As we’re all probably very much aware, photography can be a very expensive business. We all strive to have the latest and greatest photography gear – but that can often mean a very hefty price tag.

In this guide, we’re going to look at some excellent cameras, which are available for under £500. We know that £500 isn’t a small amount of money either, but it’s at this kind of price point that you can get something which offers both impressive image quality and fantastic handling.

We’ve included both compact system cameras and DSLRs here. Most of these even include a lens for that magic sub £500 price. Keep an eye on promotions throughout the year, as manufacturers often offer cash back deals – especially close to Black Friday and Christmas.

Best mirrorless cameras: 04 Panasonic GX80

Panasonic GX80 / Panasonic GX85

Small, light and a great step up from your smartphone

Sensor: Four Thirds Live MOS Megapixels: 16 Lens Mount: Micro Four Thirds AF System: 49-point Contrast Detect Viewfinder: Electronic 2,764,800-dot viewfinder, 100% coverage Screen: Tilting 3-inch touch-sensitive 1040k-dot Max video resolution: 4K Max frame rate: 30fps (using 4K Photo)

Pros: Small and light, 4K Photo/Video
Cons: small sensor, small viewfinder

This well featured and small compact system camera is currently available for just £460 including a kit lens. While the sensor is one of the smallest on this list, it’s still quite a jump up from your smartphone.

One of the GX80’s niftiest features is 4K Photo, which allows you to grab stills from 30fps 4K video – that means you should be able to capture fleeting moments with moving subjects, ideal for family shots. It’s also the only camera on this list to offer 4K video recording – a great feature for the price.

A tilting, touch-sensitive screen is joined by a viewfinder, which while on the small side is great for composing when the sun is bright. Micro Four Thirds lenses are extremely numerous, so should you decide to spend a little extra cash on another lens, you should be able to find something to suit your needs.

 

Best DSLRs 2016: Canon 1300D

Canon EOS 1300D

A fantastic value option for those looking for their first DSLR

Sensor: APS-C CMOS Megapixels: 18 Lens Mounts: Canon EF-S AF System: 9- point phase-detect system, f/5.6 cross type at centre Viewfinder: Optical pentamirror viewfinder, 95% coverage Screen: 3-inch, 920k-dot Max Video Resolution: 1080p Max frame rate: 3fps

Pros: Super cheap price, APS-C sensor
Cons: Slow frame rate, not 100% viewfinder

Available for just £320, including a kit lens, the 1300D is a fantastic choice for anybody who wants their first DSLR.

It’s got an 18 million pixel APS-C sensor, which is capable of producing vibrant and detailed shots. If you mainly shoot static subjects, the 1300D copes very well, with a 9-point AF system and a 3fps frame rate – if you like to shoot sport, action or wildlife – you may want to turn your attention elsewhere though.

As well as being a fantastic camera to learn with, the 1300D opens you up to the Canon ecosystem, which is pretty much unrivalled when it comes to breadth and depth. If you’re on a super tight budget, this is a great option, and at under £320, you may even have some funds left over for a second lens (we’d recommend a 50mm f/1.8 to get you started).

 

Nikon D3400

A beginner friendly camera, with an on-screen guide to help you learn

Sensor: APS-C (DX format) CMOS Megapixels: 24.2 Lens Mount: Nikon F AF System: 11-point phase-detect system, including one cross-type sensor. Viewfinder: Optical pentamirror viewfinder, 95% coverage Screen: 3-inch, 921k-dot Max video resolution: 1080p Max frame rate: 5fps

Pros: Guide mode, inbuilt connectivity
Cons: No 4K video, 95% viewfinder

The main choices when it comes to DSLRs are either Nikon or Canon. We’ve already discussed Canon’s beginner option – but Nikon’s is perhaps just a little bit better (but slightly more expensive too).

Pick this up for around £400 – to include a kit lens – and you’ll be rewarded with a very user-friendly Guide Mode, perfect for those who have just bought their first DSLR. The APS-C sized sensor is also well equipped to produce detailed, well-saturated shots.

Nikon’s Snapbridge is also a great feature which means you can quickly and easily transfer your shots to your smartphone ready for sharing online – perfect for Instagram and the like.

Just like with Canon, entering into Nikon’s system gives you access to a huge range of accessories and lenses.

 

Best cameras for beginners: 04 Sony A6000 16-50 kit

Sony A6000

An ideal all-rounder, for those that like to shoot a bit of everything

Sensor: APS-C CMOS Megapixels: 24.3 Lens Mount: Sony E-mount AF System: Fast Hybrid AF, 179 phase detection points, 25 contrast detect points Viewfinder: Electronic 1,440,000-dot viewfinder, 100% coverage Screen: Tilting 3-inch 921k-dot Max video resolution: 1080p Max frame rate: 11fps

Pros: Great AF, good viewfinder
Cons: No 4K, screen only tilts, isn’t touch-sensitive

Sony’s A6000 has proven to be a very popular camera, and with a price of £465 (including a 16-50mm kit lens), it’s not particularly difficult to see why.

For your cash, you get a good all-rounder camera, which is great for action shots, with a high-performing AF system and 11fps to play with. The sensor produces detailed and vibrant shots, making it also good for plenty of other subjects, such as landscapes and portraits.

The viewfinder is bright and clear, and while the screen doesn’t fully articulate, being tilting does mean you get some flexibility with awkward framing.

Sony’s E Mount range continues to grow, with some fantastic options for you to consider once you outgrow the kit lens.

 

 

Fujifilm X-T10

Fujifilm X-T10

An older model which still produces the goods

Sensor: APS-C X-Trans CMOS II Megapixels: 16.3 Lens Mount: Fuji X AF System: 49-point Intelligent Hybrid AF Viewfinder: 0.39-inch, 2360k-dot electronic viewfinder, 0.62x magnification Screen: 3-inch, 920k-dot, tilting LCD monitor Max Video Resolution: 1080p Max frame rate: 8fps

Pros: High performing sensor, great handling
Cons: Screen not touch-sensitive, Full HD video only

The Fuji X-T10 is available for around £445 body only, so you’ll need to push the budget a little bit for a lens too. Alternatively, picking up an X-T10 second hand is a great idea, too.

With the X-T10 you get one of Fuji’s X-Trans CMOS sensors, which although APS-C sized have been shown to outperform some full-frame sensors. You also get a decent focusing system, lovely viewfinder and a tilting screen (it isn’t touch-sensitive though).

We love the look and feel of the X-T10, with its retro design and plethora of dials making it a joy to use. The main differences between the X-T10 and the X-T20 come down to how it handles moving subjects – so if your main interests are static, such as landscapes, and portraits, it’s a canny choice.

 

Best cameras for beginners: what to buy to learn photography