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The best camera under $500 in 2022

best camera under $500
(Image credit: Getty Images)

As camera technology progresses, the best cameras under $500 become increasingly more powerful, offering some fantastic features for a very affordable price. These cameras show that the best camera (opens in new tab) isn't always the most expensive, as entry-level offerings can capture high-quality photos – and the best cheap cameras (opens in new tab) often come in a lightweight and compact body too. 

So how can camera manufacturers produce such good cameras at a really affordable price? The biggest reason is that with each new release, cameras have more advanced features, and the price of older models drops. Features that you once would've only seen on the best DSLRs (opens in new tab) or the best mirrorless cameras (opens in new tab) are now common features in more basic compact systems. This means that things like raw photos, Wi-Fi, and 4K video are now available in even budget cameras.

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 catalogs of cameras that are still pretty easy to find – and at some fantastic prices too.

Read more: The best camera for kids (opens in new tab)

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 is a standout product in their respective categories, so you'll be sure to find something that suits your needs.

Best cameras under $500

(Image credit: Future)
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A high-tech mirrorless camera that's perfect for travel

Specifications

Type: Mirrorless
Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds
Resolution: 16.1MP
Lens: Micro Four Thirds
Screen: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1,370,000 dots
Viewfinder: EVF 2.36 million dots
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 8.6fps
Movies: 4K
User level: Beginner/enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent EVF
+
Very good image stabilisation

Reasons to avoid

-
Screen not vari-angle
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Limiting custom options

Olympus’ digital revival of its analog 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 touchscreen, 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!

Read our full Olympus OM-D E-M10 III review (opens in new tab)

Editor's Choice

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli / Digital Camera World)
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The TikTok-ready action cam adds simplicity, and a new 8:7 sensor

Specifications

Weight: 4.5 oz / 127 g
Waterproof: 33.0' / 10.0 m
5K video: up to 60fps
4K video: up to 120fps
2.7K video: up to 240fps
Stills resolution: 27MP
Battery life: 2-3hrs estimate

Reasons to buy

+
Captures versatile 8:7 content
+
Excellent image stabilization
+
Horizon locking at up to 5.3K
+
Simplified interface for beginners

Reasons to avoid

-
Lowlight video isn't great
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Front display is not touch sensitive
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GoPro membership required to unlock features

Despite the Hero 11 Black looking like every other GoPro this side of 2019, with upgraded hardware and software, it's a triumph on all fronts. The new, almost square sensor is supremely versatile, the camera's software has been simplified successfully, and GoPro's companion app, Quik has also been improved. With best-in-class stabilization, great-looking video in all but dimly-lit and dark scenes, and some fun new modes like light painting, the Hero 11 Black is an excellent addition to the line.

The Hero 11 Black's 8:7 aspect ratio is also a standout highlight for content creators. Able to shoot in 5.3K resolution, 8:7 video at up to 30fps, its footage can be losslessly cropped to create new 4K portrait, landscape, and square clips from a single video.

On top of 8:7 video, the Hero 11 Black captures 5.3K resolution video at 60 fps, 4K resolution video at 120 fps, or 2.7K resolution at 240 fps. You can also grab 27MP stills from 5.3K video.

The Hero 11 Black might not have wildly improved the line's lowlight performance. Still, with its new 8:7 sensor, a simplified interface, and enhanced horizon leveling, it's upgraded GoPro's offering in a meaningful way. Particularly appealing to folks who use multiple social platforms, nothing else can do quite what the 11 Black can.

Read our full GoPro Hero 11 Black review

GoPro Subscription explained: what you get, and is it worth it

(Image credit: James Artaius)
Perfect for any adventure enthusiast who needs something more robust

Specifications

Type: Compact
Sensor: 1/2.3in
Megapixels: 12MP
Lens: 25-100mm (equiv.) f/2.0-4.9
LCD: 3in, 1,040k dots
Waterproof: 15m/50ft
Shockproof: 2.1m/7ft
Freezeproof: -10ºC/14°F
Max video resolution: 4K
Colors available: Red or black

Reasons to buy

+
4K video recording
+
Generous optical zoom

Reasons to avoid

-
'Only' 15m waterproofing 
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Newer, and expensive

The Olympus Tough TG-6 has a sterling reputation among the tough camera market, not only for being sufficiently specced to handle tough conditions but also equipped with impressive imaging and video tech. The Raw-shooting, 4K-capable TG-6, is a fairly minor upgrade on the previous TG-5, but adds some nifty new features like improved LCD resolution and a new Underwater Microscope mode for getting in close. 

Producing 4K video at 30fps and offering the option to shoot Full HD video at 120fps for super-slow-motion, the TG-6 also has a generous 25-100mm optical zoom lens that lets you get closer and closer to the action. It's got a chunky handgrip providing a secure hold on the camera, while the internal zoom mechanism means the lens never protrudes from the body, protecting it from knocks and bumps. Straightforward but sophisticated, the TG-6 is quite simply the best waterproof camera around right now.

Read our full Olympus Tough TG-6 review (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli/Digital Camera World)
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The first action camera to offer stunning 5K 60p video

Specifications

Weight: 153g
Waterproof: 10m
5K video: up to 60fps
4K video: up to 120fps
1080P: up to 240fps
Stills resolution: 23MP
Battery life: 1-32hrs estimate

Reasons to buy

+
Faster user interface
+
Increased frame rates
+
Hydrophobic lens coating

Reasons to avoid

-
Incremental upgrade on Hero9 Black
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Bigger than the Hero8 Black and Hero7 Black
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Not compatible with older batteries

Succeeded by the new GoPro Hero 11 Black, the Hero 10 Black might look a lot like the GoPro Hero 9 (opens in new tab) but it is a pretty significant upgrade. It features the new G2 processor which makes the interface super responsive, doubles the frame rates, and fuels the best image stabilization tech available in action cameras. 

The stand-out feature is its ability to record 5.3K 60p using GoPro's new HyperSmooth 4.0 video stabilization. It also has the ability to shoot 23-megapixel photos and it has the best low-light performance of any GoPro yet. You can buy a wealth of accessories separately so as well as mounting it on your helmet, you could attach it to your chest, your head, or even onto one of the best selfie sticks (opens in new tab).

Read our full GoPro Hero 10 Black review (opens in new tab)

best camera under $500 - Panasonic Lumix ZS70 / TZ90

(Image credit: Gavin Stoker/Digital Camera World)
The perfect travel camera – a big zoom range in a pocket-sized body

Specifications

Type: Compact
Sensor: 1/2.3in
Megapixels: 20.3MP
Lens: 24-720mm 3.3-6.4
LCD: 3in tilting, 1,04k dots
Maximum continuous shooting speed: 10fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Beginner to intermediate

Reasons to buy

+
Effective image stabilisation system
+
Selfie functionality works very well

Reasons to avoid

-
Viewfinder is very small
-
Soft results at wide-angle setting

Panasonic's long-running ZS series is a great choice for those needing a feature-packed point-and-shoot camera for travel. Released in 2017, the Panasonic ZS-70/TZ-90 still has one of the best zoom lenses available on a compact. It's wifi ready so you can transfer images on the go, has an impressive 30x zoom (24-720mm full-frame equivalent), and includes RAW shooting. Unlike other point and shoots it has an electronic viewfinder, albeit a small one, but it's nice to have the option to use one. It has a 49-point autofocus system which is speedy enough, image quality is pretty good and its metering system helps to balance exposure in a variety of scenes. The ZS70 is without a doubt one of the best point-and-shoot systems for balancing versatility and portability with a low price point.

Read our full Panasonic Lumix ZS70 review (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Digital Camera World)
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A fantastically featured little action camera for a great price

Specifications

Type: Action camera
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch
Megapixels: 12MP
Screen: Dual (front and rear)
Viewfinder: No
Lens: 148-degree field-of-view
Continuous shooting speed: Not specified
Max video resolution: 4k
User level: Beginner

Reasons to buy

+
Super-smooth stabilised video
+
Extensive waterproofing (11m)

Reasons to avoid

-
Some app issues
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Limited burst options

Known for making some of the best camera drones (opens in new tab), DJI did a pretty good job of competing with GoPro with the release of its first action camera, the DJI Osmo Action. While it can't shoot 5K, it does produce beautifully smooth, 4K footage thanks to its RockSteady stabilization system. Another big selling point is it's much cheaper than the GoPro too and who really NEEDS 5K anyway?! It's waterproof down to 11m, has a dual LCD screen making it ideal for selfies and vlogging and it can also shoot in super slow motion (up to 8x). It's an excellent action cam and a brilliant all-rounder at a very good price.

Read our full DJI Osmo Action review (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Canon)
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A fantastic beginner camera with a flip-out screen and full HD video

Specifications

Type: DSLR
Megapixels: 24.1MP
Lens mount: Canon EF-S
Screen: 3-inch LCD, 920K dots
Viewfinder: Yes, optical
Continuous shooting: 3fps
Movies: Full HD (1080p)
User level: Beginner

Reasons to buy

+
Tiny, light body
+
Excellent price

Reasons to avoid

-
No Dual Pixel CMOS AF
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Fixed LCD screen

An impressively specced beginner's DSLR and one of the long-awaited successors to the entry-level EOS Rebel XS, the Canon EOS Rebel T7 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 catalog of fantastic lenses. Friendly to the novice user, but offering room to grow, the EOS Rebel SL7 represents a fantastic bargain.

Read our Canon EOS Rebel T7 / EOS 200D review

(Image credit: Canon)
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The most affordable Canon DSLR is easy-to-use and is great for beginners

Specifications

Type: DSLR
Megapixels: 18MP
Lens mount: Canon EF-S
Screen: 2.7-inch screen, 230,000K dots
Viewfinder: Yes, optical
Continuous shooting: 3fps
Movies: Full HD (1080p)
User level: Beginner

Reasons to buy

+
Decent specs
+
Extremely affordable

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited burst buffer
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Primitive autofocus

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 (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Panasonic)

7. Panasonic FZ300

It might have a smaller sensor but the zoom range makes up for it

Specifications

Type: Superzoom compact
Sensor: 1/2.3in
Megapixels: 12.1MP
Lens: 25-600mm (equiv) f/2.8
LCD: 3in vari-angle touchscreen, 1.04million dots
Viewfinder: EVF, 1.44million dots
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 12fps (60fps in SH mode)
Videos: 4K and Full HD
User level: Enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
Amazing features for price
+
Constant f/2.8 aperture
+
Good zoom range

Reasons to avoid

-
No in-camera raw processing

From its junior models right through to its various flagships, Panasonic has always been generous with features. This has allowed its models to remain appealing in the face of newer competitors, and 2015's FZ330 exemplifies this perfectly: a sub-£500/$500 camera with 4K video recording, a splash-resistant body, and a 25-600mm, full-frame equivalent lens with a constant of f/2.8 aperture. You simply don't get that anywhere else right now! On top of that, there's a tilting touchscreen, a 1.44million-dot EVF, Wi-Fi, and image stabilization, which round off the specs to deliver a mighty fine proposition for the advanced novice or enthusiast on a budget. 

How we test cameras

We test mirrorless and DSLR cameras (opens in new tab) both in real-world shooting scenarios and in carefully controlled lab conditions. Our lab tests measure resolution, dynamic range, and signal-to-noise ratio. Resolution is measured using ISO resolution charts, dynamic range is measured using DxO Analyzer test equipment and DxO Analyzer is also used for noise analysis across the camera's ISO range. We use these real-world testing and lab results to inform our comments in buying guides. For compact cameras, we judge real-world handling and photographic results alone. 

Read more:

The best cameras for under $200 (opens in new tab)
The best cameras for under $100 (opens in new tab)
Best cheap cameras (opens in new tab)
Best beginner cameras  (opens in new tab)
The best point-and-shoot cameras (opens in new tab)

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