The 8 Best Advanced Cameras to Buy in 2019 for Under $500

Buying the best cameras doesn't have to cost you your whole paycheck

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The Rundown

Our Top Picks

Best Zoom: Nikon Coolpix B500

4.2

With its sharp looks and excellent photographic results, the Nikon Coolpix B500 digital camera is an excellent choice for digital shooters who don’t want to be weighed down by a full-fledged DSLR. Among its highlights are a 40x optical zoom lens and 80x dynamic zoom for getting up close and personal with your photo subjects. Boosted by a 16MP 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS sensor, 35mm lens and Full HD 1080p video recording, the B500 is a stand-out selection. When it comes to its main highlight, the zoom feature, the optical zoom and dynamic zoom are both aided by lens-shift vibration reduction, which helps maintain a steady image and is critical when snapping photos at a distance. The three-inch tilting LCD helps make composing shots a snap, as well as aiding you in finding a few new angles to capture. The addition of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and NFC technology makes getting photos off the B500 and onto a smartphone or PC a snap. 

Best Adventure Camera: GoPro HERO7 Black

5

GoPro has a well-earned reputation for rugged cameras that you can take anywhere in the world, no matter how extreme. The GoPro HERO7 Black, the newest top-of-the-line camera from GoPro, continues in that tradition with a fully-featured lightweight camera that can take great video and photos. In fact, in the sub-$500 category of cameras, none will probably be as versatile as the HERO7 Black. 

First off, this device is waterproof and can be submerged up to 33 feet (10 meters) and it can survive large drops. Second, the HERO7 Black has the most advanced stabilization of any GoPro, meaning you can shoot hyper-real 4K video from your helmet while snowboarding or biking and the video will be smooth. Third, the HERO7 Black includes a new feature called SuperPhoto that takes 12-megapixel HDR photos, ensuring you can get good photos on the fly. Finally, this camera has voice control capabilities, which let you say things like “GoPro, take a photo” and the device will take a shot without you having to do anything else.

Best Panasonic: Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS60K

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS60
Courtesy of Amazon.com

Like most of Panasonic’s point-and-shoot cameras, the ZS60 is all about versatility. Whereas some cameras excel in one or two key areas and leave other areas in the lurch, Panasonic affords due regard to the whole photographic experience, and the ZS60 is the pinnacle of that approach. It features a powerful 30x (24-720mm) Leica DC optical zoom lens, specifically catered to travel and outdoor use. The 18-megapixel affords solid performance in a variety of conditions, and the lens-mounted control ring offers a level of control not often found in the point-and-shoot realm. The eye-level electronic viewfinder (EVF) and touch LCD deliver a variety of framing modes and strategies, and with 4K/UHD video recording the camera is pretty much future-proof. The ZS60 is no DSLR or mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, but it proves that the point-and-shoot category as a whole is not to be overlooked when it comes to high-end digital photography.

Check out our other reviews of the best Panasonic cameras available today.

Best DSLR: Canon EOS Rebel T6

Canon EOS Rebel T6
Courtesy of Amazon.com

The $400-$500 price range may sound like a lot of money for a camera, but when it comes to DSLR shooters it’s still fairly introductory. For folks who are looking to dive into the world of interchangeable lenses without breaking the bank, the Canon T6 is a good place to start. It features a solid 18-megapixel CMOS sensor, Full HD (1080p) video recording, a built-in flash with a variety of shooting modes and filters, and a three-inch LCD. The kit comes with a 18-55mm IS II standard zoom lens that’s versatile enough for most first-time SLR shooters. It also includes a nine-point autofocus system, an ISO range of 100-6400 (expandable to 12800). The T6 is an all-around great camera for novice DSLR users, something that could pave the way for intermediate and even advanced photographers.

Interested in reading more reviews? Take a look at our selection of the best entry level DSLR cameras

Best Point-and-Shoot: Nikon Coolpix A900

Nikon COOLPIX A900
Courtesy of Amazon.com

The Nikon Coolpix A900 is the quintessential point-and-shoot camera—even if it does have some flaws. It features an impressive 35x optical zoom (and 70 dynamic zoom), a typical 20-megapixel CMOS sensor, 4K video capture at 20 fps, a multi-angle LCD and Wi-Fi/NFC/Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) connectivity for sharing and uploading images wirelessly. It’s a versatile yet robust camera with an unassuming appearance, and that’s sort of what people want from basic point-and-shoots.

Best Waterproof: Canon PowerShot D30

The Canon PowerShot D30 is a lesson in durability. Yes, it’s waterproof, but that’s not even the tip of the iceberg. It can withstand temperatures from 14 degrees Fahrenheit up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit; it’s shockproof up to drops of 6.5 feet; and it’s waterproof up to depths of 82 feet — that’s one of the deepest waterproof performances around.

As for the camera, its 12.1-megapixel CMOS sensor with a DIGIC 4 Image Processor takes high-quality pictures, shooting in Full HD 1080p video at 24 frames per second and 720p HD video at 30 frames per second. As an adventurer on the go, you’ll most likely want a camera that can keep up with you, and the D30 packs in GPS technology to do just that, although the feature doesn’t work underwater. It lets you geotag your photo and map them out, so you have essentially a photo diary of your trip.

Take a peek at some of the other best Canon cameras you can buy.

Best Smartphone Attachment: Moment Wide-Angle Lens

The concept of a lens that attaches to your smartphone isn’t that new. But many of the options out there are little more than magnifiers, and they don’t offer much in the way of professional functionality. Moment aims to step this up by building lenses that attach to a specific case (sold separately). This allows the lens to sit firmly on your phone’s camera, and in the case of this wide-angle option, you’ll actually get twice the field of vision.

The lens itself has been designed with cinema-grade glass and is specially optimized for filming video. Most phones actually crop the image you get while filming in order to achieve image stabilization, so having this extra field of vision is really helpful. There’s a multi-layer, low-flair, anti-reflection coating on the lens, which has been designed with five elements and four groups (a larger degree of components than other, cheaper clip-on lenses). It’s important to note that because of the 0.63x magnification, you will get some very slight distortion on the edges of the camera field, like a very subtle fisheye effect. Because this is just a lens that fits over your phone’s existing camera, you are limited to the capabilities of that sensor and the software that controls it. But at just 44.9g and a thickness of only 22.1mm, this is a great little accessory to throw into your travel bag.

Best Mirrorless: Fujifilm X-A10

Fujifilm X-A10

Courtesy of Newegg

The mirrorless camera category has one thing that unifies nearly all cameras in it – they’re all a bit expensive. So, when Fujifilm released its X-A10 mirrorless camera in December 2016, heads turned when its price tag came in just under $500 while also promising high-quality images.

The Fujifilm X-A10 measures 6.6 x 6.7 x 3.5 inches and weighs 1.8 pounds, and it sports a modern-yet-retro look with silver and black flourishes. But the technology inside is anything but retro, with a 16.3-megapixel APS-C sensor that provides great color reproduction and stellar image quality. On top of this, the camera offers many filters and shooting modes to help you find the right look for your photos, it has a three-inch LCD screen for viewing photos and it can shoot 1080p HD video. The X-A10 comes with a 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, but it’s also compatible with other X-Series lenses if you want to up your camera game in the future.

Want to take a look at some other options? See our guide to the best mirrorless cameras out there.

Tested by

How We Tested

We bought two of our readers’ favorite sub-$500 advanced cameras and our reviewers tested them for 16 hours. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using these cameras, from portability to photo and video quality. We’ve outlined the key takeaways here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.

What to Look for in Advanced Cameras Under $500

DSLR vs. point-and-shoot - First off, you’ll need to decide whether you want a DSLR — digital single-lens reflex — or a point-and-shoot. What’s the difference? In the former, there’s a mirror behind the lens, which reflects the image through a prism for you to see through an optical viewfinder. With the latter, there’s no optical viewfinder and the sensor is always on. In short, DSLRs tend to have more advanced features than point-and-shoot cameras, but they can also be more expensive.

Portability - They say the best camera is the one you have with you. That’s why most of our photos end up on our smartphones. But if you want better quality photos without having to lug around a hefty DSLR, opt for something more compact. GoPro offers a handy line of action cameras, while some other options attach right onto your smartphone.

Picture quality - Above all, you want a camera that takes top-notch photos. For this, you’ll want to consider the image sensor, which is measured in megapixels. In general, the more megapixels, the more detailed the image.

Test Results: Nikon COOLPIX B500 Digital Camera (Best Zoom)

4.2

What We Like

  • Good photo quality

  • Great battery life

  • Super portable

What We Don't Like

  • No touchscreen

  • Image quality decreases in low-light settings

Nikon COOLPIX B500 Digital Camera
Nikon COOLPIX B500
Nikon Digital Camera
Nikon COOLPIX Digital Camera
Nikon COOLPIX B500 Camera

From its long battery life to its portability, our testers found that the Nikon COOLPIX B500 Digital Camera offers everything you could want at a reasonable price. One reviewer said, “Nikon claims 600 photos from a single [battery] charge, but I took around 1,000 pictures and the camera still had some battery left.” Our testers also liked the camera’s DSLR-like look, fine zoom feature, and overall value. “[Its] 40x wide optical zoom is good for non-professional photography,” one reviewer noted. In general, our testers liked the camera’s photo quality but mentioned that it decreased in low-light settings.

Test Results: GoPro Hero 7 Black (Best Adventure)

5

What We Like

  • Amazing video stabilization

  • Convenient waterproof feature

  • Easy to use

What We Don't Like

  • Short battery life

GoPro Hero 7 Black
GoPro Hero 7
GoPro Black
GoPro
GoPro 7

“It's really easy to use and the video quality is great,” one of our testers gushed about the GoPro Hero 7 Black. The HyperSmooth video stabilization feature and the fact that it’s waterproof were other notable pluses mentioned by our reviewers. While one tester wished the battery life lasted longer, he also noted it was “similar to other models” in that regard. The bottom line? “The pictures and videos always come out great,” said one of our reviewers, who used the GoPro to shoot running and water activities.