When looking for the best cheap camera, it's important to consider your options and find a camera that fits your budget and preferences. 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, and many older models are still well worth considering. A lot of cheaper camera bodies will also give you ample room to grow as a photographer and yield excellent results when paired with more expensive lenses.
It's worth noting that a camera's overall performance can vary drastically depending on what kind of lens you use. Your lens influences the amount of light entering the camera, an image's depth of field, autofocus behavior, and stabilization performance. That's without mentioning the physical aspects of your lens, which can affect your camera's portability. As a general rule, it's better to invest in a less expensive camera body and higher-quality lenses than to invest in an expensive camera body and cheap lenses. That said, for the sake of consistency and user-friendliness, we currently test cameras with their standard kit lenses.
We've tested over 70 cameras, and below you'll find our recommendations for the best cheap cameras to buy. These picks were selected not only based on their overall 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 best cheap DSLR camera that we've tested is the Canon EOS Rebel T7 / EOS 2000D. It's a simple, entry-level DSLR with a mostly plastic construction that feels fairly comfortable to use and has a great, easy-to-navigate menu system. However, its screen is fixed and lacks touch-capability. Still, there's a guide mode to explain certain features and settings to novice users. Like all DSLRs, it has an optical viewfinder that gives you an unfiltered view of your subjects.
This camera uses a 24.1-megapixel sensor that delivers very good overall image quality. Photos look sharp and detailed at moderately high ISO levels, though its RAW noise handling capability is just passable, in part due to its APS-C sensor, which can handle some low-light situations but introduces visual noise at higher ISOs. While it doesn't have any in-body image stabilization, the camera does a great job stabilizing photos when shooting at slower shutter speeds without a tripod when you have its kit lens attached.
Unfortunately, it has a very limited battery life and doesn't support USB charging, which is inconvenient, though battery performance can also vary with different settings and usage habits. Its autofocus system is also mediocre, with just nine advertised detection points, and it does a poor job tracking moving faces for photos, although it performs much better when tracking objects. All in all, this is a solid entry-level camera for those on a tight budget.
If you're looking for a simpler point-and-shoot camera, the best budget camera that we've tested in the compact category is the Canon PowerShot SX740. It's incredibly compact and portable, and while it may not be the most comfortable to use for people with larger hands, it has a small textured bump on the front of its body and back thumb rest to help you maintain a secure hold. Its screen can also tilt out to help you shoot at lower angles or take selfies.
Its built-in lens has a 40x zoom range (960mm full-frame equivalent focal length), so you can zoom in on far-away subjects. It takes decent-quality photos with a ton of dynamic range, although sharpness declines significantly as you raise the ISO due in part to its small 1/2.3-inch sensor, so it's not well-suited to low light conditions. Its lens also has optical image stabilization and does a great job of steady handheld shots.
Unfortunately, its autofocus system is inconsistent. It does a superb job tracking moving objects in photos, but it struggles to track moving faces. Its battery life is also disappointing, though this can vary with settings and usage habits. It can shoot 4k video at 30 fps with a minor crop, which is good for a camera in this price range, but its overall video quality is poor. Still, this is an ultra-compact camera that offers good value for its price.
If you're looking for an action camera, the best cheap camera we've tested for action video is the AKASO V50X. It's incredibly portable and easy to mount with several mounting accessories in the box. The camera itself feels decently put-together, but it also comes with a protective case that renders it waterproof to an advertised depth of 131 ft (40 m).
Its menu system is easy to navigate, and you can connect the camera to your smartphone through AKASO's companion app, which lets you preview footage and control the camera remotely. The camera has a good battery life, lasting for approximately 90 minutes of continuous recording on a full charge, though battery life can also vary with settings and usage. It has a fantastic video stabilization feature that effectively smooths out camera shake, albeit with a bit of a crop.
Unfortunately, its frame rate options are limited compared to more expensive action cameras, as it can only record 4k video at 30 fps and 1080p video at either 30 fps or 60 fps. That means you can still capture fast action footage in FHD, but it's not great for high-speed recording or slow-motion video. Still, for under $100, this is a serviceable action camera that won't break the bank.
The Panasonic FZ80 is the best camera under $300 that we've tested. This affordable bridge camera provides a comfortable DSLR-like shooting experience with the convenience of having a built-in lens. It has a built-in DC Vario superzoom lens with a 20-1200mm full-frame equivalent focal length, giving you a ton of flexibility to take a range of different photos, from landscape shots to wildlife photography.
The camera has optical image stabilization, which does a good job of reducing camera shake when shooting handheld. Its autofocus system does a fantastic job of keeping moving objects in focus, although it struggles when it comes to face tracking. Still, if you want to take clear shots of fast-moving objects, it has a quick 11 fps burst rate and has a unique '4k PHOTO' mode that pulls still frames from short clips of 4k 30 fps video.
Unfortunately, its overall image quality is just okay, and since it uses a small 1/2.3-inch sensor, it performs poorly in low light, with really bad noise handling at higher ISO settings. It has a small, low-resolution EVF that makes it harder to shoot clearly through the viewfinder. That said, this is still one of the best budget cameras we've tested for everyday photography because of the value it offers for its price.
Dec 24, 2021: Removed the Canon EOS Rebel T100 / EOS 4000D. Added the AKASO V50X as 'Best Cheap Action Camera'.
Nov 03, 2021: Restructured article to focus on more affordable cameras by removing the Canon EOS M50 Mark II and the Canon EOS M200. Replaced the Nikon D3500 with the Canon EOS Rebel T7 / EOS 2000D as the 'Best Cheap DSLR Camera' and added the Canon EOS Rebel T100 / EOS 4000D as a 'Cheaper Alternative.' Added the Panasonic LUMIX FZ80 as 'Best Camera Under $300'. Added the Canon PowerShot SX540 HS, Nikon COOLPIX B600, and Panasonic LUMIX ZS80 to Notable Mentions.
Oct 13, 2021: Minor updates for clarity and accuracy.
Sep 22, 2021: Reviewed picks for clarity and accuracy; no change to recommendations.
Sep 03, 2021: No changes to product picks after verifying their accuracy and availability.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best cheap 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.