Disposable cameras are truly the cheapest choice you have to experience the world of photography. However, they are not proven to be cost-effective in the long term. This is where digital cameras come into action. Though they are not as cheap as disposable models, you can rely on them for a good number of years. Also, there are big digital camera companies now that are being more and more considerate to help the general population of their target market afford their cameras. This includes Panasonic, Nikon, Canon, and more!

Moreover, with the fast-paced world of photography, the release of new camera models can happen overnight. With this, the prices of the old models can change after months or years. It doesn’t mean, nonetheless, that such models become less competitive than their new siblings. As a matter of fact, you’ll be amazed at how incredible and efficient old models could still be despite the prices they come with.

Also, keep in mind that there are big differences in the prices of a compact camera to DSLR and mirrorless units. If you are someone who’s an avid fanatic of the said types of camera, you’ll be aware of that. That is why the prices of the discounted old models of DSLR and mirrorless can still be considered affordable despite the fact that they could be a little higher than the prices of point-and-shoot models.

However, the prices shouldn’t be your only basis in finding an affordable camera on the market. Keep in mind that your experience and the overall quality of the camera shouldn’t be compromised just to get that ‘cheap’ camera you are looking for. With this, the size of the sensor, the megapixel, controls, screen, viewfinder, and special features are still vital points to look for. Some good examples are the Nikon D3500 which is not just affordable but beginner-friendly, as well. With this, it is a good choice for beginners who are looking for their first cameras without the need to break the bank.

In connection to that, we considered other entries from different types of cameras. With the help of our Photography Editor, Evangeline Summers, we rounded up the best deals this 2021 that will certainly satisfy you. Besides the jaw-dropping tag price, we also made sure that you’ll get a quality camera that will give you the best experience in the world of photography. Here are our top picks:

Most Affordable Cameras Comparison & Rating

Affordable Cameras

Features

Nikon D3500 + AF-P 18–55 Non VR Kit - Black
  • 24.2 MP sensor
  • long battery life
  • Guide Mode
D5600 DX-format Digital SLR Body
  • 24.2 MP sensor
  • 39-point Multi-CAM 4800DX AF 
  • EXPEED 4 processor
Canon EOS 250D / Rebel SL3 DSLR Camera w/ 18-55mm F/3.5-5.6 III Lens
  • 24.1 MP APS-C CMOS sensor
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF system
  • 4K videos
Panasonic LUMIX DC-ZS70K, 20.3 Megapixel, 4K Digital Camera, Touch Enabled 3-Inch 180 Degree Flip-front Display, 30X LEICA DC VARIO-ELMAR Lens, WiFi (Black)
  • 180-degree front flip-up screen
  • 30x optical and 60x intelligent zoom
  • 5-axis Hybrid Optical Image Stabilizer
Panasonic LUMIX Waterproof Digital Camera Underwater Camcorder with Optical Image Stabilizer, Time Lapse, Torch Light and 220MB Built-In Memory – DMC-TS30A (Blue)
  • 25-100 mm zoom lens
  • 16 MP sensor
  • 8-meter underwater depth capacity

1. Nikon D3500

Nikon D3500 + AF-P 18–55 Non VR Kit - Black
Specifications:
98% Overall

Type

DSLR

Megapixels

24.2 MP

Max Video

1080p

Sensor

APS-C CMOS

97%
Performance & image quality
98%
build & features
99%
ease of use & convenience
99%
value for money
Pros:
  • Features a very user-friendly Guide Mode.
  • Very affordable for an entry-level DSLR camera.
  • Offer great features which can deliver great stills and videos such as the 24 MP sensor.
  • Boasts long battery life that can reach at least 1,550 shots.
  • Great grip and offers a solid feel.
Cons:
  • LCD can’t be tilted and doesn’t come with a touchscreen capability.
Final Take:

Nikon D3500 is one of the most famous cameras that continues to amaze us and keeps on topping our list of various categories. Besides being one of the most affordable DSLRs available out there, it is an entry-level camera that will catch the attention of beginners who are still exploring the photography world and don’t want to spend too much on their first cams. 

Its video is limited to 1080p but its 24.2 MP sensor should be enough to allow it to be a capable camera for quality stills. For its price, it really does a good job at capturing intricate details and rich tones. Even in low-light conditions, with the right lens, D3500 can give you fantastic results.

Also, you get its famous Guide Mode which is delivered using the rear LCD screen. This also makes it truly ideal for beginners who need a user-friendly, yet affordable camera.

“It has this magnificent Guide Mode on the dial,” started Summers, “This feature is the reason we put this on the top of the list. Not only it will give you a virtual tutorial of the functions of the camera, but it will also allow you to adjust it depending on your need. With this, you have the option between the basic assistance or the tutorial for more advanced features of the camera.”

2. Nikon D5600

D5600 DX-format Digital SLR Body
Specifications:
97% Overall

Type

DSLR

Megapixels

24.2 MP

Max Video

1080p

Sensor

APS-C

97%
Performance & image quality
97%
build & features
96%
ease of use & convenience
97%
value for money
Pros:
  • The grip is comfortable in the hands.
  • Has touchscreen function on the screen.
  • The AF system is decent enough to do the work.
  • Employs SnapBridge for more convenient file transfer but still needs some improvement.
  • Quis nostrud exercitation
Cons:
  • WiFi controls are quite limited and greatly affects battery performance.
Final Take:

For its price, you get a powerful camera with all the amazing features that will give you the best photography experience. This includes the 24.2 MP sensor and 39-point AF system which will result in purely excellent stills, with less effort from the user. Also, it comes with an articulating touchscreen, allowing it to get shots even at the most awkward angles.

If you are a fanatic of films and want to try the camera for your video projects, you will enjoy its new feature which is the timelapse movie function. With this new feature, assembling the captured timelapse videos using the camera itself is possible. It even lets you work on the exposure or lighting of the videos to make the project look better.

Further, it employs a 39-point Multi-CAM 4800DX AF system. According to Summers, it might look less attractive compared to the new systems being used with the mirrorless cameras on the market. Yet, Summers added how reliable Nikon’s AF system is.

“Using the viewfinder for Nikon’s AF system still does the trick,” Summers started. “You still get perfect results with a great amount of details and the subject still gets highlighted. The continuous AF and single modes easily detect the subject and stick with it with great reliability. The AF tracking modes also work the same and you’ll be impressed how it follows the movement of your subjects.”

3. Canon EOS 250D / Rebel SL3

Canon EOS 250D / Rebel SL3 DSLR Camera w/ 18-55mm F/3.5-5.6 III Lens
Specifications:
97% Overall

Type

DSLR

Megapixels

24.1 MP

Max Video

4K UHD at 25p

Sensor

APS-C

98%
Performance & image quality
97%
build & features
96%
ease of use & convenience
96%
value for money
Pros:
  • Compact and lightweight for a DSLR camera.
  • Introduces a Guided UI and a Creative Assist mode.
  • Comes with a 3.0 inches 1.04m-dot vari-angle touchscreen; very responsive and excellent colors.
  • The viewfinder has distinctive autofocus points.
  • Right price for the features, functions, and upgrades it is offering.
  • Delivers 4K videos.
  • Intuitive for a DSLR and very beginner-friendly.
Cons:
  • Only offers a total of 9 AF points in the viewfinder.
  • Uses a pentamirror viewfinder that is somewhat smaller but is very bright and sharp enough.
Final Take:

Some might find it mind-boggling to find Rebel SL3 on this list. Well, yes, it isn’t the most appealing in terms of the price. However, compared to other cameras with specs desperately cut down to deliver you that low-priced unit, you get more than what you’re paying for Rebel SL3. According to Summers, this is the main reason it is one decently priced camera.

“For adding a few bucks, you get a vari-angle screen where you can use the Live View option of the camera. What’s good about it is that this is a huge help in getting your shots on a wider screen. It is bright and most of all, this gives you the Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF system.”

According to Summers, the performance of the Live View is very appealing due to the easy framing of subjects. The AF is very responsive and it is efficient in recognizing, locking, and following the focus to the subject on the screen with just a single tap of your finger. It is very quick, effective, and easy to use.

Also, you get Canon’s glorious 24.1 MP APS-C sensor. This, with other great features of the SL3, there is a great improvement in the noise control and level even at the highest ISO settings.

4. Panasonic Lumix ZS70

Panasonic LUMIX DC-ZS70K, 20.3 Megapixel, 4K Digital Camera, Touch Enabled 3-Inch 180 Degree Flip-front Display, 30X LEICA DC VARIO-ELMAR Lens, WiFi (Black)
Specifications:
96% Overall

Type

Compact

Megapixels

20.3 MP

Max Video

4k

Sensor

1/2.3-type

97%
Performance & image quality
96%
build & features
96%
ease of use & convenience
95%
value for money
Pros:
  • Has an optical image stabilizer.
  • Offers a 30x optical zoom.
  • Boasts the 180-degree tiltable monitor for easy photo capture and vlogging during travel.
  • Very handy and easy to carry due to its small size.
  • A budget-friendly and compact travel camera.
Cons:
  • The EVF is a bit small.
  • The battery life is not that great.
Final Take:

Panasonic Lumix ZS70 is one of those compact cameras that are reasonably priced but gives you winning in terms of its features. If you are familiar with the pricey Lumix TZ100 and TZ200 cameras, you will be amazed at the great things ZS70 can give you.

The ZS70 offers an excellent 30x optical zoom and 60x intelligent zoom, an AC/USB travel charging port, and a 180-degree front flip-up touch screen for easy selfie and vlogging. There is also an EVF present in ZS70 and while it is not really that big (since it is designed to be a pocketable unit), it is a lifesaver in case you find yourself struggling to see images on the screen during a bright day.

Further, you will get a camera that has both a high-resolution photo and a 4K video resolution with LUMIX DC-ZS70K. Thanks to its 20.3 megapixel MOS sensor, images come with great details. As a matter of fact, given its size and impressive features, it is considered one of the greatest cameras for travelers who want to travel light.

“Panasonic’S ZS70K is one of the best choices for travelers who are on a tight budget yet aiming to have quality and respectable shots,” Summers stated. “This cam has a large megapixels sensor that’s very reliable and at the same time, a 4K video recording. Add to this, the 5-axis Hybrid Optical Image Stabilizer enables the users to minimize blurring and capture crisp and continuous video shooting of a fast-moving subject.”

Also, the Focus Stacking function is another great feature that this camera has. According to Summers, this feature is very efficient because you can adjust the focus of the image right after you’ve taken the photo. Thereby, this will foster more flexibility since you can play and experiment on the depth of field of your image.

5. Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS30

Panasonic LUMIX Waterproof Digital Camera Underwater Camcorder with Optical Image Stabilizer, Time Lapse, Torch Light and 220MB Built-In Memory – DMC-TS30A (Blue)
Specifications:
94% Overall

Type

Underwater Camera

Megapixels

16.1 MP

Max Video

720p

Sensor

1/2.3" CCD

93%
Performance & image quality
97%
build & features
93%
ease of use & convenience
94%
value for money
Pros:
  • Has an underwater depth capacity of 8 meters.
  • Shockproof up to 5 feet.
  • Can resist cold temperatures up to -10-degree C.
  • Features Advanced Underwater Mode.
  • Has a 220 MB built-in memory; very helpful in case users reach the SD card’s capacity
  • Thin and can be easily handled.
  • Features a torchlight.
Cons:
  • The buttons are a bit small.
Final Take:

DMC-TS30 is not just an affordable option on our list, but it can also be a practical choice due to its ability to act both as a normal point-and-shoot and as an underwater camera. With this, you have a 2-in-1 which helps you enjoy every cent you’ll be paying for.

Furthermore, it combines a 16 MP sensor and a 25-100 mm zoom lens. You also get optical image stabilization, making it quite impressive given its price range and size. According to Summers, the ability of the camera to stabilize the unwanted shakes makes it a good option for amateurs who are having a hard time balancing underwater. Also, it has other specialized features that will aid you in capturing 5-star stills underwater.

“When you put a camera under the water, it is possible that the red tone of the image could decrease. This is just a natural reaction of the lens and Panasonic did a great job of resolving this,” Summers explained.”The camera comes with a mode that is specifically used underwater. This is helpful as the cam will automatically correct the tones of the images. This results in images with a more natural-looking appearance.”

Most Affordable Cameras - Buyer's Guide

features

Besides looking for the lowest price, it is also important to keep in mind not to overly compromise the set of features you need in a camera. After all, you are looking for a unit that gives you the ‘best value,’ and the only way to do that is to get the one that gives you all the things you need. For instance, if you are the best quality photos, the sensor of the camera matters a lot. The best sensors can be found in professional cameras such as mirrorless and DSLR.

ease of use

No one wants a camera that will just make your experience terrible and difficult. This is why additional features such as a touchscreen LCD are truly helpful. Besides the easy controls, some cameras with a live view also allow easy setup of focus with just a touch of a finger. If you are getting a professional camera, it is also better to check the reliability of its autofocus system as it will guide you to get good shots with pure ease.

skills

The camera should complement your skills and your plans. Getting mirrorless or DSLR cameras is a good investment since you can grow with them. They offer vast possibilities that you can use to improve your skills, not to mention that they can also cater to other lenses. However, if you don’t have any plans to maximize their use, you might want to consider compact cameras. They offer relatively good qualities and are commonly user-friendly.

value for money

As said, you should be getting your money’s worth in each purchase you have. Never get a camera that is so cheap but gives you huge unfavorable cutbacks in features. This is why we ended up with this list. For instance, the Rebel SL3 comparatively comes at a higher price than any other choice. When it comes to its features, however, you get the best value you are looking for.

Most Affordable Cameras - FAQs

How much does a decent camera cost?

You can get cameras as low as $100 but if you are looking for quite a decent compact camera. For professional cameras, expect at least $500.

Are cheap cameras any good?

Cheap cameras can still do a great job in delivering quality performance. However, look for camera units that offer good value despite their cheap price tags. For professional cameras, you can get a camera with a decent viewfinder, a live view with a touch focus function, and even a reliable AF system. Some examples are the Nikon D5600, Canon Rebel SL3, and Nikon 3500.

Is it worth buying expensive lenses?

A cheap lens can still do its job but getting a quality lens (which usually costs higher) will benefit you better. Most of all, the latter is more likely to last and will allow you to get sharper and more detailed shots.

Author

Santi Bongco is an editor at SolidSmack which is the leading site for 3D CAD, robots, cool product designs, and other technologies. For the past seven years, he taught robotics and developed innovative 3D printer ideas with his students. He also helped in developing some innovative digital ideas and products for various digital marketing businesses and big companies in Asia. Now, aside from exploring buffet restos in California, he enjoys leading groups of our in-house experts in trying some of your favorite products and electronic brands to write insightful reviews for you. PS: He loves reviewing appliances and taking them home to personally ‘try’ them.