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.

Best DSLR and mirrorless cameras under $500

DSLR cameras under $500

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 T7 / 2000D

Canon EOS Rebel T7 DSLR Camera with 18-55mm Lens | Built-in...
  • 24.1 Megapixel CMOS (APS-C) sensor with is 100–6400 (H: 12800)
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC technology
  • Sensor: APS-C
  • Resolution: 24.1 megapixels
  • Autofocus: 9 point AF system
  • Viewfinder: Optical
  • Features: Built in WiFi and NFC
  • LCD screen: Fixed

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.

Nikon D5200

Nikon D5200 24.1 MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera Body Only...
  • 24MP DX-format CMOS sensor
  • 39-point (9 cross type) dynamic area AF system with 3D tracking
  • Sensor: APS-C
  • Resolution: 24 megapixels
  • Autofocus: 39 point dynamic AF system
  • Viewfinder: Optical
  • Features: Built in WiFi
  • LCD screen: Vari-angle

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.

Nikon D3500

  • Sensor: APS-C
  • Resolution: 24 megapixels
  • Autofocus: 11 point AF system
  • Viewfinder: Optical
  • Features: Bluetooth
  • LCD screen: Fixed

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 under $500

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.

Panasonic Lumix DMC G7

Panasonic LUMIX G7KS 4K Mirrorless Camera, 16 Megapixel...
  • Superb DSLM image quality without the bulk and weight of traditional DSLRs
  • Never miss a photo with three unique 4K ultra HD video pause and save 4K photo modes
  • Sensor: Micro Four Thirds
  • Resolution: 16 megapixels
  • Autofocus: 49 point AF system
  • Viewfinder: Electronic
  • Features: 4k video, 4k photo mode. Loads more
  • LCD screen: Vari-angle touch screen

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.

Fujifilm X-T100

Fujifilm X-T100 Mirrorless Digital Camera...
  • 24.2 Megapixel APS-C size sensor with Color Reproduction technology refined over 80 years. Artistic expression are made easy with the x-t100 with film Simulation and advanced filter modes
  • Featuring super-fast autofocus and a variety of automatic functions, including an evolved SR+ auto mode which is capable of subject recognition together with conventional scene recognition
  • Sensor: APS-C
  • Resolution: 24.2 megapixels
  • Autofocus: 91 point AF system
  • Viewfinder: Electronic
  • Features: 4k shooting, WiFi and Bluetooth
  • LCD screen: Vari-angle touchscreen

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.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mk III

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III Camera Body (Black), Wi-Fi...
  • In-body 5-axis image stabilization for blur free stills and smooth 4K video
  • 16 Megapixel Live MOS sensor and TruePic VIII image processor
  • Sensor: Micro Four Thirds
  • Resolution: 16 megapixels
  • Autofocus: 121 point AF system
  • Viewfinder: Electronic
  • Features: In camera stabilization, 4k shooting, loads more.
  • LCD screen: Vari-angle touchscreen

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.

Canon EOS M200

Canon EOS M200 Compact Mirrorless Digital Vlogging Camera...
  • Fast and accurate Dual Pixel CMOS AF with eye detection AF
  • High-image quality with 24.1 Megapixel CMOS (APS-C) sensor.
  • Sensor: APS-C
  • Resolution: 24 megapixel
  • Autofocus: Up to 143 AF points
  • Viewfinder: None
  • Features: WiFi, Bluetooth, 4k video
  • LCD screen: Tilting touchscreen

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.

Best compact cameras under $500

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.

Panasonic Lumix FZ80

Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ80 Digital Camera, 32GB SDHC Memory...
  • EXCLUSIVE 4K photo combined with 4K video capture performance.
  • Sensor: 1/2.3 inch
  • Resolution: 18.1 megapixels
  • Autofocus: 49 point AF system
  • Viewfinder: Electronic
  • Features: 60x optical zoom, 4k photo mode, 4k video
  • LCD screen: Fixed touchscreen

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.

Panasonic Lumix LX10

Panasonic LUMIX LX10 4K Digital Camera, 20.1 Megapixel...
  • POINT-AND-SHOOT CAMERA: Large, 1-inch 20.1-megapixel MOS sensor plus 3X zoom LEICA DC VARIO-SU millimeter ILUX lens (24-72 millimeter) and POWER O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer) delivers brighter, more colorful photos with fewer image artifacts
  • TILTING SELFIE DISPLAY: Rear touch-enabled 3-inch LCD display (1040K dots) tilts upward 180 degree for easy selfie photos
  • Sensor: 1 inch
  • Resolution: 20.1 megapixels
  • Autofocus: 49 point AF system
  • Viewfinder: None
  • Features: 4k video, 4k photo mode, WiFi, Post Focus mode
  • LCD screen: Vari-angle touchscreen

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.

Canon G7 X Mk II

Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II Digital Camera with Wi-Fi and...
  • Built-In Wi-Fi with NFC - ISO 12800, up to 8 fps Shooting - Intelligent IS Image Stabilization - Manual Control Ring, Time-Lapse Mov
  • Sensor: 1 inch
  • Resolution: 20.1 megapixels
  • Autofocus: 31-point autofocus system
  • Viewfinder: None
  • Features: WiFi, NFC, 1080p video
  • LCD screen: Tilting touchscreen

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.

Nikon Coolpix A1000

Nikon COOLPIX A1000 Compact Digital Camera 4K Video with...
  • Bundle Includes: Nikon COOLPIX A1000 Digital Camera, Corel Photo, Video, and Art Software Suite v4.0, 2 SanDisk 32GB Ultra UHS-I SDXC Memory Cards, Accessory Bundle for Large Point and Shoot Digital Cameras and Li-Ion Replacement Battery and Charger for Nikon EN-EL12
  • View: The Coolpix A1000 is equipped with an electronic viewfinder that boasts a sensor that automatically switches the display between viewfinder and LCD as the camera is lowered and raised to the eye
  • Sensor: 1/2.3 inch
  • Resolution: 16 megapixels
  • Autofocus:
  • Viewfinder: Electronic
  • Features: 35x optical zoom, 4k video, SnapBridge
  • LCD screen: Tilting touchscreen

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 Cybershot DSC-HX80

Sony DSCHX80/B High Zoom Point & Shoot Camera (Black)
  • 30x Optical/60x Clear Image Zoom ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T* Lens, 18.2MP Exmor R CMOS Sensor for superb low light images, Built-in retractable OLED Tru-Finder viewfinder
  • Versatile video w/ high-quality XAVC S, AVCHD & MP4 formats, Simple connectivity to smartphones via Wi-Fi w/NFC, 5-axis image stabilization greatly reduces camera shake blur.Recording format:JPEG(DCF Ver.2.0,Exif Ver.2.3,MRF Baseline compliant)
  • Sensor: 1/2.3 inch
  • Resolution: 18.2 megapixels
  • Autofocus:
  • Viewfinder: Retractable EVF
  • Features: In body stabilization, 30x optical zoom
  • LCD screen: Tilting

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.

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