Since writing this article on the best cameras under $500, I’ve had a lot of great feedback from happy photographers.
It seems that finding the most affordable way to document memories and create better art is a popular topic!
For newcomers to photography, the assumption is that an expensive camera is required to get great photos.
Thankfully in 2023, this is no longer the case, with some great value-for-money options available.
Introducing you to a selection of cameras that cost less than $500 is important for me as a professional photographer since I want you to experience photography without the huge price tag.
While there’s plenty of cheap cameras for photography beginners, the selection below are cameras I recommend as being excellent value for money.
They give you the best bang for your buck and stand you in good stead as you grow with your photography skills.
N.B. The prices of the product recommendations may have fluctuated above $500 since the time of writing. Click the buttons below to find today’s pricing.
Table of Contents
What are the Best Cameras Under $500 in 2023?
|Sony a5100 with 16-50mm Lens||Check Amazon Price →|
|Canon EOS M100 w/ 15-45mm Lens||Check Amazon Price →|
|Fujifilm X-T10||Check Amazon Price →|
|Panasonic LUMIX ZS100||Check AMAZON Price → Check B&H Price →|
|GoPro Hero 11||Check AMAZON Price → Check B&H Price →|
|Nikon COOLPIX P900||Check Amazon Price →|
|DJI Pocket 2||Check AMAZON Price → Check B&H Price →|
|Olympus Tough G-6||Check AMAZON Price → Check B&H Price →|
|Sony Handycam HDR-CX405||Check AMAZON Price → Check B&H Price →|
|Canon EOS Rebel T7 + 18-55mm Lens||Check AMAZON Price → Check B&H Price →|
|Logitech Brio 4K Webcam||Check AMAZON Price → Check B&H Price →|
|Kowa 6 + 85mm F/2.8||Check Ebay Price →|
I’ve selected the top digital cameras under $500 – the exceptions are where a lens is included in the price, stretching the budget very slightly.
The cameras selected above all offer excellent build quality, image quality, handling and value for money… often performing far better than you’d expect for their sub-$500 price.
If you’re able to stretch your budget a little further, I recommend you check out my guide to the best mirrorless cameras for beginners and professionals and also this one on the cheapest full frame cameras – both investigate a selection of higher-priced cameras which offer more features.
Whilst DSLRs and compact cameras still have their place, investing in one of the latest mirrorless camera systems will help future-proof your purchase. I’ve included a couple below for you to choose from if your budget is limited.
Read on below to see my reviews, including what I consider to be the best camera under $500 of the year so far. I’ve also included some videos on each camera that I think you’ll find useful.
Sony a5100 with 16-50mm Lens – Best Starter Sony Mirrorless Camera
- Various lenses available for this camera
- The flip screen is great for content creators and selfies
- 24.3 MP sensor
- The ideal budget-friendly introductory camera
- No 4k video
- The Sony a5000 + 16-55mm might be a better choice for some
|Camera Type||Mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera|
|Sensor||24.3-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor|
|Processor||BIONZ X image processor|
|Lens Mount||Sony E-mount|
|Lens||16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS kit lens|
|Image Stabilization||Lens-based Optical SteadyShot|
|Autofocus||Fast Hybrid AF with 179 phase-detection points and 25 contrast-detection points|
|Shutter Speed||1/4000 – 30 seconds, bulb mode|
|Burst Mode||Up to 6 frames per second|
|Video||Full HD 1080p at up to 60 fps|
|LCD Screen||3-inch tilting touchscreen LCD with 921,600 dots|
|Wi-Fi||Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC for easy image sharing and transfer|
|Battery Life||Up to 400 shots per charge|
|Dimensions||4.3 x 2.5 x 1.4 inches (109.6 x 62.8 x 35.7 mm)|
|Weight||283 g (10 oz) with battery and memory card|
There’s a lot to love about the Sony a5100 which makes it a great choice for someone looking for a mirrorless camera under $500.
The first thing I’m going to look at is the overall image quality of this camera. The 24.3 megapixel cropped sensor with BIONZ X image processor can definitely take some high-quality pics.
The Sony a5100 also comes with interchangeable lenses on the Sony e-mount. This means that you can switch from a white angle zoom to a telephoto zoom to give you more coverage.
It’s also easy to share your pictures using this camera thanks to the built-in Wi-Fi connection.
Despite the positives of this camera, the Sony a5000 + 16-55mm might be a better choice for you overall. I’d recommend checking out the other cameras on this list before making your decision.
Overall, the Sony a5100 is the best mirrorless camera under $500, but there are other options worth considering if you’re looking for something more specialized.
Canon EOS M100 w/ 15-45mm Lens – Best Starter Canon Mirrorless Camera
- Wider lenses are better for astrophotography and landscapes
- Some find Canon image processing to offer superior color
- Price lower than our top pick
- Pop-up flash a great option for beginner photographers
- Worse battery life when compared to Sony
- Fewer AF points
|Sensor||24.2 Megapixel APS-C CMOS Sensor|
|Image Processor||DIGIC 7|
|ISO Range||100-25600 (expandable to 51200)|
|Autofocus||Dual Pixel CMOS AF with Phase-detection|
|AF Points||49 points|
|Continuous Shooting||Up to 6.1 fps|
|Video Recording||Full HD 1080p at 60fps|
|LCD Screen||3.0-inch Tilting Touchscreen LCD|
|Battery Life||Approx. 295 shots per charge|
|Dimensions||Approx. 108.2 x 67.1 x 35.1 mm|
|Weight||Approx. 302g (including battery and memory card)|
|Lens||EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM|
A quick run through the stats will show that this camera isn’t nearly as technologically advanced as our number one Sony pick. However, stats aren’t everything when it comes to finding the right camera for you.
Canon’s entry-level mirrorless cameras come with wider lenses. This is ideal for anyone who’s interested in astrophotography or landscape photography.
Canon also has some unique color sides. There are plenty of photographers out there shooting on Canon cameras because they feel that the image quality is just superior to what the competition has to offer.
This camera is also more affordable than some of the other options on this list. In fact, it’s easy to find this particular model used or refurbished these days.
You can also upgrade to the M200 if you need 4K video. It’s less than $600—and even cheaper if you can find it used or refurbished!
Fujifilm X-T10 – Best Fujifilm Camera Under $500
- Milled aluminum setting knobs
- Retro DSLR-style body
- Very affordable first Fuji mirrorless camera
- Film simulation modes let you feel like you’re shooting old Fuji film stock
- Sensor is less powerful than other options
- Mid-tier battery performance
|Sensor||16.3 Megapixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS II Sensor|
|Image Processor||EXR Processor II|
|ISO Range||200-6400 (expandable to 100-51200)|
|Autofocus||Intelligent Hybrid AF with Phase-detection|
|AF Points||77 points|
|Continuous Shooting||Up to 8 fps|
|Video Recording||Full HD 1080p at 60fps|
|LCD Screen||3.0-inch Tilting LCD with 920K dots|
|Viewfinder||2.36M-dot OLED Electronic Viewfinder|
|Battery Life||Approx. 350 shots per charge|
|Dimensions||Approx. 118.4 x 82.8 x 40.8 mm|
|Weight||Approx. 381g (including battery and memory card)|
Fujifilm is a unique brand with a very long history going all the way back to the days of film photography. Their budget-friendly mirrorless camera is an excellent choice for anyone who might be jumping into the world of modern digital photography from film.
The Fujifilm X-T10 even offers several film emulation modes. These were designed by Fuji to capture digital photographs that have the same, or similar, look and feel as their old film stocks.
You can check out how these emulation modes will affect your shots by using the live preview mode. The tilting rear screen helps you check out those images and compose your shots without having to bend down at awkward angles.
The Fujifilm X-T10 is also considerably more affordable than some of the other options on this list, but you’ll be making trade-offs with things like just over half the megapixels of some of the Sony and Canon options on this list.
Panasonic LUMIX ZS100 – Best Landscape Photography, Street Photography, and 4k Video Camera Under $500
- A budget option that uses Leica lenses!
- The interface is going to feel very natural for anyone familiar with pocket cameras
- 4k video
- 25 mm to 250 mm equivalent lens
- No interchangeable lenses
- Battery life could be better
|Sensor||20.1 Megapixel 1-inch High Sensitivity MOS Sensor|
|Image Processor||Venus Engine|
|ISO Range||125-12800 (expandable to 80-25600)|
|Autofocus||Depth From Defocus (DFD) AF|
|AF Points||49 points|
|Continuous Shooting||Up to 10 fps|
|Video Recording||4K UHD (3840 x 2160) at 30fps|
|LCD Screen||3.0-inch Touchscreen LCD with 1,040K dots|
|Viewfinder||0.2-inch 1,166K-dot Electronic Viewfinder|
|Battery Life||Approx. 300 shots per charge|
|Dimensions||Approx. 111.0 x 64.0 x 44.2 mm|
|Weight||Approx. 310g (including battery and memory card)|
|Lens||LEICA DC VARIO-ELMARIT 9.1-91mm f/2.8-5.9 ASPH. Lens (25-250mm equivalent)|
The Panasonic LUMIX ZS100 is one of the first cameras on this list to offer 4K video and the ability to record at 50 frames per second.
There is a surprising amount of video and photographic power packed into this affordable mirrorless camera.
The lens is almost the star of the show when it comes to the Panasonic LUMIX ZS100.
It’s made by the iconic Leica brand and offers a 25 to 250 mm equivalent focal length.
You’ll find that the rest of the stats of this lens fall in between other options. It could be tempting to call this lens a good middle ground option, but at the price point, it’s actually above what we’d expect.
GoPro Hero 11 – Best Camera for Action Shots and Hunting Videos Under $500
- 4k ready
- Countless built-in features
- Plenty of extras from GoPro including extra batteries
- Doesn’t handle like a traditional camera
- Purpose built for outdoor and action photo and video
|Video Resolution||5.3K: 8:7 (5312×4648)|
|Time Lapse||Includes TimeWarp, Star Trails, Light Painting and more|
|Slow Motion||Up to 8x|
|Waterproof||Up to 33ft (10m) without a housing|
|Battery Life||Up to 1.5 hours of 5.3K video recording|
|Display||2.27″ Touch LCD|
|Dimensions||Approx. 71.8 W x 50.8 H x 33.6 D (mm)|
If your main goal is to capture outdoor sports, aquatic activities, hunting videos or wilderness adventures, then the GoPro Hero 11 just might be the right mirrorless camera under $500 for you.
The GoPro Hero 11 is definitely a standout option on this list. GoPro has had a long history with legions of happy users.
This camera comes with built-in features that let you capture star trails, time lapse video, and you can even set timers so that the camera starts recording automatically without you needing to do anything.
It’s also waterproof, which is something that almost every other mirrorless camera on the market can’t offer.
The biggest trade-off here is that the GoPro Hero 11 doesn’t operate like your traditional camera.
This might make it the wrong option for someone whose primary interest is improving their photography or getting used to working on a traditional camera setup.
Nikon COOLPIX P900 – Best Super Zoom for Birding and Wildlife Photography
- Amazing 332x zoom combining both optical zoom and digital zoom
- Tilt screen
- Impressive 60 fps video
- 99 AF points
- Large, DSLR-style body
- Fewer features than other options
|Sensor||16 Megapixel CMOS Sensor|
|Image Processor||EXPEED C2|
|ISO Range||100-6400 (expandable to 12800)|
|AF Points||99 points|
|Continuous Shooting||Up to 7 fps|
|Video Recording||Full HD 1080p at 60fps|
|LCD Screen||3.0-inch Vari-angle TFT-LCD with 921K dots|
|Viewfinder||Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) with 921K dots|
|Battery Life||Approx. 360 shots per charge|
|Dimensions||Approx. 139.5 x 103.2 x 137.4 mm|
|Weight||Approx. 899g (including battery and memory card)|
|Lens||NIKKOR 4.3-357mm f/2.8-6.5 ED VR Lens (24-2000mm equivalent)|
The Nikon COOLPIX P900 is the camera of choice if the thing you want to take pictures of the most happens to be wildlife or birds.
This camera is all about zoom. It has an 83x optical zoom which is phenomenal to see on a camera at this price range.
Things get even more interesting when we factor in the digital zoom capabilities which takes us up to 332x. That’s a staggering amount of zoom that will get you up close and personal with even the most camera shy birds and wildlife.
The Nikon COOLPIX P900 also features a ‘bridge camera’ body that’s reminiscent of classic DSLR cameras. Due to its ease of use, it’s one of the best Nikon cameras for beginners.
This is positive in the sense that it’s great for getting introduced to a more professional style camera, but it’s also going to be heavier than some other options on today’s list.
DJI Pocket 2 – Best Under $500 Camera for Vlogging and Youtube
- 4k video at 60 fps
- Ideal for content creators
- Built-in filters and effects that feel like classic social media glamor filters
- Plenty of content creator accessories available
- Not the best option for photographers
- You might be better off with a GoPro or traditional camera
|Sensor||1/1.7-inch CMOS Sensor, 64 MP|
|Video Resolution||4K Ultra HD at 60fps|
|Image Stabilization||3-axis motorized gimbal|
|Field of View||93°|
|Slow Motion||Up to 8x|
|Audio||Stereo recording with built-in microphones|
|Battery Life||Up to 140 minutes of recording|
|Display||1.0-inch Touch Screen with 300 nits of brightness|
|Dimensions||Approx. 124.7 x 38.1 x 30.0 mm|
The DJI Pocket 2 is another very interesting camera that’s taking a different spin on the territory traditionally held by GoPro.
While GoPro cameras are aimed at outdoor enthusiasts and athletes, the DJI Pocket 2 is built for your day-to-day influencers and contact creators.
This camera is able to capture 4K video at 60 frames per second. It also offers plenty of zoom and built-in filters, including glamor filters just like you’d find on your favorite social media apps.
DJI also sells plenty of accessories for the DJI Pocket 2. This will give you everything you need to get up and running with your content creation.
With all these positives aside, there’s a strong argument for just grabbing a GoPro or a traditional camera over the DJI Pocket 2.
Olympus Tough G-6 – Best Macro and Underwater Photography Camera Under $500
- Unique, rugged design with red or black style
- Water, crush, freeze, and shock proofed design
- 4k video
- Double-pane lens resists fogging and moisture buildup
- No interchangeable lenses
- Sensor only 12 mp
|Sensor||12 Megapixel BSI CMOS Sensor|
|Image Processor||TruePic VIII|
|AF Points||25 points|
|Continuous Shooting||Up to 20 fps|
|Video Recording||4K UHD at 30fps|
|LCD Screen||3.0-inch Vari-angle TFT-LCD with 1,040K dots|
|Battery Life||Approx. 340 shots per charge|
|Dimensions||Approx. 113 x 66 x 32 mm|
|Weight||Approx. 253g (including battery and memory card)|
|Lens||Olympus 4.5-18mm f/2.0-4.9 Lens (25-100mm equivalent)|
|Waterproof||Up to 50ft (15m)|
|Shockproof||Up to 7ft (2.1m)|
|Crushproof||Up to 220lbs (100kg)|
|Freezeproof||Up to 14°F (-10°C)|
The Olympus Tough TG-6 is one durable camera. Not only is this camera waterproof up to 15 m, but it’s also shock resistant, freeze proof, and crush resistant up to 220 pounds!
If you’re looking for a camera under $500 that is truly ready to head into some tough shooting conditions, the Olympus Tough TG-6 is exactly what you’ve been looking for.
We already covered a full review of the Olympus Tough TG-6. One of the things that surprised us the most about this camera was its ability to capture stunning macro photography.
In fact, some of the macro photographs I took with this camera ranked in the top 10% in a few Viewbug photo contests.
If you’re not interested in entering the Sony or Canon camera system, then this tank of an adventure camera from Olympus is going to be a natural choice.
Sony Handycam HDR-CX405 – Best Camera for Filmmaking, HD, and Live Music Recording | Best Camcorder
- Flip-out view screen
- Optical SteadyShot Image Stabilization
- Full HD video at 60 fps
- 35mm equivalent Zeiss lens
- Not ideal for photos
- No interchange lenses
|Sensor||1/5.8-inch Exmor R CMOS Sensor|
|Image Processor||BIONZ X|
|Clear Image Zoom||60x|
|Video Resolution||Full HD 1080p at 60fps|
|Image Stabilization||Optical SteadyShot|
|Audio||Built-in Zoom Microphone|
|LCD Screen||2.7-inch Clear Photo LCD with 230K dots|
|Battery Life||Approx. 2.25 hours of recording|
|Dimensions||Approx. 128.0 x 59.5 x 54.0 mm|
|Weight||Approx. 215g (with battery)|
|Storage Media||Memory Stick Micro (M2) and Micro SD/SDHC/SDXC compatible|
|External Microphone Input||No|
The Sony Handycam HDR-CX405 is the best choice for hands-on filmmaking and capturing video in the moment.
The Sony Handycam HDR-CX405 is able to record video in full HD quality at 60 frames per second. It’s purpose built for capturing this video so it takes advantage of high-quality video file types.
A classic camcorder is going to let you get deeper into filmmaking, create old-school home movies, or start to record live music. Yes, you should consider using a camcorder for video rather than a regular digital camera.
One thing that you need to know about the Sony Handycam HDR-CX405 is that you’re absolutely going to need an external microphone if you plan on recording live audio.
The built-in microphone is totally acceptable for a family vacation, but it’s going to get overwhelmed if you try to record audio at a concert.
Canon EOS Rebel T7 + 18-55mm Lens – Best Starter DSLR Under $500
- 24.1 megapixel sensor
- Full HD video
- Outstanding battery life
- The best first DSLR camera
- The Nikon 3400 could be a better choice if you can find it used
- This camera is heavier than other options
|Sensor||24.1 Megapixel APS-C CMOS Sensor|
|Image Processor||DIGIC 4+|
|ISO Range||100-6400 (expandable to 12800)|
|Autofocus||9-point AF system|
|AF Points||9 points|
|Continuous Shooting||Up to 3 fps|
|Video Recording||Full HD 1080p at 30fps|
|LCD Screen||3.0-inch TFT LCD with 920K dots|
|Battery Life||Approx. 500 shots per charge|
|Dimensions||Approx. 129.0 x 101.3 x 77.6 mm|
|Weight||Approx. 475g (with battery and memory card)|
|Lens||EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II Lens|
|Image Stabilization||Optical Image Stabilization|
|External Microphone Input||No|
The Canon EOS Rebel T7 is a great option if you’re looking for a first DSLR camera on a budget.
This camera has the most impressive battery performance out of any of the other budget cameras on this list. You’re able to get up to 500 shots on a single charge.
That’s pretty great, especially considering that we’re working with a DSLR camera. DSLR cameras are still alive and well, even though mirrorless cameras have become the industry standard.
This means that the Canon EOS Rebel T7 is a great way to get into more advanced photography without having to spend too much money.
Even professional-level DSLRs are starting to get a lot cheaper, especially if you’re willing to buy second-hand.
There are also plenty of affordable Canon EF lenses for the Rebel T7.
Logitech Brio 4K Webcam – Best Streaming Camera Under $500
- 4k at 30fps
- Built-in mic
- Great choice for streaming on Twitch and YouTube
- Works with most Mac and PC computers
- Not great for photography
- Better options for general video
|Resolution||4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) at 30fps|
|Field of View||90 degrees|
|Digital Zoom||5x digital zoom|
|Image Sensor||1/2.5-inch CMOS sensor|
|Video Calling||Supports most video conferencing applications|
|Connection||USB 3.0 Type-C|
|Mounting Options||Adjustable clip and tripod thread|
|Dimensions||102 x 27 x 27 mm|
|Microphone||Dual omni-directional mics|
|Operating System Compatibility||Windows 7 or later, macOS 10.10 or later, Chrome OS, Android v5.0 or above|
The Logitech Brio 4K Webcam is purpose-built for streaming. This is the go-to choice for plenty of Twitch and YouTube streamers.
Streamers need to look for a few things before purchasing a camera. You want something that can work with your streaming platform of choice, shoots in 4k, and has a reliable connection that won’t get glitchy in the middle of a stream.
The Logitech Brio 4K Webcam might not be the right camera for video or photography, but it is the perfect choice for anyone streaming.
It’s a budget-friendly option that’s going to let you hit the ground running with high definition live streams.
It’s also a great budget webcam for Zoom.
Kowa 6 + 85mm F/2.8 – Best Medium Format Camera Under $500
- You can shoot 120 film or 35mm with an adapter
- One of the most affordable waist level viewfinder cameras
- Ideal for getting deeper into film photography
- Can use this camera to shoot “through the viewfinder” videos
- Only available second-hand
- Manual film cameras have a bit of a learning curve
|Format||Medium format film (120 and 220)|
|Lens Mount||Kowa Bayonet mount|
|Shutter Speed Range||1/500 to 1 second|
|Light Metering||Manual or through the Exposure Finder|
|Film Advance||Manual crank|
|Flash||External flash required|
|Dimensions||Approx. 140 x 120 x 112 mm|
|Weight||Approx. 1300g (with lens)|
No list of the 12 best cameras under $500 would be complete without some discussion of film photography.
Unfortunately, few manufacturers are still making new film cameras today.
However, this does mean that you can get a good deal on plenty of vintage or second-hand film cameras like the Kowa 6.
This camera shoots medium format film. That’s 120 film stock, but you can also use 35 mm if you buy 35 to 120 adapters which you can find on eBay and in plenty of online photography stores.
If you can’t find a Kowa 6 that fits your needs in a secondhand shop, there are plenty of other options out there for medium format film cameras under $500 like the Koni-Omega Rapid 100 or 120 Rangefinder Film Camera.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best camera for under 500 dollars?
That depends a little on your preferences. For under $500 you can find a reasonably good DSLR, mirrorless camera or compact camera.
If we’re to weigh up all the options, though, our top pick is the Sony a5100 – it’s small and light and gives you the best bang for your buck.
What camera has the best image quality?
If you’re looking purely at image quality in the sub-500 dollar range, the Sony a5100 is still a great option as it produces vibrant, punchy and crisp images.
For something a little heftier, we like the Nikon D3400. As a DSLR option, it offers excellent image quality – even if you stick with the kit lens.
Each type has its advantages. For example, DSLRs are often more reliable, more ergonomic, and have longer battery life. Compact cameras are exactly that – compact. Mirrorless are really the latest technology though, and you can expect them to be taking over more and more.
So if you’re looking for something lightweight yet powerful and with plenty of future opportunities for add-ons and upgrades, mirrorless may be the way to go.
What is a good cheap camera for beginners?
The Nikon D3400 falls into the sub-$500 price bracket and comes with a highly useful “beginner mode” that guides you through various situations.
The Sony RX100 is another top pick for beginners on a budget, as it has a great Auto mode that you can start out on before learning all the manual settings.
Read our guide to the best Canon cameras for novices.
I hope this guide has helped you in your quest for a great camera that doesn’t break the bank.
While a budget of around $500 may not have been enough to get a decent camera a few years back, thanks to advances in technology and the drop in relative material prices, it’s now possible for photographers to pick up amazing products while still remaining on a tight budget.
(See also: best point-and-shoot camera under $300)
Once you have one of the camera bodies on this list, you can either stick with the included kit lens or invest a little more on something with a larger aperture (a ‘faster’ lens).
This will be the single most effective way in getting every last detail out of your camera.
Faster lenses also allow you to shoot at lower ISOs, which can mean much ‘cleaner’ images in low light, where typically, cameras of this price point struggle.
Whatever the case, as long as you have a camera with a lens attached to the front, you’re good to go! Now get out and start shooting ;-)