Looking for the best cheap camera you can buy right now? Definitions of 'cheap' will vary, of course, but we've rounded up all of the finest options at every price point below, based on our extensive testing. Whether you're looking for a DSLR, mirrorless camera, compact or action camera, our list will have a great-value option for you.
Photography has traditionally had a reputation for being an expensive hobby – and while that can certainly still be the case, the fast pace of progress has meant that there are some incredible bargains out there right now. All of the models in our best cheap cameras guide have been chosen because they represent value that simply wasn't possible a few years ago.
Our guide contains some long-standing stalwarts, like the Nikon D3500, Sony A6000 and Canon EOS M50, which can all lay claim to being modern classics. In their own ways, all three hit a real sweet spot of price, features and performance. And while DSLRs are certainly now less common than mirrorless cameras, the Nikon D3500 remains our pick for the title of best cheap camera due to its value and selection of affordable lenses.
If you're buying an interchangeable lens camera, then the cost of lenses is certainly something to bear in mind. But not everyone needs the flexibility or added cost this brings, so our guide contains plenty of fixed lens camera options, too.
These range from powerful compacts like the Sony HX90V and WX220 to our favorite bargain action camera, the Apeman A100. A list of the best cheap cameras wouldn't be complete without an instant camera too, and right now it's tough to beat the value offered by the Fujifilm Instax Mini 9.
Such is the pace of change in the camera market that feature-packed models that were once headline news can now be picked up for a lot less than their launch price. Cameras such as the Sony Alpha A6000 continue to offer excellent specifications – including 11fps burst shooting and a 24.3MP APS-C sensor – for the same price as an entry-level camera today. Provided you don’t need the very latest photographic technology, this is a smart way to bag a capable all-rounder that still has the skills to grow with you.
Another good idea is to time your purchase with a shopping event, like Amazon Prime Day 2021. This takes place soon on June 21-22 and some of the best cheap cameras in our guide are likely to become even more affordable during that event, so it's well worth putting those dates in your diary. Last year, for example, the Sony HX90 and Fujifilm X-T200 were both discounted by 29% and 25% respectively.
This buying guide covers all bases. You’ll find several affordable entry-level options, as well as a few slightly older, more advanced models which now represent outstanding value. Whatever your expectations, you'll find the best cheap camera for you in our guide below.
Best cheap cameras 2021 at a glance:
- Nikon D3500
- Fujifilm X-T200
- Sony HX90V
- Apeman A100
- Sony A6000
- Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV
- Canon EOS M50
- Sony WX220
- Panasonic Lumix ZS100 / TZ100
- Fujifilm Instax Mini 9
- Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III
- Fujifilm X-A7
- Olympus E-PL9
- Fujifilm XP140
- Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / EOS 200D Mark II / EOS 250D
- Nikon D5600
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
We're still fans of the Fujifilm X-T30, but this cheaper, beginner-friendly version of that camera is our favorite mirrorless option for those starting out on their photography or video-making journeys. It's a big improvement over its X-T100 predecessor in almost every way, including autofocus, and has a fantastic 3.5in rear touchscreen. Unlike the Fujifilm X-A7 (see further down), you also get a viewfinder for framing shots. The only downside is that the subject-tracking can be a little hit-and-miss during burst shooting and isn't available for video, but otherwise this is one of the best cheap cameras around for those who want a new mirrorless model.
- Read our in-depth Fujifilm X-T200 review
If zooming is your key concern, then a camera like the HX90V will certainly get you closer to your subject. With a 30x zoom housed in an impressively slim body, you also get useful features such as a tilting screen and a pop-up viewfinder – the latter being particularly handy when shooting in sunny climes. The compromise for offering such an extensive zoom is a smaller sensor, with a 1/2.3-inch device being less suited to low-light shooting than some models in our list. But, if it’s to be your holiday camera, that’s likely to be less of a concern. Although you are afforded manual control, those with high-end aspirations might also have their enthusiasm dampened by the lack of raw shooting, but it’s otherwise a cracking little buy.
- Read our in-depth Sony HX90V review
Although the Apeman A100 won’t win any prizes for body design or looks, the fact that it’s available for under $100 / £100 elevates highly in our list. Despite its low price, it produces sharp 4K footage, even managing to turn out some decent footage in low light conditions. There are of course some downsides to this model over the likes of the more expensive GoPro Hero 9 Black – the image stabilization isn’t as good, while sound quality is on the poor side. But if you just want a cheap and cheerful way to record your latest adventures, the Apeman A100 is an excellent choice.
- Read our Best cheap action camera 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
Not everyone needs a cutting-edge camera, which is why the original M50 remains a popular mid-range mirrorless model. A fun, approachable option that offers great image quality, the M50 continues to represent good value for money. That’s only more true following the launch of the M50 Mark II, an update that’s only a modest evolution over the first-gen model. Powered by Canon’s Digic 8 processor and equipped with a Dual Pixel AF system, the M50’s 24.1MP APS-C sensor allows the camera to be relatively compact while still capturing fantastic stills.
Noise is nicely controlled, with excellent detail and impressive dynamic range. The M50’s affordability is not without compromise, mind: battery life could be better – as could the plasticky finish – while the heavy 1.6x crop on 4K footage feels dated. Still, with a large and bright EVF, backed up by a responsive touchscreen interface, the M50 remains an accessible mirrorless package with plenty going for it.
- Read our in-depth Canon EOS M50 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
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
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
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.
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