12 Best Digital Cameras Under $500 in 2018

Consumers looking for a new digital camera have many ways to turn. There are super compact units that can slide into the smallest of pockets and professional cameras that run thousands of dollars. The budget is limiting factor for most folks and tends to cut down the selection considerably.

When you are shopping around for the best digital camera under $500, your options are limited to a degree although you can still find outstanding cameras of all varieties. That includes the famous, but high-tech DSLR’s and we’ve included several simple solutions as well.

Top 12 Digital Cameras Under $500 Comparison Table

DesignNameViewfinderMegapixelsRating (1-5)
  1. Canon EOS Rebel T6 Digital SLR Camera Dual 18MP 4.7
  2. Nikon D3400 w/ AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR Dual 24.2MP 4.6
  3. Canon PowerShot SX530 HS Digital Camera LCD 16MP 4.5
  4. Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 Digital Camera LCD 20.2MP 4.4
  5. PANASONIC LUMIX FZ80 4K Point and Shoot Camera Dual 18.1MP 4.4
6. Nikon COOLPIX B500 Digital Camera LCD 16MP 4.3
7. Pentax K-50 16MP Digital SLR Camera Kit Dual 16MP 4.3
8. Sony a5100 16-50mm Mirrorless Digital Camera LCD 24MP 4.3
  9. Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX400V Wi-Fi Digital Camera Dual 20.4MP 4.2
  10. Panasonic DC-ZS70S Lumix 20.3 Megapixel Dual 20.3MP 4.1
  11. Samsung NX Mini 20.5MP CMOS Smart WiFi & NFC Mirrorless Digital Camera LCD 20.5MP 4.0
  12. Canon PowerShot SX730 Digital Camera LCD 20.3MP 3.9

The Viewfinder

There are two basic types of viewfinders on cameras, and if this is your first digital snapper, you may be in for a surprise. Whether it’s pleasant or not depends on how you feel about viewfinders as some of our picks will have Optical Viewfinders while others go the electronic route.

  • Optical – This is the classic kind of viewfinder that requires you to look through the little window up top to “see” what you’re taking a photo of. An obvious advantage is the fact they are low-tech, so there’s less chance for breakage although a scratched viewfinder will ruin your day fast.
  • EVF – EVF stands for “Electronic Viewfinder,” which is a small LCD panel that sits on the rear of your camera; this acts as your viewfinder which allows you to shoot in ways you could not with a traditional setup. Some are stationary while others can pop up or swivel out so that you can see yourself and take extreme selfies.
  • Dual – As the name implies, this style gives you the best of both worlds with an optical viewfinder and an LCD on the back. It’s a standard feature to find on cameras in this class, and the best way to go if you don’t have a preference.

Megapixels

  • Sensor Type – This is where the magic happens, and we’ll be dealing with CMOS and CCD sensor, the two most common options today. CMOS is generally better in low lighting conditions as it’s a “sensitive” sensor but are larger than CCD’s. CCD sensors are smaller and produced less noise but are more expensive as they are pricey to produce.
  • Sensor Size –  Depending on the model you choose, you’ll either have an APS-C or Full Frame sensor in this class barring a few exceptions. Both are popular in the DLSR world, but Full Frame takes the cake as it’s the same size as 35mm film whereas APS-C sensors come out around 22 x 14mm or 23 x 15mm depending on the manufacturer. There are other sizes like APS-H, 1.5” and micro Four Thirds although each is smaller than APS-C except APS-H.
  • Megapixels – The higher the number, the crisper your photos will be while a lower count results in softer photos. That’s the simple definition, and bigger is better in this case. For this price point, the minimum you’ll want to shoot for is 16MP although most will be in the 20MP range and up. You won’t find anything higher than that, however.

Other Things to Consider

Are you just getting started in photography? Well, it can be a costly hobby so it’s best to save money where you can. In other words, look for a kit that offers up microSD cards, tripods, lighting or other perks you would want in your camera bag. It’s not hard to spend several hundred dollars on accessories after buying a new camera, which makes kits ideal for beginners.

Cameras can do more than just shoot photos these days; some can share them wirelessly while others offer up live streaming or 4K video recording. In fact, DSLR cameras make excellent vlogging devices and are used to shoot professional videos as well. Consider what you plans to use your camera for when taking in the laundry list of features offers up by each manufacturer.

Top 5 Best Digital Camera Under $500 Reviews

1. Canon EOS Rebel T6 Digital SLR Camera Kit

Canon’s EOS Rebel lineup is massive and can be quite confusing as there are plenty of models and variants to choose from. We picked the EOS Rebel T6 as the best digital camera under $500, and while it wasn’t even close. That’s partly due to the cameras prowess when it comes to taking photos along with what you’ll get with this one.

This iteration of the EOS Rebel T6 comes with a wide variety of accessories, but before we get to that, we’re going to talk about the camera itself. Inside the body, you’ll find an 18MP APS-C CMOS sensor while the lens clocks in at 18-55mm EF-S with an aperture of ƒ/3.5-5.6. That’s just the one that’s attached, as you will also get a 58mm wide angle lens, a telephoto lens, tripod, adapters, an external flash and an array of filters. You’ll also get not one, but two microSD cards so you’re ready to go with this kit straight out of the box.

While the T6 alone is a great deal, getting this many accessories and staying under our price point makes this an easy decision for beginners. More experienced users with full kit bags may prefer other models or opt to pick this one up sans the accessories.

2. Nikon D3400 Digital Camera w/ AF-P DX NIKKOR

Nikon has cameras available for shutterbugs that are beginners or pros. The Nikon D3400 can be used by both types of users although it doesn’t come with a mountain of accessories. There are several configurations to choose from including the affordable base model with a large 24.2MP sensor.

The Nikon D3400 has a DX-format CMOS sensor, so while it is not full frame; you’re still getting a large format to play with at 24x16mm. There is plenty of horsepower under the hood as well with an EXPEED 4 image processor. Other tech specs of interest with the D3400 include a 3” LCD viewfinder on the back, an optical viewfinder, Bluetooth, 8X digital zoom, and an ISO range of 100 to 25600. It can handle Full HD video and has a reliable low pass filter to boot.

We dig this camera and think you will too although there are a few slight drawbacks. The biggest one is lies in the audio department as there is no external microphone jack on this model, so you’ll have to get by with the camera’s audio. The base model is in our price range, but there are two additional packages available if you want to pony up a few more bucks.

3. Canon PowerShot SX530 Digital Camera

Our second camera from Canon is another camera that’s ideal for beginners just getting started in the wacky world of photography. The PowerShot SX530 is a DSLR camera that’s simple to use despite its long list of features. It’s also another bundle that provides some cool extras that will come in handy if you’re light on gear.

Looking for an affordable DSLR that can take amazing photos from near or afar? Well, you’ll get just that with the Canon PowerShot SX530 and a whole lot more. It has the popular Canon DIGIC 4+ image processor which powers the 16MP CMOS sensor. The optical zoom is strong on this model as well considering it’s rated at 50x from 24mm to 1200mm. It is a little barebone compared to other Canon DSLR cameras when it comes to modes and settings although there is a spacious 3” display on the backside, which acts as your viewfinder. That’s said, it’s fixed, and there is no optical viewfinder on this one.

We hate to use the entry-level tag on this one, but it’s a good thing in this case. It’s one of the more affordable alternatives on our list, but powerful enough to get the job done. You also get some nice extras including a mini tripod, memory cards, a camera strap and more.

4. Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 Digital Camera Bundle

If you’re still with us for our fourth pick, you may have started to notice a trend by now. We like bundles, and there’s a good reason for that considering they provide value you won’t get from other kits. In this case, we’re going to take a quick look at the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100, a camera with some retro flair.

DLSR cameras may vary in their design, but they all share some common traits in that area. Not the DSC-RX100, as it looks like a traditional 35mm camera from the front. The large Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T lens screams quality, and that’s exactly what you’ll get from the 20MP Exmor CMOS sensor. While it’s not quite in the DSLR class, we think you will appreciate the photo quality along with the ISO range of 125 to 6400. On the downside, there is no optical viewfinder, so you’ll need to aim with the 3” LCD on the back of the device.

If you work in low light conditions or just want a camera that can shoot just as well in dimly lit locations as full daylight, this one is for you. Accessories included with the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 bundle include an 8” tripod, cleaning kit, hang grip, memory cards, and a roomy camera case.

5. Panasonic Lumix FZ80 4K Digital Camera

If you are a techie, you have probably heard of 4K by now and may even have a UHD big screen sitting in your home. That technology essentially began with cameras, as you have to shoot in 4K before you can watch it. You can buy smartphones that capture UHD video, but they can’t hang with the affordable Panasonic Lumix FZ480.

This Lumix is in the “Point and Shoot” class although somewhat of a rarity considering it can do 4K, and do it very well. The 18.1MP sensor can capture snapshots in high speed at up to 30 frames per second, or you can make Hi-Def movies to share on YouTube or stream to a fancy 4K big screen. A fun camera feature on this on is called Post Focus. This works like the Bokeh effect as you can blur out the background to a degree by setting your focus points after taking the snapshot. Like most cameras in this class, the LCD viewfinder stays in place although it’s a touchscreen with plenty of clarity.

The Panasonic Lumix FZ480 is an excellent option for photographers of any skill level that aren’t quite ready for a pricey DSLR. This one has many of the same functions you’ll find on those models aside from the ability to change lenses and a few other features.