Want to buy a decent camera, but don’t want to break the bank? The good news is that there are some cracking cameras out there if you’re on a tight budget, including entry-level DSLRs, sleek-looking mirrorless cameras, advanced high-end compacts, and bridge cameras with huge zoom lenses, not to mention travel zooms and pocket compacts.
And while some of these cheap cameras may not be the latest and greatest models available right now, they still deliver the goods.
We’ve compiled a selection of the best budget cameras, so whether you want something to simply slot in your pocket for the odd snap that will be better than your smartphone, or a camera you can get a bit more creative with, you’ll find it here.
If you need a bit more help figuring out what kind of camera you need, then read this article: What camera should I buy?
And if you want to spend a little more money, then check out our other camera buying guides:
1. Sony RX100
Sony’s first true premium compact is a couple of years old now, but it still packs a punch
Sensor: 1-inch, 20.2MP | Lens: 28-100mm f/1.8-4.9 | Monitor: 3-inch, 1,229K dots | Viewfinder: N/A | Continuous shooting: 2.5fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Expert
Large and capable sensor
Showing its age
Sony’s latest camera in its RX100 line, the RX100 IV, is one of our favourite compact cameras, but there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s a pricey option. The good news is that the original RX100 is still available new, and while it might not offer some of the latest features it’s still a great compact at a bargain price. The large 1-inch sensor delivers excellent levels of detail, with the broad and fast range of the zoom lens making it a versatile travelling companion. Okay, there’s no built-in viewfinder or tilt screen as we’ve seen on the Mk IV, but the monitor delivers excellent clarity, and the RX100’s controls offer plenty of options for those who like to get hands-on. Take into account the sleek, premium finish and it all adds up to a great compact camera at a great price.
Read the full review: Sony RX100
2. Canon EOS 1200D / Rebel T5
Great beginner option for those looking for a DSLR on a tight budget
Sensor: APS-C CMOS, 18MP | Lens: Canon EF-S mount | Monitor: 3-inch, 460K dots | Viewfinder: Yes, optical | Continuous shooting: 3fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Beginner
While the EOS 1300D has superseded the 1200D, the upgrade was only a marginal one, so for those who aren’t fussed about having a slightly higher resolution screen and Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity, the EOS 1200D is a great option for those looking for a cheap entry into the world of DSLR photography. The 18MP sensor is a solid performer, if looking a little dated now compared to some rivals, and the AF performance could be better. That said, the EOS 1200D is easy to use even for a novice, with automated modes to get you started and more advanced controls for when your confidence grows.
Read the full review: Canon EOS 1200D
3. Nikon 1 J5
Overlooked mirrorless camera that packs an ultra-fast AF system
Sensor: 1-inch, 20.8MP | Lens: Nikon 1 mount | Monitor: 3-inch tilting, 1,037K dots | Viewfinder: No | Continuous shooting: 60fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Beginner
Fast AF and continuous shooting
Attractive retro design
4K movies are 15fps only
1-inch sensor smaller than rivals
As mirrorless camera systems go the Nikon 1 series sensor is quite a bit smaller than those found in rivals, but if you’re looking for a well-rounded camera that’s simple to use and has ultra-fast AF, the J5 fits the bill perfectly. Nicely finished with well-designed dials and controls, the J5 is very compact even for a mirrorless camera. The hybrid autofocus system is incredibly quick at locking onto moving subject, and when paired with the J5’s clever high-speed shooting modes makes it one of the best budget options for those wanting snappy performance.