When looking for an affordable camera, it's important to consider your options and find one that fits your budget and needs. If you want the latest camera technology and are willing to spend a little extra for a brand-new model, some relatively cheap cameras will give you solid performance without breaking the bank. There's also a large used market for cameras. Many older models are still well worth considering and can be found at more affordable price points—a secondhand option could be the best cheap camera for photography beginners, depending on their needs. Many cheaper camera bodies will also give you ample room to grow as a photographer and yield excellent results when paired with more expensive lenses.
We've bought and tested over 80 cameras in our lab, and below, you'll find our recommendations for the best cheap cameras for photography. These picks were selected not only based on their performance but also their feature set and price. For more options, see our recommendations for the best cameras under $500, the best cameras under $1,000, and the best cameras for beginners.
The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV is the best cheap camera for photography beginners we've tested. Though it isn't the cheapest option on this list, it offers the most value for its price. It's one of the only cameras at this price point to offer built-in sensor stabilization, which is great for smoothing out camera shake in vlogs or taking photos at slower shutter speeds.
It's part of the more portable Micro Four Thirds system, which does mean it's a bit less capable in low light than larger-sensor cameras. However, those just getting started in photography likely won't notice much of a difference, and Micro Four Thirds has its own benefits, including smaller lenses and more portability. If you'd prefer a larger sensor, the Canon EOS M50 Mark II is a good alternative, though Canon's EF-M mount has fewer lens options and is slowly on its way out as Canon has shifted focus to producing RF-mount cameras.
If you want something even more affordable than the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV, the Canon EOS Rebel T7 / EOS 2000D is a solid entry-level DSLR. It's a simple camera with a fixed screen, and though it's a lot bulkier than the Olympus, it feels good in the hand and has a highly intuitive user interface. Plus, it's a DSLR, so it has a significantly longer battery life than mirrorless alternatives.
While you won't get many bells and whistles, the camera has a high-resolution APS-C sensor that can capture great photos. There's also a large selection of affordable EF-S and EF lenses that you can use with this camera, and you can upgrade to better lenses as your skills grow. However, its autofocus system is more basic than the AF found on modern mirrorless cameras. Because of that, and its very slow burst rate, it isn't the best option for sports or fast-moving subjects. Still, this is the best cheap camera for photography if you're looking for a simple interchangeable-lens DSLR.
While interchangeable-lens cameras like the two above will give you the most flexibility and room for growth, a bridge or superzoom camera is a solid option if you want an all-in-one camera with a long zoom range. If that's what you're after, the Panasonic LUMIX FZ80 is one of the best cameras under $300 when it goes on sale. It offers a comfortable DSLR-like shooting experience with the convenience of a built-in zoom lens. The lens has a versatile 20–1200mm full-frame equivalent focal length, giving you a ton of flexibility to shoot everything from landscapes to photos of far-away wildlife.
Of course, you won't get the same image quality you'd get with a DSLR or mirrorless camera, but you'll still get good results in daylight. The camera also comes with extra features that make taking photos a breeze. These include a 'Macro AF' mode for close-up photography, and an 'Artistic Nightscape' mode for long-exposure photos, making this a great-value option if you're on a tight budget and prefer the convenience of a built-in lens.
The Panasonic LUMIX ZS80 is similar to the Panasonic LUMIX FZ80 in that it has a built-in zoom lens; however, it comes in a compact form factor, making it a better option for travel or casual street photography. It's one of the best budget point-and-shoot cameras we've tested, packing plenty of features and decent performance for its price.
The lens has a 24–720mm equivalent focal length, so you don't get as much zoom range as the FZ80, but it's still long enough to zoom in on far-away subjects. The image quality isn't amazing, but this camera gets the job done for casual photos of friends or family. Plus, it has a flip-up screen, making it easy to take selfies. You even get a small viewfinder for sunny days when it's harder to see the screen. Overall, it's a solid little compact camera that won't break the bank.
For action video, there's nothing better than a portable action camera, but if you don't want to dish out on a more expensive action cam like the GoPro HERO10 Black, there are still some decent budget options that'll get the job done for less. The AKASO V50X is a solid cheap action cam that can shoot in 4k or 1080p. It's super portable and comes with a protective case, giving it added durability and letting you submerge it in water down to 131 ft (40 m). Unlike more expensive options, the camera itself isn't waterproof without the protective case, but it's still great for all your on-land adventures.
On top of that, it has a very effective stabilization feature and good battery life. Just know that frame rate options are a bit limited. You'll be stuck with 30 fps in 4k and either 30 or 60 fps in 1080p, meaning super slow-motion video is out. However, it's a solid budget option if you're looking for a simple action camera that you can slap onto a helmet or chest rig to capture your extreme sports adventures.
Apr 24, 2023: Reviewed article for accuracy; no change to recommendations.
Mar 22, 2023: Verified that picks are still the most relevant for consumers.
Feb 14, 2023: Replaced the Canon EOS M50 Mark II with the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV as the 'Best Budget Camera' and cleaned up Notable Mentions.
Oct 18, 2022: Added the Canon EOS M50 Mark II as the 'Best Budget Camera'; restructured and changed remaining picks to better reflect current market conditions. Added the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV to Notable Mentions and removed irrelevant notables.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best cheap cameras and best budget cameras for most people to buy, according to their needs. We factor in the price, feedback from our visitors, and availability (no cameras that are difficult to find or almost out of stock in the U.S.).
If you would like to choose for yourself, here's the list of all our budget cameras. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There is no single perfect camera. Personal taste, preference, and shooting habits will matter more in your selection.