Best cameras under $500: the biggest bargains in the camera world

Looking for the best cameras under $500? We’ve rounded up all the biggest deals in the camera world in this regularly updated guide – so whether you’re looking for a DSLR, compact vlogging camera or something just for instant print, you’ll find the best option for you.

It wasn’t that long ago that you had to spend close to $1,000 to get a camera that offered a noticeable step up from a smartphone. But after a few significant leaps in camera technology, the high-end features of previous flagship cameras have undercut the entry-level options you can pick up for less than $500.

There’s also the option to buy older flagship cameras at a discount, many of which were ‘Camera of the Year’ award winners when they were first released. For example, you can find the Sony RX100 III and Nikon D3500 in our guide below. Top camera models like this one from a few years back still offer amazing specifications and build quality.

Whatever your reason for arriving in this round-up, we’ve got you covered with a diverse list of the best cameras under $500. Each camera on our list has been selected on the basis of its combination of specifications, utility, system and features. We’ve included models aimed at beginners, as well as some high-end options that deliver pro performance.

Each camera on this list is a great snapper in its own right and will help you get the most from capturing your photos and videos. So whatever your visual needs, here’s our list of the best cameras you can buy under $500.

  • Best mirrorless cameras: 10 top models to suit every budget
  • Best cameras 2021: 18 best cameras you can buy right now

Best cameras under $500 in 2021:

1. Canon EOS Rebel T7/2000D

A great value DSLR that is ideal for beginners

Sensor Size: APS C
Resolution: 24.1MP
Viewfinder: Optical with LED Overlay
Monitor: 3.0-inch fixed screen, 921K dots
Autofocus: 9-point AF
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 3 fps (full resolution)
Movies: Full HD/30p
user level: beginners
reasons to buy
+ easy to use + quick autofocus for photography + share on mobile via wifi+ Good battery (rated for 500 shots)
reason to escape
no 4K video Dated display with no touch functionality

Canon’s entry-level DSLR cameras are renowned for their ease of use. They opt for simplified control layouts and an easy-to-follow, color-coded menu system. The EOS Rebel T7 (or 2000D as it’s known outside the US) continues the trend while still packing a punch, featuring a larger 24.1MP sensor and a 9-point, phase-detection autofocusing system.

This might seem a bit underwhelming considering the resolution and focusing capabilities of many of today’s smartphones. However, the 2000D’s APS-C sized sensor gives it the edge when it comes to capturing detail. What’s more, this Canon DSLR benefits from thousands of lens options compatible with the Canon EF-S mount, including Canon’s full-frame lenses. Intelligent lens investing will help you build a collection of glass that can last a lifetime.

Being lightweight and compact is another bonus, as it makes it easy to travel with the Rebel T7/2000D. It has a nice ergonomic grip with rubberized sections and a clear button layout. We’d love to see a flip-out or articulated screen here, but the 2000D offers a bright 3.0-inch fixed display for composing still images. Video recording is limited to Full HD, which may disappoint some. But it does offer some modern features such as smartphone pairing via NFC and WiFi to transfer photos easily to the phone and printer.

read our in depth Canon EOS 2000D Review

2. Canon G9X Mark II

Produces stylish and beautiful JPEG

Sensor Size: 1 inch
Resolution: 20.1MP
Viewfinder: n/a
Monitor: 3.0-inch fixed touchscreen, 1,040K dots
Autofocus: 31-point AF
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 8.2fps (full resolution)
Movies: Full HD/60p
user level: beginner/intermediate
reasons to buy
+Stylish and slim design+responsive touch screen+WiFi, Bluetooth and NFC+Built in three-stop ND filter
reason to escape
no 4K videosome physical control

The Canon G9X Mark II is a great, stylish and pocketable point-and-shoot with a 20.1MP 1-inch sensor. If you want something highly portable that takes better pictures than your smartphone without any hassles, then this could be the best camera for you.

First of all, this is a great looking camera. The G9X II grabs attention with its sleek metal body and tan-colored wrap. The milled lens ring and dial with anodized red key flash around the controls also give it a classy feel. With its 28-84mm f/2-4.9 zoom lens, the G9X II is only 31mm thick. As one of the thinnest cameras of this type, the G9X II is ideal for pockets, purses, and shoulder bags.

Its menu system is accessible and straightforward too. Most exposure adjustments are made using the touchscreen on the rear or the control ring located around the camera lens. All settings can be changed manually, but you can also get pleasant results straight from the camera shooting on auto. The G9X II offers Raw shooting and in-camera Raw processing for those who want to make finer adjustments.

Our favorite feature is this camera’s three-stop ND (neutral density) filter, which is built into the lens. It can be engaged manually or automatically and enables you to use a wide aperture in bright light. The advantage of this is that the camera will allow you to capture more attractive images with more background blur on bright days. It can also help in delivering smooth motion while recording Full HD videos. The only real regret here is that the G9X II doesn’t capture 4K video. But for the more photo-focused among us, it ticks most of the important boxes.

read our in depth Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II Review

3. DSC M100

An Impressive, Compact Option for a DSLR

Sensor Size: APS C
Resolution: 24.2MP
Viewfinder: n/a
Monitor: 3.0-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,040K dots
Autofocus: 49-point dual pixel on-sensor AF
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 6.1 fps
Movies: Full HD/60p
user level: beginner/intermediate
reasons to buy
+ fast autofocus system + Compact and Lightweight + responsive touchscreen + great image quality
reason to escape
poor ergonomics no viewfinder support

Compact and lightweight, the Canon M100 neatly bridges the gap between a smartphone and a DSLR. Thanks to Canon’s fast Dual Pixel autofocusing and some responsive touchscreen controls, the M100 makes it easy to capture moments on-the-fly.

The M100 has a large 24.2MP APS-C sensor and uses Canon’s Digic 7 image processor, which delivers great image quality in a wide variety of conditions. The processor makes it possible for the M100 to capture images in continuous bursts of up to 6.1fps, which is great for freezing action. With an ISO range of 100-25,600 and raw shooting capabilities, it delivers better low-light performance than most smartphones and many other cameras with smaller sensors.

Whether you’re looking to take street photography, travel, or explore wildlife, the M100’s portable size, and interchangeable lens system make it a versatile camera to carry around. As a small mirrorless camera, the M100 is compatible with similarly lightweight Canon’s EF-M lenses. There are only eight native EF-M lenses in total, but it’s possible to use thousands of EF mount lenses on the M100 with the Canon EF-EOS M Mount Adapter.

read our in depth Canon EOS M100 Review

4. Panasonic Lumix TZ100 / ZS100

A Pocket Travel Zoom Champion

Sensor Size: 1 inch
Resolution: 24.1MP
Viewfinder: 0.20in 1,166K Dots
Monitor: 3.0-inch fixed touchscreen, 1,040K dots
Autofocus: 49-point DFD autofocus
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 10fps (Single AF)
Movies: 4K / 25p
user level: enthusiast
reasons to buy
+ amazing image quality + 10x optical zoom lens + fits easily in pocket
reason to escape
fixed rear screen limited control

Panasonic single-handedly invented the Pocket Travel Zoom category with this category of cameras. Although the Lumix TZ100 is only a few years old, it still holds its own compared to the competition.

Housing a capable 20.1MP 1-inch sensor and weighing just 312g, the TZ100 is a camera that slips easily into a pocket. Having a companion camera that offers 10x optical zoom, while only taking up as much space as the five stacked iPhone 12 Mini, is also a huge advantage.

The TZ100’s motorized zoom Leica DC Elmarit lens offers a 25-250mm equivalent focal range with f/2.8-f/5.9 variable aperture. The maximum aperture range may seem a bit low at f/2.8, but it still delivers beautiful out-of-focus highlights, sharp details, and rich tones in good lighting.

Despite its small size, Panasonic has managed to include a live viewfinder on the TZ100’s left shoulder. It’s a fairly small display at just 0.20in, but it manages to provide a great alternative option for composing images in direct sunlight. It’s also handy for capturing pictures in a more stable position with the camera held close to your eyes.

However, being super compact also comes with some sacrifices. The TZ100’s 3-inch rear touchscreen is stable and controls are a bit limited due to the lack of space around the body. Still, even though it was released almost five years ago, the TZ100 offers 4K/25p-video recording. It also includes 4K photo mode, which captures up to 30 frames per second for a maximum of 15 minutes. You can then scrub back through the footage and extract an 8MP JPEG from the video clip. This can be a great tool especially for capturing difficult or fast-moving subjects.

read our in depth Panasonic Lumix ZS100/TZ100 Review

5. Fujifilm Instax Mini 40


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