by Alex W.
Whether you're just looking to get started in photography, buying a gift for your photography loving family member or just want a cheap second shooter, the chances are you've realised by now that photography can be an expensive hobby. It doesn't have to be wallet-breaking though, and here we'll round up the very best cameras for under $500.
It goes without saying that the lower end of the price spectrum means some compromises will have to be made, whether that be in image quality, state-of-the-art features or size and weight.
In any case, our list of best cameras for under $500 tries to keep the compromises to a minimum and deliver the best bang for your buck.
I feel like a lot of people don't know what to look for when buying a camera. They see expensive cameras as an investment because their prices do not drop much over time. That's true, but I also believe you shouldn't pay more than double the price if it offers only one or two features that are worth the money. In this article I will write about specific features that are usually not included in premium cameras. The prices I will write next to the names of the camera are only suggested prices. They can vary depending on where you buy them and how well they were taken care of (so really, you should always try to find a good deal instead of paying full price).
I hope this guide will be helpful for everybody and not only the people who want to start with photography. I also included a section with professional cameras. You can skip it if you don't need it, but they usually offer better performance than most cheaper cameras and are still much more affordable than their $5000 counterparts.
When you think of a professional camera, you probably picture a DSLR in your head. We've explained all the different types of camera here if you want to know the full story.
DSLRs have been around for around two decades now, and while they are becoming less popular as more and more photographers move over to mirrorless the market maturity and abundance of models does mean there are some great deals to be had.
Canon EOS Rebel T3i is one of the best-selling DSLRs among beginners. The main reason for this camera's popularity is its capability to deliver excellent pictures. Unlike most entry level cameras under $500, it has some advanced features such as articulated screen and wi-fi capabilities that are usually seen in professional cameras, making it an excellent choice for beginners.
The image quality is fantastic
It is very user friendly and easy to use
The price is very reasonable
The battery life could be better
The autofocus can be slow at times
It is a bit on the heavy side
Overall, the Canon EOS Rebel T3i Digital SLR Camera with EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens is a great camera for anyone looking for a quality DSLR without breaking the bank. It takes great photos and is very user friendly, making it a great choice for beginners or anyone who wants to photography as a hobby. The only downsides are that the battery life could be better and the autofocus can be slow at times, but overall this is an excellent camera.
Affordable and easy to use, the Canon EOS Rebel T7 / 2000D is pretty much the perfect beginner DSLR for those on a budget.
Sure, it's a bit long in the tooth as far as features are concerned, lacking touchscreen capabilities and any articulation of the LCD screen, but for those who just want to take better photos it does a fantastic job.
The in-camera guide and general layout make it a great option for those learning photography and the 24.1 megapixel APS-C sensor offers more than enough resolution to get you going. In fact, along with the Nikons below and the Fujifilm X-T100, it probably has the best image quality going for a camera under $500.
It does fall down on the video front, only offering Full HD as opposed to 4k, but some compromises must be made. It's continuous shooting is also a bit on the slow side, but this shouldn't hold a beginner back too much.
The Nikon D5200 is slightly more expensive than the Canon EOS Rebel T7 due to the fact it doesn't come with a lens, but it does offer a number of advantages over it's cheaper competitor.
Like the T7, the Nikon D5200 delivers excellent image quality from its 24 megapixel APS-C sensor, and there's really nothing much to choose between the two as far as outright image quality is concerned.
The D5200 does offer a vari-angle LCD screen though, and it also boasts a 5fps continuous shooting speed compared to the 3fps of the Canon Rebel T7, although there's still no 4k video capabilities.
The Nikon 5200 is aimed more at the enthusiast than the outright beginner, but it does offer a bit of extra room to grow in to.
While the Nikon D5200 is aimed at an enthusiast level, the D3000 series targets the exact same space as the Canon Rebel T7.
As you might expect, there's very little to choose between them. Both produce excellent 24 megapixel images, although the Nikon D3500 does have a slight advantage in the autofocus (11-point vs 9-point) and continuous shooting (5fps vs 3fps) department.
Continuing with the similarities, the D3500 also has an in-camera guide to teach beginners the fundamentals of controlling a camera, and like the other DSLRs on this list it also only shoots Full HD video.
If you're choosing between this and the Rebel T7, it's basically a toss up and you should go with whichever system you feel most affinity for.
Mirrorless cameras are growing more popular by the day thanks to the rapidly improving technology, but this newer tech does drive the lower end of the price spectrum up a bit.
Mirrorless cameras under $500 are limited to older models which generally don't feature the state of the art features of newer mirrorless cameras, although they will still tend to have more bells and whistles than similarly priced DSLR cameras under $500.
This is where things start getting a little different. While the DSLRs were all of a very similar quality, the introduction of mirrorless cameras brings about a whole new game.
The Panasonic Lumix G7 has a smaller sensor and lower resolution than the DSLRs (and the Fujifilm below), and therefore the potential image quality will not be quite as high. Although that being said, the 16 megapixel Micro 4/3 sensor does deliver stunning shots that will do the trick just fine as long as you're not planning on producing huge prints or shooting at extremely high ISOs.
Where the Lumix G7 excels, however, is in the features and size department. Its features include a gorgeous electronic viewfinder, a vari-angle touchscreen, 4k shooting and an array of 4k photo modes. It also shoots at up to 8fps and has a stunning autofocus system that puts any of the DSLRs to shame.
If you're looking for a feature-heavy and portable camera system this fits the bill perfectly, but it does sacrifice a bit of image quality when compared to the bigger sensor options on this list.
The Fujifilm X-T100 is probably one of the most balanced options on this list, with the 24.2 megapixel APS-C sensor delivering image quality on a par with the trio of DSLR cameras above but packed inside a portable, lightweight and aesthetically pleasing mirrorless body.
And it does look good. Very, very good if you're into the retro style of cameras.
Of course, there is a tradeoff. The feature list for the Fujifilm X-T100 is nowhere near as extensive as the Panasonic Lumix G7, with 4k shooting in 15p (rather than 30p) and a modest 6fps continuous shooting capability.
There are no 4k photo modes on offer and the autofocus system isn't as good as Panasonic's but, for the photography purist, the image quality makes up for this.
Not only does it deliver the same outright image quality of its DSLR counterparts, but Fujifilm's famous Film Simulation modes are also present and correct, meaning a beginner can get a variety of styles straight out of the camera with no editing expertise required.
Pushed to a choice, if I was a beginner photographer I'd choose the X-T100 over anything else on this list.
Or you can get the X-T200 from Adorama below.
The little brother to our top rated vlogging camera of the year, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mk III is another Micro Four Thirds option that packs a real punch when it comes to features.
The image quality is on a par with Panasonic, but some of the features differ a little bit.
For example, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mk III's 5-axis in body stabilization is class-leading and it also boasts a huge 121 focus points, although its overall autofocus performance isn't any better than the Lumix G7.
It also slightly ups the continuous shooting capabilities to 8.6fps and has features such as Live Composite Mode and Focus Bracketing.
On the other hand, the lack of 4k Photo Mode and Post Focus Mode that the Panasonic Lumix G7 boasts makes this a toss-up between which features mean more to you.
In all honesty, you can't go wrong with any of these mirrorless options.
The Canon EOS M200 doesn't pack the greatest punch when it comes to features, but the 24 megapixel APS-C sensor packed inside the tiny body does allow for DSLR-level image quality that fits inside your jacket pocket.
That's not to say it's completely lacking in features. It can shoot 4k video (albeit cropped) and has a tilting touchscreen as well as all the connectivity options you could want.
The autofocus system is also very good, although admittedly not on the same level as the Panasonic or Olympus options. The same goes for the 6.1 fps continuous shooting.
It also lacks a viewfinder, which is a deal breaker for many photographers. Still as a second shooter to carry around wherever you go it's a very solid option.
Compact cameras offer a much broader range of options for under $500 because the category encompasses everything from the cheap and cheerful point-and-shoot cameras (stay away from these $50 monstrosities!) all the way up to the high-end Sony offerings.
The higher end Sony RX cameras are out of the price range, but you can find a wide selection of very good compact cameras for below the $500 price point.
Bridge cameras are something of a dying breed right now, but that's by no means saying they aren't worth considering.
The Panasonic Lumix FZ80 may not offer the image quality of an APS-C sensor or the lightweight portability of one of our mirrorless options, but it makes up for this in convenience.
The fixed 60x optical zoom lens covers a huge effective focal range of 20-1200mm, doing away with the need (or capability) to carry extra lenses around, and Panasonic have packed some high end features into this entry-level model too.
Post focus mode is included, as is 4k video capabilities and their trio of 4k photo modes. It also has a touchscreen LCD, although no vari-angle.
Of course, at this price point there are tradeoffs. The smaller sensor makes shooting at high ISO unfeasible and the EVF has low magnification, making it something of a chore to use. The lens, while impressive in its zoom capabilities, doesn't stand up to the best of the Micro Four Thirds, Nikon, Canon or Fujifilm range.
Still, this is cheap, convenient and has an epic zoom. It's easy to use for beginners and is packed to the brim with features.
The first true compact camera on this list, and once again its Panasonic making waves as they bring high-end features to their tiny Panasonic Lumix LX10.
The 1 inch 20.1 megapixel sensor produced magnificent images considering the size of this piece of equipment, although admittedly it simply doesn't stand up to the Micro Four Thirds or APS-C options on this list.
It does bring a range of Panasonic's excellent features to your pocket though, including 4k video capabilities, their famous trio of 4k photo modes and even a 4k Post Focus mode, as well as Panasonic's lightning fast Depth From Defocus autofocus system.
Of course, with compact cameras one of the deciding factors in performance is the quality of the lens, and the Lumix LX10 delivers on that front with a 24-72mm f/1.4-2.8 lens from Leica. It can focus down to 3cm when used in macro mode and includes image stabilization, so there's no negatives on the lens front.
Downsides include the lack of a viewfinder, or ability to fit one, a rather limited range of motion in the LCD screen and a relatively poor 260 shot battery life.
While the Canon G7 X Mk II misses the ball somewhat in the video capabilities by only offering 1080p video capture rather than 4k, it does bring a few advantages in other departments when compared to competitors such as the Panasonic LX10.
For one, the lens covers an equivalent focal length of 24-100mm and the upgraded DIGIC 7 processor allows 8fps burst shooting and generally reacts quickly and smoothly to user input.
It performs respectably at high ISOs and offers RAW capture, so while it is missing some of Panasonic's more technologically advanced features it's a very capable compact camera that stands on its own two feet when it comes to image quality.
With the Nikon Coolpix A1000, Nikon tried to bring the feel of serious photography to the compact camera arena with a whole host of dials, buttons and settings more often found on interchangeable lens cameras.
Beneath the hood they have a fairly average 1/2.3 inch, 16 megapixel sensor that delivers decent images without being spectacular.
But the highlights come elsewhere, with a huge 35x optical zoom and a built in electronic viewfinder. It also covers 4k video capture at 30fps and Full HD video at 60fps.
Overall it feels a pleasure to use and the features are very welcome, although it is worth noting that the image quality isn't outstanding, but instead just adequate.
Sony's HX80 may only pack a small 1/2.3 inch sensor but their experience in this area comes across well, providing excellent image quality (especially if you're only posting online) and respectable high ISO performance.
However, the main draw undoubtedly lies in a number of features, most notable being the huge 30x optical zoom that gives an effective focal length of 24-720mm.
Not only that, but it also provides a built-in, retractable electronic viewfinder to complement the tilting LCD screen and 5-axis in-body image stabilization. The upgraded processor also allows for up to 10fps continuous shooting, although once again on the video front you'll have to settle for 1080p capture.
Another downside is that it also can't capture RAW images, but it's much cheaper than the higher end RX1000 line in Sony's offering and it does a very good job for the price point.
Nowadays most people have a camera phone which is enough for some quick snaps or selfies to share on social media. However, a camera in your smartphone is pretty limited in many ways. The lens length and aperture are very limited, which makes it impossible to have good pictures when the lighting conditions aren't great.
So when you go to a party or somewhere else where there's not much light around you, your pictures will come out very blurry since your smartphone uses a very small aperture and too much exposure to compensate the lack of light.
Another major difference between smartphones cameras and DSLR/mirrorless cameras is that you can change lenses according to your needs, which makes it possible to take better pictures in many occasions. For example, if you need something with more zoom or wider lens then all you have to do is buy another lens and attach it into your camera body. Without any extra effort, just by quickly changing the lens.
Smaller mirrorless cameras are ideals for vlogging as well since they're lightweight and compact compared to DSLRs, not mentioning their autofocus abilities which DSLRs still struggle with (although most modern DSLRs now come with very good autofocus abilities).
When buying a camera, there are many things that it will help if you understand before you actually buy. For instance, digital cameras have different types of sensor - CCD and CMOS. The more advanced models use the CMOS type which is capable of producing better quality images. More expensive cameras also have different types of focusing system - usually either through-the-lens (TTL) or phase detection. DSLR models use TTL, while point and shoot models use phase detection.
Digital SLRs are currently divided into two main types - APS-C models and Full Frame models. The most significant differences here is with regards to sensor size - Full Frame models have a full frame (36mmx24mm) sensor, while the APS-C type has an approximately 15% smaller area (30mm x 18mm). Because of this difference in size, lenses for the APS-C models tend to be smaller and lighter than on the Full Frame models.
Most cameras on the list below will have an image stabilizer, usually in the form of optical IS (as opposed to digital IS). This helps prevent blurring caused by camera shake and is especially useful when shooting at longer focal lengths. If you are looking for a DSLR model, then the additional acronyms of EOS (Electro Optical System) or EF (Electro Focus) can help you distinguish between Canon and Nikon brands.
Although getting a more expensive DSLR does provide better image quality, it often comes at a price that most casual photographers cannot afford. The more expensive models also come with more features, such as faster continuous shooting rates and higher resolution.
Below is a quick guide with brief descriptions on how these photography tools can enhance your experience when using your camera.
A wide-angle lens will allow you to get closer to the action, resulting in sharper images with more impact.
This special type of wide-angle lens is designed to create interesting visual effects by distorting the captured scene.
These terms refer to a mechanism for reducing image blur that occurs when your hands shake while taking pictures in low light conditions or when photographing faraway objects using telephoto lenses.
With this tool, you can bring the action closer without physically moving an inch! Telephoto lenses are great for enlarging distant details and capturing detailed shots of wildlife on the hunt.
A large aperture lens is ideal for shooting in low light conditions and achieving more creative depth of field effects.
This type of lens will allow you to take great portraits with beautiful background blur effect (also known as bokeh) while also allowing you to capture close-up shots of subjects that are too far away for the normal lens.
When paired with extension tubes (or bellow), macro lenses can be used to capture extreme close-up images of very small subjects like insects, flowers and jewelry. To learn more about macro photography with your DSLR camera, read our recently published article.
This lens allows you to shoot extreme close-up shots of distant subjects.
Use this special type of manual focus lens to achieve creative results by focusing on just one part of the scene while allowing the other elements in your shot go out of focus.
DSLRs that come equipped with this technology can use phase detection points located within the camera's mirror box to assist autofocusing and for quick response during Live View shooting. The difference between lenses with translucent and regular mirrors is similar to using an optical viewfinder versus an electronic viewfinder on digital SLR cameras.
When mounted, this lens allows you to control the focal plane and adjust perspective distortion. This tool has many creative applications from changing the apparent distance between objects in your scene to removing unwanted elements that may clutter the foreground or background around a still life subject.
The same as described above, but this special type of manual focus lens is used to achieve creative results by focusing on just one part of the scene while allowing other elements in your shot go out of focus.
This tool allows you to use a remote control to take pictures without physically touching your camera. It's a great accessory for avoiding motion blur in slow shutter speed shots and for reducing camera shake in telephoto shots.
Levi J. Rowland, professional photographer and owner at Rowland Photographic, specializes in commercial, portrait and event photography, but also occasionally shoots landscape and nature scenes. In addition to his commitment to providing top-notch customer service, he strives to keep up with the latest technology innovations that would have an impact on his clients' experience. He can be reached through his website
Most photo editing software is compatible with any type of image, whether it's a JPEG or a RAW file that your camera produces. Additionally, be sure to check whether or not the program can open images from other types of cameras (such as SLRs) before making the switch on your current one!
Another great thing about photo editing software is that most of them allow you to create collages. These are especially useful when you're applying filters on multiple photos at once. This way, you can get many different looks without cluttering up your hard drive with tons of original pictures.
Once you've chosen some photo editing software and taken lots of pictures using your new camera, sit down and plan out how you're going to edit your photos. You can't just apply a filter and call it a day, as that will only end in disappointment! Think about whether or not you want any images to be black and white, which is a very popular choice these days. Once you've decided on a color scheme, think about what type of artistic style would look good with the photos. Last but not least, choose the right filters for each photo so that they have an equitable look when you're all said and done.
The title says it all! This is the most popular among the list and allows you to do much more than just basic photo editing. The free version is good enough for simple edits but if you are planning on buying a license, the whole Adobe Creative Suite comes with Photoshop so you might want to consider that option.
Another famous photo editing app but this time, meant for photographers because it has the least amount of effects and adjustments (compared to the other photos on this list) and is mainly used for post-processing your photographs. If you are mainly a fan of landscape and nature shots, this one is made for you!
(The GNU Image Manipulation Program) This free open source software is similar to Photoshop but not as user friendly (not surprising since it IS freeware). There are tutorials online that can help you learn how to use it though and if you get tired of learning the basics, there's always the paid version of Photoshop which you can purchase if you want a hassle-free photo editing experience.
If there's a company that knows photography, it's Google! This free app allows you to do all the basic stuff and even has some filters for those who prefer the instagram type of feel. There's also another app from google called "Auto Awesome" which automatically adds effects to your photos as long as there are other people in them - this is great if you regularly take group shots or selfies with your friends and family members.
This one is very similar to Instagram since it does have a lot of effects and an easy to use interface (unfortunately though, not as user friendly as Instagram itself). It is free and there are no ads if you don't count the different effects that come with it.
Ever wanted to get rid of that random stranger who just happened to stop by your photo? Or perhaps, a sign post or some other object in the background so it would only look like you were all alone when you actually weren't? If so, this app allows you to do just that! I'm not sure how it does it but either way, here's a link for iOS users and Android users.
This one might be great for those who want quick fixes on their photos because you can play around with brightness, saturation, sharpness and other settings in just a few seconds. There's also filters that you can add to even give your photo that Instagram feel.
This is another quick fix app because it lets you adjust colors, contrast, size and other settings in just 1-2 taps! It has over 200 effects so I'm sure you will find one that suits your photo.
If you are interested in adding some crazy effects to your photos, this app is for you! It even has a "normal" option if what you're looking for isn't on the other categories it has. There's also different filters and color effects available so if there are too many, you can even create your own combination.
Camera360 not only has effects but also has simulated lenses to make your photos look like they were taken with a vintage camera or on different locations around the world! It also lets you preview how it would look on different photos so if you are still unsure about what filter to add, you can always try this one out.
This app is created by Adobe (the maker of Photoshop) and it has the same effects like their other apps on this list but what makes Photo Editor different is that it lets you do some minor adjustments to photos while still having a good looking interface with a few tools - most photo editing apps these days tend to have a very cluttered interface.
Canon EOS 2000D DSLR Camera Body (International Model) - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Canon EOS Rebel T7 DSLR Camera with 18-55mm Lens | Built-in Wi-Fi | 24.1 MP CMOS Sensor | - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
GoPro HERO10 Black - Waterproof Action Camera with Front LCD and Touch Rear Screens, - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Panasonic LUMIX DC-ZS70S, 20.3 Megapixel, 4K Digital Camera, Touch Enabled 3-inch 180 - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Panasonic Compact Digital Camera Lumix TZ90 Optical 30 times Black DC-TZ90-K(Japan - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Canon EOS 4000D DSLR Camera w/Canon EF-S 18-55mm F/3.5-5.6 III Zoom Lens - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
Canon EOS 4000D / T100 Digital Camera with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 III Lens 13PC Accessory - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
OLYMPUS Tough TG-6 Waterproof Camera, Black - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
DJI Osmo Action - 4K Action Cam 12MP Digital Camera with 2 Displays 36ft Underwater - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III Micro Four Thirds System Camera, 16 Megapixels, Image - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III Kit, Micro Four Thirds System Camera (16 Megapixel, 5-Axis - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III Camera Body (Black), Wi-Fi Enabled, 4K Video - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Panasonic LUMIX FZ300 Long Zoom Digital Camera Features 12.1 Megapixel, 1/2.3-Inch - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Canon EOS Rebel T7 DSLR Camera with 18-55mm Lens | Built-in - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Nikon D5200 24.1 MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera Body Only - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
Panasonic LUMIX G7KS 4K Mirrorless Camera, 16 Megapixel - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Fujifilm X-T100 Mirrorless Digital Camera - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III Camera Body (Black), Wi-Fi - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
Canon EOS M200 Compact Mirrorless Digital Vlogging Camera - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ80 Digital Camera, 32GB SDHC Memory - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
Panasonic LUMIX LX10 4K Digital Camera, 20.1 Megapixel - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II Digital Camera with Wi-Fi and - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
Nikon COOLPIX A1000 Compact Digital Camera 4K Video with - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Sony DSCHX80/B High Zoom Point & Shoot Camera (Black) - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
Camera technology has advanced at a rapid pace over the past decade. It's not too difficult to find a camera that will suit your needs within any budget. Whether you are looking for something pocket-sized, or professional equipment, there's definitely something out there for you.
Finding the right camera can be hard though, with so many options available on the market. This guide is here to help you find one that fits your needs and budget.
Entry-level DSLRs and mirrorless cameras offer features and image quality that will satisfy photography enthusiasts. Best Camera for the Money: If you are looking to buy a camera with the best value, then an entry-level DSLR or mirrorless camera is your best option. These cameras offer features and image quality that surpass many cameras in their price range.
About Alex W.
Alex is the owner and lead writer for Click and Learn Photography. An avid landscape, equine, and pet photographer living and working in the beautiful Lake District, UK, Alex has had his work featured in a number of high profile publications, including the Take a View Landscape Photographer of the Year, Outdoor Photographer of the Year, and Amateur Photographer Magazine.