Best budget cameras under $500 2023: Picks from Canon, Olympus, Sony and more

Female photographer holding one of the best budget cameras inside home office and smiling
(Image credit: Getty)

We've rounded up some of the best budget cameras currently available on the market, so if you're looking to snap up a bargain and bag some genuine quality too, you're in the right place. 

We'll be looking at the best budget cameras for beginners, performance, action, vlogging, everyday use and durability, so whatever your requirements are, you're sure to find a camera that will suit your budget and needs. 

Whether you're wanting to prioritize photography and image taking, learn new styles and photography techniques, or just want something affordable to take on vacation — these best budget cameras are well worth a look-in. Although you may not find models with the same specs as some of the top full-frame models out there, the best budget cameras do a more than adequate job and provide a great platform to build your skills. And besides, the most expensive, all-singing all-dancing camera won't necessarily make you a better photographer. There's plenty of value for money on offer here too as some of the more compact models offer great portability, a few of them offer 4K video capabilities and some feature a few extra accessories, which is always a bonus when you're on a budget. 

If you're looking to bag a bargain, keep reading for our round-up of the best budget cameras below. 


Best budget cameras under $500 2023

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Product photo of the Canon T7/2000D

(Image credit: Amazon)

Canon T7/2000D

Best for beginners: A great starting point for getting into DSLR photography at an affordable price

Specifications

Sensor Format: APS-C
Type: DSLR
Megapixels: 24.1
Autofocus Points: 9
Weight: 1.0lbs
Connectivity: Wi-fi and NFC

Reasons to buy

+
A great beginner option
+
DSLR quality
+
Fits into the Canon ecosystem

Reasons to avoid

-
Older technology
-
Not much room for growth
-
No 4K shooting

If you're just starting out with DSLR photography and on a strict budget, this small camera offers the ideal setup for beginners — although it's showing its age and its specifications don't match up to more expensive DSLRs in Canon's lineup. The good news is that some excellent bundles are available online, with lens and accessory kits thrown in for well below $500. And you know with Canon you're going to get a hardy, reliable camera, perfect for getting to grips with the basics until you're ready to move onto something more advanced.


Product photo of the Sony a6000

(Image credit: Amazon)

Sony A6000

Best for performance: An excellent compact camera setup boasting high-quality Sony technology

Specifications

Sensor Format: APS-C
Type: Mirrorless
Megapixels: 24.3
Autofocus Points: 179
Weight: 0.75lbs
Connectivity: Wi-fi and NFC

Reasons to buy

+
Large Sensor
+
Sony quality
+
Great image quality and color rendition

Reasons to avoid

-
Showing it's age
-
No 4K video
-
ISO performance a little lacking

The Sony A6000 is largely regarded as one of the best compact camera setups you can buy, even the best part of a decade after its release. At the time of writing this model is a little over our $500 limit as the kit linked includes a lens, but the price fluctuates often from retailer to retailer so do keep an eye out for a dip in price!

The A6000 still offers good value for money with Sony's speedy autofocus, excellent handling and fantastic image quality that often punches above its weight. Unlike many contemporaries, it doesn't have 4K video, but if you're a casual stills shooter happy to forgo the latest tech, handling and performance wise the A6000 is still one of the best on the market. 


gopro hero 11 black camera on white background

(Image credit: GoPro)

GoPro Hero 11 Black

Best for action photos: Hear us out, the Hero 11 Black is an excellent option for a wide range of photographers

Specifications

Sensor Format: APS-C
Megapixels: 27
Autofocus Points: N/A
Weight: 154g
Connectivity: Wi-Fi & NFC
Video: 5.3K60, 2.7K240

Reasons to buy

+
Rugged and durable
+
Waterproof to 33ft
+
High-resolution photos

Reasons to avoid

-
Can't be used without a phone setup
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Poor low-light performance
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Reports of overheating

We all know the GoPro brand for its action-camera orientation, but we think that even though the Hero 11 is ever-so-slightly over the $500 budget, the latest in their range is a bit of a steal considering the technology you're getting — plus the fact that it comes as part of a great 50-piece bundle with all the extras and accessories. It has great stabilization, 5K moving footage, and time-lapse options, and it also takes stunning 27MP photos. It's waterproof to 33 feet and built using the brand's famous tough, durable mentality. If you're looking for a lightweight, easy-to-use travel companion, it's well worth a look.


Product photo of the Panasonic Lumix G100

(Image credit: Amazon)

Panasonic Lumix G100

Best for vlogging: Great video recording and portability make this a good blog/vlog option

Specifications

Sensor Format: Micro Four-Thirds
Type: Mirrorless
Megapixels: 20.3
Autofocus Points: 49
Weight: 0.76lbs
Connectivity: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

Reasons to buy

+
Great for content creators
+
Good audio performance
+
Lightweight for it's size

Reasons to avoid

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Slightly limiting four-thirds system
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Max 10-minute recording time in 4K

The real highlight of the Lumix G100 is the 4K video capability, especially for such a compact package. It can shoot 4K at 30FPS, with a 5-axis image stabilization system, making it a great budget option for vloggers and beginner content creators. The built-in audio tracking offers excellent microphone quality, although there's always the option to add external mics for even better sound recording. The micro four-thirds system also has a good selection of small, lightweight, adaptable lenses at a fair price. 

Product photo of the Panasonic Lumix ZS80

(Image credit: Amazon)

Panasonic Lumix ZS80

Best for every-day use: A speedy, usable everyday camera with impressive zoom performance

Specifications

Sensor Format: BSI-CMOS
Type: Compact
Megapixels: 20.3
Autofocus points: NA
Weight: 1.0lbs
Connectivity: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

Reasons to buy

+
Good zoom offering
+
Great for beginners

Reasons to avoid

-
No tilting screen
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Multiple buttons and menus a bit confusing at first

The ZS80 is only a minor improvement to the ZS70 but still packs a punch for the money, is lightweight and easy to use, with a comprehensive UI, excellent responsive touchscreen and has an ergonomically pleasing design, with 4K video recording and a mightily impressive 30x optical zoom. It's a small, lightweight, well-built setup that produces excellent results for everyday usage. 


Product photo of the Olympus Tough TG-6

(Image credit: Amazon)

Olympus Tough TG-6

Best for durability: A rugged, waterproof, durable camera perfect for adventurous families

Specifications

Sensor Format: CMOS
Type: Compact
Megapixels: 12
Autofocus Points: 25
Weight: 0.5lbs
Connectivity: Wi-Fi

Reasons to buy

+
A great starter camera
+
Waterproof
+
4K recording
+
Great for families

Reasons to avoid

-
Low resolution for stills photos

At first glance, the outright specifications of the Tough TG-6 aren't particularly impressive on paper, but when you consider that it has 50 feet of waterproof ability and a rigid shell that can withstand more than 100kg of crushing force, you end up with an intriguing camera that you won't be precious about. 4K movie shooting at 120fps certainly sweetens the deal and five underwater shooting movies provide room for exploration. Great for family vacations when your kids want to take photos on a camera they won't break.


How we test the best budget cameras

When it comes to buying the best cameras and our recommendations for what to buy, we make sure to rigorously review and test each product, so you're guaranteed an honest and up-to-date opinion. We test cameras based on construction, design as well as function and performance in the field.

We also look at how easy each camera is to operate, whether it can shoot high quality images and videos and if a camera has up-to-date technology or not. Sometimes, we like to make suggestions for a suitable alternative to a recommendation and look at any additional kit that would enhance the photography experience. 

We only have expert staff and knowledgeable freelance contributors test out cameras, to ensure a fair, hands-on review from someone experienced in the field. This means that you get an informed and accurate review on cameras including their price point, class and destined use. So, for example, we wouldn't compare a 60MP full-frame mirrorless camera to a little crop-sensor DSLR as it wouldn't be appropriate, even if each camera was the best performing in its class. 

Space.com operates with complete editorial independence to ensure you get the best buying advice on cameras possible. Whether or not you purchase an instrument or not, we strive to make all of our buying guides and reviews reliable and transparent. 

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Jacob Little is a photographer, writer and communications professional based in Bristol and Cornwall. His main inspirations come from outdoor adventure, travel, rural living and wild ways and crafts. Passionate about weaving the core principles of storytelling into his images, he approaches brand and copywriting work in much the same way. Conveying a compelling narrative is one of the main drivers behind much of his work.

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