As camera technology progresses, the best camera under $500 becomes increasingly more powerful, offering some fantastic features for a very affordable price. These cameras show that the best camera isn't always the most expensive, as entry-level offerings can capture high quality photos – and the best cheap cameras often come in a lightweight and compact body too.
So, how is it possible for camera manufacturers to produce excellent cameras at such an affordable price? Well, one of the most significant reasons is that cameras are generally included more and more advanced technology as the years go by. This becomes a rising tide that lifts all boats, as features that would have only been seen on the best DSLRs or best mirrorless cameras are now par for the course. This means that features such as Wi-Fi, 4K video and sensors with decent megapixel counts are much more common now.
Another reason why cheaper cameras have become so good in recent years is that many manufacturers keep their older models on the market for quite a while. This means that consumers can pick up an absolute bargain if they're not too worried about having the newest camera on the market. We particularly like Sony for this, as its A6XXX mirrorless camera range and RX100 compact camera range have large back catalogues of cameras that are still pretty easy to find – and at some fantastic prices too.
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So, what can you expect to get for a budget of $500? Well, depending on what tickles your fancy, you should be able to pick up a fairly advanced compact camera, an enthusiast-focused mirrorless camera, or a decent entry-level DSLR.
It's worth noting that as camera prices fluctuate, you may find a camera on our list that creeps a little over budget (or plunges far below!). However, every camera model on this list has been chosen because it balances fantastic features with an affordable price point, so we will definitely get you in the right ballpark.
Cameras aren't a one-size-fits-all product, so the best camera under $500 for you will depend on what you want to use it for. However, each of the following models are all standout products in their respective categories, so you'll be sure to find something that suits your needs.
Best cameras under $500
An impressively specced beginner's DSLR and one of the long-awaited successors to the entry-level EOS Rebel XS, the Canon EOS Rebel SL7 is a great choice for any stating-out or aspiring photographer looking to try out their first DSLR. Also sold in some countries as the EOS 2000D, it doesn't do anything particularly flash but does manage everything you need it to: a 9-point autofocus system, 3fps burst shooting, Full HD video, and of course, the Canon EF-S mount that gives the user access to a huge catalogue of fantastic lenses. Friendly to the novice user, but offering room to grow, the EOS Rebel SL7 represents a fantastic bargain.
The latest of the GoPro range is the best GoPro yet. The key addition to this newer model is the front-facing color LCD screen, which allows you to frame yourself while vlogging, when used as a webcam, or just for selfies. The resolution gets a boost too, with a 20 megapixel stills capability and a 5K video shooting. The latter will be overkill for many, but it also allows 14.7 megapixel grabs from video, which could be hard to resist.
At 2.27-inch, its rear display is larger than that found on the older GoPro Hero8 Black, and its Hypersmooth 3.0 video stabilization system is unbeatably smooth. Thanks to its removable lens cover there’s also an option to add a Max Lens Mod accessory to the Hero9 Black, which will bring a few GoPro Max-style features including 360º horizon lock and an ultra-wide 155º Max SuperView mode.
Panasonic’s long-running ZS series always offers a capable choice for those seeking a fully-featured point and shoot camera for travel, and the Lumix ZS70 – also known as the ZS70 – is no exception. This Wi-Fi-ready point and shoot camera boasts enough control to satisfy a broad range of users, with the creative advantage of a 30x optical zoom plus Raw shooting, and it performs well in terms of both stills and video (with 4K offered in the case of the latter). A nice little touch is the inclusion of an electronic viewfinder – even if it is tiny – just above the LCD screen, as well as a lens control ring. The camera’s 49-area autofocus is pretty reliable and speedy enough, while image quality is generally very good, with the metering system balancing a variety of scenes. The ZS70 is one of the best point and shoot cameras for photographers who want maximum versatility and pocketability, but minimum expense.
Canon has spent some time filling out the low end of its DSLR range recently, creating lots of compelling options for beginner users and those working to tight budgets. One of the most affordable options is the Canon EOS Rebel T100, which comes at an even lower price point than the EOS Rebel SL7 seen above. It's a stripped-back beginner's DSLR that does just about everything you need it to for an incredible price, kit lens included. Also known as the EOS 4000D, the T100's nothing terribly sophisticated, but for the money you get a decent camera with 18MP of resolution and 3fps burst shooting, as well as access to Canon's incredible stable of lenses.
Read more: Canon EOS Rebel T100 review
Not only is this just about the freshest and newest beginner DSLR on the market, it also comes in well under our top budget, leaving you cash left over for accessories. Indeed, we've ranked it number one on our best Nikon camera list. The D3500 is a refreshed and redesigned version of the D3400 before it, with a 24-megapixel sensor and a fast-focussing AF-P 18-55mm kit lens with a retracting mechanism so that it takes up less space when you're carrying it around. The cheapest deal includes a non-VR lens, but we'd recommend paying just a little extra for the VR version.
The DJI Osmo Action is an extraordinarily powerful little action camera, capable of producing beautifully smooth 4K footage thanks to its RockSteady stabilisation system. Undercutting the latest GoPro Hero 9 Black on price, it's a fantastic tool for the money and boasts lots of great features you'd expect from a camera of its class, such as waterproofing down to 11m. Dual LCD screens are also a boon for selfies and vlogging, allowing you to see what you're shooting from both angles, and it can also shoot video in super slow motion (up to 8x).
Sony’s excellent A6300 and A6500 might be out of budget, but the Alpha A6000 is a highly capable alternative. In fact, the company claims it's its best-selling mirrorless camera ever. While it might lack its younger siblings’ 4K video option, you get plenty of features you’d never expect to see on a similarly priced DSLR. These include a mammoth 179 phase-detect AF points that make subject tracking a doddle, together with 11fps burst shooting. That combination alone should make the camera appeal strongly to sports and action shooters, while the tilting LCD screen, 2.36million-dot OLED viewfinder, built-in Wi-Fi and NFC only sweeten the deal further.
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Olympus’ digital revival of its analogue OM line has been hugely popular among enthusiast photographers, and with the OM-D E-M10 III the company has provided those on a tighter budget with a solid entry point to the series. This model builds on the impressive feature of the Mark II OM-D E-M10, and again sports a 16MP sensor, 2.36 million-dot electronic viewfinders, 3in touchscrseen, and five-axis image stabilization systems. But you now get 4K video as well - and a much more sophisticated autofocus system. This is a great beginner mirrorless camera - small, light and easy to use. And for the money, it is great looking too!