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The best camera under AU$500 in 2022: cheap cameras with a bit more power

best cameras under AU$500
(Image credit: Fujifilm Instax)

When it comes to shopping for the best cameras, you'd be forgiven for thinking there aren't any good ones for under AU$500. Sure, you won't get top-end features in this price range, but you will get remarkably capable shooters that offer more than what your phone can.

Anyone looking for the best camera under AU$500 will be spoilt for choice – you can find digital cameras, instant film cameras and even tough, waterproof cameras available at this price point.

One of the reasons camera prices drop so much is that as new models are released, the older ones get cheaper. Manufacturers often won't discontinue a line straight away, especially if it was really popular, which means there's an opportunity to grab yourself a bargain.

Read more: Best cameras under AU$1,000 

Most of the cameras below don't feature the most up-to-date technology and have smallish sensors, but that doesn't mean they can't still take good photos. On the plus side, they're all pretty compact.

In this list, we reckon we've got great cameras for anyone who's shopping with a budget of less than AU$500. There are models from most leading camera brands, including Nikon, Fujifilm and Panasonic. There's also a 2-in-1 camera from Fujifilm that doubles up as a printer, so you're definitely getting your money's worth. 

This list includes a mix of models available at a low price point, giving you options from some of the best instant cameras to some pretty reliable point-and-shoots. No matter what category a camera falls into, you can be sure that it comes with our ironclad recommendation. There's nothing on this list that isn't worth your time. 

Everything here should be available for less than AU$500, though prices do fluctuate from time to time. So, let’s take a look at our favourite cameras in this price bracket. 

(Image credit: Fujifilm)
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1. Fujifilm Instax Square SQ1

A fun instant film camera offering large prints and better exposure accuracy

Specifications

Type: Instant
Film type: Fujifilm instax square
Image size: 6.2cm x 6.2cm
LCD: No
Viewfinder: Optical
Lens type: 65.75mm f/12.6
Max burst speed: N/a
Max video resolution: None
User level: Beginner

Reasons to buy

+
Fun instant prints
+
Improved exposure accuracy

Reasons to avoid

-
Ongoing film cost
-
No self-timer

Instant film cameras are always a hit at parties, and the Fujifilm Instax Square SQ1 is a fine example available at a great price. With a click of the shutter button, it'll create 6.2cm square prints that look fantastic, with punchy colours and less of the tendency towards overexposure that has plagued previous Instax cameras. 

The thing to remember about instant film is that it is of course an ongoing cost, so while you're paying AU$199 or so for the camera, you'll have to keep buying refills every time you run out. Still, it's worth the investment if you love the instant prints. 

Also, this is a very basic point-and-shoot model, which is arguably all you need in an instant camera, though some users may lament the lack of basic quality-of-life features such as a self-timer. Still, for the price this is loads of fun, and a wonderfully inexpensive way to make physical images that last.

Best cheap camera deals

(Image credit: Panasonic)

2. Panasonic Lumix TZ90

A small lightweight camera with some smart features

Specifications

Type: Compact
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch
Megapixels: 21MP
Screen: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 1.04K dots
Viewfinder: Yes, electronic
Lens type: 30x optical zoom (24-720mm)
Max video resolution: 4K/30p
User level: Beginner

Reasons to buy

+
Great zoom range
+
Image stabilisation
+
4K video

Reasons to avoid

-
Small viewfinder
-
Grip not great

For a camera that costs under AU$500, the Lumix TZ90 has a lot going for it. Its 4K video capabilities are pretty competitive for a camera that was launched in late 2017 and, more importantly, at this price point. And let's not forget that massive zoom – 30x optical zoom means you'll be able to get closer to the action without being part of the fracas yourself. Its 3-inch touchscreen offers a decent range of controls, and there's a selfie mode too. While you're likely going to see some soft results at the widest angles, and the viewfinder isn't going to help frame as it's too small, it's still a remarkably good compact camera that won't break the bank.

(Image credit: Panasonic)
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3. Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT30

For someone who loves the outdoors and needs something tough

Specifications

Type: Compact (tough)
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch
Megapixels: 16.1MP
Screen: 2.7-inch 230k
Viewfinder: None
Lens type: 4x zoom
Max burst speed: 1.3fps
Max video resolution: 720p
User level: Beginner

Reasons to buy

+
Tough and waterproof
+
Available in red, blue, black or orange

Reasons to avoid

-
Only 720p video capture
-
Boxy design

Whether you’re on the beach, up a mountain or in the desert, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT30 should prove ideal. It’s waterproof down to a depth of 8m, freezeproof to -10ºC, dustproof, and shockproof to withstand being dropped from heights up to 1.5m. In short, it’s as tough as a brick but sadly looks a bit like one as well, with a very boxy design. 

Unlike some 'tough' cameras, this one has a zoom lens, which is a nice bonus. Video resolution is a little disappointing but image quality is good and it’s an easy camera to use.

Fujifilm Instax Hybrid Mini LiPlay Instant Camera

(Image credit: Fujifilm)

4. Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay

A 2-in-1 instant camera and printer that can connect to your smartphone

Specifications

Type: Instant
Film type: Fujifilm instax mini
Image size: 5.4 cm × 8.6 cm
LCD: Yes
Viewfinder: Optical
Lens type: 28mm
Max burst speed: N/a
Max video resolution: None
User level: Beginner

Reasons to buy

+
2-in-1 printer and camera
+
Can edit images on a phone
+
Rechargeable

Reasons to avoid

-
Not good in low light
-
Ongoing film costs

Not only can you take photos using the Instax Mini LiPlay but it can also print photos from your phone. Small enough to fit in your pocket, its compact design makes it perfect for having on you at all times. Featuring an LCD screen and a selfie mirror on the front so you can make sure you're looking your best, Fujifilm really has thought of it all. Connect it to the LiPlay app on your phone so you can edit your photos and add things such as coloured frames or apply a filter for a bit of fun. Even though the photos print out onto Instax Mini film, you can also choose to just keep the pictures stored on a microSD card. Choose from Blush Gold, Elegant Black or Stone White depending on your style and it's time to get snapping. It has a rechargeable battery, a built-in flash and three shortcut buttons so you can save your favourite settings. 

(Image credit: Nikon)
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5. Nikon Coolpix B600

Compact body with a great zoom range

Specifications

Type: Compact (tough)
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch
Megapixels: 16MP
Screen: 3-inch, 921K dots
Viewfinder: None
Lens type: 60x optical zoom (24-1440mm)
Max video resolution: 1080p
User level: Beginner

Reasons to buy

+
Easy to use
+
Enormous zoom range

Reasons to avoid

-
Not great in low light
-
No manual mode
-
No 4K video

It's one of the few cameras that offer 60x optical zoom at this budget price, but there have been some tradeoffs to keep the cost low. If you're someone who needs a camera for predominantly outdoor use in good light, the B600 won't disappoint, but it does get sluggish indoors and in low-light conditions, with image quality suffering a little. There's also no advanced features here, so it's best suited to anyone looking for a very easy-to-use point-and-shoot. Importantly, its menu system is also really easy to wrap your head around. And despite its massive zoom reach, the camera is quite light and compact, with a pretty good grip too.

The Canon IXUS 185 camera

(Image credit: Canon)

6. Canon PowerShot Ixus 185

Small, handsome and remarkably affordable

Specifications

Type: Compact
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch
Megapixels: 20MP
Lens: 8x optical zoom (28-224mm)
LCD: 2.7-inch, 230K dots
Max shooting speed: 3fps
Max video resolution: 720p
Viewfinder: None
User level: Beginner

Reasons to buy

+
Really tiny body
+
Really tiny price

Reasons to avoid

-
Video limited to 720p
-
No viewfinder

For a camera that will cost you under AU$200 (yes, it's seriously affordable), this tiny Canon has an 8x zoom that's arguably its main draw, making it quite useful for a variety of scenarios. The 20MP sensor might be limited to capturing only HD video, but there's enough megapixels here to let you enlarge prints to some extent without sacrificing image quality. It might not seem like a big step up from your smartphone, but it does provide more control than some budget handsets out there. A zoom collar around the lens lends itself to perfectly frame your shot and a bunch of easy-to-use modes can detect a whole plethora of different scenes (for example, the Smart Auto mode alone can detect up to 32 scenes) and automatically adjust settings. And for a camera at this price, face detection is also onboard.

Read more:

Best budget camera
Best compact camera
Best camera for beginners
Best DSLRs
DSLR vs mirrorless

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Jon Stapley
Jon Stapley

Jon spent years at IPC Media writing features, news, reviews and other photography content for publications such as Amateur Photographer and What Digital Camera in both print and digital form. With his additional experience for outlets like Photomonitor, this makes Jon one of our go-to specialists when it comes to all aspects of photography, from cameras and action cameras to lenses and memory cards, flash diffusers and triggers, batteries and memory cards, selfie sticks and gimbals, and much more besides.  


An NCTJ-qualified journalist, he has also contributed to Shortlist, The Skinny, ThreeWeeks Edinburgh, The Guardian, Trusted Reviews, CreativeBLOQ, and probably quite a few others I’ve forgotten.

With contributions from