There's no denying that photography and videography can be expensive hobbies. That said, if you're on a relatively tight budget, you'll be pleased to know that there's no shortage of new cameras priced at under $1,000 that offer similar capability and feature sets to high-end models from only a couple of years ago. These include traditional interchangeable-lens DSLRs and entry-level mirrorless models, not to mention point-and-shoot compacts and bridge cameras. Given the wide variety of options, you should be able to find a camera that suits your needs without needing to stretch your dollar too far.
However, it's important to recognize that overall performance can vary depending on the lens you use. The lens affects the amount of light that enters the camera, so it also plays a role in an image's depth of field and the autofocus and stabilization performance. Also, lenses can add a bit of weight to your camera, which can impact their portability. We currently test our cameras with its standard kit lens, so for the sake of consistency, this article focuses on cameras that retail for under $1,000 with their kit lens included.
We've tested over 60 cameras, and below you'll find our recommendations for the best cameras under $1,000. You can also take a look at our recommendations for the best mirrorless cameras under $1,000, the best cheap cameras, and the best cameras for beginners.
The best camera under $1,000 with a mirrorless design that we've tested is the Sony α6400. This APS-C mirrorless camera is compact and sturdy, with a relatively lightweight body that's comfortable to use for extended periods. Depending on your choice of settings and usage habits, its battery life should also be sufficient for long shooting sessions, and you can use it while it charges over USB-C.
This camera has a highly effective autofocus system that does an excellent job tracking subjects in still photography and FHD and 4k video. Out-of-the-box image quality is impressive, with a relatively broad dynamic range and minimal loss of sharpness at moderate ISO levels. It also delivers great video quality, even when shooting in dimly lit environments. It can shoot at up to 60 fps in FHD and up to 30 fps in 4k, though recording in the latter incurs a slight 1.22x crop.
Unfortunately, this camera's menu system isn't intuitive, as some functions are buried within sub-menus. Frustratingly, you also can't use its touchscreen to navigate the interface. It lacks an in-body stabilization system to help smooth out camera shake, which can be a bigger issue if you aren't using an optically stabilized lens. Otherwise, its amazing autofocus performance, relatively dense feature set, and compact design make it one of the best travel cameras we've tested.
If you're looking for a mirrorless camera that's a little more beginner-friendly, consider the Nikon Z 50. This APS-C mirrorless camera is bulkier than the Sony α6400 and has a less effective autofocus system for still photography. However, it's even more comfortable to operate and has a far more intuitive menu system that you can navigate using its physical controls or by tapping on the touchscreen. It delivers similarly impressive image quality, with minimal loss of sharpness and great noise handling capability at higher ISO levels. Unfortunately, battery performance is mediocre overall, though this can vary in the real world. It's also worth noting that while this camera records sharp, well-rendered video in well-lit conditions, you may notice quite a bit of noise if you're shooting in darker conditions.
Get the Sony if you want a smaller camera with a more effective autofocus system, but consider the Nikon if you want something a little more user-friendly.
The best DSLR camera under $1,000 that we've tested is the Canon EOS Rebel T8i. This crop-sensor DSLR has great ergonomics, with a spacious textured handgrip and well-spaced controls, as well as a bright, sharp, fully-articulated touchscreen. Its menu system is intuitive, and there's a built-in guide mode to explain core features to novice users.
Despite the relatively low number of detection points compared to mirrorless alternatives, this camera's autofocus system does a superb job tracking subjects in still photography and FHD video. Image quality is also very good, with a relatively wide dynamic range and great noise handling capability, though you may notice a degradation in sharpness as you increase ISO. While its maximum continuous shooting speed of 7 fps isn't as fast as some higher-end models, it takes very little time to clear its photo buffer.
Unfortunately, video quality in FHD and 4k is middling, especially in low-light, as footage looks soft and noisy. It isn't very well-suited to recording 4k video. You can only shoot in this resolution at a maximum of 24 fps, incurring a severe 1.51x crop. Autofocus and video stabilization performance are also poor when you use the camera for this purpose. Still, it remains one of the best digital cameras we've tested, and it's a solid choice if you're looking for a DSLR camera for still photography or light FHD video work.
If you're looking for something even more affordable, the Nikon D3500 is a good alternative. This APS-C DSLR has a fixed screen, as opposed to the Canon EOS Rebel T8i's fully-articulated touch-sensitive display and can't shoot 4k video, but it's notably cheaper. It also offers great image quality, even at moderately high ISO levels, which is handy if you plan on shooting in dimly lit environments. It doesn't have any in-body image stabilization, but video and image stabilization performance is still impressive when using the camera with its 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR kit lens. Depending on your choice of settings and usage habits, you shouldn't run out of battery even during extended shooting sessions. It has a very user-friendly menu system with a built-in guide mode that can explain core features to novice users, and it's decently comfortable to operate. Unfortunately, its autofocus system struggles to track moving subjects in FHD video and still photography. Video quality is also noisy and soft, especially when shooting in dimmer environments.
Get the Canon if you value superior autofocus performance and want a fully-articulated touchscreen, but consider the Nikon if you're looking to save some money but aren't willing to sacrifice image quality.
The best camera under $1,000 with a compact design that we've tested is the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III. This point-and-shoot is small enough to slip into a coat pocket or a purse but is still quite comfortable to operate. While it lacks an in-body stabilization feature, it does a great job smoothing out camera shake in 4k and FHD video, which is handy if you want to shoot handheld video. It also features a built-in YouTube live-streaming feature, though we don't currently test this function.
Out-of-the-box image quality is very good thanks to its wide dynamic range, though you may notice a degradation in sharpness and an increase in noise when shooting at higher ISO levels. It has a fast maximum continuous shooting speed of 16 fps, which should be helpful if you're trying to snap clear photos of fast-moving subjects. Its built-in zoom lens has a full-frame equivalent focal range of 24 to 100mm, which should give you enough flexibility for everyday shooting.
Unfortunately, this camera's autofocus system struggles to maintain focus on moving subjects in still photography, though it performs adequately well in 4k and FHD video. It also suffers from serious overheating issues, which can occur most frequently when recording for extended periods. Battery performance is poor, though this can vary in the real world. Otherwise, if you're looking for a compact camera for under $1,000, this is a good option.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best cameras under $1,000 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 US).
If you would like to choose for yourself, here's the list of all our reviews for cameras under $1,000. 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.