Nowadays, you can get a whole lot of camera for under £1,000/$1,000. But a lot of camera might not be what you want. To cut things down to size, there are some small yet highly sophisticated compact cameras on the market.
These have fixed lenses that are not interchangeable, but still combine exotic features and often excellent performance. And they do so in a sufficiently small package that you can take pretty much anywhere. And let’s face it, leaving your camera kit at home because it’s too big and heavy to lug around is the surest way of ‘missing the shot’.
Bridging the gap between all-in-one compact cameras and full-blown DSLRs, there’s a growing number of mirrorless ‘system’ cameras that have interchangeable lenses. These aim to keep the size and weight to a minimum, while adding the versatility of being able to mount the ideal lens for the shot at hand.
Many enthusiast photographers still prefer to use a conventional DSLR, with its unadulterated viewfinder image that’s relayed by mirrors rather than a bunch of pixels. The overall size of the camera body and its associated lenses is likely to be bigger, but most DSLR in this price bracket are still not overly bulky or heavy.
We’ve rounded up the best cameras of the year that fit the budget. All types are featured and, for system cameras with interchangeable lenses, we’ve gone for ‘kit’ options that include a zoom lens in the three-figure price. Here’s our top ten, largely in ascending price order.
1. Canon EOS 200D, 18-55mm IS STM
Uncommonly small for a DSLR kit, this Canon is a smart body and lens combo
Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Screen: 3.0” 1,040k pivot touch | Viewfinder: Pentamirror | Lens mount: Canon EF-S | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Intermediate
Not all DSLRs are big and clunky. The Canon EOS 200D and companion 18-55mm lens are small enough to pop into a messenger bag and be taken anywhere, whether you’re heading to the coffee shop around the corner or the other side of the world. Despite its diminutive size, the 200D packs some sophisticated features.
Its Dual Pixel AF image sensor enables fast and precise autofocusing in Live View and movie capture modes, both of which work well with the high-resolution vari-angle touchscreen. The shooting mode dial gives quick access to a wealth of scene modes, as well as to more enthusiast-level settings. One slight disappointment is that the regular autofocus module for use with viewfinder-based shooting only has nine AF points but, overall, it’s a very smart buy at the price.
Read our full Canon EOS 200D review.
2. Fujifilm X-T100, 15-45mm XC
This recently launched Fujifilm camera definitely has the X-factor
Type: CSC | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Screen: 3.0” 1,040k tilt touch | Viewfinder: Electronic 2,360k | Lens mount: Fujifilm X | Continuous shooting speed: 6fps | Max video resolution: 4k | User level: Intermediate
Available in black, dark grey and champagne gold, the X-T100 is a typically stylish Fujifilm compact system camera with classic retro looks. It’s simple and intuitive to use, yet boasts a high-res electronic viewfinder and a three-way tilting touchscreen, all at a very competitive price.
4K video capture is limited to a disappointingly jerky 15fps, but an upside is that you can use this for shooting a high-speed burst of 4K stills. Paired with the dinky little XC15-45mm lens, it makes a great-value camera kit that’s sufficiently compact to be a constant companion.
Read the full Fujifilm X-T100 review.
3. Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III, 14-42mm EZ
The least expensive Olympus OM-D kit, it offers particularly good value
Type: CSC | Sensor: Four Thirds | Megapixels: 16.1MP | Screen: 3.0” 1,040k tilt touch | Viewfinder: Electronic 2,360k | Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds | Continuous shooting speed: 8.6fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Intermediate
Now in its third generation, the most basic edition of Olympus’s OM-D cameras is nevertheless immaculately turned out. It stuffs plenty of smart features and controls to suit creative photographers into a compact and easily manageable body. The retractable 14-42mm EZ kit lens is remarkably small yet packs a motorised zoom facility that’s ideal for stills and movies alike.
For the latter, 4K UHD capture is available. The phase-detection autofocus system of the more up-market E-M1 Mk II is sadly lacking. As a result, continuous AF for moving objects can be a bit hit and miss.
Read the full Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III review.
4. Nikon D5600, 18-55mm AF-P VR
A travel-friendly Nikon DSLR with street smarts
Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Screen: 3.2” 1,037k pivot touch | Viewfinder: Pentamirror | Lens mount: Nikon F (DX) | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Intermediate
The D5600 is the most exotic of Nikon’s entry-level DSLRs. It’s impressively small and light, especially when paired with the retractable 18-55mm kit zoom lens. The D5600 lacks the interactive ‘Guide’ shooting mode of Nikon’s more beginner-oriented D3xxx series cameras, but it’s still very easy to get to grips with, thanks to a simple and intuitive interface and control layout.
There’s a particularly wide range of scene and effects modes for getting the results you want with the minimum of fuss and bother. A similarly generous range of custom settings will appeal to more expert photographers. The fully articulated touchscreen enables you to shoot from tricky angles and is good for taking selfies. Overall, it’s a great buy for just about anyone who wants a small, lightweight camera for everyday shooting and travel photography, that’s also a ‘proper’ DSLR.
Read the full Nikon D5600 review.
5. Sony Cyber-shot RX100 Mark IV
It’s not the newest Sony RX100, but it’s the best value
Type: Compact | Sensor: 1.0-type | Megapixels: 20.1MP | Screen: 3.0” 1,229k, tilt | Viewfinder: Electronic 2,359k | Lens mount: 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 (effective) | Continuous shooting speed: 16fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level:
The styling for the Sony RX-100 Mk IV might look a bit nondescript, but there’s a lot of high-tech attraction built into this slim-line compact camera. The permanently attached lens has an effective zoom range of 24-70mm with a fast f/1.8-2.8 aperture rating. A stacked 1.0-type image sensor enables excellent image quality and a fast throughput of data.
As such, the camera can shoot stills at up to 16fps and delivers superb video, with 4K UHD ‘clips’ of up to five minutes in length and 40x super slow-mo options. The latest RX100 VI edition has a bigger 24-200mm optical zoom range but costs nearly twice as much to buy. You can’t beat the Mk IV for value.
6. Panasonic LUMIX DMC-TZ200
The latest and greatest ‘Travel Zoom’ compact camera from Panasonic
Type: Compact | Sensor: 1.0-type | Megapixels: 20.9MP | Screen: 3.0” 1,240k touch | Viewfinder: Electronic 2,330k | Lens mount: 24-360mm f/3.3-6.3 (effective) | Continuous shooting speed: 10fps (4K 30fps) | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Intermediate
The advanced yet cut-price Panasonic TZ90 was a tough act to follow, with its 30x zoom range. The newer TZ100 and TZ200 are actually less impressive for sheer zoom potential, at 10x and 15x respectively, but the big upside is that they feature a physically larger 1.0-type image sensor. The megapixel count is about the same, but the new sensors enable much cleaner, more noise-free images at higher ISO settings.
Even so, the sensor is still rather smaller than those of APS-C format cameras. With advanced controls and excellent quality in all respects, it’s a great camera for everyday and travel photography, but the omission of a tilt or pivot facility for the touchscreen can be frustrating.
7. Panasonic Lumix DMC-G80, 12-60mm
A high-performance compact system camera from Panasonic with DSLR-like styling
Type: CSC | Sensor: Four Thirds | Megapixels: 16.0MP | Screen: 3.0” 1,040k pivot touch | Viewfinder: Electronic 2,360k | Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds | Continuous shooting speed: 9fps (40fps elec shutter) | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast
With a DSLR-style design that features a chunky handgrip and a large viewfinder up on top, the Lumix DMC-G80 looks and feels a serious camera. It’s well built with a weather-sealed splashproof and dustproof construction. Tech highlights include a 5-axis sensor-shift stabiliser that can work in tandem with optically stabilised lenses. ‘Light Speed AF’ delivers fast and accurate autofocus performance, and typical up-market Panasonic extras include focus stacking and ‘Post Focus Simulation’, where you can fine-tune the point of focus after taking a shot.
The speedy 9fps burst rate increases to 40fps if you use the electronic rather than mechanical shutter. Composing and reviewing shots benefit from an excellent viewfinder and fully articulated touchscreen. The premium-grade body is a bargain at the price, even more so with the 12-60mm kit lens.
8. Canon EOS 77D, 18-55mm IS STM
The most advanced DSLR in the sub-£1,000/$1,000 price sector comes from Canon
Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Screen: 3.0” 1,040k pivot touch | Viewfinder: Pentamirror | Lens mount: Canon EF-S | Continuous shooting speed: 6fps | Max video resolution: 1,080p | User level: Enthusiast
Unlike most DSLRs at this price point, the Canon EOS 77D has a top-panel info LCD, dual control dials (front and back) and an AF-On button. However, the up-market attractions are squeezed into a relatively compact and lightweight shell. Smart features include a Dual Pixel AF image sensor for highly effective Live View and movie autofocus (compared with most DSLRs), a vari-angle touchscreen, and a 5-axis sensor-shift stabiliser for movie capture.
There’s also a 45-point autofocus system for regular viewfinder-based stills capture, far outstripping the cheaper Canon 200D’s 9-point AF. Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth are all built-in, making the 77D a well-connected camera.
9. Sony Alpha A6300, 16-50mm PZ
Sony’s best APS-C format compact system camera for under a grand
Type: CSC | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Screen: 3.0” 922k tilt | Viewfinder: Electronic 2,359k | Lens mount: Sony E | Continuous shooting speed: 11fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast
Small but with a comfortable and natural feel, thanks to generously proportioned grip areas, the Sony Alpha A6300 was Sony’s flagship APS-C format compact system camera, until the advent of the newer A6500. The new model bursts our price limit, but the A6300 is still a very attractive option, with a super-fast autofocus system, 4K video capture and sumptuous image quality.
The 16-50mm PZ (Power Zoom) kit lens is a good match for the body, although some of Sony’s other E-mount lenses can seem comparatively large on such a slim-line camera. The 16-50mm lens also features optical image stabilisation. That’s good news, because unlike the newer A6500, the A6300 has no sensor-shift stabiliser.
10. Sony Alpha A7, 28-70mm
This Sony Alpha has become a legend in its own lifetime
Type: CSC | Sensor: Full-frame | Megapixels: 24.3MP | Screen: 3.0” 922k tilt | Viewfinder: Electronic 2,359k | Lens mount: Sony E | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1,080p | User level: Enthusiast
Real revolutionaries, the Sony A7 and A7R were the world’s first full-frame mirrorless cameras with interchangeable lenses. They were announced back in late-2013, and it’s taken Canon and Nikon five years to catch up. Perhaps even more remarkably, the A7 is the only full-frame camera of any kind on the market that fits our sub-£1,000/$1,000 price limit, complete with 28-70mm kit lens.
A modern-day classic, the A7 is a joy to use with its high-res electronic viewfinder and high-res tilting screen. It lacks the built-in stabilisation of the Mk II editions of the camera, while the A7R with its higher megapixel count sits outside the price range. However, the original A7 is a top-value buy for anyone wanting the advantages of full-frame photography.