10.
OIympus has included the ability to shoot 720p HD video, to use Wi-Fi to connect to a computer, and to shoot in a 3D photo mode, all of which are impressive features for this price range.
9. Pentax Q DIL
Count Pentax among the manufacturers who have added digital interchangeable lens (DIL) cameras to their product line alongside DSLR cameras, and Pentax's first model, the Q, represents a great debut. A price that's a little above where I'd like to see it resulted in the Q just missing a 5-star rating in my review.
Because of the mirror-less design for the camera's interior, DIL cameras are smaller than DSLRs. However, they use a different lens system than DSLRs, meaning lenses cannot be shared between the two types of cameras.
The Pentax Q, which is currently available for sale in white or black, offers a 12.4MP CMOS image sensor, 1080p HD video, a 3.0-inch high-resolution LCD, a built-in flash, and five frames per second capabilities.
10. Samsung MV800
Samsung is well known for its innovative point and shoot cameras. Where other companies are content to come up with models each year that increase the optical zoom or add more megapixels, Samsung looks to innovate, even within the inexpensive point and shoot market, adding dual LCDs and WiFi capabilities.
Now, the Samsung MV800 includes a flip LCD that can rotate 180 degrees until it's positioned over the top panel of the camera, allowing for easy self-portraits. Throw in a touch screen LCD, and you have a camera that's really easy to use with an interesting feature set, which is why I gave it a high rating.
It would be nice if the performance levels of the MV800 in low light were a little better, but this is still a fun camera to use with excellent autofocus capabilities.
11. Samsung DV300F
I've always like the DualView camera design from Samsung, starting with the first model a few years ago, as it simplifies self portraits while allowing quite a bit of fun photography options.
The latest DualView, the DV300F, adds WiFi capabilities to the camera that has LCD screens on the front (1.5 inches) and back (3.0 inches) of the model. That's even more impressive when you consider the DV300F measures only 0.72 inches in depth.
In addition, the DV300F has 16.1 megapixels of resolution, a 5X optical zoom lens, and 720p HD video. It's a low-priced camera, which makes it a really nice and fun option for beginners.
If you commonly experience problems with motion blur and camera shake ruining your still images and videos, Sony hopes its recently released Cyber-shot DSC-H70 digital camera can help you fix those issues.
The H70 -- which is currently available in black, blue, red, or silver -- features two special modes to help with camera shake and motion blur. In addition, the Cyber-shot H70 offers a 10X optical zoom lens, 720p HD video capabilities, and a sweep panorama mode.
There are a lot of great features with the H70, and its low price makes it a strong contender.