Looking for the best cheap camera you can buy? Affordability means something different to everyone, but whether you want a bargain point-and-shoot or a great value mirrorless model, there are plenty of options out there to suit every budget. We’ve comprehensively tested the best cheap cameras in every category and listed our top recommendations in the buying guide below. So whatever you’re happy to spend, you’ll find your perfect camera listed here.
Cutting-edge cameras will always come at a premium, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend the earth to find outstanding photography equipment. If you’re happy to forgo a few of the very latest flagship features – such as 4K/60p video or the speediest continuous frame rates – then you’ll find a catalogue of more affordable cameras to choose from. Though their specs might not make headlines, the best cheap cameras will still capture excellent images and video, as well as offering a generous range of features, settings and lens options.
There are two avenues to explore when deciding which cheap camera is right for you. You can consider the latest entry-level options, which are new to the market and designed to deliver a comprehensive photography experience for beginners. Or you can look at slightly older models which still offer versatile performance but, because they’re no longer at the forefront of technology, are now much more affordable.
This buying guide covers both approaches, including a selection of the most recent entry-level and budget models, plus a range of older cameras that offer great value. Our current pick of the best cheap cameras is the Nikon D3500. An affordable all-rounder that’s fantastic for beginners, it promises great battery life, a huge range of compatible lenses and a capable 24MP APS-C sensor. If you’re looking for your first DSLR, it’s a stellar option.
That said, there might be an affordable camera that’s better suited to your specific needs and budget. Before you spend anything, be sure to read to the end of our buying guide: whether mirrorless, DSLR or compact, you’re sure to find your ideal reasonably priced camera recommended below.
Best cheap cameras 2021 at a glance:
- Nikon D3500
- Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III
- GoPro Hero 7 White
- Sony A6000
- Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV
- Sony Cyber-shot WX220
- Fujifilm X-A7
- Olympus E-PL9
- Fujifilm XP140
- Panasonic Lumix ZS100 / TZ100
- Fujifilm Instax Mini 9
- Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / EOS 200D Mark II / EOS 250D
- Nikon D5600
- Lomography Konstruktor F
Best cheap cameras in 2021:
The Nikon D3400 was a hugely successful and popular DSLR, and it retained plenty of appeal once the D3500 was introduced, as it managed to offer much the same thing for less money. Now, the D3500 has dropped enough in price to make it the clear best buy. Key changes over the older D3400 include a newly developed APS-C sensor (though still with 24MP) and an even better battery life of 1,550 frames per charge, next to the D3400's very capable 1,200 shots per charge. You also get a better grip and a slightly redesigned body that's a bit lighter too. The D3400 is still around and remains an excellent first-time buy, but this newer model just has a slight edge.
- Read our in-depth Nikon D3500 review
This series has now reached its seventh generation, but it's the RX100 Mark III that currently offers the best value for those looking to upgrade from their smartphone. It was the first model in the series with a built-in electronic viewfinder – a huge boon for shooting in sunny conditions – and it has a large 1-inch sensor, which produces excellent image quality. You also get a tilting screen and a speedy 10fps continuous shooting mode for capturing moving subjects. If you need 4K video or slo-mo video, then it's worth stretching to the RX100 Mark IV – but the Mark III has recently dropped to some impressively low prices for such a capable, smartphone-beating compact camera.
- Read our in-depth Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III review
If you're looking for a tough, waterproof action sports camera without the heftier price tags of the GoPro Hero 8 Black, then the Hero 7 White is a great option. While you won't be shooting in 4K and it lacks GoPro's Linear Mode, it offers the pretty much the same image quality as its more expensive counterparts for far less. The Hero 7 White is remarkably easy to use, with all the mounting accessories from action camera maker available at your disposal. It might also lack GoPro's signature image stabilization, but it's still fine when mounted on a bike, for example. The body is waterproof down to 10m (33ft) without any housing, so you can recording your adventures – or misadventures as the case may be – pretty much anywhere too.
- Read our Should I buy the GoPro Hero 7 White? feature
Don’t let the price fool you. The A6000 costs the same as other entry-level DSLR and mirrorless cameras, but it’s an advanced and powerful camera that has only dropped to this price through being on the market since 2014. So it may be old, but most of the specification still looks surprisingly fresh today. This includes a 24MP APS-C sensor, a fast hybrid 179-point autofocus system and continuous shooting at 11 frames per second (fps). Its age shows in other areas, though; it only shoots 1080p Full HD video and not 4K, and the screen isn’t touch sensitive. Still, the latter is still the case on many new Sony cameras and the A6000’s high-end features ensure that it's a camera that will grow with you.
- Read our in-depth Sony Alpha A6000 review
If you’re an eager beginner who's in the market for a compact mirrorless camera, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV should be at the top of your list. An affordable Micro Four Thirds model, the Mark IV pairs a capable 20.3MP sensor with impressive in-body image stabilization to deliver consistently attractive images using the kit lens.
With footage capped at 4K/30p and no microphone or headphone input, video isn’t a major focus. Instead, this is a small, powerful camera for stills: dynamic range is better than anything a smartphone can capture, while that IBIS system keeps images sharp even when shooting handheld after dark.
AF tracking across the Mark IV’s 121 points can be a little patchy, but improved face detection and subject tracking from the Mark III mean it’s largely reliable. Stick to centre point focus and you’ll find it fast, even in low light.
An ergonomic grip, approachable button layout and handy flip-down touchscreen make the Mark IV an accessible upgrade for smartphone photographers. And with a wide catalogue of lenses available, it shapes up as an excellent entry-level mirrorless option.
- Read our in-depth Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV review
It might be getting a little grey-haired, but the Sony Cyber-shot WX220 remains a great value compact camera. A fine all-rounder, it offers a great blend of performance, zoom range and decent image quality. And it’s now a certified bargain.
Aimed at smartphone upgraders, the WX220 isn’t one for control freaks. The menu system is convoluted and there are relatively few buttons on its compact body. There’s no thumb rest or front grip, either. Instead, you get a lightweight, tiny shell that will fit in any pocket.
Despite its diminutive proportions, the WX220 still packs a 10x optical zoom – nowhere near the longest, but impressive in such a small model, and longer than most smartphones.
Paired with the 18.2MP CMOS sensor and optical image stabilization, it delivers bright images with great colors and good detail. Look closely and you’ll notice a little image smoothing, especially at long zoom lengths, but nothing that’s noticeable at normal sharing sizes.
A solid performer that ticks plenty of boxes without breaking the bank, the WX220 is well worth a look at current prices.
- Read our in-depth Sony Cyber-shot WX220 review
Proof that entry-level doesn't have to be a synonym for underpowered or basic, the Fujifilm X-A7 packs a seriously impressive spec list for an affordable mirrorless camera.
Its hybrid autofocus system isn’t the fastest, but real-world performance is superb, with superlative subject detection and tracking. Images are crisp and sharp with outstanding color reproduction, while noise control is likewise stellar, even as high as ISO 1600.
In the hand, a shallow grip means the X-A7 isn’t especially comfortable to hold for long periods and the position of the joystick makes it tricky to reach with your thumb. Then again, the trade-off is a shell that’s compact, lightweight and stylish, in an old-school sort of way.
Image stabilization would’ve been a welcome addition and some might want a viewfinder, but with 4K video in the mix, the X-A7 stands out as an ideal traveling companion. Set aside those ergonomic niggles and it’s an almost perfect affordable option – and an ideal smartphone upgrade.
- Read our in-depth Fujifilm X-A7 review
It may have since been succeeded by the Olympus Pen E-PL10, but this mirrorless model is almost identical and is now a serious bargain as a result. If you're looking for a stylish camera that can take smartphone-beating snaps and has a huge range of lenses, the E-PL9 is well worth a look.
One of the benefits of its small, friendly design is that it's not too intimidating or noticeable, making it ideal for taking people shots or portraits. This does mean the E-PL9 lacks a built-in viewfinder, but those coming from a smartphone won't miss that, and it does otherwise combine good handling with a straightforward, beginner-friendly menu system.
The E-PL9's tried-and-tested 16.1MP Live MOS Micro Four Thirds sensor captures nicely rendered shots in most situations. And despite its compact size, its 3-axis image stabilization system is there to give you a helping hand in low light situations. At current prices, there aren't many interchangeable lens cameras that offer a better range of features than the E-PL9.
- Read our in-depth Olympus PEN E-PL9 review
Well-priced yet built tough, the Fujifilm XP140 is one investment that should pay dividends for those with clumsy hands. Dustproof, shockproof to 1.8m and freeze-proof to -10ºC, it’s also waterproof down to 25m – which means it should survive just about anything you can throw at it.
More than a beefed-up bargain camera, the XP140 can also capture great images. It keeps the same stabilized 16.4MP sensor as the XP140 but adds improved scene- and eye-detection smarts, which help to deliver sharp portrait pictures. 4K footage is limited at 15fps, but 1080/60p video is smooth, while the option to shoot 720p slow-mo at 100fps is neat. The maximum ISO has also doubled to 12,800 which, with a back-illuminated sensor, makes for better low-light images, including underwater shots.
5x optical zoom offers decent versatility for a rugged compact, while the 3-inch touchscreen makes controlling the camera straightforward. With Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity also in the mix, the Fujifilm XP140 represents great value.
Back in 2017, we called the Panasonic TZ100 “the perfect compact camera.” And, while several models have since arrived with superior specs, the TZ100 remains a fantastic option for those after an affordable compact travel camera.
Its metal shell is solid yet sufficiently small to slip into a pocket. The main controls are clustered on the back for easy one-handed control, while function buttons offer the welcome option of customization – and the touchscreen is responsive, too.
On the go, the TZ100’s 1-inch sensor (which is larger than today's smartphones) delivers vibrant, punchy images with a fair level of detail for an older compact, even in low light. Dynamic range is also decent and noise isn’t generally an issue. The 10x optical zoom will be versatile enough for most, while the option of shooting 4K footage makes simple vlogs an option as well.
Sure, its not quite as powerful as today’s premium compacts, but the TZ100 is plenty good enough for taking travel snaps to share online and will still surpass most smartphones too.
- Read our in-depth Panasonic Lumix ZS100 / TZ100 review
If it’s easy instant snaps you’re after, Fujifilm’s Instax Mini 9 remains a firm favorite, despite the arrival of the very similar Instax Mini 11. Forgoing almost all the controls you’d expect on a modern compact camera, the Mini 9 instead makes fun its focus.
Look through the straightforward viewfinder, click the shutter button and in a jiffy you’ll find a credit card-sized print coming from the top of its retro shell.
Charming for its simplicity, the plastic shell of the Instax Mini 9 ships in a spectrum of bold shades, while a little mirror on the front makes framing selfies a cinch. A simple five-level brightness adjustment dial is the extent of its inputs, making the affordable Mini 9 perfect for parties and play-dates.
Print quality is naturally limited, but the idea here is to capture retro-style memories rather than crystal clear images. The color film is a little pricey, so you’ll want to make your shots count.
- Read our Should you buy a Fujifilm Instax Mini? feature
When the original EOS 200D / Rebel SL2 launched, it became an instant hit with anyone looking to enter the world of photography. Its easy-to-use menu system and on-screen user guide was a great help and the EOS 250D (confusingly also called the Rebel SL3 and EOS 200D Mark II) carries on that tradition. It offers beginners room to grow into more confident shooters. Canon's superb Dual Pixel CMOS AF system is available for smooth focusing during Live View, although 4K video is subject to limitations. Still, it's quite easy to find a dual lens kit for the EOS 250D for well under the $1,000 mark.
- Read our in-depth Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D review
The D5600 is a step up from the D3000-series models, with a stronger set of specs to rival the likes of the Canon EOS Rebel T7i / EOS 800D. Key advantages over the D3500 (listed in position one here) include a larger LCD screen, which not only flips out and swivels all the way around to face the front, but also responds to touch, together with a more advanced autofocus system, Wi-Fi and a healthy range of additional control on the inside. Sure, you pay a little extra for the privilege, but if you need a little more growing space it makes sense to go for the D5600 so that it stays with you for years to come.
- Read our in-depth Nikon D5600 review
Second-hand SLR film cameras are an accessible and affordable way to get into analogue photography – but if you really want to understand what goes on inside a camera, you’ll need to build one. That’s where Lomography’s Konstruktor kit comes in.
Shipped as a self-assembly set with stickers for customization, the Konstruktor becomes a fully functioning 35mm SLR film camera with a 50mm focal length. The ‘F’ variant also works with the optional Flash Accessory Kit, which adds a hot shoe adapter – one of many optional extras which can augment the DIY camera, including a close-up twin lens kit and film pack bundle.
The finish is inescapably plasticky and the kit can take a couple of hours to assemble. But for fans of building and tinkering, it’s a unique way to understand the internal mechanics of an SLR camera. And once it’s finished, you’ve got a cheap film camera that you can really call your own.