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Best cheap digital cameras in 2021

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Last updated: 22 October 2021

Whether you’re looking for a camera to take your hobby to the next level, or simply something that can let you relive your travels in better quality than your phone can, a good camera makes all the difference in the world. 
 
With hundreds of models out there, and some costing over several thousand pounds, it can be difficult to know which to purchase. This is why we’ve scoured the market for the best budget digital cameras. They’ve also been separated into 3 categories to help you find what you’re looking for with greater ease. 

Best cheap compact digital cameras

SONY Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III High-Performance Compact Camera

While the Sony RX100 III is far from the latest model in the RX100 range, it’s available at a much lower price. It’s far more capable than previous models, and comes with several helpful features.

It makes use of a tiltable screen, great for when you’re taking photos at difficult angles. The faster start-up is also a welcome addition, meaning you’re less likely to miss an unexpected shot. Being able to quickly transfer photos to your phone through the NFC is another excellent feature, as it removes the frustration of searching for cables and transferring them manually.

Pros:

  • Built-in WiFi and NFC: The inclusion of WiFi and NFC built into the RX100 III makes it easy to save any photos you take straight to the cloud, or transfer them to your phone. Perfect for making sure your memories aren’t lost.
  • Wide aperture range: If you’re interested in taking low-light photos, then the f/1.8-2.8 maximum aperture should be able to handle it without being too sensitive.
  • Faster start-up: If you’re comparing the RX100 III to previous models, the Bionz X is around triple the speed of the standard Bionz. This leads to faster start-ups and image processing.

Cons:

  • Slow to AutoFocus: You could be waiting slightly longer than you want to due to the camera’s slow AutoFocus.

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CANON PowerShot G9X MK II High-Performance Compact Camera

The Canon G9X is a very good-looking camera. The all-metal construction makes it a sturdy camera too, while its compact size makes it ideal for transportation. It also possesses some impressive features, such as a variety of shooting modes.

One feature the Canon G9X lacks, however, is the option to record in 4K. It’s a feature that is becoming increasingly common, and the fact that it’s absent from the G9X is a shame.

The touchscreen LCD offers users the ability to immediately take control over their images, rather than having to wait and edit them after the shoot. Since this is so easy to do, it allows budding photographers to make edits with very little experience.

Pros:

  • 3” touchscreen LCD: Take complete control thanks to the touchscreen. It’s incredibly easy to change the various settings and get the image you desire.
  • In-camera modes: Whether you want to capture star trails or layer images, the G9X has specialised modes to allow you to capture your perfect picture.
  • Ultra-slim body: Don’t worry about portability. Due to the small size of the G9X, you can easily slip it in your pocket and take it on any adventure.

Cons:

  • 1080p video: In an age where most cameras are capable of shooting video in 4K, being limited to 1080p quality is not ideal.

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Olympus Tough TG-6 Red

If you’re looking for a tough, all-weather camera that can withstand bumps and drops, this could be the one for you. The Olympus Tough is hands down the best survival camera available, so if you’re looking for an adventurous companion to record your greatest thrills, this is a solid choice.

You may think that the 12MP lens is a downgrade, but by not having as many pixels, the Tough is better equipped to deal with various low light situations - like underwater shooting. The photos are also captured RAW, so you can recover any hidden details with some careful editing.

The Olympus Tough TG-6 model isn’t wholly different from the previous TG-5 model. There have been some minor updates, such as the inclusion of new underwater modes. Ultimately, if you’re going to buy one then choose the TG-6. If you already have the TG-5, though, an upgrade isn’t really necessary.

Pros:

  • Underwater shooting modes: The Olympus Tough is not only able to withstand being underwater, but has 5 different modes designed for underwater capture. These are Wide, Snapshot, Macro, Micro and HDR.
  • Nearly indestructible: Able to withstand dust, water up to 15m, drops from 2.1m, 100kg in weight, and temperatures of -10°C, the Olympus Tough is designed to survive almost any situation you throw yourself into.
  • Field sensor: Olympus’ brilliant field sensor system returns in the Tough to provide you with log details. This includes the location, altitude, and temperate when you took the shot. This is all recorded alongside your pictures or videos.

Cons:

  • Very few updates: The biggest drawback is that there have been very few updates since the TG-5 model, so if you own the TG-5, there’s very little reason to buy the TG-6.

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Panasonic Lumix DC-TZ90 Camera

With a slim and compact body, the Panasonic TZ90 is the perfect holiday and travelling camera. Able to take incredibly long-distance photos with its 30x zoom, you can capture extraordinary images from a hotel balcony or hillside cottage.

However, the viewfinder is small and difficult to use, but this can be bypassed by using the flip-up touchscreen LCD instead. The LCD is exceptional for taking high-quality selfies, or even recording vlogs.

The TX90 is extremely useful for recording heart-warming family moments. Thanks to its 4K recording, you can keep impeccable videos that let you relive your favourite moments in perfect clarity. 

Pros:

  • 30x optical zoom: No matter how far away your subject is, thanks to the 30x zoom, you can ensure you capture clear images every time.
  • 4K video recording: Wish your daily videos were in better quality so you could really relive the experiences? Wish no longer with crisp 4K video recording at 30fps.
  • 180-degree LCD: Want to take better selfies? Thanks to the flip-up touchscreen LCD, you can now point the lens at yourself and know exactly what the image will look like. It’s brilliant for recording vlogs too.

Cons:

  • Small viewfinder: Because of its small size, the viewfinder of the TZ90 is relatively difficult to use. You can get used to it with some effort, but it doesn’t feel as natural as some other cameras.

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Panasonic Lumix DC-FT7 Tough Camera

Another incredibly capable and tough camera, the Panasonic FT7 is able to withstand just as much punishment as the Olympus Tough TG-6. It also makes use of a 4.6x zoom, which is especially useful if you want to capture underwater wildlife without getting close enough to disturb it.

The waterproof rating of the FT7 is impressive, capable of reaching 31m (102ft) without any issue. This makes it one of the deepest operating cameras available without additional protective housing.

If you are interested in keeping the raw file and examining the extra data yourself, you’ll find that the FT7 is not capable of doing this. The Panasonic instantly compresses it into a JPEG format, and while this may be fine for casual photographers, the more experienced may find this disappointing.

Pros:

  • Waterproof to 31m: Reinforced glass and rubber padding have been expertly encased into the camera so it can withstand depths of up to 31m. You won’t need to worry about purchasing a specialised case in order to protect the FT7 from the depths of the ocean.
  • 4K photo and video: Capable of taking 4K quality photos and videos, you can be certain that your images will be visible in jaw-dropping clarity.
  • Electric viewfinder (EVF): The Panasonic FT7 has an EVF built-in, which is incredibly useful for taking photos when sunlight and glare may be making the screen difficult to use.

Cons:

  • Doesn’t support RAW format: Unfortunately, the FT7 is unable to retain the unprocessed raw format of the file. Photos you take immediately become compressed, and you subsequently lose some of the photo’s data.

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Best cheap DSLR cameras

Nikon D3500 DSLR and 18-55mm Lens Black

An option for those who may be interested in the world of photography, but aren’t yet ready to invest thousands in a professional camera. The Nikon D3500 is available at an affordable price and offers many features (like 5fps image capture, 100-25600 ISO light-sensitivity, and Guide Mode) to help new photographers develop their skills.

Like most cameras aimed at the entry-level market, the D3500 is missing a lot of premium features that make the more expensive models worth so much. The LCD isn’t touchscreen and it is also missing WiFi connectivity, GPS, and both headphone and microphone jacks. But that is to be expected, especially when considering its very affordable price.

Ultimately, it’s an exceptional first DSLR camera and a great purchase for anyone looking to take up photography as a hobby, or learning how to take professional photos. Thanks to its compatibility with various lenses and accessories, the D3500 is an investment that should last you for years.

Pros:

  • Autofocuses quickly: Whereas some cameras may struggle with automatic focusing on new subjects, the Nikon D3500 can do it extremely quickly.
  • Designed for entry-level photographers: If you’re looking at getting started in photography, this could be an excellent option for you. It boasts some of the features common to professional DSLRs, but without the hefty price tag.
  • 18-55mm lens: As most photographers will know, camera lenses can be very expensive. The fact that the D3500 comes with an 18-55mm lens is an excellent addition, and cements the fact that this is a great choice for new photographers.

Cons:

  • Can’t shoot in 4K: Capable of recording in full HD at 60fps, recording a 4k video is outside of the D3500’s capabilities. This is to be expected, however, considering the D3500’s low cost and entry-level target market.

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CANON EOS 4000D DSLR Camera with EF-S 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6 III Lens

One of the least expensive options when looking at a DSLR camera, the Canon EOS 4000D is a decent option for new photographers. It may not offer a whole lot in terms of specifications, but you should also bear in mind that this is the cheapest DSLR camera on this list.

The WiFi connectivity is an excellent tool that not only allows you to share and back up your photos, but even lets you use your phone as a remote control. Why not use your imagination to take photos from interesting and unusual angles?

The Canon EOS 4000D is undoubtedly a basic DSLR, but one that is designed to help you get to grips with the basic functions of a camera. It’ll serve you well until you’re ready to upgrade, and once you need to frequently change lenses, you’ll know it’s time to upgrade.

Pros:

  • 3FPS continuous capture: Able to take 3 photos every second, using the Canon EOS 4000D means you’re unlikely to miss a moment - or capture any blurry images.
  • Guided mode: If you’re not sure how best to make use of the 4000D’s multiple features, Guided Mode can teach you exactly what settings you’ll need to take the perfect photos.
  • WiFi connectivity: Whether you want to instantly share the photos you take with your followers, or simply send them to your phone for a safe back-up, the built-in WiFi connectivity makes this incredibly easy.

Cons:

  • Low-resolution LCD: While the 4000D may take good photos, the LCD has a disappointingly low resolution and doesn’t show your images in much clarity. This means you’ll need to transfer your photos to another device to be sure you’ve taken adequate shots.

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Pentax K-70 & 18-50mm WR RE Lens Kit

An ideal option for beginners, the Pentax K-70 is an extremely capable DSLR. While there are some areas in which it doesn’t stand up to competitors, intelligent usage of the ISO sensitivity can produce high-quality images with an equivalent of 12,800 ISO.

The 5-Axis Sensor-Shift feature is an extraordinary one. Whilst the majority of cameras may opt for a lens-stabilisation system, applying it to the sensor instead is able to make it adaptable across multiple different lenses, and allow it to make many more correction movements.

The Pentax K-70’s photo quality is incredible and better than most of its competitors. It might be the most expensive DSLR of the three, but it is by far the best value for money too. There are a couple of minor issues, but that will always be the case with cameras at this price point.

Pros:

  • Excellent viewfinder: The viewfinder for the K-70 is both large and bright, helping you to take accurate pictures every single time.
  • Rugged: Built to have a dust and weather-resistant body, the K-70 is also capable of operating in temperatures as low as -10°C. It’s far more durable than the other DSLRs on this list, so if you’re interested in taking shots in a more natural environment, this is the recommended option.
  • 5-axis sensor shift: The Pentax comes with a sensor-shift feature that automatically adjusts movement in your photos to help produce the best image possible. Most typically used to reduce camera shake, it can also improve colour rendition and capture in ultra-fine detail.

Cons:

  • Average autofocus system: The K-70’s autofocus system offers comparatively less in the way of focus point density. Despite this, the autofocus is still relatively quick, accurate, and requires very little exposure adjustment.

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Best cheap mirrorless digital cameras

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mk III & 14-42mm

While the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mk III hasn’t drastically improved compared to previous models, the focus has instead been on providing the easiest photography experience possible. This makes it ideal for complete novices who understand little about the technical aspects of photography.

The small size of the Olympus Mk III is highly advantageous too, as it makes it far more portable than other, larger cameras. This, in turn, means it’s a suitable alternative to your phone camera. Using the Olympus Mk III, you’ll easily be able to capture incredible images of far better quality than any smartphone is capable of.

Pros:

  • Smaller size: As a pocket-sized camera, the Olympus Mark III is a perfect upgrade to your smartphone’s camera.
  • Raw image capture: Many entry-level cameras won’t give you the ability to save the raw digital file. But this is where the Olympus Mk III differs, as you can choose between saving in either Raw or JPG formats.
  • 14-42mm lens kit: Buying lenses is an incredibly expensive part of owning a camera. Thankfully, this Olympus Mk III model is sold alongside a 14-42mm EZ lens kit.

Cons:

  • No Bluetooth or NFC: If you were hoping to be able to connect the Olympus Mk III to your phone and transfer any photos wirelessly, you’re out of luck. The Mk III doesn’t possess any wireless features.

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PANASONIC Lumix DMC-G7EB-K Mirrorless Camera with 14-42 mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens

A very good-looking camera and one able to capture 4K stills, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7EB-K is definitely a mouthful. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a very capable mirrorless camera that can easily suit your needs.

The Micro Four Thirds sensor may not be as good as alternative cameras with an APS-C sensor, but as an entry-level model, this isn’t too important. There are additional features which make up for it, such as the OLED viewfinder, which is extremely useful for letting you pick up on any minute details prior to capturing the image.

It might not be the very best camera on the market, but it is an extremely solid choice for anyone wanting to avoid paying premium prices for 4K features.

Pros:

  • 4K image capture: Capable of shooting still photos in 4K quality, the Panasonic G7EB allows you to capture moments in pristine accuracy and clarity.
  • OLED viewfinder: Don’t worry about the viewfinder lacking any clarity - with an OLED display, you’ll be able to pick up on any minor details in your images.
  • Near-instant autofocus: Panasonic have included their Depth From Defocus (DFD) system, which analyses the difference between two defocused points in order to find the right focus point more quickly.

Cons:

  • Sub-par sensor: The Micro Four Thirds sensor is not only two years old, but is also smaller (and therefore less capable) than the APS-C type sensors used in many other cameras.

SONY a6000 Mirrorless Camera with 16-50 mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens & Accessories

Even though the a6000 was released back in 2014, it’s still a phenomenal camera and able to easily hold its own compared to newer models. In fact, its age actually means the a6000 is available at an incredible price.

The UI may look a little outdated, and there’s a lack of 4K video recording. Regardless, upon launch, the a6000 competed with midrange cameras. Now? The reduced price means it falls into the entry-level category, where it is easily one of the best options you can get your hands on.

Ultimately, thanks to the sheer quality of the Sony a6000, this is one of the best entry-level cameras you can purchase.

Pros:

  • Very competitive: Despite being relatively old, it still remains one of the best mirrorless cameras available. Furthermore, its lower price means it almost completely dominates the entry-level competition.
  • 24MP APS-C sensor: A state of the art piece of tech when the a6000 was first released, the 24MP sensor is still incredibly responsive. You won’t find much better on an entry-level camera.
  • Good autofocus: With 179 phase-detection and 25 contrast-detection autofocus points, the autofocus of the a6000 is impressively quick.

Cons:

  • Lacks 4K features: The Sony a6000 is a few years old by this point, so unfortunately, it doesn’t benefit from a 4K video recorder. It’s more than capable of taking some breathtaking stills though, so it’s still a great option for those not bothered by video.

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So, no matter what type of camera you’re interested in, these are the best you can get on an entry-level budget. Whether you’re just looking for a portable camera to take better holiday pictures, or you want to take up photography as a hobby (or even a career), these cameras are the best ones currently available to help you reach your goals.

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Fergus Cole

Author: Fergus Cole

Fergus is a journalist specialising in the personal finance, energy and broadband sectors. He also has a passion for travel and adventure so tries to make the most of this in any spare time he gets.