Trust us, we’ve been there when it comes to shopping for a camera and not knowing where to start. Or at least trying to get a few recommendations while we sift through all of those models in the market today. Although many times we focus on specific camera types or camera features, for this guide, we wanted to narrow down our digital camera search to a particular price-range we’ve seen asked quite frequently by our readers — are there solid digital cameras out there for $500 or less? Indeed there are; however, the actual best for each person will depend on a few factors which we’d like to explain before giving you our picks.
First, do you know what digital camera type you’re after? This in our opinion is the number one factor going into searching for a camera. We have quite a few DSLR cameras that are some of the most popular camera makes in the world right now — the perks include interchangeable lenses, easy-to-use viewfinders, larger counts of megapixels, great ISO ranges, and high-quality sensors to capture beautiful images.
As opposed to our previous budget-specific guides such as cameras under $300, this new $500 or less range will allow us to take at least some lower-end DSLRs into mind when shopping. With that being said, we know many who say it’s DSLR or bust, while others state that they’re too big and bulky for their taste and also lack a lot of zooming capabilities. With that being said, a point-and-shoot camera in this price-point may very well be better for your needs if you plan on being on-the-go or traveling with your camera. Although not as advanced technically, they’re very sleek in size (many fit in your pocket) and offer very large counts of zoom (we recommend optical), as well as other great quality such as video, decent sensors, as well as OK megapixel counts. Point-and-shoots also tend to be more affordable than DSLRs as well.
Once you do decide your camera type, how great of specs are you able to justify with the cost a particular digital camera? Somewhat based on use and other personal preference, ‘specs’ mean the following: Zoom count (again, optical or bust — some can range from only 3x while many can go all the way up to 50x+, which will depend on your use), video (we recommend 1080p HD or higher), at least 15 megapixels, a large ISO range for low-light applications, and other smaller, additional features, such as WiFi, autofocus, waterproof protection, Bluetooth technology, and more.
The best digital cameras under $500
Canon EOS Rebel T5
To begin, the Canon Rebel T5 was a clear verdict as one of the best digital cameras under $500 if you were in need of an ever-so highly rated DSLR camera that’s now been out for quite a few years to also provide confidence in the buy. It is equipped with so many premier features that it will have recreational photographers feeling like a professional. This one is an optimal choice for beginning photographers in the field or at school, family outings, or vacationers (if you don’t mind the size) who are looking to take high-quality photos as this camera not only has robust 18.0 megapixels, but a great autofocus system as well. The Rebel T5’s CMOS sensor is also pretty advanced for the price-point, and it gives us the capability of capturing your image at a crystal-clear caliber. Even better is the fact that you’ll be able to switch out those lenses in the future in case you start to get into tweaking the look and feel of your photography. Additionally, you’re also getting full 1080p HD video, an on-camera guide, and continuous shooting. Lastly, this digital camera is very adaptable to any resolution as it’s ISO 100-6400 enables it to have the ability to capture your perfect photograph, no matter what the lighting is (even at night). When it comes to cheaper alternatives in the digital camera space, the Rebel T5 comes at a great price yet feels a whole lot more expensive. It was hard for us not to put this one first.
Canon PowerShot SX710 HS
Now let’s switch to a nice point-and-shoot pick as the best digital camera under $500. Designed as one of the most versatile cameras on the market, the Canon PowerShot SX710 HS comes with high performance features whether you intend on using it for leisure or taking freelance professional photos. If the previous DSLR pick was too big or the lack of zoom was a turn off, this digital camera’s 30x optical zoom will allow you to take the right images and 1080p Full HD videos you need to feel like your investment was worth the money. Equipped with a 20.3 megapixel high-sensitivity CMOS sensor as well as a DIGIC 6 Image processor, there is little doubt that the performance of this camera will be anything less than excellent. One of the more fun features that the camera has is that it comes with a creative shot mode, allowing the user to generate unique imaginative photos as opposed to simply using a filter. A great choice for travelers and for family vacations or even the semi-pro, the PowerShot SX710 HS does it all at a super versatile size.
We couldn’t count how many times the Nikon D3300 has made an appearance in one of our digital camera guides, and this one comes with a new approach to generating your custom photographs and videos, not to mention is incredibly simple to use. What makes this digital camera truly great and one of the best cameras under $500 in the DSLR realm is the remarkable 24.2 megapixel photographs as well as the 1080p Full HD high quality videos. This is something that cameras simply do not provide at this particular price. This is a camera that will bring so many exciting options such as the WU-1a Wireless Adapter, allowing the user to send their photos directly to their smartphones or tablet at the press of a button. Although bulkier due to that DSLR category, it is still conveniently compact, allowing you to have endless carrying options for your next scenic adventure. In addition, the D3300 comes with various buttons and dials positioned throughout the surface that will allow you to grab and go. Who said documenting your memories has to be pricey? Allow the D3300 to do the same job at a great price.
Panasonic Lumix FZ80
Point and snap your ideal photograph with the Panasonic Lumix FZ80, another one of the best cameras being sold under $500 dollars. Not only is this camera great for its price, but it has similar capabilities that far too expensive cameras have to offer. Some of these impressive features consist of its optically stabilized 20-1200 mm (60X) LUMIX DC VARIO lens, improving the performance of the camera as well as clarity in your images. USB charging allows you to grab it and go in the event that you are on the move or even traveling. What stands out the most in our opinion here is the fact that the FZ80 is equipped with a whopping 4K video capturing technology making this digital camera unique for its size and price. One of the more versatile features that the FZ80 has to offer is the low light performance that it comes with, enabling the user to not have daytime limitations, and snap their images at night. The 4K technology allows you to have a video mode for capturing up to 4 times the amount of resolution as you would have in your regular old standard Full HD — which should be the deciding factor for you in making this one your choice. If you’re concerned about video and don’t need a pocket-sized camera, here’s your digital camera under 500 bucks.
Canon EOS M10
Simplistic and stylish, the Canon EOS M10 does it all, and for a great price as well. Compact in size and feather light in weight, this pick is one of the best cameras under $500 being sold today if you wanted a mixture of both point-and-shoot size as well as DSLR-like specifications. The 18.0 megapixel CMOS (APS-C) Sensor comes paired up with the DIGIC 6 image processor are usually found in DSLRs and is going to facilitate a high-quality photograph in addition to being highly detailed. The EOS M10 comes compatible with just about every compact EF-M lens allowing for further opportunities to create your ideal image. An excellent choice for families and traveling, the versatility of this camera is a great fit for photographers of all types. On top of it all, it also brings us 1080p Full HD video at 30/24 fps. You might ask, why get a digital camera when I only enjoy taking selfies? If you’re into that sort of thing, the EOS M10 also has self-portrait mode allowing you to more easily take the selfie you desire (we all do it). For the price, the EOS M10 is a no brainer if it suits your needs.
Olympus Tough TG-4
Halfway through our guide, the tough on the surface and powerful inside Olympus TG-4 is a state of the art high-tech camera that is highly durable and a great choice for travelers or the adventurous one. This one made it into our waterproof camera guide for a reason. It’s RAW capture and nighttime features allow for this camera to generate great images no matter how grueling your photographic environment might be. A solid camera choice for those of you who want to literally get lost in your scenic environment because the TG-4 comes with built-in Wi-Fi as well as GPS. This is truly a multi-use camera as it comes with Full HD 1080p video taking capabilities allowing the user to take crystal clear videos as well as their photographs. If you think cameras like this can’t come at a discount, think again, because the TG-4 comes at a great price making it one of the best under $500 cameras for those in need of extra protection from mother nature. Not to mention that slim size for easy use and storage when it’s hibernating.
Sony Series DSC-TX9/H
Here we find a digital camera that’s one the slimmest and sleekest we’ve seen, and it comes with some pretty high-quality features allowing the user to capture some nice photography rivaling our smart devices. Equipped with multi-output features such as auto focus technology as well as an average 4x digital zoom, the Sony DSC-TX9/H is a can’t miss model in the market right now. This digital camera comes to you with rechargeable batteries as well as a battery charger and wrist strap, enabling you to have all the accessories you need when you are in a hurry. The DSC-TX9/H also comes with 1080i AVCHD allowing you to record high-quality HD movies on top of it all. If you are looking for a cheaper digital camera alternative yet still want the ability to obtain spectacular displays, this might be a great choice for one of the best digital cameras under $500 but only if size matters for you and is the most important factor in your search.
Nikon CoolPix B500
The Nikon CoolPix B500 is a camera that comes to you with a simplistic design and at an incredibly reasonable price (usually for half of what our cut-off was in this guide). The entire Coolpix line at this point is famous and this particular model is equipped with some necessary components that make a great digital camera considering the price. Not only does the CoolPix B500 generate crystal clear photos but it is also capable of recording 1080p Full HD videos as well. The camera itself has a decent 16-megapixel low-light sensors as well as lens-shift vibration reduction, making it an easy camera to use as well as having creativity. This one can seamlessly connect to a smartphone or tablet, enabling the user to have an easier transition through Bluetooth technology when it comes to sharing your memories online. This is without a doubt yet another one of the best cameras under 500 dollars, mostly due in part to its ability to capture high quality photographs, but also because of its ISO sensitivity and media storage capabilities. It’s rare to find a camera this strong for a price like this, and we recommend this one for those on a stricter budget than most.
Nearing the end of our guide, the Panasonic DC-ZS70 is another camera that comes on the smaller side and is a recommended pick to accompany your travels if the previous picks weren’t your thing. This one most notably has a touch-enabled 3 inch” 180 degree flip front display screen for easy navigation and tweaking of settings on-the-fly. In terms of specs, you’re equipped with a 20.3 megapixel MOS sensor plus 30x LEICA DC VARIO-ELMAR lens that will provide a relatively high-resolution photograph. The DC-ZS70’s bread and butter is its y to create artistic panoramas no matter what your location might be. This may come across as a smaller digital camera for its price, but there is no doubting the focus and zoom capabilities that the DC-ZS7OS has, making it one of the best under $500 cameras to date. The DC-ZS70 is a high-tech camera that comes with Wi-Fi accessibility as well as amazing 4K QFHD video recording. For the regular traveler and the light packer, the DC-ZS70 is a great choice for your adventures and higher-quality videography.
Canon SX530 HS
To top off our list, Canon has yet again created a digital camera that is capable of zooming into images from far distances and still capturing them at a high quality. The Canon SX530 HS comes with a 50x zoom power that is highly advanced, especially for its size. The camera also features Canon’s customized wireless connectivity, simplifying the way you are able to share your videos and images to your friends and family. The SX530 allows you to capture your images with accuracy as it comes with a high-sensitivity CMOS sensor as well as the DIGIC 4+ Image Processor. In addition to the cameras internal build and Wi-Fi capabilities, it comes with near field communication technology enabling a seamless connection to your mobile device. Simply touch your SX530 HS against the NFC-equipped device and allow your Wi-Fi connectivity to provide an instantly superior connection. Versatile in design and durable in its build, the SX530 HS is a great camera and certainly one of the best cameras under $500 if you wanted as much as zoom as you can possibly get in this price-point. There are some nice bundles out there with this camera in case you need some extra equipment as well.