best cameras under 500

Best Cameras under $500 | Up your Photography game in 2021

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When I started my career in photography nearly ten years ago, I would often come across cameras which offered that perfect feature I wanted, but it would just as often be out of my sub $500 budget.

My first serious camera was a Coolpix L22 from Nikon. While the Coolpix line has many great options, compact digital cameras such as this small 12-megapixel L22 just wouldn’t cut it compared to a DSLR camera.

Fast forward to 2021, and now we have great DSLR cameras under $500 that offer features considered premium just a few years ago.

Editor’s Choice
Canon EOS Rebel T7

An impressive 24.1 Megapixel sensor with a simper user experience.

So if you are an aspiring photographer or even a professional looking for a secondary camera on a tight budget, well, you are in luck.

I will present some of the best cameras under $500 that money can buy right now. We will also cover some other great options in this guide that you can consider in this guide. I carefully picked these for their specs, reliability, and the value per dollar on offer.

Best Cameras under $500 as of November 2021

DSLRs and Bridge Cameras are one of the best starting points for anyone looking to get into photography. Experimenting with different lenses, flash modules, and other accessories will help you gain vital experience.

With that in mind, I am starting with two excellent cameras below that offer an outstanding value for the price thanks to the great image quality.

You have further room for growth thanks to hot shoe mounts and other lenses that you can add as you take your photography skills further.

Canon EOS Rebel T7

canon rebel t7 best camera under $500
An impressive 24.1 Megapixel sensor with a simper user experience.

Megapixels: 24.1Sensor: CMOS Sensor , APS-C
Aspect Ratio: 3:2ISO Range: 100 – 6400
Lens Mount: Canon EF/EF-SStorage: SD / SDHC / SDXC
Flash: InternalWeight : 675g (with lens, battery)

The EOS lineup from Canon has been quite popular, and for a good reason. Time and time again, we have seen great DSLR cameras at affordable prices from the Canon EOS Rebel series.

It’s no surprise then that the Canon EOS Rebel T7 is one of the best-selling DSLR cameras on the market.

The T7 makes a fantastic deal, especially at the $500 price point, as it easily boasts specs that are one notch above the competition.

Canon has borrowed 24 Megapixel APS-C sensor directly from their more expensive models like the 80D. The sensor lets the camera give you excellent premium quality in good lighting.

Continuous autofocus is achieved at 3 FPS which is ideal for portraits, vacations, etc. You can also use it for faster events, such as sports, although that’s not the camera’s forte.

Premium video quality is not something we can expect from a sub $500 DSLR. The price point is even more apparent because there is no stabilization.

Another drawback is that the Canon EOS Rebel T7 can only do Full HD video, and while the results are reasonably impressive we still miss 4K support.

Canon shines when it comes to the ergonomic button layout and the simple user interface. Those two things combined make the camera an ideal choice for beginners.

While it will not make a difference to photography, connectivity features like built-in Wi-fi make transferring photos easy. In addition, the screen looks crisp and color accurate, although this is not a flip screen.

The Canon EOS Rebel T7 is a beast when it comes to high quality photos but the max video resolution being stuck at Full HD means shooting video is not it’s strong suit. Keep reading as I have covered cameras specially meant for recording video below.

Pros
  • Excellent Image Sensor
  • Bang for the buck value
  • Digic 4+ image processing engine
  • Inbuilt Flash
  • Good connectivity with Wi-Fi
Cons
  • No Tilting LCD Screen
  • No Touch Screen
  • No Stabilization
  • Only does HD videon

Panasonic LUMIX FZ300

Ideal middle ground between a DSLR and a compact camera.

Megapixels: 12.10Sensor: 1/2.3″-type image sensor
Aspect Ratio: 4:3ISO Range: 100 – 6400
Lens Mount: Not internal.Storage: SD / SDHC / SDXC
Flash: Not built in.Weight : 724g (with battery)

When beginners think about DSLR cameras, it is often Canon or Nikon that comes to mind. However, Panasonic has been making cameras for a long time, and the FZ300 is an excellent choice for under 500 dollars.

I am happy to say that the Lumix FZ300 is a reasonably robust bridge camera and offers a decent build quality with a good grip.

A dustproof and splash-proof DSLR camera is not something you expect at this budget, but Panasonic has managed to achieve that here. This makes it one of the best cameras under 500.

The screen is better than I expected for this budget. The viewfinder is OLED, and the display supports full articulation giving it an edge above its competition.

The FZ300’s Bridge Camera sensor fits somewhere between a digital camera and a DSLR. While it is not a traditional DSLR, you can still expect excellent image quality.

The 1/2.3″-type image sensor provides excellent color reproduction and 24x zoom, but the 12 megapixels resolution could be a problem if you look for ultrasharp images.

Autofocus is fast, and the interface is easy to use, although not as simple as what we get on the Canon T7 I reviewed above. That said, this will be just as easy for beginners.

Video quality is decent thanks to 4K Support and good connectivity thanks to wifi support.

Overall, I am pretty impressed by the feature set that Panasonic has squeezed into this price point. While the sensor is smaller than some of its competition, it also makes up for it as it is more affordable.

On a side note, if you wish to go even lower on your budget, you might also want to check out the FZ80. We have covered that camera in the more wallet-friendly section below.

Pros
  • Good color reproduction
  • Good build quality
  • Snappy autofocus
  • 4K video support
  • Supports Wi-Fi
  • Good macro performance
Cons
  • Small image sensor
  • Weight on the heavier side
  • Mediocre low light performance
  • No touch screen
  • No stabilization

Save more money with these top cameras under $500

Cameras around the $500 mark are great, but if that is 100% of your budget then you might want to spare a few dollars for essential accessories.

Here I have covered best cameras under $500 that are more wallet-friendly without compromising image quality. This should free up your budget for lens kits, tripods, SD cards and more.

Canon EOS 4000D

Canon’s great set of features at an even more affordable price tag.

Megapixels: 18Sensor: CMOS Sensor , APS-C
Aspect Ratio: 3:2ISO Range: 100 – 6400
Lens Mount: Canon EF/EF-SStorage: SD / SDHC / SDXC
Flash: Not internalWeight : 436g

The Canon 4000D launched at a $500 price tag but is often lower priced since the model is a couple of years old now.

While it lacks some of the bells and whistles found on the Rebel T7, you still get most of the basic features, and the camera is often bundled with extra accessories.

The lower price makes the 4000D a great option if you are looking for a 500 dollar camera but could use some extra savings for accessories like a lens.

This camera makes a great starting point thanks to its 18-megapixel APS-C sensor if you are a complete beginner. It has a decent zoom range, the auto focus is good and the images have great color reproduction.

The 400g weight makes the camera feel cheap (which, to be fair, it is), but it also makes it more comfortable in hand.

I have noticed that the camera has a clicking noise which makes it quite loud. This is likely because of the slow shooting rate of just 3 FPS, although the noise is still weird for a modern camera.

The noise is likely not a problem for students learning photography or when you are traveling. It could, however, be a problem when you are trying to get pictures in events such as a wedding or a birthday party.

While we are on the topic of events, if you wish to record video on this camera, you will be satisfied with the quality.

That said, photos are still the camera’s forte, and I would not recommend buying this camera just for videos alone. If you are a vlogger looking for a cheap camera for videos then this is not for you.

It is a fantastic camera for learning DSLR photography, but you might be better off with a modern iPhone if you need a camera purely for videos.

But from just a photography point of view, this is one of the best dslr cameras on the market that won’t break the bank.

Pros
  • Light weight build
  • Built-in flash
  • Wallet-friendly
  • Built-in Wi-fi
  • Decent 18MP sensorn
Cons
  • Slow shutter speed
  • Plastic body feels cheap
  • Fixed rear screen
  • No stabilization

Sony HX400V

Good low light shots with 50X optical zoom in a compact body.

Megapixels: 20Sensor: 1/2.3-inch BSI-CMOS Sensor
Aspect Ratio: 4:3ISO Range: 80 – 12800
Lens Mount: Not supportedStorage: SDXC
Flash: Internal Weight : 660g (with battery)

The HX400V is one of the oldest models that I have mentioned on this list but it still holds up in 2021.

Usually, I would not recommend an old model. However, certain aspects of the HX400V can make it a viable option for specific users. Hence it makes its way to my list of great cameras under 500 dollars.

Price is where the HX400V manages to earn a spot for itself in this list. Being one of the cheapest cameras out there, you are still getting essential features such as decent low light performance, 20MP sensor and image stabilization. Yay!

The Zeiss lens comes with multiple options on adjusting focus, and the back has a 3 inch LCD that supports tilt. However, note that this does not support flipping, so you cannot use the screen for selfies.

A neat feature is that the viewfinder comes with a proximity sensor that turns off the LCD panel when you use the viewfinder. There is also a manual button to switch.

The optical image stabilizer is also a welcome feature and often gives way better results than electronic image stabilization on many budget cameras and smartphones.

Ergonomics are good, and the button layout is quite simple. Ergonomics combined with an easy layout makes it a good starting point for beginners.

The camera takes about 2-3 seconds to turn on and take a photo, not particularly impressive but it is not too slow.

Images are excellent and relatively detailed (as long as you don’t take photos at a high ISO, which makes things grainy).

The HX400V is a decent camera for anyone looking for a cheap option with decent zoom, all essential connectivity in a nice compact package.

Pros
  • Optical Image Stabilization
  • Proximity sensor on viewfinder
  • Manual focus adjustment
  • Compact design
  • Tilting LCD
  • 50x Optical Zoom
Cons
  • Screen does not support flip
  • Dated design
  • Sensor on the smaller side

Panasonic LUMIX FZ80

Nailing all the essential features at an extremely affordable price.

Megapixels: 18Sensor: 1/2.3 inch
Aspect Ratio: 3:2ISO Range: 80 – 3200
Lens Mount: Not supportedStorage: SD / SDHC / SDXC
Flash: Internal Weight : 616g (with lens, battery)

Very few cameras in the market can create a value proposition as strong as the Panasonic Lumix FZ80. This camera frequently goes for prices way lower than $500, making it one of the best deals you can get.

While cheap, the camera comes with a neat layout, an electronic viewfinder, a touchscreen, and a solid build quality.

The low price is achieved thanks to the 18MP image sensor. While it is lower resolution than some Canon and Panasonic models, you can still expect good performance.

The images look crisp, and the color reproduction is decent. Low light performance is okay considering the sensor size, although I wouldn’t recommend it for indoor shots.

What’s impressive at this price point is the zoom range. Thanks to the 60X Optical zoom lens that Panasonic has provided us. (Fun fact – people have literally taken images of the craters on the moon with this camera!)

If you are a traveler or want to try out wildlife photography, this camera is an excellent choice, thanks to its zoom capabilities.

The Lumix FZ80 is also an excellent deal for anyone looking to start a Youtube channel as the video capabilities are good for the price point.

On-board image stabilization is an excellent advantage at this price point, and while it is not as effective as the premium models, I still consider it a great feature at this price.

The camera is very user-friendly, and the touchscreen can make navigation more accessible, especially for beginners. Combine that with the price point, and this camera is easily the best entry point if you are on a super tight budget.

Pros
  • Amazing zoom capabilities
  • Very affordable price tag
  • On-board image stabilization
  • Touchscreen Support
  • Affordable DSLR
Cons
  • Fixed LCD (no flip support)

Best Compact Cameras under $500

Big bulky DSLRs with the correct lens for the situation are the way to go if you want to achieve stunning quality. However, if you need portability with quality that you can rely on for any given situation, a compact digital camera would be the best choice.

Certain use cases like underwater photography will also require a specific type of camera that is unlikely to be a DSLR, I have covered a great choice for extreme photography in the two picks below.

Panasonic LUMIX LX10

Premium compact Digital Camera experience from Panasonic that’s perfect for vlogging.

Megapixels: 20.10Sensor: 1 inch Sensor
Aspect Ratio: 3:2ISO Range: 125 – 12800
Lens Mount: Not supportedStorage: SD / SDHC / SDXC
Flash: Internal Weight : 310g (with lens, battery)

The Panasonic Lumix LX10 is slightly different from all other cameras that I have covered so far on this list since it’s a compact point and shoot.

While the DSLRs and Bridge Cameras we see above aim to give beginners a starting point in this budget, the LX10 aims to be a high-end, premium compact camera!

DSLRs tend to have the natural advantage of being powered by much larger sensors over the smaller sensors of digital cameras. That said if you are looking for portability, then a point and shoot might be the best option.

The Panasonic Lumix LX10 feels very premium in hand and comes with a clicky aperture ring. Add to that, you also get a flip screen, so if you are a vlogger looking to shoot video, then this will be an essential feature for you.

The layout is also great, even for beginners, and the display is a 3-inch touchscreen. Unfortunately, there is no electronic viewfinder like we see on many DSLRs in this list, but this is not a deal-breaker considering the compact form factor.

Thanks to a 20.1 Megapixel 1-Inch Sensor, the Panasonic Lumix LX10 can shoot 4K video, giving you plenty of detail to work with when editing. I also noticed no heating issues when recording 4K. The sensor has optical image stabilization as well.

One factor to note is that the camera crops in the frame when recording 4K specifically, so you may have to hold it farther away than you are typically used to.

I recommend using a tripod rather than holding it with your hand. Casey Neistat style! This would also give you an opportunity to attach a better microphone.

Coming to photography, I loved the image quality on this camera in good lighting, and it manages to take decent shots in low-light environments as well.

Overall, this is a fantastic camera under $500 dollars if you are a vlogger or need the portability that DSLRs can’t match. The Panasonic Lumix LX10 easily offers a lot of the features found in Sony’s legendary RX100, and that RX100 tends to be priced much higher.

Pros
  • Premium build quality
  • Inbuilt flash
  • Compact design
  • 180 degree tilt touchscreen display
  • O.I.S support
  • 4K video support
  • Truly pocketable camera
Cons
  • No electronic view finder
  • No way to add external flash options

Olympus Tough TG-6

The best rugged compact camera under $500 that can brave the elements!

Megapixels: 12Sensor: CMOS , BSI
Aspect Ratio: 4:3ISO Range: 100 – 12800
Lens Mount: Add ons available.Storage: SD / SDHC / SDXC
Flash: InternalWeight : 253g (with battery)

I am sure you can already guess by the name that this camera has one big ace up its sleeve. Yes, I am talking about the fantastic rugged build that Olympus has managed to keep compact!

If you are looking for a rugged camera that can brave the elements, then this is an easy recommendation. No other camera in this list is as rugged as the Tough TG-6.

Tough is not just in the name; you are getting a waterproof build designed to prevent fogging on the lens. This is the best option for taking photos or recording in harsh environments like being underwater or muddy places.

Color reproduction from it’s 12MP BSI CMOS Sensor is great and manages to provide excellent images underwater.

Great macro photography is not something that you might not expect in a rugged camera like this, but the TG-6 nails it. You don’t need a macro lens to take macro photos to get some fantastic macro shots on this camera. Even under water!

Video quality maxes out at 4K 30 frames per second, and I consider that as a sweet spot for a camera like this. You can also select different presets for the camera, such as a specific underwater mode for better color accuracy.

Coming to more advanced features – you are covered with a good button layout that lets you control everything from aperture to F/Stop values. There is no touchscreen but that is expected for a device that can be used underwater.

The Olympus Tough TG-6 is a fantastic starting point if you want to learn photography and wish to try out more extreme scenarios like underwater shooting. The camera also offers Macro quality that is better than all other compact cameras and even DSLRs here out of the box.

If you need underwater capabilities then this is the best camera at this budget.

Pros
  • Waterproof and shockproof
  • Great image quality in macro mode
  • Easy to use interface and layout
  • 4K video
Cons
  • No touchscreen support
  • Olympus app needs improvement

The Best Mirrorless Cameras around $500 (If you can increase your budget)

Mirrorless cameras are a new breed of cameras that come without a mirror which makes them more compact and lighter.

Panasonic LUMIX GX85

DSLR like performance in the size of a compact camera.

Megapixels: 16Sensor: AA-filter-less MOS sensor
Aspect Ratio: 4:3ISO Range: 200 – 25600
Lens Mount: Add ons available.Storage: SD / SDHC / SDXC
Flash: InternalWeight : 498g (with battery, kit lens)

Looking for a small mirrorless camera but don’t mind increasing your budget slightly? The Panasonic GX85 is one of the most affordable mirrorless cameras on the market.

The layout and build is similar to the Lumix LX10 that I highly recommend. However, unlike the LX10 you get a more premium set of features such as lens support and a mirrorless sensor.

One of the best advantages of the GX85 is how well the 5-axis image stabilizer works. This can be useful if you plan to pick this for vlogging and would like to use it without a gimbal.

While we’re on the topic of vlogging, I found a neat little feature on the GX85, and that is “4K Live Cropping”. This feature allows you to take a 4K frame and pan across it in 1080p.

If you are looking for a camera for YouTube, you would realize that this feature can be handy when taking b-roll footage without using an expensive slider.

It is disappointing that the touchscreen screen does not flip completely, so you cannot use it entirely as a selfie shooter.

Another missing feature is the microphone input. This would be make sense if the camera were way under 500 dollars; however, it’s not.

While the built-in mic is good, if you were planning to attach another mic to this camera directly, you will not be able to do that.

The 16MP MOS Sensor delivers excellent images that are on par with other Micro Four Thirds cameras.

If you are looking for a compact premium camera that offers a mirrorless sensor at an affordable price, then the GX85 is a no-brainer.

Pros
  • Mirrorless Camera
  • 5-Axis Image Stabilizer
  • Excellent build quality
Cons
  • No Microphone Input

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of camera is best for beginners?

All the cameras in this list are picked with beginners in mind. That said, if you are just starting out and want a camera for casual photography then I would recommend a compact camera like the Panasonic Lumix LX10.

On the other hand, if you are looking to learn photography then the best option would be a full fledged DSLR like the Rebel T7.

What type of camera offers the best image quality?

When limited by a $500 budget, if you are looking for the best image quality then the best camera will be a DSLR. You can easily get a big sensor with great zoom capabilities. It will also allow you to add accessories such as lenses.

What is the best camera to start a YouTube channel?

The best camera to start a YouTube channel will depend on what kind of videos you would like to shoot. If you are planning to travel and create vlogs then I would recommend a compact camera such as the Lumix LX10 or Tough TG-6.

On the other hand, if you are planning to set up a room for recording videos then a DSLR will give you more control and image quality.

Also read: Canon is an excellent brand for anyone looking for a camera. The only brand I would consider as a good alternative is Nikon. Check out the top Nikon Cameras if you would like to see more choices.

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