Last updated on May 28th, 2022
It won’t take an enormous effort to get lost in the world of fancy cameras: increasing megapixels, lightning-fast autofocus systems, lots of customizable buttons, and much more.
But the rule is simple. The best camera is simply the one you can afford. Not everyone can start with a flagship camera, and if a smartphone or an old compact camera is what you have, you are good to go. When a subject has good light and a balanced composition, it won’t matter which camera model was used to take the photography.
The seven cameras described here — inexpensive and easy to use — will help you do just that; get a great image without requiring you to spend thousands of dollars.
- Sony's 24.3 MP Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor
- Fast Hybrid Autofocus system
- Sharp SVGA Tru-Finder OLED viewfinder
- 16-50 mm power zoom and 55-210 mm telephoto lenses included
How to Choose a Budget Camera
No matter how much you can spend, a few common factors must be considered before you shortlist your potential budget cameras.
Your camera should suit your hands well. An uncomfortable grip or small buttons which you can’t even reach will come in the way of your photography. The safest way to check will be to go to the nearest camera store and try out a few options.
Attention also has to be given to sturdiness. Low-cost DSLRs and mirrorless cameras are often made using a combination of materials like aluminum, plastic, and polycarbonate. These are rugged enough for almost all conditions, but you should look out for features like water resistance and weather sealing if you plan on treating your camera to harsh weather. A weather-resistant camera will be able to survive light rain, snow, and the odd sandstorm.
Sensor and Kit Lens
Budget cameras usually come with a 1-inch image sensor, or an APS-C sensor which is bigger in size. While sensor sizes affect image quality, an APS-C sensor will be more than enough unless you are a professional photographer who only needs the best technology.
Along with the sensor, the camera lens also has a direct impact on your images. DSLRs allow you to change lenses, which means more flexibility, while compact cameras have one fixed lens with 5x or 10x zoom. If you take photography seriously and travel a lot, interchangeable lens cameras would be better, and we suggest buying one of the better travel cameras.
For people on a budget, beginning with a kit lens will make sense. With a focal range of 18-55 mm, they usually come bundled with the camera body and can deliver good images.
And before we forget, for low-light situations and long-exposure photography, you will also need to keep aside some money for a tripod. Take a look at our picks of the best tripods under $100.
Technical Specifications and Video
As a beginner, your camera should help you practice and grow as a photographer. Therefore, basic features like a decent autofocus system, manual mode, and 1080p video are essential.
Compact cameras mostly use contrast-detect AF without much manual control available. On the other hand, DSLRs and mirrorless use both contrast and phase-detect AF, with many more AF points and better subject tracking. They also offer full manual mode, where you can set shutter speed, aperture, and ISO yourself.
In this age of YouTube and vlogging, it also helps to have a camera that can shoot 1080p videos while focusing quickly. Some cameras even offer 4K video and stabilization, which can turn any video into a proper cinematic vlog.
Best Budget Cameras
1. Canon EOS Rebel SL3 – Best DSLR on a Budget
The Canon Rebel SL3 is a perfect camera if you want a pure DSLR experience without spending a lot of money. It covers all the basics: a 24MP APS-C sensor, optical viewfinder, fully articulating touchscreen, a long-lasting battery, and Wi-Fi. And being highly compact and light, the SL3 makes for a great vacation camera.
The ‘Guide Mode’ is especially useful for beginners and explains the various camera settings as you shoot in an effortless manner. You even get Canon’s best-in-class Dual Pixel AF (AI Servo, AI Focus, One-Shot) for smooth focusing when using the back LCD, which basically turns the Rebel SL3 into a point-and-shoot and also makes video shooting highly intuitive.
A few downsides are that 4K video comes with a heavy crop and takes away Dual Pixel. The viewfinder AF system also has only 9 points and is prone to hunting.
The EOS Rebel SL3 DSLR is not a ground-breaking camera, but it comes with more than enough features to get you started.
- 24MP sensor delivers good images
- Dual Pixel AF works very well
- Compact and lightweight
- 4K video mode is cropped and does not allow Dual Pixel AF
- Viewfinder AF is slow
2. Sony a6000 – Best Mirrorless Camera on a Budget
The Sony a6000 mirrorless camera was released 6 years back, but it still beats most mid-range cameras and has become cheaper every year. The 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor is powered by a Bionz X processor, which provides excellent dynamic range and a shooting speed of 11 fps with subject tracking.
Although the electronic viewfinder does not show a live representation like an OVF (common in mirrorless cameras), it will show a real-time preview as you change the settings. This can be useful for a beginner.
What makes the a6000 so good is its hybrid AF system — combining 25 contrast-detect and 179 phase-detect points. The face detection works like a charm, and the continuous focusing is almost professional-grade.
However, setting up the AF exactly the way you want can be cumbersome because of the complex menus.
4K video is missing, but if you are mainly into stills, especially sports and landscapes, this will be a fantastic camera to begin with. And on Amazon, there’s an option to get a combo set of the camera body with the 16-50mm kit lens and a 55-210mm telephoto.
- Great dynamic range
- Excellent AF and subject tracking
- Shooting speed of 11 fps
- No 4K video
- Menu system is complex
3. Fujifilm FinePix XP140 – Best Travel Camera on a Budget
A travel camera should be rugged enough to survive rough hikes and cold rain and snow. The Fujifilm XP140 is built to do exactly that. This compact camera is small enough to fit in a jacket pocket, waterproof up to 25 meters underwater, shockproof till a height of 6 feet, and can work in temperatures of -10 degrees Celcius (14F).
The XP140 has a 16MP sensor and a fixed 28-140mm f/3.9-4.9 lens. The AF system is a basic one and can feel slow if you’re used to fancier cameras. Fortunately, face and eye detection work well in daylight. The image quality is decent too, but not something beyond what smartphones of today deliver already.
The camera covers only the basics on the video side. It can shoot 1080/60p, but 4K is only 15 fps. You do get 360-degree panoramas and an in-built timelapse feature.
Features of this camera may not be powerful, but they are still good enough. And when you are climbing mountains or diving underwater, expensive cameras will stop working, but not the XP140.
- Very compact
- Waterproof and shockproof
- Image quality improves in daylight
- Good zoom range
- AF system is very basic
- 4K video feature is not useful
4. Panasonic LUMIX FZ80 – Best Compact, Point-and-Shoot on a Budget
The Panasonic FZ80 is a ‘bridge’ camera, which means that it combines the features of a compact camera into a DSLR-like design.
The strong suit of FZ80 is its versatility. Its stabilized lens goes from a 20mm wide-angle to 1200mm ultra-telephoto, with a bright aperture of f/2.8–5.9, and the 1/2.3-inch 18MP sensor delivers good images, with only some unnecessary noise reduction and over-sharpening.
Since it’s aimed at beginners and casual users, the menus are straightforward, and you get a 3-inch touchscreen at the back to make the camera easy to use. Enthusiasts can take advantage of the electronic viewfinder and nifty features like ‘post focus’ and ‘focus stacking.’
Panasonic’s depth-to-defocus AF is one of the best among compact cameras, and you won’t have a problem tracking children and pets while using the 10 fps shooting speed. The 4K/30p video quality is also good, and manual controls are available. The only downside is that you will have to deal with a crop of 1.4x.
- Massive zoom range of 60x
- Fast and reliable AF
- Image quality is decent, especially since the aperture is bright even after zooming in
- Not great for low-light shots
- 4K video comes with a crop
- Back LCD does not rotate
5. Canon EOS 6D – Best Professional Camera on a Budget
A low budget does not always require you to compromise on image quality. Canon’s most affordable full-frame DSLR used by professionals, the EOS 6D, features a 20.2MP full-frame sensor, a bright optical viewfinder, built-in GPS, and Wi-Fi.
The AF system has only 11 points, but the central point is rated to focus in -3 EV, which basically means being able to focus in moonlight alone.
If your only priority is a rugged body and excellent image quality, the magnesium alloy build of the 6D is perfect. The sensor offers fantastic dynamic range, and if you shoot in 14-bit RAW, the colors and details will only improve.
However, considering how old the 6D is now, it misses out on a few things. The 11-point AF system is not ideal for wildlife and sports; there’s no Dual Pixel for live view focusing, the back LCD is not an articulating touchscreen, and there’s no 4K.
How good the 6D is will depend on your requirements. If you are a minimalist who shoots mainly stills and landscapes, you can get a used Canon 6D for the price of a compact camera and save a ton of money.
- Full-frame sensor without a huge price tag
- Excellent image quality
- Rugged body and a bright viewfinder
- Modern features like 4K and touchscreen are missing
- AF system has only 11 points
6. Canon EOS M50 – Best Vlogging and Filmmaking Camera on a Budget
Canon’s ‘M’ series represents mirrorless cameras that are affordable and great for both stills and videos. The M50 is an entry-level offering that continues this trend and can help you get started with vlogging and filmmaking in no time.
With a 24MP APS-C sensor, Digic 8 processor, an EVF with 100% coverage, articulating touchscreen, mic jack, and Dual Pixel, the M50 is one of the best cameras for videography and webcam use.
Although it can shoot RAW with plenty of details, where the M50 truly shines is video for vlogging and filmmaking. The Dual Pixel in live view means you can simply tap and begin recording, and the subject will be automatically tracked.
The M50 also weighs just 390 grams, so you won’t have any problems holding it in one hand for vlogs, and allows full manual controls with exposure compensation and audio-level control.
Additionally, the 4K and 1080p on the M50 offer a 24 fps mode, which is missing from the Rebel SL3. The 1080p video quality is excellent, but unfortunately, the 4K mode has a heavy 1.7x crop and no Dual Pixel.
The ‘video creator’ bundle on Amazon comes with a Rode mic, kit lens, and memory card. And unless you really need 4K, the M50 will be better value for money than most video cameras.
Related: Best Canon m50 Lenses
- Great image and video quality (in 1080p)
- Dual Pixel is excellent
- Lightweight body
- Offers full manual mode for videos and a mic jack
- 4K is cropped and without Dual Pixel
- Battery life is so-so
7. Apexcam M80 Air – Best Action Camera on a Budget
The cheapest and smallest camera on this list, the Apexcam M80 Air, is a waterproof wide-angle action camera built like a GoPro.
It houses a tiny 2-inch LCD at the back, a 20MP sensor, a power button that can be used to access the menu, Wi-Fi, a USB port and is waterproof down to 40m.
The M80 Air can shoot images with a 170-degree field of view, and has built-in timelapse and slo-mo recording options. You also get 4K video at 30 fps, 1080p up to 60 fps, and 720p up to 120 fps.
Although there’s no stabilization — optical nor digital — the image quality is good enough for social media and casual shooting. The Apexcam M80 Air action cam won’t blow your mind, but neither will it cost you a lot. At this price — and with two batteries included in the box — it’s just good enough.
- waterproof down to 40 meters
- 2 batteries included
- No image stabilization
- Far less inferior to GoPro
A good camera is not that hard to find, as long as you can remember that it’s neither necessary nor practical to have every possible feature in it. A suitable sensor, basic manual controls, HD video, and a good lens are more than enough to get you started.
The entry-level category is full of decent budget cameras like the Canon Rebel SL3 and Sony a6000. They will get you fantastic photos without breaking the bank.
If you need something even more simple and cheap, you can consider compact cameras like the waterproof Fujifilm XP140 or the Panasonic FZ80 with a 60x zoom range.
It will be better to start shooting with what you have rather than waiting for the perfect camera.