I am looking for examples of really great photos made from cheap (sub-$250) point-and-shoot digital cameras. I have a group of friends who are just getting into photography, and I thought it might be helpful to steer them away from the dreaded gear obsession if I had a few examples of really nice photos taken with lesser gear.

Examples of creativity overcoming technical limitations, that sort of thing.

Especially welcome is any information about photographers who exclusively use point-and-shoot digitals.

Any ideas?

  • So, I think this question would benefit from being CW. It's impossible for any answer to address the question comprehensively, and aside from the subjectivity of "great", each pointer to examples is a small nugget of fact.
    – mattdm
    May 14 '11 at 13:28

Wilson Tsoi makes some absolutely superb images with a Canon A620. This is not a P&S but a camera with manual controls which cost less than $200 USD. You need at least manual controls to get some of creativity used in those shots.

This camera has long been discontinued but today you can get the $200 USD Canon SX130 IS which has a wider and longer lens. That is the one I always recommend now for starting with photography on a budget. The next level up would be the Canon S95 or Olympus ZX-1 which cost between $400-500 USD.

  • Absolutely fantastic example. I looked through those and gave off some expletives in disbelief. I think I should dust off my P&S this weekend and give the SLR a break!
    – dpollitt
    May 13 '11 at 17:32
  • Wow. That guy is doing things with that camera that I did not think were possible. But how well do they print?
    – mmr
    May 13 '11 at 18:17
  • 2
    Good enough that one of them made the cover of Hawaii magazine IIRC. Small cameras can perform quite well at low ISO (64-200) and those older ones did better than current megapixel-inflated models.
    – Itai
    May 15 '11 at 14:20

DigitalRev has a challenge called "Pro photographer, cheap camera" which features professional photographers dealing with old/extremely cheap/toy cameras. There's a lot of post-processing after the shot, but the get pretty good results.

Check the following videos:

Pro Photographer, Cheap Camera Challenge (#2 Hermann Lee)

Pro Photographer, Cheap Camera Challenge (#3 Eric Wong)

Pro Photographer, Cheap Camera Challenge (#4 Mark Chung)

And just for the lulz, Pro Camera, Cheap Noob Photographer

  • These are great! Some of those cameras are quite a challenge, but they certainly cleaned up nicely.
    – Cakemox
    May 17 '11 at 20:07

Lee Morris did a fashion shoot with an iPhone 3GS about a year ago. One important point to note is how much better the iPhone 4 is over the 3GS in its camera capabilities. I know that you are looking for point and shoot examples, but I think that the videos and final shots that Lee created are amazing, and when you consider that they were taken with such a basic sensor, you will be surprised.

I am fully aware that he had very expensive supporting equipment and lighting. But the fact that his image sensor was a tiny 3MP cameraphone, in my opinion is amazing.

Great photography is not about great equipment. It is only one piece of the equation. In my eyes it is a small piece. It depends what type of photography you are going for. I even pull out my Polaroid LMS and shoot images on 10 year old expired film once in a while, and they turn out so out of focus usually that you can barely read a billboard from 50ft.

The best advice I can give to new photographers is not to buy a ton of equipment, but rather purposely limit yourself to a single lens. Perhaps a single fixed focal length prime lens in the 30-50mm range. This gives you time to hone your skills and learn the basics rather then focus on technology and expensive equipment.


Chase Jarvis made a whole book using a 2 megapixel iPhone - The Best Camera Is The One That's With You.


The blog Life in LoFi is dedicated to iPhone-based photography, often using "toy camera" post-processing/effects apps. The Faved on Flickr category on the site showcases some great results (although they do tend towards the highly-processed, not "straight" photography).

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