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

While you could easily spend more than $1,000 on a high-quality camera, photography doesn't need to be an expensive hobby — and taking one look at a few of the best cheap cameras proves it. You don't need to invest a ludicrous amount of money in photography to test the waters and build on your skills – and you can easily pick up a camera for less than $500, courtesy of our reviewers who have scoured the market looking for the best cheap cameras. 

With Amazon Prime Day coming up too, it's as good an opportunity as ever to do some research into the best cheap cameras. We've rounded a few cameras including compact and mirrorless units as well as DSLR devices — which may be handy depending on your particular needs. You won't need the most premium specs that come with full-frame cameras unless you're a professional. So it makes sense to try things out on a cheaper model before thinking about whether to upgrade.

We recommend checking out our guide to the best beginner cameras for the most straightforward units if you're just starting out — but you should also see our guides to the best cameras and best mirrorless cameras if you've developed your skills and you're ready for the next step. We also have guides to the best zoom lenses and best lenses for astrophotography for those looking to go the extra mile. 

Remember that with Amazon Prime Day coming up in July, you're better off learning about the best cheap cameras now so that when the deals start falling, you're in a great position to snap them up before they expire. As you may know, Prime Day is Amazon's annual major sale, offering big discounts to its Prime members across thousands of products. We saw huge savings last year — bringing the Sony A6600 to under $1000, for example, and you will be well placed to make the most of this year's Prime Day and pick up a cheap camera for even less than usual. 

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 cheap 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

Although the Sony A6000 is around a decade old now, it's still up there as being one of the best compact cameras made. 

This APS-C mirrorless camera combines fantastic design and handling with excellent image quality and a really useful autofocus. At under $500, the A6000 is excellent value for money. While it obviously lacks some features — like 4K video — this won't matter if you're mainly picking up a camera to practice your still image shooting skills and improve on your craft. 

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.

Users love the image quality, ease of use, weight, and autofocus feature, according to Amazon reviews. The battery life leaves something to be desired but at such a low price, it's not usually a dealbreaker.

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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. ★★★★

DSLR photography is still alive and well and you could do much worse than the Canon T7/2000D if you're just starting out. If you are looking for a beginner DSLR camera, this reliable and intuitive unit is a great option — and it's budget-friendly considering you're investing in a good and reliable brand name too.

Although there are newer models to choose from in Canon's lineup, many of which boast better and more sophisticated specs, we'd recommend picking up the Canon T7/2000D if you're looking to make a start and practice different types of shooting. 

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. 

Over 1000 users have rated the Canon T7/2000D a healthy 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon, with 76% of reviewers giving it the full 5 stars. Users like how compact the camera is, also rating the ease of use and picture quality as reasons to buy.

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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. ★★★★

GoPros are well known and well-loved for their versatility and reliability — especially if you're shooting on the move or want to get footage while you're on your latest adventure. Now the Hero 12 Black is out,  you can pick up its predecessor for much less than it originally was — certainly under $300. That's excellent value from a small camera that's perfect for taking action photos.

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 its 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 is a 4K mirrorless camera that's one of the very best for beginners and ideal for content creators or vloggers; it'll prove especially appealing if you can find a good discount on this year's Prime Day. 

These units are fitted with several features that make filming a doddle and will elevate your content creation to new heights. Firstly, it's great to carry around given its lightweight and compact design, and the 5-axis image stabilization system will help keep your footage free from any shaking if you're filming while on the move or just walking. You can also spin the screen fully to take selfies much more easily — and you can also watch yourself while you're recording. The useful automatic face detection also ensures you will always be the main focus in your content. 

You can shoot 20.3MP still images and 4K video at 30fps with this camera, although it's worth noting that video recording is limited to 10 minutes which may be a dealbreaker for some. The Frame Marker helps you mark out your desired aspect ratio for different social media platforms, and it can also work with vertical videos.  

An added bonus is that it comes with high-quality built-in microphone, so you won't even need to add an external mic for filming quick videos on the fly. Keep an eye out for good-value bundles like this one from Best Buy which includes a lens, tripod and grip along with the camera.  

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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. ★★★★

Panasonic's Lumix ZS80 is another fantastic entry and really useful for beginners. This model is small enough to fit in your coat pocket and light enough to take with you without being a burden. It's perfect for any trips you're taking or to pack with you while you're travelling. 

Of course, you won't get as much scope to grow as a DSLR or mirrorless camera — but beginners will appreciate how easy it is to pick up and start using with excellent point-and-shoot functionality. 

The best feature of this camera is undoubtedly its optical zooming capabilities. It comes equipped with a powerful Leica zoom lens offering up to 30x optical zoom and focal lengths between 24mm and 720mm. This will particularly appeal to wildlife photographers who can zoom in close to animals without losing any image quality, or to those looking to capture fine architectural details on their city breaks. 

You can also shoot 4K video and select single frames from recorded video to store as 8MP images — a nifty feature to stop you missing out on those high-speed action shots. We think this is a great feature-packed model for photography newbies on a budget. 

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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. ★★★★

The Olympus Tough TG-6 is a great buy for anyone looking for a highly durable and versatile camera with an ultra-resilient casing at a very decent price.

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.

Over 2000 users on Amazon have given this camera an overall rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars, noting that they like the versatility of the camera, with lots of settings that can be adjusted depending on the sort of image you are trying to capture.

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

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 test and review 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.

Where we haven't personally tested and reviewed a camera, only models that have been carefully researched and approved make the cut. Our experts are keen photographers and won't recommend a product that they themselves wouldn't like to use. With this in mind, we've noted the things we don't like as much, as well as the good aspects of each product, to help you make an informed choice. We also suggest alternatives if what you're reading isn't for you.

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 of 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.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.

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.

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