Nowadays, with so many brands and types of cameras, and with manufacturers constantly pushing different specs in consumers’ faces, it can be very difficult for a beginner to decide which camera to buy. I was in this exact spot several years ago when I was starting my journey to become a photographer and graphic designer. Which brand do I get? Full Frame or Crop? How expensive is too expensive? These are just a few of the questions that I had, and I'm sure some of you (if not all of you) have also had them. This quick post should help those of you who are wanting to dive into the world of photography or those who want to up their game from using their phone camera. I’ve compiled a list of 10 high-quality cameras that cost under $1,000. This may seem like a high price for a camera, but many mainstream full frame cameras have bodies starting at $3,000 or more, which means that a high-quality camera under $1,000 is honestly a great deal.
I’ve separated my top 10 picks only by brand, since brand loyalty is a deciding factor for many people. Other than that, these are in no particular order.
You can also click the image of any camera to be taken to Amazon where you can buy it!
Sony A7 - $900-$1,000
Okay, I know that you might be thinking, “Why did you include such an old camera on your list?” While the Sony A7 is a couple of years old--5 to be exact--it’s not just a full-frame camera; it’s also mirrorless. What full-frame means is you get a whole lot more picture with the bigger sensor, and being mirrorless, the camera is lightweight and compact. More information in the picture means better editing options. If you’re planning on shooting 4K video, you will not find this on the Sony A7, nor will you find a touch screen. But if that doesn’t bother you, then this is one of the cheapest full-frame cameras that you can buy. You can pick up a brand-new Sony A7 with a 28-70mm lens for just under $1,000, which is an absolute steal.
Sony Alpha A7 II - $1,050
The Sony Alpha A7 II, the successor to the Sony Alpha A7, makes its way onto this list by a slim margin because of its price. It is also at the top of the price range, costing between $950-$1,100 depending on which bundle you get. Again, you get a mirrorless full-frame camera. What I love about this camera is the fantastic IS system that it has. IS is short for image stabilization, which means that images come out more crisp and videos come out a lot smoother, without the noticeable shake you sometimes get on cameras that don’t have IS. This camera doesn’t have a touch screen, which may be a deal-breaker for some, but if you can look past that detail, this is a phenomenal camera for the price. If you are able to stretch your budget to get this camera, you’ll be set for years.
Sony Alpha A6000 - $498
Sony has a lot of fantastic cameras in this price range, which is why I have included yet another Sony camera in this list: the Sony Alpha A6000. This camera is one of the cheapest that I’ve chosen to feature, but it is also one of the best for the money. You can get a very nice bundle on Amazon for only $498--that’s half of the price of some of the other cameras on this list. So, what do you get for this relatively small sum? You get a mirrorless camera with a 24.3MP CMOS sensor, which means that although it’s not full-frame, you can still get exceptional quality images, as well as a fantastic autofocus system with 179-points of focus. Like most budget cameras, you won’t get 4K video recording, but you do get 1080p, which is still great if you’re learning your way around the camera. Also, like the Sony Alpha A7 II, this camera doesn’t have a touchscreen, but touchscreens aren’t a necessity. Honestly, I wish I had gotten this camera as my first camera years ago when I started, but instead I spent more and got a camera that did less. In my opinion, it is a must buy for the beginner or enthusiast.
Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III - $550-$650
I promise that this is the last Sony on the list, but I had to include it, the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III. This is not a DSLR camera; instead it’s a compact camera, meaning the lens it comes with is non-changeable. However, it comes with a 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 lens, so you can still do plenty with that. Now, why have I included this camera in my top 10 list? There are plenty of newer options in this line of cameras, but for the price, you can’t beat this one. You get a huge 1-inch sensor, which gives you stunning sharpness and detail in your images. Because it’s so compact, it is the perfect size for someone who travels a lot and needs to snap high-quality images quickly. The RX100 III also shoots video in 4K, which is great for the vlogger or video enthusiast, since there aren’t many cameras in this price range that can record 4K video. As with the previous two Sony cameras, it doesn’t have a touchscreen, and it’s a little bit dated, but that’s why you can get such a good deal on it. You can get it in a bundle on Amazon for around $600.
Canon EOS Rebel SL2/ EOS 200D - $500-$569
I currently shoot with a Canon, so of course I had to include a Canon on this list. I went with the Canon EOS Rebel SL2, which some places call the EOS 200D. You can get a very decent bundle on Amazon on the low end of the price range at about $550. This camera comes with a flip-out touchscreen, giving some extra functionality and protecting the screen when not in use. The Canon EOS Rebel SL2 has an excellent Dual Pixel AF system that gives smooth focusing both in live view and in video, which is great for avoiding the jitteriness that some cameras tend to have.
Nikon D3500 - $409
The Nikon D3500 is one of the cheapest cameras on this list. You can get a great starter bundle on Amazon for around $400. If you are on a really tight budget, this has to be the camera you get, since its value is unmatched at this price point. What I love about this camera is how versatile it is. It comes with a huge battery life, and each battery charge can get you over 1500 shots. This is already fantastic, but in addition to that, a huge selection of Nikon lenses are available for this camera. With this comes the ability to expand your equipment as time goes on and get anything from wide-angle lenses to telephoto lenses and everything in between. This is great if you want to learn new styles and techniques of shooting. The D3500 can only shoot 1080p video, not 4K, but if your focus is photography, then that shouldn’t matter much.
Nikon D5300 - $479
The Nikon D5300 is an older camera that has been superseded by newer models, but that doesn’t mean that it should be ignored. You can find several different bundles on Amazon ranging anywhere from $460-$600, making this another very economical option. What makes this camera unique is that it comes with a high resolution non-anti-aliased sensor, which means that you can get highly detailed images despite the fact that it’s a crop sensor camera, not a full-frame. Another neat feature of the D5300 is that it has a built in GPS that can geotag your images so that you know where you took them. One downside of this camera is that the focusing is a little slow when using the screen as the viewfinder in live view. This can be avoided by shooting using the viewfinder. Otherwise, you will have to accept that it could take a little extra time to get your image focused.
Panasonic Lumix FZ300/ FZ330 - $400
The Panasonic Lumix FZ300 (known as FZ330 outside of the US) is what’s known as a bridge camera. For those who don’t know, this is a small niche of cameras that falls somewhere between point-and-shoots and DSLRs. You get some manual control over the settings, but you do not have interchangeable lenses, being limited to the camera’s built-in lens. Luckily for us, the FZ300 comes with a great lens. It has a constant f/2.8 aperture, which means it lets in a lot of light, creating very detailed images. On top of that, the lens can go from 25-600mm, going from very wide to telephoto, which allows you to really zoom in on your subject and not lose detail in your final image. The Lumix FZ300 can also shoot 4K video, which is an absolute steal for this low of a price and a great way to get into both photography and video at the same time. You can get a bundle on Amazon for just $400. At such a low price, this is definitely a camera you should consider.
Panasonic Lumix FZ70/FZ72 - $298
Another bridge camera I’ve decided to add onto this list is the Panasonic Lumix FZ70 (FZ72 outside of the US). This is the most inexpensive camera that I have included, setting you back a meager $300 for a whole bundle of gear. Some might say such cheap cameras are just that: cheap; but this camera is nothing to be scoffed at. The FZ70 packs a 20-1200mm, f/2.8-5.9 beast of a lens. That’s a 60x zoom range, which is hard to find in most lenses. With this lens you can capture everything! You can also shoot in Raw, which is the preferred way to shoot if you want to edit your image and have the most detail possible. The downside of this camera is that the viewfinder is an EVF, which isn’t the highest quality viewfinder out there. But for such a cheap price, this is definitely a camera to consider if you want to get into more professional photography without breaking the bank.
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II - $519
Last on my list is a camera from a company that I feel doesn’t get enough love and attention: Olympus. I’ve decided to include the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II (quite the mouthful) on this list because of a few reasons. First of all, you can grab one on Amazon from anywhere between $500 to $600, depending on the bundle you choose to get. At this relatively low price, you get the very unique and stylish look that Olympus is known for--this is the kind of camera that can and will turn heads with its retro look. Because it’s a mirrorless camera, the E-M10 Mark II is very compact, and to top it off, it has a great built-in image stabilization system, which helps to get very sharp images and smooth video. This camera doesn’t include 4K video recording, but it does include 1080p full HD video recording, which will be enough for most people.
That concludes the list of my top 10 best cameras that can be bought for under $1,000 in 2019. There are many other cameras that I did not include, but these are what I consider to be the best right now. I tried to look at a few price points, not only the upper end or lower end, since I know that you all might have different budgets. I hope that you got something out of this post, and if you did, I would love to hear about it in the comments below, especially if you end up getting one of the cameras from this list!
I will soon post another list of the best cameras in the intermediate price range; if that sounds interesting to you, let me know by leaving a like on this post. If you haven’t already subscribed to get these blog posts sent directly to your email, do that now! You can also follow me on my social media to stay up to date with what I do. Those links can be found at the bottom of every page.
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