The 8 Best Advanced Cameras to Buy in 2017 for Under $500

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

The digital camera market can be quite daunting to traverse. Even within a narrow price range you’re apt to find a host of competing standards, designs and use cases. For the sub-$500 category, it is no different. However, if you focus in on a few keys specs and styles, you may be able to find exactly what you’re looking for. Here, we’ve organized a list of the best sub-$500 cameras according to design, style and use case.

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.

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.

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.

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 WiFi/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.

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. 

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.

As 360-degree photography continues to grow in popularity, so does the existence of devices that support it and few offer the novelty of the Insta360 Nano 360-degree camera for the iPhone. Compatible with the iPhone 7, 7 Plus, iPhone 6/6S and 6/6S Plus or even used alone, the Insta360 captures 360-degrees of photography in 3040x1520 3K resolution at 30fps. Attached to the iPhone via the lightning port at the bottom of the device, your 360-degree photos and video are easily shared via social media whether it’s a selfie, live streaming (Facebook and YouTube) or extreme adventures such as bungee jumping. The Insta360 might be built for the iPhone, but as a stand-alone device, it adds support for Android devices with a separately purchased transfer cable. With 64GB of onboard memory, there’s plenty of storage to capture and preview photos and video on your smartphone before allowing your social world to view your life from all possible angles.

The adventure cam category is fairly young, having been around for only a few years, but it is led by a single brand name that everyone knows: GoPro. And the GoPro HERO5 is the cream of the adventure cam crop. These cameras are not for everyone. Some folks buy these impressive little gadgets only to find that the footage they capture is dull and unworthy of social media. For others, though, it’s an indispensable part of their lifestyle. The HERO5 shoots 4K video at 30 fps, and can capture still images through the 12-megapixel sensor. It comes with built-in WiFi and Bluetooth supports the GoPro App, remote function and sharing options. It features a number of shooting modes that allow you to capture cinema-quality footage, and the built-in touch display makes for a fast, easy, intuitive user experience.

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