The mirrorless revolution has dominated the recent consumer market of digital cameras. With the amount of fierce competition on the market, prices for the older models remain very low. And today, there are more affordable options than ever before. And even if you’re a beginner who lacks the budget for the latest and greatest camera, the reality is even these “old” cameras remain more than able to meet your needs.
And, frankly, in most circumstances, they’re better investments to see if you’ll enjoy photography or videography long-term. With that, here’s the list of the top ten most affordable mirrorless cameras under $500 to get you started with confidence.
10 – Sony a5100
The Sony a5100 is Sony’s latest a5000 series camera that takes much of the core technologies from their higher-end a6000 series, packed into a budget-friendly package. But, in many ways, it’s even better than its bigger brother, the a6000. Initially released in fall 2014, it features a 24.3-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, Bionz X image processor, 1080p video up to 60 fps, a 3-inch 180° flipping touchscreen, USB charging, and wireless connectivity.
It uses a 179-point phase-detection system for strong continuous autofocusing performance. Its battery life is excellent for this class, delivering 400 shots per charge and 75 minutes of video recording. Unlike its competition, it provides a physical zoom lever for smooth and cinematic zooms when filming. And it also has an uncommon feature in this class called Dual Recording. This feature simultaneously records both a high-quality and low-quality video, allowing for immediate sharing online while maintaining the higher-quality video for post-production use.
Overall, the Sony a5100 is a simple camera for those looking for ease of use with strong autofocusing performance.
9 – Fujifilm XA5
The Fujifilm X-A5 belongs to Fujifilm’s entry-level range, aimed to sway beginners, socialites, and vloggers looking for an upgrade in image quality over their smartphones. Initially released in the fall of 2018, it features a 24.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, the X-Processor Pro Image Processor, 4K video up to 15 fps, 1080p video up to 60 fps, a 3-inch 180° flip touchscreen, and wireless connectivity.
It uses a 91-point Hybrid AF system, which now provides phase-detection for better subject tracking performance than the predecessor. Battery life is excellent, Fujifilm rates the camera to provide 450 shots per charge and 100 minutes of video recording. Outside of that, it also features 6 fps continuous shooting, dual control dials, a built-in flash, a microphone input, timelapse, USB charging, Selfie Mode, Portrait Enhancer, and Multi Focus. It even obtains Fujifilm’s acclaimed Film Simulation modes to emulate classic film stock for images that set it apart from the competition.
Overall, the X-A5 is one of Fujifilm’s smallest and lightest releases to date. But even with its size, it still provides Fujifilm’s timeless classic design, retro appeal, and a strong feature set. Its straightforward interface and friendly controls make it perfect for beginners, Instagram, and lifestyle shooters looking for a step up in quality over their smartphone.
8 – Olympus E-P5
The Olympus PEN E-P5 is another hit installment into the Olympus entry-level lineup of PEN cameras, replacing the E-P3. It features many of the same core features from the higher-end E-M5, the Olympus flagship camera at the time, but at a price tag better suited to new users. Initially released in the summer of 2013, it features a 16.1-megapixel Live MOS Micro-Four-Thirds sensor, the TruePic VI processor, 1080p video up to 30 fps, a 3-inch tilting touchscreen, and wireless connectivity.
It obtains the same 35-point contrast-detect autofocus system as the E-M5, with performance optimizations and touch AF functionality. And it delivers a respectable battery life of 330 shots per charge. Outside of that, it also features image stabilization, 9 fps continuous burst, a built-in flash, dual control dials, timelapse, multi-exposure, HDR, Live Guide, 12 Art filters, and Photo Story.
Overall, the E-P5 receives the same image quality, autofocusing, and stabilization system from the higher-end E-M5. However, it brings along updated features, broadening the existing set, along with a more streamlined and compact design, creating a unique entry into the company’s lineup. And it’s a handsome and high-performing camera that follows the original PEN F nostalgia. It’s a compelling mix between old and new, fusing retro design with 21st-century capabilities. But, one that hasn’t cut any corners while downsizing. Its strengths make it an excellent and versatile option and the perfect fit for both novices and advanced shooters alike.
7 – Canon EOS M100
The Canon EOS M100 is Canon’s entry-level APS-C mirrorless camera, which replaces the two-year-old M10. And unlike the EOS M6, this is the camera they aim squarely at the entry-level market and beginning photographers looking to upgrade over their smartphones. Initially released in the fall of 2017, it features a 24.2-megapixel CMOS sensor, the Digic 7 processor, 1080p video up to 60 fps, a 3.0-inch 180° flip touchscreen, and wireless connectivity.
It uses a similar 49-point autofocusing system as the M6. And it too features Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF for smooth and confident subject tracking performance. And like the M6, the battery life is also slightly below average, at only 295 shots per charge. However, Canon has provided an Eco mode, which increases the lifespan to 410 shots and 80 minutes of video recording. Outside of this, it also features electronic stabilization for video recording, a built-in flash, time-lapse movies, and 6.1 fps burst shooting.
Overall, the M100 is an excellent, low-cost camera that matches the profile of a point & shoot, but with the benefit of interchangeable lenses. While it’s a simpler camera than the M6, underneath sits much of the same advanced technologies. The result is a capable and versatile platform perfect for beginners. And its simple and easily mastered interface makes a better alternative to the pricier M50.
6 – Olympus E-PL8
The Olympus E-PL8 is another installment into the company’s popular PEN series of entry-level cameras. With this release, Olympus has updated the camera with cleaner lines but keeps the familiar control set from earlier models. And it’s sleek and updated body creates an attractive option for novice photographers. Initially released in the fall of 2016, it features a 16.1-megapixel Live MOS Micro-Four-Thirds sensor, the TruePic VII processor, 1080p video up to 30 fps, a 3-inch tilting touchscreen, and wireless connectivity.
It uses a similar 35-point contrast-detect AF system as the E-M5. It provides a respectable battery life of 330 shots per charge and 90 minutes of video. Outside of this, it also features image stabilization, 10 fps burst shooting, a built-in flash, dual control dials, HDR, timelapse, live composite, and multi-exposure.
Overall, the E-PL8 is a stylish camera with features ideal for those looking for excellent image quality with rangefinder controls in an affordable, compact body.
5 – Fujifilm X-T100
The Fujifilm X-T100 is a new series from Fujifilm’s and their cheapest X-Series camera with an electronic viewfinder. At its core, it shares many of the core features as the X-A5, bridging the gap between it and the higher-end X-T20. Initially released in the summer of 2018, it features a 24.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, the X-Processor 4 image processor, 4K video up to 15 fps, 1080p video up to 60 fps, a 3.0 three-way touchscreen, and wireless connectivity.
Like the X-A5, it also features a 91-point Hybrid autofocus system for added subject tracking and face tracking performance. Battery life is also good, Fujifilm rates the camera to provide 430 shots per charge or 90 minutes of video. Outside of that, it also features 6 fps burst shooting, dual control dials, built-in flash, an electronic viewfinder, 11 film simulations, Multi Focus, 4K burst, USB charging, time-lapse, RAW conversion, a microphone input.
Overall, the X-T100 provides a similar shooting experience as the higher-end X-T20 with a far superior build over X-A5. While both cameras share the same guts, it’s unique three-way LCD design and viewfinder allow it to sit slightly higher in Fujifilm’s range. And it’s an eye-catching classically SLR-styled camera that provides a feeling of solidity, that’ll turn heads. And it’s the perfect camera for enthusiasts looking to boast a more premium build quality and a higher degree of control over other more basic entry-level cameras.
4 – Olympus OM-D E-M10 II
The Olympus E-M10 Mark II is a retro-designed, yet functional camera that’s reminiscent of the OLD OM-D film cameras. And it’s the follow-up to the company’s original entry-level E-M10. Olympus has fitted the camera with the best features from its more expensive counterparts, namely the E-M5 Mark II, into a more affordable body. Initially released in the spring of 2014, it features a 16-megapixel Live MOS Micro-Four-Thirds sensor, TruePic VIII processor, 1080p video up to 60 fps, a 3-inch tilting touchscreen, and wireless connectivity.
It uses an 81-point hybrid autofocusing system, melding both contrast-detection and phase-detection together. Battery life is good, it delivers 320 shots per charge, and it also features a sleep mode, extending the battery life to a whopping 750 shots per charge. Outside of this, it also features image stabilization, 8.5 fps burst shooting, a built-in flash, an electronic viewfinder, dual control dials, 4K time-lapse, Photo Story, focus bracketing, HDR, and Live Composite.
Overall, the E-M10 Mark II obtains a competitive feature set from its more expensive siblings at a price point that’s hard to bargain. And it provides quite the combination that other cameras can’t easily match, most notably its large feature set and attractive design. Not to mention, it also offers unparalleled customization and the best in its class. It’s a classic look with modern innovation, that’s perfect for those looking for a stylish, yet capable, photography-centric camera.
3 – Canon EOS M6
The Canon EOS M6 joins alongside the M5 as the more affordable offering the EOS M lineup. In features, it’s largely identical to the M5, with the main difference being it lacks an electronic viewfinder, and it’s slightly more compact. Initially released in the spring of 2017, it features a 24.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, the Digic 7 processor, 1080p video up to 60 fps, a 3-inch 180° flipping touchscreen, and wireless connectivity.
It uses a 49-point autofocusing system with Canon’s renowned Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology for class-leading subject and face tracking performance. However, battery life is slightly below average at 295 shots per charge. Outside of this, it also features electronic stabilization for videos, 9 fps burst shooting, a built-in flash, dual control dials, a microphone input, HDR, and timelapse.
Overall, the EOS M6, while compact, delivers Canon’s best combination of portability and performance to date in this range. It takes the best features from the M5 and places them in an updated body of the M3, all without skimping out on quality or performance. And it’s an excellent alternative to Canon’s bulkier DSLRs, with similar advanced technologies in a lighter and more compact body.
2 – Panasonic GX85/GX80
The Panasonic GX85 is a smaller version of the Panasonic GX8, with a similar design and feature set, in a more compact form factor. With this release, Panasonic adds another option in their lineup for users wanting a capable, yet travel-friendly companion. Initially released in the spring of 2016, it features a 16.0-megapixel Live MOS Micro-Four-Thirds sensor, the Venus Engine 9 processor, 4K video up to 30 fps, 1080p video up to 60 fps, 3-inch tilting touchscreen, USB charging, and wireless connectivity.
It uses a similar 49-point contrast-detect focusing system as the G7, which also provides extraordinarily fast single-point focusing performance. Battery life is sadly slightly below the competition, at only 290 shots per charge. Outside of that, it also features image stabilization, 10 fps burst shooting, a built-in flash, dual control dials, 4K photo, 4K Live crop, Post Focus, HDR, stop-motion animation, and timelapse.
The GX85 is similar to the G7 in many ways. However, unlike the G7, Panasonic has removed the Optical Low Pass Filter, making it the first Panasonic camera to obtain this particular feature. Removing this filter allows the camera to provide superior image quality and better resolving power. It also features a redesigned shutter, reducing vibrations, making it the ultimate tool for handheld shooting. Overall, the GX85 is a minimalistic camera, with a functional design that creates an excellent-photography centric tool in a rangefinder-style body.
1 – Panasonic G7
The Panasonic G7 marks yet another compelling option in the company’s backbone G series range. It’s a camera many calls the “baby GH4,” as it provides a similar feature set, but at a far more attractive price. However, it’s a camera that is eerily identical to Panasonic’s Gx85, where the main difference ultimately comes down to their form factors. Initially released in the summer of 2015, it features a 16-megapixel Live MOS Micro-Four-Thirds sensor, the Venus Engine 9 processor, 4K video up to 30 fps, 1080p video up to 60 fps, a 3-inch articulating touchscreen, and wireless connectivity.
It uses a 49-point contrast-detect AF system with Panasonic’s Depth from Defocus technology for remarkable single-point focusing performance. And it provides great battery life at 330 shots per charge and 140 minutes of video. Outside of this, it also features dual control dials, built-in flash, microphone input, 10 fps burst shooting, HDR, High Res Shot, 4K burst, and timelapse.
Great focusing and imaging performance are what we expect from late generation Panasonic cameras, and the G7 surely delivers with its robust feature set and DSLR styled body.