Last Updated on May 21, 2023 by Photography PX
The fact is, most new cameras are expensive and mostly out of reach for first-timers or budget-conscious photographers. But when starting, affordability is key. And getting a camera at a bargain and a good value is the number one recommendation around.
Thankfully, you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a powerful and capable camera. And with all of the evolution in technology over recent years, even the once flagships of five years ago remain more than capable of delivering stunning images. So if you’re willing to sidestep certain features, you can get such cameras at quite the bargain.
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But there are a lot of budget-friendly cameras and many options fitting the suit. There are also several paths you can take when deciding which is best. And you can either purchase a newer entry-level model or a once flagship now replaced by more advanced models.
Each has its pros and cons. Either way, finding the right camera will require some research. To help in that quest, we’ve created a short guide outlining several tips when looking for a cheap camera. And we’ve also compiled a list of the top ten best cheap cameras on the present market.
10 – GoPro Hero8 Black
GoPro’s Hero8 brings fresh design and more flexibility. It captures 12-megapixel images and 4K 60 FPS and 1080p 240 FPS video. It also has live streaming support, LiveBurst, stabilization, time-lapse, HDR, and wireless connectivity.
With the Hero8, GoPro’s streamlined the design to make it more pocketable, flexible, and durable. And it now offers built-in mounting fingers for hassle-free mounting. This model also was the first to come with expandable mods to enhance its functionality with microphones, displays, and lights. But, the device remains just as robust with 10m of water sealing.
Overall, GoPro Hero8 rethinks the line’s tradition and adds extraordinary capabilities. Despite its age, it’s a strong alternative to their pricier Hero9 and a solid option for adventurer photographers.
9 – Canon G7X II
Canon’s G7X II improves the technical performance of the line. It features a 20.1-megapixel 1-inch sensor and 1080p video up to 60 FPS. It also has a 3-inch tilting touchscreen, stabilization, a built-in ND filter, wireless connectivity, a 2x teleconverter, HDR, and a 24-100mm equivalent lens.
It uses a 31-point autofocus system with Face Detection that’s generally good and dependable across most situations. But, with this model, Canon refined the design, improving the grip, and added a smooth toggle to the front control ring. A subtle addition, but one that provides quick adjustments and tactile feedback for controlling the aperture. With its 4.2x zoom, the camera also provides a longer than average reach for its class. But, crucially, this camera’s supremely easy to use. And it offers an excellent touchscreen interface perfect for beginners yet doesn’t skimp on functionality and manual control for enthusiasts.
Overall, the G7X II delivers a lot of performance for the price. And it’s a strong travel-oriented camera for on-the-go photographers.
8 – Panasonic FZ300
Panasonic’s FZ300 builds upon the successes of its predecessor. It features a 12.1-megapixel 1/2.3-inch sensor, 4K 30 FPS, and 1080p video up to 60 FPS. It also has a 3-inch tilting touchscreen, hybrid stabilization, 4K photo, a microphone input, wireless connectivity, and a 24-600mm equivalent lens.
With this new model, Panasonic improved the camera’s design by adding a tilting display. And it obtains the new Light Speed AF, with DFD technology, doubling the autofocusing performance. But, it maintains its predecessor’s enormous 24x optical zoom lens with impressively bright F/2.8 constant aperture, dramatically improving its low light performance. Yet, you can also step things up to 48x, using the intelligent zoom, doubling its reach. As a bridge camera, the FZ300 offers DSLR-like styling and comfortable ergonomics. But, this new model provides full weather sealing, making it a solid contender for capturing risky sports and wildlife.
Overall, Panasonic’s FZ300 shines as a versatile multimedia camera and a solid all-rounder. It doesn’t blow away rivals with resolving power. But, it makes up for that with an excellent zoom in a well-handling package.
7 – Canon T7
Canon’s T7 continues their popular Rebel series of affordable entry-level DSLRs. It features 24-megapixel APS-C sized sensor, 1080p 30 FPS video, and Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity.
The T7 uses a 9-point autofocusing system with a central cross-type point, which dramatically simplifies selecting the appropriate AF point. And despite its simplicity, this focusing system is precise and works well.
Sure, the T7 is a fairly simple camera and only an incremental update over the T6. Even so, it’s budget-friendly and easy-to-use, making it ideal for first-timers. And it offers the core necessities to capture high-quality images.
6 – Panasonic ZS100 / TZ100
Panasonic’s ZS100 is a powerful, compact, and brings a big zoom to the travel segment. It features a 20.1-megapixel 1-inch sensor, 4K 30 FPS, and 1080p video up to 60 FPS. It also has a 3-inch touchscreen, hybrid stabilization, exposure bracketing, wireless connectivity, and a 25-250mm equivalent lens.
The ZS100 obtains a 49-point Light Speed autofocusing system with DFD technology and Face and Eye-tracking. And it also obtains Panasonic’s helpful 4K photo modes, letting you extract 8.3-megapixel images from a 4K video. But, crucially with this model, Panasonic opted for a much larger 1-inch sensor instead of the typical 1/2.3-inch sensors. And this configuration matches the higher-end FZ1000. But, it dramatically improves the image quality the camera delivers. Additionally, this camera now offers 50 FPS burst shooting using the electronic shutter and a manual design catered towards experienced photographers wanting utmost control.
Overall, Panasonic’s ZS100 is quite an accomplishment. It shines as a travel camera that performs admirably across a wide variety of situations. But one that sits mostly alone with its versatile 10x zoom lens and large 1-inch sensor.
5 – Panasonic GX85
Panasonic’s GX85 is a powerful rangefinder-style mirrorless camera. It features a 16-megapixel micro-four-thirds sized sensor, 4K 30 FPS, and 1080p video up to 60 FPS. It also has a 3-inch tilting touchscreen, image stabilization, multi-exposures, panorama, time-lapse, focus bracketing, USB charging, and wireless connectivity.
The GX85 uses the flagship 49-point autofocusing system from the GH4, with DFD technology for extraordinary point-to-point performance. But, this release also brings Face/Eye detection to the lineup, improving the cameras’ accuracy when capturing portraits. It also obtains the new L Monochrome profile for punchy and realistic black and white images. Plus, it receives Panasonic’s full suite of 4K mode, which captures 8-megapixel stills from a 4K 30 FPS video. Plus, it now also combines a series of images in-camera to change the focus afterwards and shoots a 40 FPS using the electronic shutter. So either way, capturing a fleeting moment is an afterthought here.
Overall, Panasonic’s GX85 is a competent all-rounder that delivers an incredibly diverse feature set that goes above most rivals.
4 – Olympus E-M10 Mark III
Olympus’ E-M10 III is the baby of the OM-D family, but a powerful option that offers similar functions to the more professional models. It features a 16-megapixel micro-four-thirds sized sensor, 4K 30 FPS, and 1080p video up to 60 FPS. It also has a 3-inch tilting touchscreen, image stabilization, panorama, HDR, a 2x teleconverter, and wireless connectivity.
The E-M10 features a 121-point autofocusing system, a substantial improvement over its predecessor. And it also boasts facial priority and Face AF, improving the camera’s accuracy to capture sharp portraits. But, crucially, it offers sensor-based stabilization, rated for 4 stops. And with a steady hand, you can capture sharp images at a 1-second shutter speed. Plus, it also debuts the Advanced Photo mode, which offers several advanced shooting functions from Live Composite, focus bracketing, and multiple exposures.
Overall, Olympus E-M10 III provides exceptional value within the Micro Four Thirds realm. And it blends powerful imaging performance into a small and uniquely attractive package.
3 – Sony A6000
Sony’s a6000 was the hallmark release to kickstart the entire a6000 lineup. It features a 24.3-megapixel APS-C sized sensor and 1080p video up to 60 FPS. It also has a 3-inch tilting LCD, 2x Clear Image Zoom, USB charging, and wireless connectivity.
The a6000 uses Sony’s 179-point hybrid autofocusing system with subject tracking. And at the time of release, it was the world’s fastest performing system and a revolution amongst mirrorless cameras. Its updated processor also helps deliver impressive continuous shooting speeds of 11 FPS, with autofocus tracking, making it a capable option for capturing sports.
Overall, Sony’s a600 offers enough technical ability to meet the needs of a beginning photographer quickly. And despite its age, it remains a popular option for such purposes.
2 – Canon EOS M50
Canon EOS M50 is Canon’s most powerful mid-range mirrorless camera. It features a 24-megapixel APS-C sized sensor, 4K 24 FPS, and 1080p video up to 60 FPS. It also has a 3-inch fully articulating touchscreen, digital stabilization, time-lapse, a microphone input, and wireless connectivity.
The M50 uses a 99-point autofocusing system with Canon’s legendary Dual Pixel AF, providing a similar performance as the acclaimed 80D. And it also offers Eye Detection, significantly improving the camera’s accuracy when shooting portraits. Plus, it debuts the high-speed movie mode so that you can record super-slow-motion videos at 120 FPS.
Overall, Canon’s M50 is the smaller and more affordable 80D. And it was among the most capable options in their EOS M lineup. As such, it represents a budget-friendly way to get features from Canon’s higher-end professional cameras at a fraction of the price.
1 – Nikon D3500
Nikon’s D3500 is the latest release in the popular entry-level D3000 series. It features a 24-megapixel APS-C sized sensor, 1080p video up to 60 FPS, and Bluetooth connectivity.
The D3500 obtains an 11-point autofocusing system with 3D and dynamic tracking from Nikon’s higher-end professional DSLR. And this combination improves the camera’s responsiveness and precision when tracking moving subjects. But, crucially, this is one of a small selection of entry-level DSLRs to drop the anti-aliasing filter surrounding the sensor. Doing so, Nikons dramatically improved the camera’s fine resolving power and image quality, which matches the flagship D500. And with a class-leading battery life of 1,550 shots per charge, you’ll have little difficulty capturing many great images.
Overall, Nikon’s D3500 provides outstanding image quality and power for an entry-level camera. And while it’s simple, it offers beginners a powerful option that remains appropriately affordable.
Why buy a cheap camera?
Affordable cameras are the ideal starting point for beginners or advanced photographers looking for another option on a budget. Most of these cameras feature excellent fully automatic modes, simple-to-use controls, and intuitive menus. As such, they’re a great way to start learning the fundamentals of photography and honing your skills. Or a great way to see if photography is a long-term hobby and future career. And they’re an affordable, safe, and risk-free alternative to do so.
Conversely, they’re a great backup and lightweight carry for existing photographers wanting a second angle without suffering debt to do so. And as a backup camera, you can enjoy capturing more risky shots you wouldn’t dare attempt with your primary camera.
How do I get a good cheap camera?
The easiest way is to be patient and purchase the flagship models of two generations prior. Skip the new models and the hype surrounding them. And wait to see if even the last model becomes discounted or refurbished by the manufacturer. Often, you can find rebates and discounts months following the release of the new camera. So if you don’t mind “older” models, you can save considerable money doing so.
How to choose the best cheap camera
When shopping for this kind of camera, you’ll want to consider the camera’s value. And it’s important to know that cameras below $200 typically don’t match today’s latest smartphones cameras image quality. Instead, their only real value these days is the optical zoom lens they provide. Even so, there’s no point two carrying around two otherwise identical devices producing the same images. It’s also important to know a substantial improvement in image quality and features occurs jumping between cameras of $200 and $300. And these cameras provide more versatility than mid-range smartphones in many ways. As such, cameras around that starting point would be the most affordable options we’d recommend.
From there, consider your needs. Are you looking for a camera that’s beginner-friendly and easy to master? Or are you already a seasoned photographer wanting a more lightweight option? And do you want a more portable fixed lens camera? Or a camera with more flexibility, such as an interchangeable DSLR or mirrorless camera? These questions will be the guiding light to help ensure you find the right camera.
Things to consider with cheap cameras
When it comes to buying inexpensive cameras, don’t worry about the camera’s age and release date. Instead, focus on the features and value it provides, as the reality is you can get once pricey flagships at a fraction merely because of their age. But, that doesn’t negate the fact that they’re still excellent cameras with solid features. And they can easily outperform today’s top flagship smartphones.
But, it’s also important to know that no camera in this price range does it all. And most entry-level budget options will have missing features. So you’ll want to factor in your needs and see which works best given what’s available.
It’s also important to know that some of these budget cameras will lack practical manual control. And if you’re an advanced photographer, you may find controlling the camera manually slightly tedious. You’ll access most of the settings via the menu. And this will slow your workflow.