In our guide to the best cameras under $500/£500, we pick out all the DSLRs, mirrorless cameras and compacts available for bargain prices.
Finding the best cameras under $500/£500, can be a trickier challenge than you might think. Cheap cameras are plentiful, especially on the used market, but not all of them are worth their price tags. Especially now that we all have a smartphone camera that comes everywhere with us, to justify a price tag of up to $500/£500, a camera has to do the work to justify itself. We aren’t just looking for cheapo, bargain-bin point-and-shoots – we want a capable, flexible camera that can deliver images and video a cut above the average. No pressure, then!
Fortunately, we’ve got a fair amount of experience testing and reviewing cameras, and we’ve applied it to come up with this list of cameras you can buy for less than $500/£500. We’ve included all types of camera, as well as representatives from all the major manufacturers. One of the best ways to pick up a cheap camera is to look back a few generations, so we’ve included plenty of options that are a few years old and can be picked up for a bargain on the second-hand market.
Our guide includes cameras that are available in the US and the UK, with $500/£500 / as our rough guide. Bear in mind that prices and exchange rates do fluctuate in both territories, and while we keep this guide regularly up to date, sometimes a camera will nudge over the $500/£500 / mark in one territory or another. In general, it won’t be too significant.
if your budget is lower than this, we have some handy guides to the best cameras under $300 / £300 and the best cameras under $200 / £200. Alternatively, if you’re feeling a bit more flush, you can upgrade to our guide to the best cameras under $1000 / £1000.
How to choose the best cameras under $500/£500
If you’re not sure where to start with choosing your cheap camera, don’t worry. We’ve included the key specs for each model to make it simpler to compare them – and there are a few questions you can ask yourself before you start looking that will make things easier.
To start, one of the first things worth ticking off is figuring out whether you want an interchangeable-lens camera (i.e. a DSLR or a mirrorless camera) or a fixed-lens compact? Interchangeable-lens cameras, as the name implies, allow you to change lenses. If you have another lens of the same mount (e.g. Nikon F, Canon RF, Micro Four Thirds, etc) you can swap it out at will. This gives you a great deal of versatility – but naturally, extra lenses will cost more money.
Compact cameras have a fixed lens that cannot be changed. Sometimes it’s a prime lens, more commonly it’s a zoom. This gives you an all-in-one package that tends to be very affordable, with the downside being restrictiveness. If you buy a compact with a 24-72mm lens, you’ll be never be able to go wider or longer than that focal range.
What’s also worth thinking about is sensor size is also a factor. Cameras have sensors of different physical sizes – larger sensors give you better, richer images, with more detail and better dynamic range (see our guide to APS-C vs full-frame for a detailed rundown). However, as you might have guessed, these cost more, and require physically larger camera bodies to house. And on that subject – how portable do you need your camera to be? Do you want to slip it into a pocket, or is a little extra weight not too much of a concern?
You should look at the resolution of your sensor, which is measured in megapixels (MP). You might think you want as many of these as possible, but this is really only the case if you’re planning to print images, where as many pixels are required as possible. If you only want to share images on social media, then all those pixels will only clog up your cards and hard drives.
Planning to shoot video? We’ve listed the video resolution and frame rate of each camera on this list, as well as whether they have videographer-friendly features like a mic input socket for clean audio.
We’ve laid out the advantages and drawbacks of each camera, drawing on our extensive testing and reviewing experience. So, without further ado, here is our round-up of some of the best budget camera buys currently on the market…
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 with 14-42mm lens
At a glance:
- 16MP Live MOS Four Thirds sensor
- Micro Four Thirds lens mount
- 4K video with 4K Photo modes
- 49-area AF system
- Price: $497 / £449 with lens
This Micro Four Thirds mirrorless camera from Panasonic may date back to 2015, but it’s still available new with a 14-42mm lens for less than $500 / £500 all-in. This makes it one of the best-value buys for those who prefer to avoid the second-hand market, and you get a hell of a lot of camera for your money. The Lumix G7 was released in the early days of Panasonic’s exploration of 4K (in our review in the AP magazine at the time, we adorably referred to 4K as a new ‘buzzword’), and it also included 4K Photo modes. These allow for the extraction of 8MP stills from 4K footage, effectively giving you a 30fps burst mode – which even now in 2023, is hardly something to turn your nose up at.
The Lumix G7 is a fairly dinky little camera by modern mirrorless standards, but it manages to fit on some control dials for aperture and shutter speed control, as well as a free-angle rear display. This makes it a satisfying camera to use and control, and we also especially like the 2.36-million-dot electronic viewfinder, which is an excellent example of its type.
Capable of producing both high-end 4K video and technically impressive still images, the Lumix G7 is a compelling package for hybrid content creators, at a bargain price that continues to impress.
- Electronic shutter runs and silent
- Useful control dials
- High-resolution electronic viewfinder
- 4K Photo modes are laggy (early days)
- Somewhat plasticky build
Canon EOS 2000D / Rebel T7 with 18-55mm lens
At a glance:
- 24.1MP APS-C sensor
- Canon EF-S lens mount
- 9-point AF system
- Full HD video
- Price: $399 / £459
One of Canon’s cheapest entry-level DSLRs, the EOS 2000D does more to justify itself than its bare-bones stablemate, the EOS 4000D. Thanks to its 24.1MP APS-C sensor, it’s capable of producing images of impressive quality and depth, and a selection of Picture Styles can be applied to give your images a specific ‘look’ in-camera. Handling-wise, the EOS 2000D is everything you’d expect from a DSLR, with a solid pentamirror viewfinder that provides an immediate view of your shooting area. he LCD screen is fixed and not touch-sensitive, but, well, you can’t have everything.
The EOS 2000D isn’t the speediest camera, but it manages a burst rate of 3fps and can do so for a decent amount of time. We tested this functionality out in our full review and found we could get 40 consecutive full-size JPEGs before the camera started to to stutter – not bad. In RAW format, this fell to a rather stingier 10, though in all honesty the EOS 2000D is more designed for the kind of photographer who’s going to be using JPEGs anyway.
As a Canon EF DSLR, the EOS 2000D gives you a huge range of lenses to choose from. This configuration comes with an 18-55mm lens bundled in while keeping comfortably under our $500/£500 spending limit. This lens isn’t going to blow anyone away, but it’s perfectly serviceable, and provides a solid foundation to work on. If you wanted, you could probably pick up a Canon EF 50mm f1.8 STM lens as well for something a bit more interesting, and still stay more or less within your budget.
- Easy to use for newbies
- Solid APS-C image quality
- Lots of lenses available
- Fixed, non-touch LCD screen
- Small RAW shot buffer
Read our Canon EOS 2000D / Rebel T7 review.
Olympus Tough TG-6
At a glance:
- 12MP 1/2.3-inch image sensor
- 4x optical zoom; 25-100mm (35mm equivalent)
- Waterproof, shockproof, crushproof, freezeproof
- 4K video
- Price: $499 / £399
For families, intrepid travellers and photographers who drive their kit hard, this tough 12MP compact is ideal – it’s waterproof to 15metres (perfect for snorkelling), can withstand a 2.4metre drop, and is also crushproof and freeze-proof.
As for the camera, you have a versatile 25-100mm equivalent lens, along with a 12MP sensor; while this is not a lot these days in terms of resolution, the TG-6 can also shoot in RAW, to ensure you get the most from this rugged travel companion. Another big attraction is the ability to record 4K and 120fps Full HD video.
The Olympus TG-6 comes with a host of shooting options from 16 different scene modes to an aperture priority setting. The ISO ranges from ISO 100 to 12,800, and the bright F2 lens enables faster shutter speeds for capturing moving subjects, meaning it should be able to cope underwater pretty well.
If you want to take the TG-6 for a deeper dive, the Olympus PT-059 Underwater Housing retails at £279 and enables the TG-6 to go down as far as 45 metres beneath the waves.
- Incredibly tough construction
- Better specs than other tough compacts
- Bright f/2 lens
- Small 1/2.3-inch sensor
Read our Olympus Tough TG-6 review.
Panasonic Lumix TZ100/ZS100
At a glance:
- 20.1MP 1-inch image sensor
- 10x optical zoom; 25-250mm (35mm equivalent)
- 4K video
- 5-axis image stabilisation
- Price: $597 / £389
The Lumix TZ100 is another handy travel compact with a built-in 10x zoom lens, equivalent to 25-250mm, and an aperture range of f/2.8-5.9. This covers a decent range of wide-angle to telephoto situations, while Panasonic’s Depth From Defocus technology enables fast autofocus.
The Lumix TZ100 is built around a 1-inch, 20.1MP sensor. It’s a really well designed camera that looks especially swish in its grey-and-silver configuration, although an all-black version is also available. Ergonomically, the TZ100 benefits from a small handgrip plus a thumb rest on the back for a secure grip, with all the camera’s buttons clearly labelled and falling within easy reach. We especially like how Panasonic has managed to cram four Function buttons onto the camera, each of which can be assigned to a function you regularly use.
The camera also comes with hybrid optical/electronic 5-axis image stabilisation, which helps to keep images sharp when shooting hand-held or using slower shutter speeds. The main drawback is a rather small electronic viewfinder, though it does offer a 1.16-million-dot resolution, but a 3-inch rear LCD with touch sensitivity further helps with the handling.
You can also record 4K video, process raw files in-camera and access a small pop-up flash. The Panasonic is very compact too, weighing in at just 312g with battery and card. Those looking for a pocketable camera with a powerful zoom, excellent customisation and good image quality need look no further.
- Useful do-it-all zoom lens
- Small and pocketable
- 5-axis stabilisation
- Small electronic viewfinder
Panasonic Lumix GX80
At a glance:
- 16MP Four Thirds sensor, no optical low-pass filter
- Micro Four Third lens mount
- Dual IS: 5-axis in-body stabilisation working with 2-axis in-lens
- 4K video recording and 4K Photo mode
- 2.76-million-dot equivalent EVF (16:9 aspect ratio)
- Price: $549 / £449
The Lumix GX80 hails from the time when it seemed like Panasonic was bringing out a new enthusiast-focused camera every other day. Those days are certainly over now, but they produced some excellent mid-range choices that are still highly credible today, especially with prices having come down in the intervening years.
The GX80 sports the one-two punch of effective 5-axis stabilisation and high-quality 4K video, making it as fearsome for video as it is for stills. As has been completely standard on Panasonic cameras for a long time, it also offers 4K Photo modes that allow for high-quality stills to be extracted from 4K footage, meaning you effectively have a 30fps burst mode. This was also one of the first cameras to offer Post-focus, Panasonic’s clever feature that allows for an image’s focal point to be selected post-capture (it basically whips through a series of frames at every focal distance, then lets you pick the keeper).
Design-wise, the rangefinder feel of the Lumix GX80 won big with us in our review at the time, and still does today; it’s a comfortable, satisfying camera to hold. The shutter is also quiet, which is handy for street shooting, and we were generally impressed with image quality across the board. That is, until you get to the top ISO settings, which we wouldn’t really recommend using, unless at the utmost end of need.
A throwback of a camera in multiple ways, the Lumix GX80 makes for a superb sub-£500 buy.
- Great ergonomics and handling
- Clever 4K burst features
- Price has come down
- No mic socket for video
Panasonic Lumix GX880 with 12-32mm lens
At a glance:
- 16.1MP Micro Four Thirds sensor
- Micro Four Thirds lens mount
- 4K video at 30p, 25p or 24p
- 5.8fps shooting in high burst mode
- Price: £349
Moving on to interchangeable-lens mirrorless models, this attractive Panasonic Lumix camera has a 16.1MP Micro Four Thirds sensor without a low pass filter for better image quality. Since the camera uses a Micro Four Thirds lens mount, you can use a wide variety of MFT lenses from both Panasonic and Olympus, greatly extending the camera’s versatility.
Other useful features include the ability to shoot at up to 5 frames per second in burst mode, and an LCD display that tilts 180º to face the camera user. It’s great for selfies in other words; there are additional modes for taking selfies at night and a wide 4K option, so you can get more of the background into your self-portraits.
A portrait mode enables you to soften your subject’s skin and slim their faces, so this is a great choice for families, travellers and vloggers (it records 4K video and has built-in Wi-Fi). Taking advantage of 4K technology, users can enjoy 4K PHOTO as well as variety of related functions such as Focus Stacking, Post Focus and Light Composition. For more creative freedom, Creative Control, Creative Panorama and Photo Style including L.Monochrome mode are included.
The GX880 is also capable of shooting images in RAW format and developing them inside the camera. For those who are new to digital interchangeable lens system cameras, the Gx880 provides a variety of shooting assist functions such as iA (Intelligent Auto) mode and Scene Guide. All-in-all, it’s a beautiful looking camera with a potent mix of shooting options.
- Tiny for a mirrorless camera
- 180º tilting screen
- Not available in US
- Will be too small for some
Panasonic Lumix TZ90 / ZS70
At a glance:
- 20.3MP 1/2.3-in image sensor
- 30x optical zoom lens, 24-720mm (35mm equivalent)
- 4K video (at 30p); 4K PHOTO
- 3-inch, 1040K-dot, touch sensitive rear LCD screen, 180-degree tiltable
- Price: $397 / £319
Panasonic’s travel zoom compact builds on the successes of all that came before it, and if you’re looking for as much zoom as possible in a compact, pocketable camera, then the Panasonic Lumix TZ90 is a great option.
It features a 30x optical zoom (equivalent to a monster 24-720mm range in 35mm format), but in return for that large zoom range, you need to accept that it has a smaller sensor than its one-inch comrade, the TZ100.
It’s arguably the most well-featured superzoom compact on the market and, as well as the huge zoom, you get an built-in electronic viewfinder (albeit small), 4K video shooting, a touch-sensitive screen, manual controls, RAW format shooting and a body which just about fits in your pocket.
A great choice for those looking for something to take on their travels, in low light it suffers by comparison to its larger sensor rivals. If you’re mainly going to be using it on your sunny holidays, you shouldn’t worry too much about that. The Panasonic Lumix TZ90 was updated by the TZ95 with a slightly larger EVF and the addition of Bluetooth, but the TZ90 remains excellent value for money at not much over £300. Panasonic has also since released a minorly updated version in the UK, the TX95D, which is pretty much the same deal except it has an LCD screen with higher resolution.
- Excellent zoom range
- Useful touchscreen
- Smaller sensor than TZ100
Sony A6000 with 16-50mm lens
Sony Alpha 6000 – at a glance
- 24.3-million-pixel Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor
- Sony E lens mount
- Fast 0.06sec autofocus time
- Full HD video
- Price: used from $600 (with lens) / £300 (body-only)
Despite being launched back in the spring of 2014, there is still a lot to like about this mirrorless veteran, especially at this price. It features a 24.3MP Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor, which still delivers reasonably high-resolution images, backed up by an improved Bionz X image processing engine.
This is still a pretty nippy camera too, offering a fast 0.06sec autofocus time and a 179-point hybrid AF system, covering almost 100% of the frame. The Alpha 6000 has 25 precision contrast-detection AF points. The hybrid autofocus system not only makes it easier for the camera to recognise scenes, but it also boosts the ability of the Alpha 6000 to lock onto the correct subjects and track them tenaciously.
In addition, the A6000 can shoot 11fps of RAW+JPEG for 21 frames or 49fps of fine JPEG before it begins buffering. There is also a tilting LCD, a pop up electronic viewfinder with 1.44-million dot resolution providing 100% frame coverage, and Full HD video recording (but not 4K, unfortunately).
Most of the camera’s weight sits in the grip, which houses the battery and memory card, but this is countered by the weight of the lens, making the Alpha 6000 well balanced. It’s comfortable to operate one-handed. Top-spec technology and a host of cutting-edge features have given the Alpha 6000 longevity and keeps it competitive even today.
- Super-fast burst and AF
- Generous shot buffer
- APS-C sensor
- No 4K or mic socket
Panasonic Lumix LX15/LX10
At a glance:
- 20MP 1in sensor
- 24-72mm (equiv) f/1.4-2.8 lens
- 10 fps shooting
- 4K video recording up to 15 minutes
- Price: $597 / £429
The Panasonic Lumix LX15 (or LX10 in North America) is a continuation of a popular line of premium compacts, and it punches above its weight for a camera at this price point. Having a 24-72mm equivalent zoom lens is nice, but the f/1.4-2.8 maximum aperture truly puts it a cut above, making the Lx15 much more suitable for low-light work and portraits.
With focus fixed, the Lx15 can manage continuous shooting at up to 10fps, and even if you turn the autofocus back on, it tops out at a still-impressive 6fps. Panasonic has also incorporated loads of useful features you might nor have expected, like the ability to close focus at distances of just 3cm when the lens is at its wide setting, or 5-axis image stabilisation.
In our review we were impressed by just how much tech Panasonic managed to pack into the Lumix LX15. The lack of a viewfinder will be a strike against the camera for some, but otherwise the on board physical controls make it a highly agile and pleasant camera to use. Having a lens dial, aperture ring, top-plate dial and touchscreen can make the user feel positively spoiled for choice.
In a way, this is sort of a premium, up-market version of the TZ100 listed above. If you’re willing to sacrifice some zoom range for a lens that will give you more versatility in low light, it’s the camera to pick out of those two options.
- f/1.4 is great for low light
- Tactile physical controls
- No viewfinder
Nikon D3500 with 18-55mm VR lens
Nikon D3500 – at a glance
- 24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor
- Nikon F lens mount
- Full HD video at 60p
- 11-point AF system
- Price: $650 (with lens) / used £300 (body-only)
Now we move on to budget DSLRs, and this is certainly one of the best options for beginners. While the market momentum is with mirrorless cameras at the moment, DSLRs remain great value and can take a very wide choice of affordable lenses. The D3500 is an APS-C (DX) format DSLR that features a still-very-capable 24.2MP sensor, a decent sensitivity range up to ISO 25,600, and the ability to shoot at up to 5 frames per second.
It also comes with a Guide Mode, which helps beginners figure out the essential functions in order to take better pictures, but there is also full manual control for more confident photographers. For a DSLR, the D3500 is relatively compact and lightweight too, at 365g, and can record full HD video.
Although the sensor has the same effective 24.2MP resolution as Nikon’s earlier D3400 and D5600 cameras, the sensor in the D3500 is an updated version. It does away with an optical low-pass filter to help to maximise the ability of the sensor to resolve fine detail images.
The D3500 is also notable for its a great body design, deep grip and an intuitive layout of controls that make it straightforward to use. You’ll also find a range of Nikon lenses available, with Nikon ‘DX’ lenses being specifically designed for the the camera’s APS-C sensor. The D3500 remains not only a great Nikon DSLR but a great Nikon DSLR full stop.
- Great for beginners
- Huge F-mount lens range
- Solid image quality
- Fairly basic AF system
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