The best cheap cameras didn't always start out cheap! When a model has been on the market for a couple of years or more, the prices start to tumble, and cameras that may have been out of your reach before can suddenly become affordable!
To help you find what you're looking for that little bit quicker, we've split them up into sections; one for cheap compact cameras, one for cheap DSLRs and one for cheap mirrorless cameras.
So it's not just about shopping for the cheapest and best point and shoot camera. There are big savings to be made on much more advanced cameras too. You might be surprised at the price of the cheapest full frame cameras, for example, and their incredible value today.
The fact is, even cameras a few years old are still pretty advanced and more than a match for many brand new entry level cameras. Even though it looks as if camera technology is racing ahead at breakneck speed, this is mostly at the higher end of he market, and further down the price scale things move a little more slowly. Some of the best DSLRs and best mirrorless cameras are surprisingly affordable cameras which have actually been out for a while.
The best cheap cameras 2021
The Panasonic ZS50, also known as the TZ70, gives you a mammoth zoom range that goes up to 720mm (35mm-equivalent) setting, plus a built-in electronic viewfinder – very useful in bright light. Panasonic has even provided focus peaking for precision when manually focusing and time-lapse video option, and even Raw shooting (although this is arguably less significant on a camera with such a small sensor). On that subject, don't let the sensor's 12.1MP pixel count throw you off; Panasonic deliberately reduced this from the 18.1MP TZ60 that came before it for the benefit of image quality in low light. Full HD video recording to 60p, effective Hybrid O.I.S. image stabilisation and both Wi-Fi and NFC on top of all this make the SZ50 unquestionably brilliant value for money and another great camera for travel.
It's one of the pricier cameras on this list, but the FZ1000 offers such superb value for money that it simply can't be left out. On top of the very solid foundation of a 20.1MP 1in sensor and a 25-400mm f/2.8-4 Leica-branded optic, Panasonic has gifted the camera with Power O.I.S. image stabilisation, Raw file capture, 12fps burst shooting and both Wi-Fi and NFC. Videos are captured in both 4K and Full HD quality, with a 120fps setting in Full HD for slow-motion output, together with advanced options such as zebra patterning and even a 3.5mm mic port, while a 2.36million-dot electronic viewfinder is partnered with a fully-articulated 3in LCD. Can you find another camera that can provide all of that for the same money? Nope!
The entry-level model in Nikon's DSLR range looks a lot like the previous Nikon D3400 before it, but subtle design tweaks have produced improved on a winning formula to produce a camera that's small and light, yet comfortable to grip. It's an entry-level model but it has a 24.2MP sensor as good as those in cameras at twice the price, and it offers a very good 5fps continuous shooting speed for a beginners camera. The Guide mode will help beginners get started and understand the basic principles, and the D3500 has all the manual controls you need to learn about photography as you improve your skills. The cheapest deals include a non-VR kit lens but we'd recommend paying that little bit extra for the VR version of the 18-55mm standard zoom.
Read more: The best Nikon lenses right now
The Canon Rebel T7 (EOS 2000D in some territories) is not a bad camera to get started with, but it is pretty basic. It has a fixed rear screen and only shoots full HD video, and it doesn't come with Canon's Dual Pixel CMOS AF for faster focusing in live view. It does have a 24-megapixel sensor to match the resolution of our favorite low-cost DSLR, the Nikon D3500, but it can't match the Nikon's 5fps continuous shooting or the Nikon's space-saving retracting kit lens.
This isn't the cheapest DSLR you can buy by any means, but very often it's worth paying a little extra money to get a much better range of features – and this is the perfect example. The EOS Rebel SL3 (aka EOS 250D) has Canon’s top-of-the range APS-C sensor with 24.1MP of resolution and brilliant Live View shooting, thanks to a fully-articulating touchscreen display and Canon's fast Dual Pixel CMOS AF autofocus. In fact, we’d actually say this is one of the only DSLRs where composing shots with the screen is downright preferable to using the viewfinder. Canon also packs in 4K video and Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity, wrapped up in the smallest DSLR body you'll ever see. It's not the cheapest DSLR you can get, but we think if you take all its features into account, it is actually the best value.
The D5600 is more expensive than other DSLRs in this list, but it's a very good camera that was once sold at much higher prices. The 39-point AF system offers more focus points than other cheap DSLRs and the 3.2in vari-angle touchscreen display on the back is bigger than most. The live view autofocus isn’t as accomplished as on the Canon Rebel SL3 or any of the compact system cameras here (particularly for video), but the overall performance is still excellent, and lens options are plentiful. We probably wouldn't choose it for video, but as a versatile, high-quality compact DSLR it's a really good deal these days. We especially like it for travel, because of its size, we recommend getting it with Nikon's retracting AF-P 18-55mm VR kit lens.
Read more: Nikon D5600 review
Canon has always been great at making feature-packed, entry-level DSLRs and the EOS 800D keeps up this tradition. Also known as the EOS Rebel T7i, the EOS 800D is built around a 24.2MP APS-C sensor that’s paired with Canon’s latest DIGIC 7 processor. The autofocus system features 45 cross-type AF points, plus Dual Pixel CMOS AF for live view and video. For 4K video, though, you need to look at the Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D. Other features include built-in Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth, which let you pair the camera with a smart device and quickly transfer images, while the 3in touch-sensitive LCD has a Vari-angle design – great for selfies and vloggers. Like many entry-level cameras, the EOS 800D doesn't quite stretch to offering weather sealing, but the battery is a strong point, with its 600 shots per charge meaning you should be good for a whole day's shooting.
Read more: Canon EOS 800D review
How times change! When it was launched, the Pentax KP was the company's flagship DSLR and neither cheap nor, to be fair, very technically advanced. It is now much more affordable, though, and a good choice for photographers who want a solid, old-school DSLR design and aren't too fussed about video. The KP's robust construction is appealing, its 77fps continuous shooting speed is good and its in-body image stabilisation is very useful to have.
Read more: Pentax KP review
The Canon EOS 80D has now been superseded by the EOS 90D, but we're not sure you'll see a lot more actual sharpness from the EOS 90D's 32.5MP sensor, and it certainly suffers a little more at high ISO settings. The EOS 80D is significantly cheaper, yet still feels fresh and current, with its vari-angle touchscreen display and Dual Pixel CMOS AF for snappy live view photography. The only thing you don't get is 4K video, as the EOS 80D is capped at 1080 (Full HD) video resolution.
Read more: Canon EOS 80D review
When it first came out we wondered if the Nikon D7500 would be in a kind of no-man's land being neither cheap nor the best specified Nikon DX DSLR. As time has passed, though, its price has fallen and we've come to admire the D7500's intelligent blend of robustness, solidity, speed, and features. The 20.9-megapixel resolution might put some people off, and there's no on-sensor phase detection AF, so live view focusing isn't that fast. The D7500 does have a tilting screen, however, 4K video and a pretty snappy 8fps continuous shooting speed.
Read more: Nikon D7500 review
Canon's original EOS 6D was a hit for a number of good reasons, and the EOS 6D Mark II successor arrives with a fresh 26.2MP full-frame sensor with Canon’s clever Dual Pixel CMOS AF system incorporated into its design. A 45-point AF system replaces the dated 11-point AF system of the EOS 6D, while a flip-out touchscreen, a 6.5fps burst-shooting mode and better video specs round off the model’s highlights. Autofocus is snappy when you're using the camera conventionally, and if you switch to live view it's fast enough to make you think you're using a mirrorless camera. DSLRs have traditionally struggled here, so Canon deserves a lot of credit for closing the gap. We reckon this is a great camera for those looking to step up from an APS-C body. Scroll down for more details on the specs and to get the best Canon EOS 6D Mark II deals.
Read more: Canon EOS 6D Mark II review
The Nikon D750 was launched as the company's second-cheapest full frame DSLR and had, for the first time in a full frame Nikon, a tilting screen. Over time, its all round image quality, solid, likeable handling and steadily eroding prices have made it progressively more appealing. It's not as technically advanced as the newer Nikon D780, but if you can do without 4K video and fast live view autofocus, the D750 gives very little away to its replacement.
Read more: Nikon D750 review
The diminutive GX85 (GX80 in some territories) can be adapted to the needs of any user, from the beginner that just wants to rely on the leave-it-to-the-camera Intelligent Auto option, to the photographer that wants complete control over all exposure settings like shutter speed and aperture. You also get 4K video recording capability and Panasonic's speed DFD (Depth From Defocus) autofocus system. The built-in electronic viewfinder (amazing in a mirrorless camera at this price) makes it a great option for using in harsh sunlight or darker conditions, while the tilting screen makes it easy to shoot from ground level. Together with Panasonic's tiny Micro Four Thirds lenses, this makes it perfect for travelling or holidays. So what's the catch? It uses Panasonic's older 16MP sensor rather than the lates 20MP version, but that's only a 4MP difference and given what else this camera can do – and at this price – we wouldn't worry about it. Make sure you get it with the retracting 12-32mm 'pancake' lens – this combination is not a whole lot bigger than a compact point and shoot camera.
Read more: These are the best mirrorless cameras right now
The dinky Olympus OM-D E-M10 has long been one of our favorite entry-level cameras. Its small enough to fit in a pocket, especially with the 14-32mm 'EZ' kit lens, but the controls never feel cramped and the features buried in this camera go far beyond 'beginner' photography. This Mark III version has 4K video but still the older 16MP sensor. The new Mark IV model has the latest 20MP sensor. However, this does mean that the Mark III, while you can still get it, is on sale at really good discounts.
Read more: Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III review
The X-T200 is exceptional value in the US right now, though more expensive in the UK. Either way, it's a terrific camera for beginners and smartphone upgraders, with a big flip-out 3.5-inch touchscreen, a built-in viewfinder and 4K video. The exterior controls are simple and unthreatening, but they disguise a camera that's actually quite advanced. It's definitely worth following the pricing on this one, because at current US prices, there really is nothing to touch it.
Read more: Fujifilm X-T200 review
For a time, this was our favorite low-price mirrorless camera. Now several years old, the A6000 is a once top-end camera that's just got cheaper and cheaper. Later A6000-series models beat it for video and autofocus features, but for regular stills photography the A6000 is just as good at a fraction of the price. However, prices have crept up since this time last year, so either Sony has realised this camera is better that it thought it was (bah!), or it's being lined up for some big, big discounts. Either way, watch this space!
Read more: Sony A6000 review
With the EOS M50, though, we think Canon hit the sweet spot. This camera is easy to use for beginners but has a built-in electronic viewfinder. The EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM kit lens has a retracting mechanism to make the camera smaller to carry around when it's not in use, and there is a small but handy selection of other EOS M lenses you can use with this camera. If travel is your thing and a couple of lenses is all you need, the EOS M50 is great, and because it's now been out for a little while, the prices are starting to fall. We hear a more advanced EOS M50 Mark II might be on its way, but it will inevitably cost a lot more, and the original EOS M50 might get cheaper still!
Read more: Canon EOS M50 review
The Canon EOS RP was the second camera in Canon's new RF full-frame mirrorless system, and designed to give you a low price of entry into this new family of cameras and its all-new lens mount. To make things easier for those upgrading, the EOS RP body is usually sold with a converter that allows you to use your existing Canon EOS D-SLR EF-mount lenses. Given that the existing RF lenses are rather esoteric and expensive for those shopping on the budget, this converter is a godsend. The body is very small, but not too badly overbalanced by larger lenses. It's not the most advanced full frame mirrorless camera on the market by any means, but with its compact, easy to use body and vari-angle screen, it's a brilliant buy at current prices.
Read more: Canon EOS RP review
For a while the cheapest full frame camera IN THE WORLD was the original Sony A7. That's getting harder to find now, but its place has been taken by the A7 Mark II. The chief difference between them is that the Mark II version has in-body stabilisation, but for many users that alone will be enough to justify the higher price. We say higher, but the A7 II, now costs no more than a good APS-C mirrorless camera. Amazing.
Read more: Sony A7 Mark II review
For those existing Nikon DSLR and lens owners wanting to jump aboard its new mirrorless system, or utilize it alongside that very same DSLR, the Nikon Z6 currently offers the best deal. Yes the Nikon Z cameras feature a new lens mount, but the manufacturer is also selling an FTZ mount adaptor allowing purchasers to use their existing Nikon lenses, plus there are three dedicated Z mount lenses currently available at the time of writing. If you’re eyeing this one up over the Nikon Z 7, be aware that although it’s cheaper there thankfully don’t appear to have been corners cut in terms of construction. It has an extensively weather-sealed, magnesium alloy body, plus a respectable 200,000 shot shutter duration. In short, externally you can barely tell the Z6 and Z7 apart.
If it’s a very high-resolution camera you need, then the 45.7 megapixel Z7 currently offers the best deal in Nikon’s full frame camera range. It includes a five-axis in-body stabilization system, a new range of Nikkor Z lenses and compatibility with existing Nikon F lenses via the optional FTZ adapter, which is a bonus for existing Nikon DSLR owners with an existing collection of lenses.
The build quality is impressive, with a 200,000 shot shutter life and a weather resistant magnesium alloy body. A recent firmware update means the Z 7 (and the Z 6) can now use the latest CFexpress memory cards. In terms of technology, the Z 7 is similar to Nikon’s own D850 DSLR, albeit in more portable form and with a differing control layout. The Z mount 24-70mm f/4 S lens released alongside the camera body is a neat and exact fit.
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