With a budget of about $400, you'll find a great mixture of strong, intermediate digital cameras. The best fixed lens cameras (or "DSLR-like cameras") in the sub-$400 price range contain large zoom lenses, high resolutions, large LCDs, and some speciality features. You'll find plenty of advanced point and shoot cameras in this price range.
Some older interchangeable lens cameras even have fallen into the sub-$400 price point.
The best sub-$400 cameras will not contain high-end specifications in every feature, but they nearly always have one feature that's well above average or one very unusual feature.
A high quality fixed lens paired with a high-quality image sensor has yielded the interesting Canon PowerShot G15.
The G15 will feature an f/1.8 fixed lens, which provides great image quality. The 12.1MP CMOS image sensor also contributes strongly to this camera's ability to create high-quality images.
In addition, the G15 can shoot full HD video, supports Canon's High Sensitivity system, includes a 3.0-inch LCD, and offers a 5X optical zoom lens.
The S120 has plenty to offer photographers looking for more than beginner-level features in a thin camera. It works extremely fast with minimal shutter lag and a burst mode of up to 10 frames per second. This model has a 1/1.7-inch CMOS image sensor, which gives it a significant advantage over point and shoot cameras. Canon provided a touch screen interface with the S120, which makes this model very easy to use as well.
That's a lot of power to find in a camera that measures only 1.14 inches in thickness. Unfortunately the price of the PowerShot S120 will leave this model beyond the budget of quite a few photographers. For that amount of money you could almost purchase a beginner-level mirrorless ILC or DSLR camera after all. And the small 5X optical zoom lens will disappoint some photographers. Still, this is one of the most powerful thin cameras on the market.
3. Fujifilm XF1
With the Fujifilm XF1, the company has created a very stylish fixed lens camera that is going to grab some attention with its sharp looks.
The XF1 has black, dark red, or light brown camera bodies that look like leather. All three cameras have silver metal trim.
The f/1.8 aperture lens on the XF1 is a high-quality piece of glass, even though it only offers a 4X manual zoom lens. The XF1 also has a 12MP image sensor, a 3.0-inch LCD,and full HD video capabilities.
Even though the Nikon Coolpix P520 looks a bit like a DSLR camera, it doesn't quite have that level of high-end photographic features.
Still, the Coolpix P520 has enough advanced features that it'll be well worth considering. The P520 has a 42X optical zoom lens, 18.1MP of resolution, a 3.2-inch articulated LCD, a built-in GPS unit, and full 1080p HD video recording. Those are all above-average features in a fixed-lens camera.
Nikon is offering this model in black, red, or dark gray camera bodies.
It has advanced Nikkor lens glass to go with a 7.1X optical zoom lens, a larger-than-usual CMOS image sensor with 12.2MP of resolution, a high-resolution 3.0-inch LCD that can swivel away from the camera, and full 1080p video recording. The P7700 has a built-in flash, and it also has a hot shoe, allowing you to add an external flash, if desired.
Best of all, the P7700's image quality is outstanding.
The Nikon D5100 will carry 16.2 megapixels of resolution and record in full HD video. The D5100 is a small and neat camera, which fits easily into the hand. It feels substantial, but weighs less than its predecessor (as it has a plastic body). The camera also benefits from the addition of an articulated LCD screen with a side hinge.
Replacing the D5000, the D5100 sits neatly in between the entry-level D3100 and the high-end D7000. The camera is clearly aimed at attracting enthusiasts who have outgrown their basic entry-level DSLRs, and it will be in close competition with Canon's T3i.
Panasonic appears to have created the fixed-lens camera with the largest optical zoom measurement currently on the market in the Lumix FZ70.
The FZ70 features a 60X optical zoom lens (20-1200mm), which features a bit more of a wide angle capability than some other ultra zoom cameras. For comparison, the Canon SX50 HS has a 50X optical zoom lens that offers a 24-1200mm equivalent measurement.
You'll find 16.1 megapixels of resolution, a 3.0-inch LCD, and full 1080p HD video capabilities in the Lumix FZ70. This camera is only available in black.
The ZS30 has a 20X optical zoom lens that also offers some nice wide angle capabilities. It has 18.1 megapixels of resolution in its MOS image sensor, full HD video recording, built-in Wi-Fi, built-in GPS, and a touch screen 3.0-inch LCD.
Those are some very impressive features. If Panasonic had only included a slightly larger image sensor with this camera than the 1/2.3-inch sensor that the ZS30 has, this would easily be one of the best cameras released in recent years. You'll find the ZS30 in three different body colors: Gray, black, or white.
The K-01 isn't quite as small as the Q, which I reviewed recently, but it still looks like a very interesting camera, especially because it can accept any Pentax K lens. As far as I can decipher, this is the first DIL camera that can accept lenses originally made for DSLR cameras.
Obviously, carrying a DSLR-type lens mount makes the K-01 a bit bigger than other DIL cameras, but it's smaller than many DSLR cameras.
The K-01 has 16.2 MP of resolution, can shoot HD video at 1080p, and showcases a high-resolution 3.0-inch LCD. You'll find the K-01 in a yellow camera body with silver and black trim, a black body with silver trim, and a white body with black trim.
10. Pentax Q10 DIL
The Pentax Q10 DIL camera is a great-looking camera that remains small while being able to make use of interchangeable lenses. In fact, you can use either Pentax Q-mount lenses or K-mount lenses (with an adapter).
The Q10 can shoot at 12.4 megapixels of resolution and at five frames per second in burst mode. With a CMOS image sensor, the Q10 performs well in low light, shooting at an ISO up to 6400. You can shoot full 1080p HD video with this model, which is available in red or silver camera bodies, both with black trim.
Although most manufacturers of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras look to create cameras that are smaller than DSLR models, Sony has chosen to go the other direction and make its recently released a3000 DIL camera of a similar size and style to a DSLR camera.
The a3000, which will work with Sony E-mount lenses, offers a 20.1 megapixel APS-C sized CMOS image sensor, which should provide outstanding image quality. This camera also includes the full range of shooting modes, both automatic and manual control, as well as a 3.0-inch LCD and full 1080p HD video capabilities.
The a3000 provides a pretty good value for a beginner level interchangeable lens model. Carrying through on the DSLR design-like theme, the a3000 is only available in black.
Look for the TX10 to carry the ability to work underwater and to survive a fall from a short distance. In addition, Sony says the TX10 is freeze-proof and dust-proof.
It features a 3.0-inch touch-screen LCD and the ability to shoot 1080i HD video. With the TX10, you also can shoot in a 3D still image mode or a 3D sweep panorama mode. It's available in some interesting colors, including black, blue, green (shown here), pink, and silver.