The best cheap camera for 2024: finest budget cameras you can buy

A tight budget shouldn't hold back your photography, which is why we've put together this expert round-up of the best cheap cameras. From simple DSLRs to affordable mirrorless options, we've comprehensively reviewed the best reasonably priced cameras and ranked our top picks in the guide below.

Based on our extensive tests, we think the best cheap camera right now is the Nikon D3500. It's not in production any more, but you can still find the entry-level DSLR available online. That's a good thing, because its capable 24.4MP sensor and massive battery life make it one of the best beginner cameras you can buy.

If you're in the market for a cheap mirrorless camera, we recommend the Fujifilm X-T200. It offers fantastic value, combining an articulating touchscreen, 4K recording and solid stills performance with a conveniently compact retro body.

Whatever your expectations, this list has been assembled to help you choose the best value camera for your needs. Each entry has been tested at length in the real world: our reviewers check everything from handling and battery life to image quality and usability. We've also set out some useful buying advice to point you in the right direction when selecting your ideal cheap camera, while our deal links will take you directly to the best offers currently available online.

Written by
Timothy Coleman
Written by
Timothy Coleman

Tim is TechRadar's Cameras editor, with over 15 years in the photo video industry and most of those in the world of tech journalism, Tim has developed a deeply technical knowledge and practical experience with all things camera related. He’s also worked in video production with clients including Canon, and volunteers his spare time to consult a non-profit, diverse stories team based in Nairobi.

The quick list

Want a shortcut to the best cheap camera for your needs and budget? Use the quick round-up below for an instant overview of the top cheap cameras. When you find a recommendation that fits your requirements, you can read more about it by using the links to jump to our full write-ups.

The best cheap cameras in 2024

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Below you'll find summary reviews for each of the best cheap cameras in our list. We've tested all of them extensively, so you know that you can trust our expert recommendations.

The best cheap camera overall

A Nikon D3500 being held in two hands

The best cheap camera for most people

Specifications

Type: DSLR
Sensor: APS-C CMOS, 24.2MP
Lens mount: Nikon F
Screen: 3-inch, 921K dots
Viewfinder: Optical
Continuous shooting: 5fps
Movies: 1080p
User level: Beginner

Reasons to buy

+
Huge battery life
+
Massive lens selection available

Reasons to avoid

-
No 4K video
-
Screen not touch-sensitive
Buy it if:

✅ You like a traditional DSLR: With great handling and excellent battery life, the Nikon D3500 offers learners all the classic strengths of a DSLR.

✅ You want lots of lenses: Nikon’s well-established DX system has a huge range of lenses to suit almost every budget and genre of photography.

Don't buy it if:

You want to shoot 4K video: The Nikon D3500’s 24.2MP sensor produces excellent stills, but its video resolution is limited to Full HD.

❌ You want a touchscreen: Although the D3500 is easy to use, it doesn’t feature the touchscreen interface found on many contemporary rivals.

DSLRs may be less and less common nowadays, but they still offer excellent value compared to mirrorless cameras – and the Nikon D3500 remains the best budget camera for new photographers. The Nikon D3400 was a hugely successful and popular DSLR, and the Nikon D3500 has taken its baton into the mirrorless age.

Key changes versus the older D3400 include an improved APS-C sensor (though still with a 24MP resolution) and a longer battery life of 1,550 frames per charge, compared to the D3400's already capable 1,200 shots per charge. You also get a better grip and a slightly redesigned body that's a bit lighter, too. 

While it's also worth considering the mirrorless alternatives in our guide, the D3500 is the most user-friendly option in this list – particularly if you want to use it with longer lenses. In our tests, we found that it delivered high-quality images and was super-easy to handle and understand, particularly for novices.

Read our in-depth Nikon D3500 review

The best cheap mirrorless camera

A Fujifilm X-T200 sitting on a table

(Image credit: TechRadar)
The best cheap camera with a retro design

Specifications

Sensor size: APS-C CMOS
Resolution: 24.2MP
Viewfinder: EVF OLED, 2,360,000 dots
Monitor: 3.5-inch fully articulating touchscreen, 2,780,000 dots
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 8fps
Movies: 4K
User level: Beginner

Reasons to buy

+
Great color and dynamic range
+
Sharp 3.5-inch rear touchscreen
+
Sleek, lightweight retro design

Reasons to avoid

-
No subject-tracking in video
-
Low buffer depth
Buy it if:

✅ You like retro styling: Among entry-level cameras, the X-T200 is easily one of the most stylish, with a retro DSLR design that stands out.

✅ You want an electronic viewfinder: The eye sensor isn’t completely reliable, but the 2.36 million-dot viewfinder is useful for framing.

Don't buy it if:

You shoot continuous action: 8fps burst shooting speeds are decent, but the limited buffer depth means the rate slows quickly.

❌ You find a good deal on the X-T30: The X-T200 offers excellent value, but Fujifilm’s superior X-T300 can often be found for not much more.

We're still fans of the Fujifilm X-T30, but this cheaper, learner-friendly version of that camera is our favorite mirrorless option for those starting out on their photography or film-making journeys. 

It's a big improvement over its X-T100 predecessor in almost every way, including autofocus, and has a fantastic 3.5in rear touchscreen. Unlike the Fujifilm X-A7, you also get a viewfinder for framing shots, which is especially good news in bright light while traveling. We discovered that image quality was reliably lovely in our review, and we loved the retro design.

The only downside we found during our tests is that the subject-tracking can be a little hit-and-miss during burst shooting and isn't available for video, but otherwise this is one of the best cheap cameras around for those who want a new mirrorless model.

Read our in-depth Fujifilm X-T200 review

The best compact mirrorless camera

An Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV sitting on a tripod

(Image credit: Future)
The best compact mirrorless camera on a budget

Specifications

Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: 20.3MP
Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds
Monitor: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,037K dots
Viewfinder: 2.36m-dot EVF
Continuous shooting: 15fps
Movies: 4K/30p
User level: Beginner

Reasons to buy

+
Capable stabilized sensor
+
Compact body

Reasons to avoid

-
No microphone input
-
Autofocus isn’t cutting edge
Buy it if:

✅ You want a small, powerful stills camera: Compact proportions belie the class-leading stills capabilities of the E-M10 Mark IV.

✅ You often shoot handheld: In-body image stabilization gives the Mark IV an edge over rivals, keeping handheld shots sharp.

Don't buy it if:

You record a lot of video: The E-M10 Mark IV can shoot decent footage, but no mic input and a 4K/30p cap limit its blogging potential.

❌ You own the E-M10 Mark III: Upgrades include a new sensor and flip-down screen, but these don’t justify swapping from the Mark III.

If you’re an eager photographer in the market for a compact mirrorless camera, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV should be top of your list. An affordable Micro Four Thirds model, it pairs a capable 20.3MP sensor with impressive in-body image stabilization to deliver consistently attractive images using the kit lens. 

With footage capped at 4K/30p and no microphone or headphone input, video isn’t a major focus. Instead, this is a small, powerful camera for stills: we discovered in our review that dynamic range is better than anything a smartphone can capture, while the IBIS system keeps images sharp even when shooting handheld after dark.

We found that AF tracking across the Mark IV’s 121 points can be a little patchy, but improved face detection and subject tracking from the Mark III mean it’s largely reliable. Our tip is to stick to centre point focus and you’ll find it fast, even in low light.

An ergonomic grip, approachable button layout, and handy flip-down touchscreen make the Mark IV an accessible upgrade for smartphone photographers. And with a wide catalog of lenses available, it shapes up one of the best cheap cameras around if you want a modern mirrorless experience.

Read our in-depth Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV review

The best second-hand camera

A Sony A6000 sitting on some grey material

(Image credit: Future)
The best cheap camera to buy second-hand

Specifications

Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: APS-C CMOS, 24.3MP
Lens mount: Sony E-mount
Screen: 3.0-inch tilt-angle, 921K dots
Viewfinder: Yes, EVF
Continuous shooting speed: 11fps
Movies: 1080p
User level: Beginner/enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
Good specs even now
+
11fps burst shooting

Reasons to avoid

-
No touchscreen
-
Full HD video only
Buy it if:

✅ You want a small system camera: Excellent image quality and a useful viewfinder make the A6000 a fantastic small package.

✅ You like personalized controls: All of the buttons and function menus can be customized to give you quick access to your regular settings.

Don't buy it if:

You want a touchscreen interface: The A6000’s display isn’t touch-sensitive and there’s no quick way to set the AF point.

❌ You want an articulating screen: The screen on the A6000 tilts but doesn’t fully articulate, so it’s not as useful for vlogging.

Don’t let the price fool you: the A6000 costs the same as other entry-level DSLR and mirrorless cameras, but it’s an advanced and powerful camera that has only dropped to this price by being on the market since 2014. 

It may be old, but most of the specifications still look surprisingly fresh today. This includes a 24MP APS-C sensor, a fast hybrid 179-point autofocus system, and continuous shooting at 11 frames per second (fps). We found during our review that it delivered fantastic image quality.

Its age shows in other areas, though: it only shoots 1080p Full HD video, and the screen isn’t touch-sensitive – which we found to be a little frustrating for setting AF points. Still, the latter is still the case on many Sony cameras and the A6000’s high-end features ensure that it's a camera that will grow with you.

Read our in-depth Sony Alpha A6000 review

The best cheap instant camera

Instax Mini 12 on a brick wall in front of graffiti

(Image credit: Future)
The best cheap camera for instant photography

Specifications

Type: Instant
Sensor: N/A
Lens mount: N/A
Screen: N/A
Continuous shooting speed: N/A
Viewfinder: Optical
User level: Beginner