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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.