Are you looking for the perfect camera that won’t break the bank? Lucky for you, you’ve stumbled upon the perfect guide to the best mirrorless cameras under $500.
As technologies in the camera industry progress, even the best cameras under $500 seem to be getting a lot more powerful and also have some fantastic features for their affordable prices. This is why you don’t necessarily need to spend a fortune to be able to capture premium quality pictures.
With more and more cutting-edge technologies entering cameras, innovations have become a rising tide that seems to lift all the boats in their surroundings. The features that were once reserved only for the best DSLR cameras or best mirrorless cameras in the world are simply par for the course. In other words, features like 4K video, Wi-Fi, and astounding megapixel counts are a common occurrence now.
Another reason why affordable cameras have now become a better option in recent years is because of the fact that manufacturers nowadays choose to keep older models floating around in the market for some time. This is an advantage for consumers because they can find a great bargain if they aren’t too picky about buying only the latest models in the market.
So what should you expect to buy for a budget under $500? (or a little above). Well, based on whatever floats your boat, you will be able to find a compact and advanced mirrorless camera that has enthusiast-focused features. Speaking of which, don’t think that you will be able to find a one-size-fits-all model. The camera you choose should depend on what you plan on using it for.
Carry on reading to see our full list of the best mirrorless cameras under $500, followed by a brief breaking down of what makes each product on our list stand out. Or if you’re in a hurry jump straight to our #1 pick the Panasonic Lumix here.
Table of Contents
- What Should You Look For in Mirrorless Cameras Under $500?
- Here’s How We’ve Determined the Best Mirrorless Cameras Under $500
- #1: Panasonic LUMIX G7 Digital Mirrorless Camera (Best Overall)
- #2: Canon EOS M100 Mirrorless Camera (Best Value – All Purpose)
- #3: Canon EOS M200 Mirrorless Digital Camera (Best for Autofocus)
- #4: Sony NEX Mirrorless Camera (Best for Full HD)
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Verdict: Your Best Mirrorless Cameras Under $500
What Should You Look For in Mirrorless Cameras Under $500?
Criteria #1: Image Quality
It should go without saying that the best mirrorless camera under $500 should be able to capture very detailed images which will also work well at higher ISO’s. To obtain such stellar quality is an important consideration when thinking about the numerous elements of a mirrorless camera. You will also later find that image sensors are another very important consideration.
Still, camera sensors don’t work alone to produce premium quality images. Features such as focus and image stabilization are equally important when it comes to producing a fine end product.
Also, some other fine accessories such as ease of handling and a display screen that’s usable during your shoots tend to have a direct impact on image quality. Therefore, if you find yourself searching for viable options, make sure that you carefully read about the features and external components that come together to produce supreme quality images.
Criteria #2: USB Charging
Trust us, you don’t want to find yourself looking for AV adapters during photoshoots or perhaps while you’re doing your thing out in the wilderness. This is why you should be absolutely sure that you only buy those cameras that are compatible with USB charging devices so you can save yourself from the headache in the future.
Make sure it is there, just to be safe.
Criteria #3: Battery Life
Mirrorless cameras tend to have a particularly short battery life, and naturally, you wouldn’t want to have to change your batteries after just a few hours of usage. This is why you should look for the best mirrorless camera under $500 that also has a good battery life before buying one. One way of doing this is to browse through reviews of each camera in order to make sure that you don’t draw the shortest straw.
Criteria #4: SD Cards
Read each cameras’ specifications or perhaps read reviews about which kinds of SD cards your mirrorless camera is compatible with. In addition, you shouldn’t settle for those cameras that only use very rare brands of SD cards. You should only settle for those cameras that use the most common kind.
You shouldn’t have to order SD cards from another corner of the world or have to wait for 40 days at a time for shipping. Avoid all of this pain by doing all of your research beforehand.
Criteria #5: Third-Party Lenses
Every mirrorless camera has a specification for which adapter ring it uses and what kinds of lenses it is compatible with. This is yet another thing that you will have to look into. If you will have to go out and buy a different lens for each mirrorless or DSLR camera you own, you will probably double or triple the budget you’re working with.
Criteria #6: Image Stabilization
This is another feature that you wouldn’t want to miss out on. Trust us, once you’ve tried a mirrorless camera that comes readily equipped with stabilizers, you wouldn’t ever feel like switching back to a camera without one.
Criteria #7: Sensor Size
DSLRs tend to have the largest sensor sizes, therefore, they tend to be bulkier and bigger than most mirrorless cameras. In contrast, point-and-shoot cameras tend to have the smallest sizes of sensors. Since you’re looking for mirrorless cameras, their sensors, almost always stand somewhere in between.
The only problem with smaller sensors is that they tend to perform badly in situations where you have low light. Conventional wisdom would state that you should settle for a camera that has a bigger sensor since the larger your sensor is, the better it will perform in low light conditions. This is why you will have to carefully read the specifications of each camera before you consider buying them.
Here’s How We’ve Determined the Best Mirrorless Cameras Under $500
To find the best mirrorless camera under $500, we weighed in all of the best specifications of the most popular products in the market. Also, we compared the specs of these products based on the list of considerations we mentioned above to see how well they did and whether they were worth buying.
After double-checking our research, we also checked out blog posts, customer reviews, and other reviewers’ posts about the best mirrorless cameras that cost under $500 to understand whether their specs translated into real-world performance.
Now that you know where we got our information from and personal experience, it’s finally time to dip into our list of these best 4 mirrorless cameras.
#1: Panasonic LUMIX G7 Digital Mirrorless Camera (Best Overall)
The LUMIX G7 is one of the descendants of the first mirrorless camera of its kind. (it’s over $500 and has 1000 plus reviews at Amazon).
Still, perhaps the very last thing this camera seems to be is a mirrorless camera. What it is trying to be is an interchangeable lens camera that doesn’t specifically fit into a genre of cameras. With this particular camera, you would have people wondering whether it is mirrorless or not.
As a direct result of this, this camera looks as if it is a miniature DSLR which includes all of the right control points that you should expect. This includes the twin control dials along with plenty of switches and buttons. However, since it is actually a mirrorless camera, it has been able to take full advantage of its fully functional touch-sensitive, high-resolution screen.
The specifications of the 2nd-best mirrorless camera under $500 are pretty respectable as well. Sure, its 16 MP isn’t exactly what someone would call innovative at this point, but it comes through with its 4K Ultra High Definition video which is still quite rare, as of this writing. This is especially the case when you try to factor in the fact that the G7 camera also features zebra highlight warnings and focus peakings. Both of these tools (absent from the competition) are very necessary when it comes to capturing usable video.
The G7 also tries to use its video capability as an advantage in attracting those people who originally had no intention of shooting video. The latest addition to this camera’s 4K Photo mode also includes an option to continuously record one-second intervals of video. It gets written to the memory card as soon as you click the shutter button. This also means that you will still get to capture the moment, and you’re more likely to capture the best form of the moment while you’re at it.
#2: Canon EOS M100 Mirrorless Camera (Best Value – All Purpose)
Canon’s EOS M100 is the latest entry-level mirrorless camera. Despite the fact that these cameras are considerably smaller and more affordable as compared to its premium-priced M5 or M6 alternatives, they have the same APS-C sensor and 24 MP features as well as the brilliant Dual Pixel autofocus. You will also find that this mirrorless camera has the new DIGIC 7 processor from Cannon as well as NFC, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth options for connectivity.
The M100 aims mainly at all those smartphone photographers who were looking for a chance to get their first-ever “real” camera. The camera’s polished control scheme is touch-centric which reflects its best features. It’s light, it’s small, and with its larger APS-C sensor, you will easily be able to capture better photos as compared to any smartphone.
This camera, based on reports from its buyers, also boasts a dedicated button for wireless connectivity so you will also be able to easily export your captures from the M1 across multiple platforms such as Tumblr, Instagram, or Facebook.
Even though smartphones are being largely decimated by the market segment of compact cameras, Canon’s EOS M100 isn’t going to go down without putting up a fight with cameras with interchangeable lenses. All of the latter have an image quality that is above or beyond the common smartphone camera.
The EOS M100 is probably one of the most intimidating cameras in its tier of products, and this is mostly noticed among new users. It has the least amount of physical controls, and you can use its Auto Mode to take natural pictures, manipulate its on-screen settings and even tap to focus.
#3: Canon EOS M200 Mirrorless Digital Camera (Best for Autofocus)
The EOS M200 can be described as an interchangeable, user-friendly, and compact mirrorless camera. Right off the bat, it has a great 24 MP sensor, as well as Dual Pixel autofocus which helps produce pristine image quality. Both of these features give you the biggest bang for your buck, and this model is a follow-up to the M100 which we covered a moment ago.
Canon hasn’t had to mess with their previous formula when they created the M200, however, is this enough of an “oomph factor” to make it stand out from its competitors? Well, this mirrorless camera doesn’t really come with all the latest Canon technology, however, it still manages to pack a very reliable autofocus as well as a great sensor.
Some experts would say that buying this camera would mean that you are in for similar image quality as Canon’s EOS 80D, which by the way, is a DSLR camera. Of course, the M200 comes in a much smaller package.
By just the looks of it, most photography buffs wouldn’t take this camera seriously, but they will be surprised by the high quality of pictures that it can capture. Of course, if you were accustomed to taking some photos using your smartphone, you wouldn’t mind carrying around the ultra-lightweight M200 for better photos.
When we say “better photos”, we actually mean better resolution, more detailed images, and your chance to opt for the brightest prime lenses in the market. We’re talking about the best low-light performance you will have seen to date. Also, if you trust our reviews, you should take our word for it that it is a lot more fun to capture photos with this camera than with a smartphone.
In any case, the very combination of great image quality with its small size makes it really appealing. You may notice that your friends won’t take this camera very seriously at first, but you are going to end up with some really great photographs.
#4: Sony NEX Mirrorless Camera (Best for Full HD)
The Sony Nex features an APS-C CMOS sensor, a BIONZ image processor, and a resolution of 16.1 MP. This particular camera accepts Sony’s E-Mount lenses which includes a power zoom lens. This lens has an effective focal length of about 16 to 50 mm.
This camera also comes with a massive 3” LCD screen and a resolution of around 460,800 dots which can be tiled up to 180 degrees. But that’s not all. This camera also features a 1080i Full HD video playback option that runs at around 60 fps or a 1080p video resolution that plays at 24 fps. This camera’s NEX-3N feature is quite effective in countering poor lighting conditions without having to use a built-in flash. This result is thanks to the camera’s wide range of ISO (200 to 16000) as well as advanced noise reduction.
In addition, this camera also features a smart autofocus system which offers users the capability to easily focus on their subjects. Also, the automated Object Framing option fills your frame with each subject by simply recognizing each scene and then cropping the subject automatically. You’ll enjoy the Photo Creative feature that gives easy access to the camera’s Picture Effect controls and settings so you can brighten or defocus the background or make it look more vivid.
If you’re interested in a more basic digital camera check out our review of the best digital cameras under $300.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Does Dynamic Range Mean?
In photography, dynamic range signifies the rate of the minimum and maximum intensities of measurable light (black, white, etc). When it comes to the real world, no photographer ever comes face to face with true black or white. Instead, they only see varying categories of subject reflectivity and light source intensity.
Therefore, this concept of dynamic range tends to become even more complicated, which means that it depends on whether you’re talking about the display device, capture device, or the camera subject itself.
Scenes that have high variations of reflectivity, such as those subjects that consist of black objects as well as strong reflections, might have a stronger dynamic range as opposed to those scenes that have large incident variation in light.
Why Can’t I Just Use a Smartphone?
To answer this question simply, the main difference between mobile cameras and digital cameras is their image quality, however, this is mainly due to their sensor sizes. Premium mirrorless cameras tend to have sensational image sensors which have the ability to capture each detail in scenes, which includes shadows to highlights.
In contrast, the smartphone sensor is only a fraction of the size of its alternative, which is why you will find it a lot harder to capture pictures in dim lighting or to zoom in on your subject without sacrificing the quality of the image.
Besides this, the glare from your smartphone’s screen makes it impossible to use when you’re under bright sunlight. Also, most smartphones have been designed to have numerous megapixels since manufacturers tend to cram in a lot of features. Still, it is safe to say that these cameras will never be better than mirrorless cameras which come with large sensors.
Verdict: Your Best Mirrorless Cameras Under $500
After scouring the market for the best mirrorless cameras under $500, we’ve compiled this guide for your benefit. These 4 shortlisted cameras are enough to keep you busy for the next couple of years since they have the best mix of features we have seen in this price range.
Which one should you settle for? Well, this completely depends on your preferences. If you’re searching for a full-HD camera, go with the Sony Mirrorless Camera.
If you’re looking for something to carry around easily on your international trips and has the best auto-focus, pick the Canon EOS M200.