I believe you will agree with me that it’s really hard to get the best camera but cheap when you are just starting out your photography career or trying to record your best videos.
Even though the prices are continually falling and the quality keeps becoming better, there are still innumerous digital camera options of varying designs and standards.
Because of the many competing brands, it has been very difficult for beginners to find the best one.
So I have come up with this list of 11 best cameras under 500 in 2017 to help you make a better decision. Don’t worry about the price point, technological advancements have allowed the production of cheap digital cameras which are as powerful as the feature-rich options.
I have reviewed topnotch devices under this category to ensure you get the best value for your money.
My review is focused on key specs and styles for this cameras, to help you get the exact device that will solve all your needs. The following is the highlights of the cameras we have reviewed.
Review of 11 Best Cameras Under 500
If you are looking for a good camera with some nice feature and capability when you are completely fresh or want to save a few hundred bucks, then $500 and under is good enough.
Just like many of our camera reviews, this article will help you make the best choice.
I have detailed the key features of the selected cameras so as to save you time and resources. Each of the camera has a unique feature that makes it better, ensure you understand what you want and go for the option that matches your needs best.
You will realize I have made a good mix of mirrorless, DSLR and even point-to-shoot camera so as to give you a wider scope. I believe you will find this review helpful and you will be able to converge to one excellent photographic tool.
1. Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS40S (Best For Travel Photography)
The dominance of canon and Nikon camera has led to the underrating of Panasonic as a brand in photography. But this has not stopped the company from producing versatile range of extremely well-designed and powerful cameras.
In fact if you are searching for a perfect pocket-sized camera which is feature-rich look no further than Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS40S.
This camera supports improved feature control thanks to its lens-mounted control ring. Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS40S stands out because of its deluxe leica 30X (times) super zoom lens which is stabilized to deliver crisper stills and superior HD videos.
Its compatibility into the feature is also awesome because of WI-FI, GPS AND NFC features which allows seamless and easier connection to your mobile or computer devices.
The camera also features a powerful sensor with 18.1MP, exposure and autofocus control functions as well as a wider ISO range. The camera is well-stocked with features that can compete with smartphone camera in the current market.
This camera has received positive reviews in most of the online outlets, and can be categorized as one of the best based on its quality and the value it offers. Most the customer are satisfied with its size and some are even describing it as a computer that takes photographs.
| Tiny and stylish.|
Can record in RAW format
Powerful super zoom lens
| Doesn’t have a separate charger.|
2. Canon Powershot SX720HS (Best For Family, Vacation and Small Parties)
If you are looking for a good camera for family vacations, special moment and parties then this camera offers one of the best options.
Canon Powershot SX720HS features an incredibly versatile 40X (times) optical zoom lens (24-960mm), which helps you to capture crisper close-up portraits for all your special moments. Its DIGIC6 image processor combines perfectly with the 20.3MP sensor to deliver stunning images and quality full HD videos.
What fascinates most about this camera is the way it automatically compiles a small highlight reel of all the images and videos taken in the day giving you the freedom to enjoy a short story of your best moments.
Because of its CMOS sensor this camera is able to work well under lowlight conditions. It also features an intelligent image stabilization for perfect stills and quality videos shooting. You will be able to familiarize with this camera thanks to its fixed 3-inch LCD which allows easier use.
If you like sharing and uploading videos, you will find great comfort using this camera because it has both WI-FI and NFC connections.
Canon powershot SX720HS is the perfect choice for anyone looking for a compact and lightweight camera. In fact most of its customers have found this device to be the best in terms of zoom power and design. Most of them are happy with the value it offers, with its ability to capture and share quality photos earning rave reviews.
| DIGIC6 image processor.|
Built-in WI-FI and NFC technology.
Supports remote shooting.
High-sensitivity CMOS sensor.
| Lack an eye-level viewfinder.|
3. Nikon 1 J5 Mirrorless Camera (Best For Pre-game Portraits, On Field Close-ups)
Despite being less aggressive in the number of mirrorless camera they offer, Nikon has done a commendable job on this one.
The Nikon 1 J5 is notable amongst the crowd for its improved ergonomic and fast shooting speed. This camera is masterfully designed to offer an incredible combination of portability, image quality, versatility and creativity.
The camera is small enough to be carried in any outing and its performance in low-light can only be rivaled be few compact cameras in the market.
It’s also capable of capturing images accurately thanks to the cutting-edge AF system and its easy-to-use 1800 tilting touchscreen. With the 20.1MP, this device captures images in dazzling resolution and its BSI image processor enables faster shutter speed.
Nikon 1 J5 utilizes the new EXPEED 5A image processor technology to give every photo a smooth tone, rich color and crisper details. The device allows you to shoot at an ISO range of up to 12,800 without making a lot of noise.
It’s easy to see why most of the customers for this camera are exceedingly happy. This amazing little gem offer great value for every penny spent and its improved ergonomics leaves a lot to be desired.
| Very versatile and fast in capturing images.|
EXPEED 5A image processing.
WI-FI and NFC connectivity.
Creative control and outstanding handling.
| Smaller image sensor.|
4. Sony DSC-RX 100/B ( Entry-level Photographers and Enthusiasts)
Sony DSC-RX 100/B is a terrific camera that’s is liked by many professionals and enthusiasts for its sleek design.
This camera is a force to reckon with in this category because it’s highly durable and lightweight. It feature a 20.2MP exmor 1” CMOS sensor which is capable of capturing quality images with stunning details.
The highlight for this classy camera is the use of the fast Carl zeiss lens which is able to deliver refined background. This camera also allows you the freedom to save your images in high-quality RAW format, compact JPEG or even both at the same time. Talk of video capture, Sony DSC-RX 100/B creates extra-smooth and clear full HD videos.
This devices is also highly sensitive with an ISO range 125-6400, this means you can be able to shoot in nearly all light condition. The best thing is the auto ISO mode is able to automatically determine the right setting. As though that’s not enough, the ISO range can be expanded manually thanks to its complete creative control.
Most of the online customer are happy about the size of this camera with some describing it as the complete state-of –the-art pocket camera. It’s difficult to fault this little camera and that’s why it has impressed all even the pros in the industry.
| Customizable function button.|
High speed auto focus.
Multi-frame noise reduction.
Features a memory recall mode.
Has an optical steadyshot for blur-free videos.
| Doesn’t have an electronic viewfinder.|
5. Canon Powershot G9X (Best For Travel Photography)
Canon powershot G9X is one of the simplest camera in terms of features.
This is a lightweight, ultra-slim and pocket-size camera that can be comfortably carried everywhere. It features a 20.2MP CMOS sensor which combines perfectly with its DIGIC6 image processor for a faster operation and stunning image quality. Its intuitive LCD touchscreen has an improved user interface for easier and quicker settings changes.
This device is capable of performing well even in low-light thanks to its sensitive ISO range of up to 12800.
It also captures full HD videos which can be conveniently played back on HDTV through its HDMI output. If you like sharing videos and images worry not, this camera has built-in WI-FI and NFC for easier connection with tablets and smart phones.
When all these features are combined with its extended zoom range, they make Canon powershot G9X the complete travel camera.
All the online outlets you will find most customer giving positive reviews about this camera. Most of the customers are happy with the way it combines great features in its small package. The only downside to this photographic tool is its comparatively smaller sensor, otherwise it’s faultless.
| Intuitive controls.|
Lightweight and ultra-slim.
Built-in WI-FI and NFC.
DIGIC6 image processor.
Fast continuous shooting.
| Smaller sensor size.|
6. Sony Alpha a5000 (Best For Personal Photos and Movies)
Mirrorless cameras are fast becoming serious competitors to all the DSLR camera. In fact the improvement they have recorded is almost convincing the public that they are already versatile and powerful enough.
This is the case for Sony alpha a5000, it features every advantage you would want in a DSLR in its point-to-shoot compact design.
Its 20.1 MP exmor APS-C sensor has the capability to capture all your special moments in incredible details. The camera also captures full HD movie in stunning 1920 by 1080 resolution, all this can be done at a choice of cinematic 24p fps or the standard 60i.
If you fancy shooting your children at play or sports then you will be fascinated by its 4fps. This camera is suitable for both professional and enthusiasts thanks to its well-articulated controls. Its LCD touchscreen can tilt by 1800, a feature that makes taking photo and selfies look very easy.
If you like sharing photos and videos this camera will aid your desires thanks to its WI-FI and NFC connectivity. The camera is also highly compatible with the PlayMemory apps. This app helps you to personalize your device by adding features of your choice.
This camera has many fascinating features and this has been the reason it’s widely accepted as the best point-to-shoot. Most of the people who have bought or used are happy with what it offers.
| Has a flip-out screen for m WI-FI and NFC connection.|
Built-in pop-up flash.
Tiltable LCD touchscreen.
Has a hand-held twilight mode
| Lacks an electronic viewfinder.|
7. Nikon D3200 (Best For Hobby Photography)
If you are looking to have fantastic times doing photography as a hobby or as a profession then this is the best camera to get you started.
The camera features a whopping 24.2MP resolution CMOS sensor packed in light and small body. The camera offers the best value of any DSLR camera under this category.
It not easy to find a camera in this category possessing key features like the movie flip-out screed and in-built HDR, but this little buddy offers both.
You may be tempted to think the camera is wrongly placed due to the features which matches some of the high-end devices. This device has menu guides that will help you to get through all shooting scenarios easily. Actually it’s one of the most user friendly DSLR, making it perfect for beginners.
It capture quality images in both JPEG and RAW format, and its capability to record full HD videos makes it a near perfect devices. The camera also features a special button dedicated to point-to-shoot recording, for the more advanced users there is a manual control.
The camera has been widely accepted and this can be attested by the number of positive reviews it’s receiving around the web.
| Has a flip-out screen for movies.|
Capable of recording in both JPEG and RAW format.
Avails manual control for the advanced users.
| No touchscreen.|
8. Canon EOS rebel SL1 (Best For Daily Walk-around)
Canon EOS rebel SL1 will offer you the similar image quality like the one its high-end counterparts offer.
This is one of the smallest DSLR camera in the canon line-up and it offer the best value for your money. The two most fascinating features of this camera is its low weight and compact size.
It has a 24.2MP, CMOS (APS-C) sensor which combines perfectly with its wide ISO range 100-6400 to produce stunning images and aid recording of full HD 1080p videos. This aspects combines perfectly with the DIGIC6 image processor to help the camera work faster. It is also equipped with a high-speed continuous shooting to ensure you never miss any of your special moments.
The camera has slower autofocus with fewer fps but makes up for this flaws by offering irresistible image quality. This, coupled with its lightweight package makes it the perfect everyday walk-around camera.
It’s fun and intuitive touchscreen allows quicker accessibility to settings when needed. This LCD is sharp, responsive and bright, delivering clear and accurate color at ease.
The camera has claimed its position as the best compact and lightweight DSLR in the market. This fact is evidence by the many positive reviews it has received around the web. The only drawback is its slower autofocus and compatibility to fewer lenses.
| Lightweight and compact.|
3-inch clear view touchscreen.
High-speed continuous shooting.
High image processing speed (DIGIC6 PROCESSOR).
| Slower autofocus.
Few frames per second.
9. Olympus PEN E-PL6 (Professional Photography)
I cannot fathom how a camera of this caliber is still available at this price range.
It’s the cheapest of all the micro four thirds available in the market and offer the best image quality amongst its competition. The camera has an optimized 16.1MP live CMOS sensor that maximizes its performance in any shooting or light condition.
This device allows you to shoot at maximum aperture even in high-light condition thanks to ISO range and superior shutter speed. This Olympus PEN camera has a special truepic VI processor which features a real color technology for better color gradation and reproduction. This technology also offer greater recovery time when taking shots allowing you the freedom to capture all your moments.
You will also be able to easily take selfies because of the 1700 degrees tiltable touchscreen. Focusing off-center is now easier and faster thanks to its quick touch focusing. With this camera, you will also say goodbye to all blurry images as its 3 axis image stabilization is top notch.
You can join the happy global customers by acquiring this device. Most of them are happy with the great value offered by the camera at such a reasonable price.
| 1700 degrees tiltable touchscreen.|
3-axis image stabilization.
Has a faster image processor
Longer battery life.
| Very light on some key features.|
10. Olympus TG-4 (Best For Underwater Filming)
Do you like shooting underwater and want a waterproof camera?
Then getting the Olympus TG-4 is inevitable. This device can be used underwater up to the depth of about 15 meters and still perform better than using the point-to-shoot in their water proof cases.
The combination of features of this camera is unmatched, first this rugged device allows you to shoot in RAW format. Then its 16.1 MP BSI CMOS sensor combines well with its TRUE PIC VII image processor to deliver images with crisper details and bright colors.
Shooting underwater is always challenging but you can ease all that pressure with the aid F2.0 high-speed lens. This enables you to work optimally but capturing blur-free shots in this challenging environment. If you like sharing photos and video, you will find ease of use with this device thanks to its WI-FI connectivity.
This camera is liked by customer who love to take action shots in challenging environments. All around the web positive reviews keep flowing thanks to the value offered by this pretty cool device.
| Has powerful macro modes.|
Superior rugged technology for adaptability in all conditions.
Ability to capture in RAW format.
F2.0 high-speed lens
| Image quality is not on par with other underwater cameras.|
11. Canon EOS M10
If you are looking for a compact camera for personal or professional use, you can check Canon EOS M10. The unique design and features of this camera make it ultra-simple for you to capture great photos and videos.
The build quality of great, something you can expect from a reputed brand like canon. Though this camera is made of plastic, it feels sturdy. However, let us mention here that it is not waterproof.
Another feature of Canon EOS M10 worth a mention is its new kit lens. Though EOS M10’s body is much petite, the lens is lighter and smaller.
It has a collapsible design, which means you can easily pack it in your travel bag without occupying much of a space. Also, it weighs just 150 grams making it a perfect companion while traveling through a challenging terrain.
It has a 15-45 mm focal length, which, we feel, is quite acceptable for landscapes, street photography, and portraits.
Contrary to what you would expect from a basic kit lens, this camera is not particularly fast. It offers a maximum aperture of f3.5-6.3.
It provides 3.5 stops for the optical image stabilization and has a decent lower-light handheld lens. These features will allow you to keep the shutter open a bit longer without making your images unclear or blurry.
Another feature we really liked about this camera is its screen turns back in a full 180-degree angle on a single hinge. We feel this is a great benefit for you if you love to capture lots of selfies. It also auto-switches to a selfie mode when you twist the screen around toward the right position.
Now, talking about resolution, we must admit we are quite impressed. It offers an 18-megapixel “fixes” the pitfalls in the AF performance.
In terms of image quality and clarity, you can trust Canon EOS M10. It has an 18-megapixel APS-C sensor that will enhance the quality of photos and videos. We found the clarity almost comparable to what you can achieve with the DSLR-cameras.
The processing brain of this camera is a DIGIC 6 that lets it shoot at 4.6fps. With Wi-Fi and NFC on-board, it makes up for a great camera for a range of purposes including vlogging, traveling, and capturing Instagram photos.
Looking at the customer reviews, Canon EOS M10 seems to be a great choice for both personal and professional users. The reviews are encouraging and express satisfaction.
We feel Canon EOS M10 is a great camera to have for beginners as it offers an all-around package at a competitive price of less than $500.
Things we liked
- Compact design
- 49-point phase-detection system
- 18-megapixel APS-C sensor
- Wi-Fi and NFC
Things we didn’t like
- It is not waterproof
There are so many choices when it comes to selecting the best camera under $500.
Making an informed decision will require you to consider all your need and research extensively to find your perfect match. This can only happen if you are aware of the key features to look for in a good camera under this category.
But before then you should be able to differentiate between point-to-shoot, DSLR and mirrorless cameras.
- Point-to-shoot cameras
These cameras have smaller image sensors, attached zoom lens and some other key camera features like WI-FI connection. They are most preferred by beginners because they are very easy to use.
- DSLR cameras
The digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras combines the mechanism and optics of SLR with superior digital image sensor instead of a photographic film. This makes this camera the best for many enthusiast and professionals.
- Mirrorless camera
This is a new breed of cameras in the market. They present a more compact form and a DSLR-like image sensor in one package. This cameras offer great flexibility because of their interchangeable lens.
The following are some of the key feature you should check before buying a camera in this category.
- Get a camera with the capability to shoot 1080p video, keep in mind that it’s difficult to get one with 4K video capability in this category.
- The best camera should have a burst rate of at least 3 to 5 fps.
- It would be perfect to select a camera with a tiltable touchscreen.
- Due to technological advancement, the best camera in this category would probably have an electronic viewfinder.
What to choose – Interchangeable or fixed lens?
After knowing the difference between point-to-shoot, DSLR and mirrorless cameras, the next thing to know is what lens to choose – interchangeable or fixed lens.
1. Interchangeable Lens
Flexibility-wise, nothing can compare with interchangeable lenses. This is because it helps the photographers/videographers to achieve the effect and style they want.
There are wide varieties of lenses available and some of the options you have are wide-angle, telephoto, micro, and fisheye lenses. Each type of the lens has different effects on every camera model and brand. So to ensure the compatibility between the lens and your camera, always check your camera specifications.
2. Fixed Lens
The interchangeable lens may be helpful, but changing lenses every time can be stressful. This is the reason many still choose fixed lens cameras instead of DSLR cameras.
Well, what’s not to like? It’s light, portable and reliable. Traveling light made easier with this camera on-hand.
It may have some limitation, but these limitations can turn into a good challenge for every photographer to be more creative and strategic.
Note: Interchangeable and fixed lens both produces high-resolution image quality. So, whichever you choose, you’ll still end up getting the shot you wanted.
What is the difference between sensor size and megapixels (MP)?
This is one of the most frequently asked question. You should know that, despite being heavily advertised the megapixel of your camera has less impact on the quality of image produced.
Then, know that sensor size dictates the surface area the camera uses to collect light and other important details of digital photographs. On the other hand pixels are the tiny dots that are found on the camera sensor.
Taking all features into consideration I appreciate the fact that every camera has a highlight and a minor drawback. That’s nature!
However, for the best camera under 500 2017 I’d recommend the Sony alpha a5000 as the best device out the list.
- First, the camera has a tiltable touchscreen which goes well with selfie lovers and it WI-FI connectivity supports instant sharing.
- Secondly, the camera has a built-in pop-up flash and is able to capture full HD movies in both cinematic mode and standard 6i. We cannot fail to mention its fast continuous shooting speed of up to 3.5fps.
- Finally you can be able to personalize your device by adding more feature from the PlayMemory camera apps.
All these features, combined with its lightweight and compact design makes it a near perfect device for this category.
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