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Best Compact Camera Under $500 [2021]: Reviews and Selection Guide

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Best Compact Camera Under 500

Best of the Best
Canon PowerShot SX740 Digital Camera w/40x Optical Zoom & 3 Inch Tilt LCD -...
Runner Up
Sony DSCHX80/B High Zoom Point & Shoot Camera (Black)
Best for Low Light Conditions
Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II Compact Digital Camera w/ 1 Inch Sensor and...
Canon PowerShot SX740
Sony DSCHX80
Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II
Best of the Best
Canon PowerShot SX740 Digital Camera w/40x Optical Zoom & 3 Inch Tilt LCD -...
Canon PowerShot SX740
Runner Up
Sony DSCHX80/B High Zoom Point & Shoot Camera (Black)
Sony DSCHX80
Best for Low Light Conditions
Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II Compact Digital Camera w/ 1 Inch Sensor and...
Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II

Today we’re counting down our picks for the best compact camera under $500.

Commonly known as a point-and-shoot, the compact camera is an excellent option if you want to take stunning shots without spending a large sum of money on a DSLR or mirrorless option.

As the name point-and-shoot would suggest, this type of camera is usually light on advanced features and is instead focussed on delivering crisp images.

If you’re just getting started with photography or need something affordable to take on your next trip, then a compact camera is a great choice.

Here’s what to expect in this article:

  •  Reviews of the best budget tripods
  •  A brief buyer’s guide
  •  Your burning questions answered in a FAQ

Without further ado, here are our top picks…

👑 Our Pick for Best Overall

Canon PowerShot SX740
The Canon PowerShot SX740 is a top camera under $500, and due to its versatility should be strongly considered if you want a point-and-shoot that can do it all.

Our Other Top Picks for Compact Camera under $500

Best Compact Camera under $500 Reviews

Canon PowerShot SX740 (👑 Our Top Pick)

The Canon PowerShot SX740 is a top quality camera, and in our view, it’s hands-down the best compact camera under $500.

This is a point-and-shoot camera that shines bright, and rises to the top of the pile due to its outstanding features and excellent image quality. This is an option that’s great for both the amateur photography enthusiast looking to up their game, as well as the vlogger or filmmaker trying to produce top quality footage on a budget.

The first great feature of this camera from Canon is the highly impressive 40x optical zoom. For a compact camera this is much more zoom than you’d expect. The fixed lens of the lightweight body allows you to capture subjects far away without compromising any of the quality granted by the image sensor. The 40x optical zoom, when coupled with advanced image stabilization, can help you take solid and steady shots without needing to get too close to the subject, which is ideal for wildlife photography in particular.

But it’s the video recording capabilities of the PowerShot SX740 which makes this point-and-shoot unique. While many of its competitors choose not to focus on video, this camera embraces it fully in order to provide the user with top quality 4k resolution images. Not only will you be able to record in 4k, but you’ll be able to do so in the respectable and smooth framerate of 30p. Capturing moving images will be easy, and the quality of the end product will make you think you’re holding a much more expensive camera. You can even create special time-lapse videos, in case you want to set your camera up somewhere and let it capture a unravelling scene.

The image sensor too is worthy of note. Offering up a stellar 20.3 Megapixel CMOS sensor, you can expect professional-level quality with every photo you snap on this camera. It’s surprising to see how much this camera punches above its weight with premium-level features you wouldn’t normally expect of a compact camera. You’ll also have built-in Wi-Fi and access to the Canon Camera Connect app, which allows for the simple transference of images so you can print them out if you so desire.

Features:

  •  20.3 Megapixel CMOS sensor 
  •  4k video
  •  40x optical zoom
  •  High-speed continuous shooting
  •  Access to Camera Connect app
  •  Built-in Wi-Fi
    WHY WE CHOSE IT AS OUR TOP PICK:

    Here are the reasons we went with the Canon PowerShot SX740 as our pick for the best compact camera under $500:

    1. This is a fantastically well-rounded device capable of recording crips 4k video while also being suitable for top-level photography with the quality image sensor.
    2. 40x optical zoom is useful for distance photography.
    3. Useful features such as built-in Wi-Fi make it easy to transfer images and videos to a smartphone or tablet soon after capturing them.

VIEW PRICING & MORE FEATURES

Sony DSCHX80 (🥈 Runner Up)

We believe that few compact cameras can beat the Sony DSCHX80 in this affordable price range, which is why we decided to make it our runner up pick for the best compact camera under $500.

This compact camera from top brand Sony shows that you can get a lot for your money, since it has a number of excellent features and is widely praised by past customers. As an ‘Amazon’s Choice’ product, the DSCHX80 is one of the best cameras in its category, and here’s why.

Perhaps the most important factor for any point-and-shoot camera is the image sensor. The image sensor is largely responsible for the quality of the end product, and determines how good a photo will look when printed out and scaled up. The Sony DSCHX80 has an 18.2 Megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor, which means it’s very capable of capturing moments in all the glorious detail you could hope for. If you want to be able to pull your camera out on a moment’s notice to capture an emerging scene or moment, this camera will let you do so and promises to deliver a polished picture to make the memory that much sweeter.

You might think that the image sensor is all that makes this camera special, but it isn’t. What makes this camera stand out from the competition is its impressive zoom capabilities. This compact camera is fitted with 30x optical zoom, meaning the fixed lens extends out and allows you to take clear pictures of subjects in the distance. Say you’re on safari or you’re taking a walk around a nature reserve and you see a bird in a tree, this camera will let you zoom in on it without having to approach and risk scaring it off. To have this much zoom on such a lightweight, low cost camera is a big deal, and adds a lot of versatility to an already great all-round model.

Another feature worth your time is the LCD screen which is adjustable by 180 degrees. The utility of this might not be at first evident, but if you enjoy taking selfies while you’re out and about you’ll soon realise how helpful this can be. The OLED Tru-Finder viewfinder, too, is useful. Since it’s brighter than a lot of other electronic viewfinders, and offers real-time preview and shooting information, you’ll be able to size up your photos before you take them.

If you were worried about gripping this small, lightweight camera, you’ll be pleased to know that there is a durable grip which allows for stable shooting. You can also transfer your images directly to your smartphone or tablet using one-touch remote, since the camera has both Wi-Fi and NFC. This is great news for those who enjoy sharing photos with friends and family instantly.

Features:

  •  18.2 Megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor
  •  Adjustable 180 degree LCD screen
  •  OLED Tru-Finder viewfinder
  •  30x optical zoom
  •  NFC and Wi-Fi
Sony DSCHX80” DSLR
The Sony DSCHX80 is an excellent camera, especially for the low price point, and it has a wealth of useful features.

Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II (💡 Best for Low Light Conditions)

The Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II is the best compact camera for low light conditions in our view, so if you enjoy nighttime photo shoots then this could be your best bet.

Many aspiring photographers will appreciate the old-fashioned aesthetic of this camera, which also serves the purpose of being ergonomic with textured grips to keep the device steady. But it isn’t the design of the PowerShot G9 X Mark II that makes it special, but its ability to take strikingly clear images even in low light conditions.

Its great performance in low light conditions is mainly attributable to the efficient DIGIC 7 Image Processor, which reduces the noise of images even at the highest ISO settings. This helps the user to take sharp images, regardless of how much or little lighting there may be. This is ideal for going on adventures in the city after dark, or taking some night time shots. There’s even enhanced tracking and detection with this camera from Canon, so your subject will appear clearly in focus even if the lighting isn’t ideal. The ISO range is between 125-12800, and since higher ISO settings mean better low lighting photography, this is a good sign for night owls who enjoy late night shoots.

The image quality should be top notch with this camera too, given its powerful 20.1 Megapixel image sensor. There’s also a respectable 3x optical zoom lens, which, while nothing like those of the Sony and other PowerShot camera from Canon we feature in this guide, is still useful for capturing subjects at a short distance away.

As for other features which make this camera worth considering, there’s continuous shooting at 8.2fps which allows you to capture snapshots of moving images, as well as a 3 inch LCD touch screen for easy configuration. You can even shoot time-lapse videos with this camera if you want, which is a fun way to experiment and capture subjects from a different perspective. 

Features:

  •  20.1 Megapixel image sensor
  •  3x optical zoom
  •  8.2fps continuous shooting 
  •  DIGIC 7 Image Processor
  •  ISO 125-12800
  •  3 inch LCD screen
Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II
The Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II is a solid choice for taking photos in low light conditions, making it great for nighttime photography adventures.

Ultimate Guide

If you’re looking to get your hands on a high quality compact camera for less than $500, then there are a few things you need to know before you part with your money.

Finding a great camera isn’t as simple as picking the one with the best quality image sensor or video resolution. It’s much more than that.

Here are some of the most important features you’ll need to take into account if you are to make the best decision for your needs.

Image Sensor

While it isn’t the only important factor which should influence your decision-making process, the quality of the image sensor is certainly a strong indicator of a camera’s worth.

First, it’s good to know exactly what an image sensor is.

The image sensor of any camera is a device which will take an image and convert it into an electronic signal. The light which comes through the lens is taken, and made into a digital image for you to see.

Megapixels are the main way you can determine whether the image sensor of a camera is quality or not.

This is because the more megapixels you have in the image sensor, the better quality the photo will be when printed out and scaled up.

The size of the image sensor is also important though, since the larger it is, the less noise or graininess you will get in your photos.

So in order to find the best image sensor for you, it’s worth considering both factors.

First, do you want to print out your photos in a high level of detail?

If the answer is yes, then you’ll want as many megapixels as you can find.

Second, do you want minimal noise or graininess in your images?

If so, then make sure you find a camera with a larger image sensor. 

Zoom

While it may seem surprising, one of the things compact cameras do particularly well is optical zoom.

Due to their compact size, point-and-shoot cameras are ideal for taking on trips and spontaneous photography missions.

If you are traveling, and you pass by a distant subject such as wildlife which you’d love to capture, then you should be able to do so with the fixed optical zoom lens.

Now, how far you’ll be able to zoom in will depend on the camera in question.

Whereas cameras like the PowerShot G9 X Mark II from Canon have a limited view range of 3x, optical zoom there are some, like the PowerShot SX740 from the same brand, which boast an incredible 40x optical zoom.

As you can probably imagine, the higher the number before the ‘x’, the further you can zoom in with your camera, which makes it more possible to capture distant subjects clearly.

The ability of the zoom will rely in some part on the image stabilization of the camera, though, and if this isn’t great then you run the risk of taking blurry photos at a distance.

Video Recording

Not all compact cameras are designed for recording video. In fact, many of them aren’t, preferring instead to opt for excellent image quality.

Due to the affordable price of many point-and-shoots, it’s often the case that one or several features have to be left out or of reduced quality.

However, that’s not to say there aren’t any compact cameras capable of capturing great video footage.

The Canon PowerShot SX740 is a great example of this, since it offers stunning 4k video recording at a smooth framerate of 30p.

This is very impressive for such a lightweight camera, and is a feature you’d expect of a much more expensive device.

Of course, whether or not this is a feature you will use will depend entirely on your preferences.

If you don’t feel like you’re going to want to shoot any video with your camera, then there’s no reason to look for 4k resolution recording.

But if you feel like there’s even a small chance that you might like to take some high quality video, then it’s a feature you should pay attention too.

Extras 

The last thing to consider with regards to compact cameras is any extra features they may have which add value to the device.

Wi-Fi

Built-in Wi-Fi is certainly not an essential feature for a camera, but it makes transferring images to your smartphone or tablet effortless.

This is especially useful if you’re new to photography and would like to have a straightforward way of accessing your recently captured images.

Continuous Shooting

Continuous shooting refers to how many photos you can take in quick succession, for when you want to capture a snapshot of a moving subject.

There will certainly be some times as a photographer when you have a subject like an animal that’s slowly moving around, but you want a clear photo of it in movement. For this, having continuous shooting at a framerate of 7 or 8fps can be invaluable.

Time Lapse

Time lapse video recording is a fun feature to experiment with, and is great for capturing changes in a scene.

For example, if you’re out on safari and you’d love to capture the evening sun as it goes down over the horizon, then you can set up your camera to do so without needing to monitor it, provided you have the time lapse feature.

Frequently Asked Questions About Compact Cameras Under $500

What is the best compact camera to buy?

In our view, the Canon PowerShot SX740 is the best compact point-and-shoot camera.

This camera is highly versatile and can do it all: it can record 4k video, take sharp photos, and zoom in on a subject to a great degree.

If you’re looking for the best value for money in a compact camera, then you shouldn’t look further than this one.

Which camera is best for photography in low price?

The point-and-shoot style camera offers the best value for money if you’re looking to take great photos without breaking the bank on an expensive camera.

This style of camera is lightweight which makes it convenient for carrying around in your pocket or taking on trips.

It can also be capable of taking not only crisp images, but sometimes smooth 4k video too.

What are best cameras under $500?

While you can find great DSLRs and mirrorless cameras for less than $500, your best bet is to find a reliable point-and-shoot camera if your priority is value for money.

The main benefit of going with a compact camera is that it will be highly intuitive if you’re new to photography, as well as exceptionally convenient.

This is the type of camera that you can take with you wherever you go, and will still offer a range of useful features.

A Final Word From Run Gun Shoot

Choosing the right compact camera is important, since although this type of camera is cheaper than others, you still want to make sure it does everything you want it to.

Pay close attention to the features of the camera, and make an effort to determine what it is exactly you want from one.

Article by:

RunGunShoot Team

Our detailed review has been contributed to by multiple members of the Run Gun Shoot Review Team to ensure the best research and highest standard of quality. Have a good or a bad experience with one of the products? Please let us know, we love the feedback!

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