Best budget cameras under $500 2024: Picks from Canon, Olympus, Sony and more

If you're desperate to get into photography, but don't have a massive budget to drop on your first camera, the best budget cameras in this guide offer a high-quality, low-cost starting point. We don't want you to compromise on performance, so we've rounded up the best budget cameras you can buy right now for $500 or less that meet our high testing standards. We've also compiled a list of of the best beginner cameras for some of the most accessible models.

Unless you're a pro photographer, you're unlikely to need the full range of specs that come with more expensive full-frame cameras. Once you get to know your camera, you can get great results, even when using a cheaper piece of kit. Although the cameras below might not have quite the same extensive capabilities and technology that top-of-the-line premium models do, they're perfect for learning or developing photography skills, no matter your ability. 

If you're not sure what you're looking for yet, see our guides to the best cameras and best mirrorless cameras to read our reviewers' thoughts on some of the latest additions to the market. You can use these guides to discover what makes these cameras good, prioritize what is important to you, and apply your findings when looking for one of the best budget cameras.

Jacob Little author
Jacob Little

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.

The quick list

Skim through our top picks below, or scroll further down to read our full reviews of each product.

The best budget cameras we recommend in 2024

Why you can trust Space.com Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test and review products.

Best overall

Sony A6000

Best overall: 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 its age
-
No 4K video
-
ISO performance a little lacking
Buy it if

✅ You value image quality: This camera offers excellent 24.3MP still images with high levels of color fidelity.

✅ You're looking for quality on a budget: By buying this slightly older model, you can benefit from high-quality Sony technology and reliability without the huge price tag.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You mainly want to shoot video: One of the biggest downsides of this camera is the lack of 4K video, so there are better options out there for videographers.

The bottom line

🔎 Sony A6000: A reliable camera that offers high image quality for those on a budget, but it's not the most up-to-date and the lack of 4K video may be a deal-breaker for some. ★★★★½

If you're after a reliable compact camera, you could do much worse than the Sony A6000. It might be almost ten years old, but it's still widely considered one of the best compact cameras out there. 

Combining great design and handling with superb image quality and autofocus, the A6000 is great value for money. It doesn't have 4K video, but that won't matter if you primarily shoot stills and can do without the latest tech. 

You can bag a used version of this camera for as little as $350 if you're lucky, and package deals, including lenses, are also available. It's worth shopping around to ensure you find the best deal, as the price often changes from retailer to retailer. Amazon has a range of options including lenses and used cameras.

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Test results
AttributesNotes
DesignAPS-C mirrorless camera
PerformanceHigh image quality and great color rendition
FunctionalityLacks 4K video

Best for beginners

Canon T7/2000D

Best for beginners: A great starter DSLR 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
Buy it if

✅ You're looking for your first DSLR camera: This camera is straightforward and easy-to-use for beginners, making it a great entry point into the world of DSLR shooting.

✅ You're on a budget: It's a more affordable and accessible option than the newer DSLR models.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want to shoot high-quality video: Like the Sony A6000, this camera lacks 4K video.

❌ You want a camera you can grow with: While it's a good choice for beginners, you may find yourself needing to upgrade further down the line.

The bottom line

🔎 Canon T7/2000D: An ideal choice for beginners looking for an easy way to get into DSLR photography, but with limited scope for future development. ★★★★

If you're interested in taking up DSLR photography, look no further than the Canon T7/2000D. Intuitive and reliable, this small-budget camera is a great option for beginners. 

It's far from the newest model in Canon's lineup, and it doesn't have all the specs you'll find in more expensive DSLRs, but it's perfectly functional and a good tool to build on your photography skills. With the Canon brand name, you can also rest assured you're getting a durable piece of kit. 

The added benefit of this camera being slightly older is you can now secure great bundle deals online, meaning you can get the camera, a lens, and accessories for under $500. 

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Test results
AttributesNotes
DesignEasy-to-use DSLR camera
PerformanceReliable and durable
FunctionalitySlightly older tech without 4K video

Best for action photos

GoPro Hero 11 Black

Best for action photos: 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
-
Poor low-light performance
-
Reports of overheating
Buy it if

✅ You enjoy outdoor pursuits: The GoPro is unmatched when it comes to sport and action photography. It is waterproof and small enough to mount on your helmet, bike handlebars or even your drone.

✅ You want something light and portable: The GoPro Hero 11 will slip easily into any pocket, making it perfect for taking out and about with you.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You're looking for something more traditional: This is a tiny action camera that works alongside a phone app, so it may not suit photography purists.

The bottom line

🔎 GoPro Hero 11 Black: A tiny and waterproof action camera that offers impressively high image quality for its size. It's perfect for outdoor pursuits, or just as a highly portable camera to take on day trips. ★★★★

GoPro is a household name when it comes to action shooting, known for their high image quality and resilience. Since the Hero 12 Black came out in September 2023, it's become easy to pick up the Hero 11 for around the $300 mark, and we think that the value you get from this little camera is incredible. 

As with all products from GoPro, it's completely waterproof up to 33 feet, and it's built to last, so you can truly take it anywhere on your adventures.

The GoPro Hero 11 Black comes with a 50-piece bundle with loads of accessories including an SD card and various mounts, straps and tripods to capture any live-action moment perfectly. In terms of features, the Hero 11 is a great option — think 5K video, fantastic stabilization, time-lapse options and more. While it's mostly thought of as a video camera, you can shoot 27MP stills as well. 

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Test results
AttributesNotes
DesignWaterproof 27MP action camera
PerformanceCaptures sharp 5K video and high-res photos
FunctionalityComes with a range of mounting accessories

Best for vlogging

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

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

✅ You're a content creator: The Panasonic Lumix G100 is designed specifically with vlogging and content creation in mind, so you won't need additional accessories such as an external mic to make great content.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You need to shoot long-form video: While the 4K video quality is excellent, you are limited to filming 10 minutes at a time.

The bottom line

🔎 Panasonic Lumix G100: This camera puts content creation at your fingertips and comes in several affordable bundles, but you'll need to look elsewhere for shooting videos over 10 minutes. ★★★★

The Panasonic Lumix G100 impresses with its compact design packed with great features. With 4K video capability (although only for 10 minutes) up to 30fps and 5-axis image stabilization system, it's a versatile piece of kit great for budding vloggers and content creators. 

The built-in microphone is of equally high quality, so you don't even need to add an external one to film videos (but the option is there if you need it). The automated selfie mode also makes it easy to shoot videos of yourself while the camera does all the focusing work for you.

To top it all off, you can get fantastic bundle offers on this camera, like this deal at Best Buy which gets you a camera, a lens and a tripod grip for $599.99.

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Test results
AttributesNotes
DesignMicro four-thirds mirrorless camera
Performance4K video with excellent in-built mic
Functionality5-axis image stabilization

Best for everyday use

Panasonic Lumix ZS80

Best for everyday use: An easy-to-use 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
-
Multiple buttons and menus a bit confusing at first
Buy it if

✅ You're looking for something beginner-friendly: This camera should be relatively easy to get the hang of and doesn't require you to buy additional lenses.

✅ You want to shoot photos from a distance: The 30x optical zoom allows you to get right in close to your subjects without sacrificing any image quality.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You're looking to further develop your photography skills: As a compact digital camera, this doesn't have as much scope for honing your skills as a DSLR or mirrorless camera would, so you may outgrow it.

The bottom line

🔎 Panasonic Lumix ZS80: This straightforward camera has an impressive zoom and would be a good choice for beginners or for any other photographer who needs something lighter to carry around with them day-to-day. ★★★★

Another excellent budget buy from Panasonic, the ZS80 is an easy-to-use, lightweight camera with great features. 

It has a pleasing retro design and comes complete with 4K video capabilities and a handy touchscreen that makes it easy to scroll through the various menus. The 30x optical zoom is particularly impressive for a compact digital model. It may well appeal to people like wildlife photographers who want to zoom in close to their subjects without losing image quality in the process. 

Since it fits easily in a pocket, it makes a nifty everyday camera that still produces good-quality results on the go. And for less than $500, you can't ask for much more than that! 

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Test results
AttributesNotes
DesignCompact digital camera
PerformanceOffers 20MP photos and 4K video
Functionality30x optical zoom and touchscreen

Best for durability

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
-
Screen is hard to read in sunlight
Buy it if

✅ You want to take photos in or near water: The Olympus Tough has an even higher waterproofing level than GoPro and is designed to be able to shoot underwater, so it's perfect for watersports or fishing. 

✅ Your kids will want to have a go: This camera can handle being dropped and knocked about.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want top-quality photos: The 12MP photos produced by this camera aren't as good as some of the other offerings on the list, but it's great for 4K video.

The bottom line

🔎 Olympus Tough TG-6: One of the most resilient cameras you can buy, the Olympus Tough will make a nice starter camera for anyone who enjoys outdoor adventures with their family. ★★★★

As its name indicates, the Olympus Tough TG-6 is a great buy for anyone looking for a hardy budget camera due to its ultra-resilient casing.

This camera is waterproof for up to 50 feet (even more than the GoPro Hero 11), shockproof up to seven feet, and its shell can withstand more than 100 kg of crushing force, so you won't have to worry about dropping it or lending it to your kids to try when you're out and about. It can also handle freezing temperatures, so it truly is a camera for any and all weather conditions.

And it's not just impressive in its resistance, either; it offers 4K video shooting at 120fps and five underwater shooting modes, including a neat underwater microscope, so you can capture all your adventures above and below the surface in stunning detail.

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Test results
AttributesNotes
DesignExtremely waterproof and crush-resistant
PerformanceImpressive 4K video at 120fps
FunctionalityUnderwater shooting modes