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The Best Mid Tier Cameras – 2021 edition

The Best Camera Under $500

People can often be turned off by the rather high price tag of the highest end cameras. They see fancy kits that are well over a grand and their eyes just glaze over. Understandably, most people will just use the camera on their phone after seeing such a high cost. The great news is that cameras under 500 dollars are way more common than you may think. They come with loads of features and are a massive upgrade over your phone. If you are curious about what is the best camera under 500 dollars, then this guide will be of great interest to you.

Our Best Mid Tier Cameras for 2021:

Best Point & Shoot Digital Cameras

Canon Powershot SX70

This camera has tons of nice features and still falls just below the 500 dollar mark. The optical zoom allows for 65 x magnification that allows you to take photos from a massive distance or get extremely detailed close-up shots. The CMOS sensor has 20.3 mp and utilizes the DIGIC 8 image processor found in higher end Canons. The image stabilization capabilities extend for up to five different stops.

You can record buttery smooth 4k video at 30 fps without any additional software. You can also shoot the time-lapse video in ultra-high resolution as well. With the frame cropping mode, you can extract single images from your videos for later use. If you want high-speed continuous shooting, this camera has you covered with the possibility of taking photos at 10 frames per second. Once you have your footage, you can easily share it with other devices via Bluetooth and Wifi.


  • Vari-angle LCD
  • 65x zoom lens
  • 4K video for vlogging
  • 10 fps High-speed Shooting
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth


  • Feels like plastic
  • No touchscreen
  • Not great in dim light
  • 4K not available in all modes

Nikon COOLPIX P900 Digital Camera

This camera also comes close to 500 dollars but falls just below that price tag as long as you don’t purchase any additional accessories. It features a 16 mp sensor that has six different levels of brightness adjustment. It is one and two-thirds inches big and provides decent coverage of low light situations. The super ED VR lens allows you to magnify your shot up to the maximum of 83x zoom. The LCD touchscreen has an adjustable angle that makes it easy to customize your settings for the perfect shot.

The electronic viewfinder has a dynamic iso of 6400. It can shoot 1080p video at 60 fps. This is great for fast moving subjects where the fluidity of motion is paramount. You can use near field communication to transfer your photos and videos to devices in range. The GPS functionality allows you to create photo journals in real time. As you take pictures, it records the exact location and time you took the shot. You can edit these into a presentation or just look at the map to recall where you have traveled.


  • Vari-angle LCD
  • Suppresses camera shake
  • 7fps burst mode
  • Built-In Wi-Fi and NFC
  • Very portable
  • Has a unique lens


  • Small sensor size
  • Pretty small sensor
  • No RAW file support
  • Limited low-light capabilities
  • Slow to respond after taking multiple shots

Best DSLR cameras

Nikon D5300

This camera is great for beginners who need help focusing on their targets. It has an intuitive 39 point autofocus system with 3D tracking and 3D matrix metering. To capture quick targets, there is an option for continuous shooting at up to five frames per second. The iso ranges from 100 to 12800 by default and can be upgraded to 25600 later if you choose. This allows you to get exquisite detail from your photos in even the worst lighting conditions.

The HD video recording can be shot at either 60, 30, or 24 fps. Whether you are shooting a movie or your child’s sporting event, you can select a setting that makes it look authentic. While rather compact, the D5300 has a rugged design that can be taken into the wilderness without worry. This makes it an excellent choice for documenting your adventures during hikes and enjoying other forms of nature. If you are serious about having professional quality images, then this camera is well worth considering.


  • Great low iso images
  • 5 fps burst speed
  • Intuitive menu
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • Long battery life
  • 39-point AF system with 3D tracking


  • Not a camera for sports
  • Live view is very slow
  • Body only deal

Canon EOS Rebel SL2 DSLR Camera

First up on the DSLR breakdown is the Canon EOS Rebel. It features a sweet 24.2 mp APS-C CMOS Sensor that captures incredibly crisp images with vivid colors. The Vari-angle touchscreen has a nice LCD monitor that makes it easy to browse the menus and customize the perfect settings for any environment. It has a microphone that you can talk into to access the featured assistant. This handy software helps you perform various functions with just your voice.

You can record full HD video at a smooth 60 fps for impressive playback. The Wifi and Bluetooth connectivity make it simple to transfer your files to and from the device for distribution or easier editing. This bundle includes many accessories to get you started including two lenses, a memory stick, tripod, and flash diffusers. This makes it a great value for just under 500 dollars.


  • Compact and reliable DSLR for beginners
  • LCD has good touch features
  • Fast focusing system
  • Easy to crop images
  • Automatic HDR improves color


  • Only 9 AF points for viewfinder shooting
  • Doesn’t support 4K video
  • Small optical viewfinder
  • Body only deal

Best mirrorless camera

Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digital Camera

This mirrorless camera still packs a serious wallop. It sports a 24 mp APS-C CMOS sensor and hybrid autofocus with 179 points of focal plane phase detection. With the 25 contrast detect points and Focus Sensitivity Range of EV 0 to EV 20 you can zoom in on any spot of the scene you choose. The 11 frames per second of continuous shooting provide a good beat on elusive and small objects. The iso range is 100 to 25600 so you can shoot in just about any lighting condition without sacrificing the finer details.

The tilting LCD screen is 3 inches and has a high resolution 921,000 dot display. The electronic viewfinder helps keep you trained on your subject as you line up the perfect angle. The controls are easy to grasp and will have you customizing your pics and adding filters in no time. The micro USB cable makes it easy to charge the battery or transfer pictures to your computer. You can even record HD video in a pinch if you see something interesting.


  • Fast autofocus
  • Excellent landscape shots
  • Lightweight and small
  • Built-in Wi-Fi with NFC
  • Many professional lenses available


  • Slow startup
  • LCD is not a touchscreen
  • Can overheat during video recording

best Sports & Action Video Cameras

GoPro HERO7 Black

This bundle comes with an adhesive mount, 32 GB memory card, and an extra rechargeable battery for extended trips. The video stabilization will help keep your footage steady as you exert your body and inevitably jostle the camera. It smartly applies HDR and noise reduction automatically when you are out and about. The voice controls allow you to navigate menus, take photos, and shoot video while keeping your hands free for other activities.

The time warp video capture software lets you take time-lapse photos and speed them up to thirty times the normal rate. This makes it easy to share your adventures outdoors by turning the footage into entertaining video content. The 4K video playback looks stunning and will make any viewer feel as though they were right there with you the whole time. The intuitive touch screen makes it easy to use for anyone who has mastered using a smartphone’s touch features.


  • Smooth video stabilization
  • Great 4K video and image quality
  • Three-way mount is versatile
  • Waterproof without needing a case
  • Lots of mounts and accessories


  • Voice commands are not perfect
  • Can’t live stream and record in 4k
  • Getting hot when recording in 4k

How to choose the best camera under 500 dollars

The best camera under 500 dollars will be different for every person. Before searching for a camera you must determine what you will be using it for most often. Each model has its own set of advantages that suit different environments and scenarios. Are you hoping to start a business? Are you wanting to keep track of your travels on a fun trip? Do you plan on shooting professional quality videos? These are the types of questions to ask yourself before shopping around. Let’s discuss the different types of cameras to get you acclimated with your available options.

What are the different types of cameras?

green leaf tree under blue sky

DSLR Cameras

These are the big and fancy cameras that most people picture when they think of a standalone camera. These cameras feature both a body and a lens. The lens can be switched out for different ones that are better suited for particular lighting conditions and movement speeds. In order to take a photo, you will need both parts and they must be compatible with each other. If you plan to use a different lens, do research to ensure it will actually fit the body.

DSLRs also have a mirror that helps you see through the lens as you are lining up your shot. When you activate the shutter, the camera takes a digital photo of the scene you are looking at. It uses a sensor to record everything that you see. The larger the sensor, the better the low light performance. The lens and the sensor are the two biggest factors in image quality. If you want to pursue photography as a profession, you are going to want a DSLR.

Mirrorless Cameras

If you want something less bulky than DSLR, check out mirrorless cameras. As the name implies, these devices don’t have a mirror on the side. The bodies are smaller as well which contributes to the compact design. The downside is that they often have smaller sensors as well. This makes them less equipped to handle low light conditions and have a more narrow field of view. Mirrorless cameras are great for anyone dabbling in photography and want to keep their first purchase simple.

Point and Shoot Cameras

These cameras are incredibly small and easy to use. The portability of these devices allows you to carry one in your bag or purse without any hassle. If you want to take a picture of something, you can pull it out quickly and get much better image quality than from your phone. That said, the quality is noticeably weaker than a DSLR or mirrorless device. This is primarily due to the small lens and sensor. These lenses cannot be replaced and tuck into the body when not in use. Point and shoot cameras are great for anyone who just wants to take photos as a fun side hobby.

Sports and Action Cameras

action camera - three people skydiving

If you want to record a point of view video during physical activity, then try out a Sport and action camera. These nifty devices clip onto your clothes or hat and record everything you see. They are designed primarily to stay on even during intense snowboarding descents or rocky mountain climbs. Since you can’t hold a traditional camera steady during these events, these are the only option for such endeavors.


There are several candidates that can all claim the title of the best camera under 500 dollars. They are all fantastic pieces of equipment in their own right and as mentioned above the one that suits your needs the most, is the one you should pick. That being said, there is one camera on this list that provides the greatest all-around value and I suspect that a majority of readers will ultimately choose it.

The Nikon D5300 comes in clutch in a variety of situations and can be used by both amateurs and experts alike. The impressive image quality and host of video recording options make it a sight to behold. It is lightweight but durable at the same time. A great DSLR delivers professional quality photos in every situation and the D5300 continues that legacy in a glorious fashion. The sturdy build quality and wide range of features make it the best camera under 500 dollars that is currently available on the market.

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