Best DSLR Camera Under $500: Camera Equipment Chosen By The Experts

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For beginning photographers, the most important choice is your camera. Finding the most cost-effective, professional camera can mean the difference between a successful new business or a failure. Fortunately, you shouldn’t have to take out a loan to buy a great quality camera. This list includes the best DSLR cameras under $500. There are a wide variety of features to consider before purchasing your camera. Each camera has different merits and disadvantages. Look through the elements of a DSLR camera, and decide what is most important for you and your business.

What Is a DSLR Camera?

DSLR is a version of the standard SLR camera. SLR stands for Single Lens Reflex mirror. A DSLR, therefore, is a Digital Single Lens Reflex mirror camera. It operates much differently than a basic, point-and-shoot camera, allowing you far more control over each shot. You can see the exact image you are going to capture without delay. Here are some of the different features to consider when choosing your DSLR.

1.   What mm Lens Should I Use?

Understanding your lens size is critical to taking a professional picture. The millimeter (mm) of your lens refers to the focal length. A lower number is used for wide shots, while you need to use a higher number for zooming from far away. Typically, an average person sees about 30-50mm.

2. What Mirror Does My Camera Have?

Does your camera have a single mirror or many? Some inexpensive DSLRs have several mirrors, while high-quality models have a prism instead. Understanding the mirrors in your camera is important in finding out the quality of each shot.

3. Does It Have a Good Battery Life?

Thankfully, DSLRs generally have an excellent battery life. The optical viewfinder requires far less power than most other types of cameras. This allows you to take far more shots without worrying about a dead battery.

4. What Are Megapixels?

Megapixels are used to determine how well you can take large pictures with your camera. It doesn’t necessarily mean that all of your photos will have a sharper focus and better image. The amount of megapixels also affects the file size.

5. How Bulky Is the Camera?

No one wants to lug around a giant camera all day. If you are looking to start a photography business, or just want to take some photos in your spare time, finding a lightweight camera can not only give your arms a break, but it can also help increase the stability of your shots. While none of these DSLR cameras are compact, some are considerably lighter than others.

6. Can It Record Video?

Not all DSLR cameras have the ability to record video. If you are interested in this special feature, be sure to choose a camera that is capable of it. There are several other features to consider when you are planning on recording video, such as an external microphone. Some DSLRs also have autofocus, which helps you to avoid overly blurry shots and video.

7. Are There Any Special Features?

Consider a camera with full frame sensors or image stabilization. Full frame sensors provide you with an uncropped image. Most DSLR cameras take a picture that is slightly smaller than what appears in your viewfinder. If you are looking for wider shots, consider finding a camera with this special feature. Image stabilization is similar to a gyroscope. It stabilizes your camera’s sensor, which counteracts some of the movement that may be caused by you or your environment. If you are looking to take fast-paced photos, or just have shaky hands, consider this unique feature.

Choosing the Best

While all of these DSLR cameras are exceptional, some are rated higher than others. Each camera is given a rating out of 5 stars. This rating is calculated based on a number of features, such as:

  1. Price: How far under $500 is it?
  2. Image Quality: Are the images excellent or average?
  3. Customer Reviews: Is it a crowd favorite?
  4. Professional Reviews: What do the experts say?
  5. Features: How unique are its special features?

These ratings all factor into the overall star rating. They are formed from an unbiased look at each camera, and they are not intended to promote or advertise for any particular company or camera. This comprehensive guide is designed to give you all the information you need to make an informed decision. A good DSLR can last you a lifetime, so be sure you fall in love with the camera you choose.

Overall Price Range

Obviously, each of these cameras must fall under $500 in order to qualify for the list. There is still room for a range of prices to accommodate different budgets. The most expensive camera on the list, the Nikon D3400, barely makes it under $500. The least costly DSLR on the list is the Sony SLT-A58K. Within this range, there are cameras that can fit both your budget and your photography goals. Finding a high-quality camera for your professional photography needs shouldn’t cost thousands of dollars. With just $500, you can not only buy a simple starter camera, but you can also buy a competitive model that will last you throughout your career.

Where Can I Buy a DSLR?

There are a wide variety of places to purchase your camera. If you choose a small photography shop, you can buy your camera after discussing each option on this list with a trained professional. However, this is generally the most expensive option, and you may find yourself paying far more than $500. These cameras are also available at larger chain stores that feature technology, such as Best Buy. However, your options may be limited. The prices on this list are from Amazon, which is a great way to shop around and view different prices for each camera. Consider buying a used model as well. While there are fragile components that could break, with proper care a DSLR should hold up very well to lots of use. If you are on a budget, finding a used DSLR far below $500 is very easy.

Top Cameras Under $500

Nikon D3400 w/ AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm

Nikon D3400 w/ AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR (Black)

At about $439.00, this camera sneaks into the budget and onto the top of the list with exceptional features and image quality. It has Bluetooth connectivity, which saves you time when uploading your pictures. It also can take great, high-quality videos. Its 24.2-megapixel lens is great for larger photos. It weighs just under 14 ounces, which makes it far lighter than other cameras. For all of its features and quality, it receives 4.8 out of 5 stars.

Nikon D3200

Weighing an impressive 12 ounces, this tiny DSLR has a comfortable handle and is excellent for all-day shoots. It’s a very reasonable  and boasts 24 megapixels. It’s a great, well-rounded camera that is a perfect introduction to DSLRs. It is also capable of full HD videos. For its size, affordability and versatility, the Nikon D3200 gets 4.7 stars out of 5.

Canon EOS Rebel T6 w/ 58mm Wide Angle Lens

Canon EOS Rebel T6 Digital SLR Camera with 18-55mm EF-S f/3.5-5.6 is II Lens + 58mm Wide Angle Lens + 2X Telephoto Lens + Flash + 48GB SD Memory Card + UV Filter Kit + Tripod + Full Accessory Bundle

The camera features 18 megapixels and offers many of the same features of more expensive models. At $419.95 with an 18-55mm lens, it’s a great deal for anyone looking to take great photos without any frills. It also has WiFi capabilities and a high-performance optical viewfinder. It is a bit heavier, at 17 ounces. This camera gets a respectable 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digital Camera

Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Camera w/ 16-50mm Lens & Two 64GB SD Card Bundle

At $498.00, this bargain-priced camera offers plenty of features and is the most inexpensive on this list. It’s a great camera for the casual user, while still maintaining professional quality. 20 megapixels, full HD videos and unique translucent mirror technology make this camera a very competitive model. It receives 4.7 out of 5 stars.

YI M1 4K 20MP Mirrorless Digital Camera

YI M1 4K 20 MP Mirrorless Digital Camera with Interchangeable Lens 12-40mm F3.5-5.6 Lens / 42.5mm F1.8 Storm Black(US Edition)

Another great Nikon with 24 megapixels. This one, however, does great in low light situations and is slightly less expensive, with a price tag of $299.99. It comes with an 18-55mm lens but doesn’t have any video features. It also lacks Bluetooth or WiFi capabilities. If you are looking for a more inexpensive version of the Nikon D3400, this is a great choice. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Canon T6 Digital SLR Camera Kit with Free Sandisk

Canon T6 Digital SLR Camera Kit with EF-S 18-55mm Lens (Black) with Free SanDisk Ultra 32GB SDHC Card

Its advertisements claimed it to be the world’s smallest and lightest DSLR. It is no longer the lightest, but this camera packs 18 megapixels and some great features into a 13-ounce package. The Rebel SL1 does not, however, have any Bluetooth or WiFi features. It can shoot up to four frames per second and comes with an 18-55mm lens. At $399.00, it is slightly more expensive than its competitors. It receives 4.5 stars out of 5.

Nikon D3400 70-300m Lenses

Nikon D3400 24.2MP DSLR Camera with AF-P 18-55 VR and 70-300m Lenses (1573B) - (Certified Refurbished)

A slightly bulkier Nikon, this camera features excellent picture quality, five frames per second and 24 megapixels. It has a vari-angle LCD screen, which makes taking difficult shots far easier. It is capable of both full HD and HD videos, and it has built-in WiFi. This camera is only $469.00, making it a great deal for an incredible amount of features. At over 16 ounces, it is a bit too heavy for extended use. It earns 4.5 stars.

Canon EOS Rebel T6 w/ EF 75-300mm Lens

Canon EOS Rebel T6 Digital SLR Camera + Canon 18-55mm EF-S f/3.5-5.6 IS II Lens & EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III Lens + Wide Angle Lens + 58mm 2x Lens + Slave Flash + 64GB Memory Card + Wired Remote + Bundle

This excellent choice for beginners has a ton of great features, including continuous shooting up to 3 frames per second, 1080p full HD video and 18 megapixels. It has a comfortable grip and weighs only 15 ounces. At $469.00, it’s one of the more inexpensive DSLRs you can get. However, it does not have a continuous autofocus while taking videos, which can cause them to be blurry. The Rebel T5 also doesn’t have an external mic feature. This is a great choice for starting out, but if you are looking to take high-quality videos and extra large prints, you may want to purchase a more expensive option. The Rebel T5 is rated 4.4 out of 5 stars.

Canon PowerShot SX530

Canon PowerShot SX530 HS Digital Camera with 50x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom with 3-Inch LCD HD 1080p Video (Black)+ Extra Battery + 24GB Class 10 Card Complete Deluxe Accessory Bundle And Much More

This affordable model comes with built-in WiFi and a 60x optical zoom. It is an inexpensive DSLR, costing around $264.95. With video and GPS features, it is a well-rounded camera that is great for beginners. It does not, however, have a great quality flash. It also is a bit less weather-resistant than its competitors, making it important to protect it from the elements. It only has 16 megapixels and weighs almost 20 ounces. It receives 4.0 out of 5 stars.

Comparison Table

To recap, here are some of the most important features of each camera.

Nikon D3400
Nikon D3200
Canon EOS Rebel T6
Sony Alpha a6000
14 Ounces
17 Ounces
17 Ounces
17 Ounces
2 Megapixel
24 Megapixel
18 Megapixel
20 Megapixel
HD Video
HD Video
18-55mm Lens
HD Video
N/A
N/A
WiFi
Translucent Mirror Technology
YI M1 4K 20MP
Canon T6 
Nikon D3400
Canon Rebel T6
Canon PowerShot
53 Ounces
13 Ounces
16 Ounces
N/A
20 Ounces
24 Megapixel
18 Megapixel
24 Megapixel
18 Megapixel
Built-in WiFi
N/A
4 FPS
5 FPS
3 FPS
60X Optical Zoom
N/A
18-55mm Lens
Vari-Angle LCD Screen
1080p FHD
Video
N/A
N/A
Full HD and HD Videos
Comfortable Grip
GPS
N/A
N/A
Built-in WiFi
N/A
N/A

The Verdict

Now that you have carefully considered the range of features that are important to you and your photography business or hobby, it’s time to buy the perfect camera. After looking through the list, finding the right DSLR is a matter of preference. Do you have a large enough budget for the Canon Rebel SL1? Or do you prefer the reasonably priced Sony SLT-A58K? If you are looking for the best multi-use camera under $500, the Nikon D3400 is a lightweight, high-quality option. Or, if you want a basic camera without all the added features, the Nikon D3200 or Sony SLT-A58K are great for beginners on a lower budget. Whichever DSLR you choose from this list, be confident knowing you have purchased the best DSLR camera under $500 for you.