March 11, 2017 at 8:37PM

You voted '+1'.

What is the Best Digital camera for under 500 dollars?

Just wanted to know which camera people on here would recommend the
most for under 500 US Dollars? I am looking for a digital camera that
has a very nice zoom and a decent amount of megapixels to shoot
photos both indoors and outdoors. I am looking for a camera with the
most crisp, sharp, noise free images. I would like a camera with a
flip out lcd screen, but that is not a MUST HAVE if there is a camera
that is better suited for me for a reasonable price. I am mainly
debating between the Panasonic Lumix fz18 or the fz50 AND the Canon
S5 IS. I really liked the test shots for the panasonics but it seems
like most of the people i know are pushing the canon brand on me the
most. Can someone help me choose?

am new to the here, I have worked with multiple firms.
you can check


I suggest doing a search because this question gets asked at least every couple of weeks. I can tell you up front, $500 doesn't buy much of a camera. I myself got a refurbished Canon G20 because it's the only camera I found for under $1,000 that didn't annoy the snot out of me. That said, pixel count doesn't really matter much. HD video is 2.1MP and cameras that try to impress people with massive pixel counts are simply throwing away dynamic range. Case in point, a 3840 x 2160 (UHD) sensor has 4x as much noise and 1/4 the light sensitivity of a 1920 x 1080 (HD) sensor. This is why professional video cameras still have 2/3" 1920 x 1080 sensors and are natively about 400 ISO without noise reduction trickery.

Getting back to my own choice of camera; I absolutely despise cheap still cameras for video. They have tons of rolling shutter, alias distortion, often inaccurate color etc. so I opted for a camera that was less sharp because these issues were less prominent. The FZ18 has a CCD, so no rolling shutter, but it seems to only capture standard def video (0.3MP) and an 8MP 1/3" sensor is going to be SUPER noisy and insensitive. In fact, I had an 8MP 1/3" Sony for a few months that had noticeably worse image quality than my current 2.1 MP 1/3" Canon. I had a Panasonic 8MP 1/3" camera for a couple of weeks that had the same problem as the Sony. It literally took over 2,000 Watts to optimally light a corner (equivalent of a cloudy day) of a room.
Sharpness is mostly determined by the quality of your optics. That's why we use $10,000 lenses on 2.1 MP cameras in the TV industry.
So to recap: noise/sensitivity are both determined by pixel size, sharpness is determined by optical quality. Quality optics are expensive, so longer inexpensive zooms tend to be very "slow", soft looking and often have chromatic aberrations especially as you zoom in on the subject more. On my film cameras, I stopped using zooms all together in favor of of primes: 28mm, 50mm, 85mm, 135mm because four primes wound up being cheaper and better quality than a single zoom.

March 13, 2017 at 5:29AM


In my opinion, the absolute best camera you can get in within that price range is the Panasonic DMC G7. It's like a Panasonic GH4 without some of the extra features (such as slo-mo video) but it shoots a brilliant and cinematic 4K video image and captures great still photos as well.

Here is an example of it's video footage:

You can find it on eBay for $436, but you will also need a lens. If you insist on a very inexpensive zoom lens, you can find the Olympus M. Zuiko ED 14-42 f3.5 - 5.6 Micro Four Thirds zoom lens (currently found on eBay for as low as 89 dollars.)

The total cost could be slightly over $525, but well worth the extra money as nothing else in that price range can capture image quality this good. The Panasonic DMC G7 is also an interchangeable lens camera, for more versatility in the future if you decide to invest in different lenses. With an inexpensive lens adapter, it can also take Canon and Nikon lenses.

March 14, 2017 at 6:08AM


I'd say spend less than $500. I'm happy with my Nikon D3300 from craigslist. I think others have it partially correct. For $500, take what you can get. I'd be using my cell phone or point and shoot cameras if I could do a manual focus. But I can't... so I had to get something to let me control the focus. The D3300 is a great starter DSLR. The money I saved on it was invested in microphone, light, sd card, and other gear. As I explained the expense to the wife: If I can't shoot shorts and a feature on this, then there's no point in spending more on gear.

March 14, 2017 at 9:18AM

Producer/Writer/Director/Prop Maker

I can recommend the Canon g7x from experience. It is a MASSIVE step up the iphone/any phone camera in low light. I also recommend it over the equivalent Sony (RX100) due to the user interface being so much better. The canon and Sony camera use the same sensor and have similar quality lenses.

The mark (1) is in your price range, the Mark 2 version blows your budget.
If you can't fins a mark 1 the sony rx100 produces nearly the sames images and is easier to find. I found some refurbished ones for in the $2-300 on Amazon.

It produces a clean picture for the price. It has a touch screen that you can use to rack focus and opens pretty wide (1.8?) with a nice bokeh.(for the price). The low light performance is very good. The autofocus and focus tracking works well.

It's drawbacks are fixed lens,battery life and sounds support. You need external microphones and recorders since it doesn't have an external input. I hear the mark2 version supports running from USB so a small usb battery can eliminate the need for a pocketful of extra batteries. The fixed lens is nice, but can hit limits pretty quick.

March 14, 2017 at 10:27AM


It's still the used GH2 with hack.

Not much has changed on the lower end since then.

March 14, 2017 at 2:26PM

Marc B
Shooter & Editor

I am surprised that these cameras have not been recommended yet. First of all I am not a camera snob and I think that used well my recommended cameras are capable of stunning video when used well. They are all Canon, but for one reason, Magic Lantern which is free software that goes the memory card and turns these dslr into fire breathing movie machines. Namely the T2i and the T3i, the difference being that the T3i gives you a swivel lcd screen. Also the Canon Eos-m all of them available used for under $200. All of them have youtube tutorials that teach you how to optimize settings for great video. I still use mine all the time and have not "upgraded" since they look terrific when used well. The problems that some people have with them is more due to them not learning how to use them properly. As far as lenses go, one lens seldom talked about but available for $200 used is the Canon 17mm-85mm. They sold new for about $600, but are a steal used and of course the Canon nifty fifty 50mm 1.8 is available for under $100. I have mine, but I bought them new, I have a T2i, T3i and 2-Eos-m check out this video and here is a tutorial for using the T3i for video costs under $39 You can compete with most people posting here with these recommended cameras, the key is your knowledge and ability to use any camera. In your budget you can have a terrific movie making set up. The suggested videos apply to any camera purchase. Magic Lantern homepage there are many videos on youtube on what magic lantern does and how to install it. On amazon I would avoid the ones under $100 by people that have no feedback, likely is a scam, but all kinds of people with feedback selling for little more than $100 for this zoom lens

March 14, 2017 at 3:58PM, Edited March 14, 4:08PM


I agree with Lofar, I'd just get a canon t3i. It was my first camera and it was great.

March 17, 2017 at 1:30PM


It's time to move on from the T*i line of Canon cameras. I started out shooting on a T2i, and I loved it, but I can't go back to it. There are too many new, or used options out there, that give better results. I really love the quality of images from the Panasonic GH4 and the G7x. Canon is focused on the photography crowd at this end of the market.

Dan Montenegro

March 21, 2017 at 7:28AM

Sony AX33 is $700 new, so you can get one or under $500. I've sold two documentaries to Netflix, iTunes, Hulu and Showtime shot on lesser camera. For "I Am Battle Comic", I took the AX33 to Afghanistan and Kuwait, shot NOT 2K but 1080, and had a great colorist. Professional mix as well. Hit me up and I'll share workflow. Hits theaters April 2017.

March 18, 2017 at 1:06PM

Jordan Brady

Jordan, I'd be very interested in hearing about your workflow. If you have a great story, getting the story is the most important thing. For me, audio is much more important than video. An audience will forgive grain, but if they cannot hear something clearly, they will stop watching.

Craig Mieritz

March 24, 2017 at 9:38AM


March 21, 2017 at 1:18PM


Canon T3i. You can add Magic Lantern to it which will give you more video functions like Zebra's and histogram etc. you can find it on ebay for sub $400 US. which will let you get accesories for it.

March 21, 2017 at 2:34PM

Michael Militscher
Director / Commercial Producer

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