Sub $1000: These Small, Powerful Budget Cameras Destroy Smartphones

You don’t have to spend a lot to get significantly better image quality, and these budget cameras prove that.

You’ve been carrying your smartphone with you for years now. Over time, you’ve developed a keen eye when it comes to photography. You like to share your images online. You also like to print photos you’ve made, but you wish you could make larger prints. If these statements sound like you, it’s time to step up to a dedicated camera. We get it, spending money on a traditional camera seems like overkill. After all, you spent close to $1,500 or more on your phone. However, we have a secret to tell you. Ready? You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a camera that will make your smartphone camera look like a toy. After the break, we will share our favorite budget cameras that will simply amaze you.

Captured with the Olympus E-Pl10

The budget cameras listed below are significantly more powerful than the camera on your smartphone. The sensor in your smartphone is 3-5 times smaller in size compared to the sensors in traditional cameras. Smartphones have to rely on AI to churn out okay looking images. Sensors in dedicated cameras can capture details that your smartphone can only dream about. When it comes to smartphone cameras, you’re also limited when it comes to lenses. Sure, you can now get wide and telephoto options built into phones. However, they have nothing on the affordable lenses you can buy for budget cameras.

Take Your Photography to the Next Level

Captured with the Fujifilm X-T200

If you want to take your photography to the next level, you need a traditional camera. Did you know that you can get small, powerful budget cameras for under $1,000 (some are half that price) that run rings around smartphones?

These budget cameras will destroy smartphone cameras. The image quality from these budget cameras will offer a tenfold improvement over the images from your phone. You’ll also be able to do much more with the pictures. You’ll be able to edit the image files better, crop more, and print larger. With additional lenses, you’ll be able to get shots you couldn’t before, and your creativity will soar. If you don’t want to edit images, these budget cameras produce gorgeous JPEGS that can be transferred directly to your phone for sharing. Take a look at the budget cameras below. See how affordable they are, and be amazed at all of the features they have. They will make you wonder how you ever got by without one before.

Budget Cameras – Canon EOS M50

eos m50

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Nice feeling in the hand
  • Absolutely fantastic battery life
  • Canon’s colors are really nice, and we’ve come to think of this sensor sort of like shooting with Slide film
  • Autofocus is pretty good
  • We finally got 4K video
  • There’s a silent shutter mode
  • Big LCD screen
  • Canon’s menus continue to be the easiest to go through
  • Canon’s monochrome images are really nice

Cons

  • Image quality basically breaks up as soon as you edit
  • Silent shutter mode should be a drive mode option
  • High ISO is barely usable above ISO 3200

Buy now with kit lens: From $739.99

Budget Cameras – Nikon Z50

budget cameras

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • The best ergonomics of any APS-C Mirrorless camera I’ve used
  • Weather sealing
  • Nice image quality
  • A nice touchscreen interface (including menus)
  • Capacitive controls make good use of some otherwise dead real estate
  • Astonishing high ISO performance
  • Good all-around autofocus and tracking performance
  • Great battery life
  • A nice, clean menu system
  • The screen does a poppy thing (folds out from the body and down)

Cons

  • The Z mount looks hideously huge on this camera
  • Large Z mount lenses make you gain back anything shed in the size and weight department
  • The touchscreen is not fully articulating: an odd choice for a hybrid camera that’s for video and stills
  • The Z50 is limited to 30-minute captures when filming and has no IBIS nor dedicated headphone jack: again, some odd choices for a hybrid camera
  • Ony one UHS-1 card slot

Buy now with kit lens: $896.95

Captured with the Fujifilm X-T30

Pro Tip: Stepping up to a traditional camera from a smartphone is a big deal. You’ve already developed a keen eye, but now you’ll need to develop new camera skills in order to properly expose your images manually. This sounds daunting, but it’s easier than you think. Picking up a guide, like this one, will help so much. You’ll be in full control in no time.

Budget Cameras – Fujifilm X-T200

budget cameras

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • A beautiful, elegant design which mixes old and new elements
  • Outstanding image quality
  • Versatile RAW files
  • Excellent high ISO performance
  • You can shoot JPEGS all day long and will be nothing but happy
  • The touchscreen and touch controls are some of the best on any camera (they’re really that good)
  • The high-resolution LCD is also a full flippy screen
  • The Fujifilm X-T200 has good battery life
  • Lots of 4K video options for those that need it

Cons

  • Only one UHS-1 SD card slot
  • No Acros film simulation due to no X-Trans sensor
  • A few focusing issues, but nothing crazy
  • The touchscreen is a little too sensitive
  • The buffer fills quickly due to the speed of the UHS-1 cards
  • The camera is unusable for over a minute while the buffer clears
  • Shutter maxes out at 1/4000 sec

Buy now with a kit lens: $799

Budget Cameras – Canon EOS RP

budget cameras

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • This isn’t Canon innovating on the inside, but instead on the outside
  • This is the smallest and lightest ILC full-frame camera on the market
  • Goes well with a wrist strap and a light prime lens
  • Weather sealing
  • The autofocus isn’t bad
  • Pretty good image quality

Cons

  • This camera is begging to be paired with a nice 50mm f1.8 lens.
  • Would have done better with a joystick

Buy now (body only): $999

Budget Cameras – Sony A6000

budget cameras

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Excellent autofocus. In some ways, it is the greatest autofocusing system that we’ve seen
  • Great image quality
  • Very useable high ISO output at 6400
  • Great feeling in the hand
  • Excellent EVF

Cons

  • Really wish that there was a thumbstick for quick AF point selection
  • Tracking a subject as it moved back and forth requires you to stop down to at least f4 to get it in focus.

Buy now with kit lens: $548

Captured with the Canon EOS RP

Pro Tip: Camera and lens maintenance is something you will have to keep in mind with traditional cameras. Cleaning your gear will ensure that it works as intended. Cleaning will make your investment last much longer too. Spend a little time each week cleaning, and all will be fine. You don’t need to spend a fortune on a cleaning kit either. This one has everything you need for under $15.

Budget Cameras – Olympus Pen E-PL10

budget cameras

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • The E-PL10 is a fun camera to use; especially with smaller lenses
  • The feature set is quite impressive and includes Olympus’s Live Comp and fun art filters
  • 3-Axis Image Stabilization works really well
  • The flip-down screen is great for those who love selfies
  • A very good quality LCD – It’s better than the LCD on Sony’s a6100
  • It’s small, light, compact, and it looks good. It can go anywhere with minimal fuss
  • Pretty great battery life
  • Image quality is great
  • Good autofocus performance in good lighting conditions
  • Good build quality overall

Cons

  • The sensor is six years old! Come on Olympus, it’s time for an update
  • Autofocus performance is hit and miss in low light (contrast only AF)
  • In bright sun, the LCD can be tricky to see
  • The buttons and controls are a little hard to use due to their small size
  • Even with some helpful splash screens, the main meat of the menu system is terrible
  • There’s no weather sealing

Buy now with kit lens: $599

Budget Cameras – Fujifilm X-T30

budget cameras

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Solid construction that we’ve come to expect and love about Fujifilm cameras
  • Compact
  • Lightweight
  • Almost everything that made the X-T3 such a hit

Cons

  • Lacks in-body image stabilization and weather sealing
  • The rear touchscreen only tilts up and down
  • Perhaps a tad too compact, particularly for photographers with larger hands
  • The new joystick is awkwardly placed on the rear of the camera body, making single-handed operation challenging and increases the risk of accidentally dropping the camera due to its diminutive size
  • Unremarkable battery life

Buy now with kit lens: $999

Budget Cameras – Olympus EM10 IV

budget cameras

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Small size and weight
  • Great image quality (albeit from a now 5-year-old sensor)
  • Excellent ergonomics for its size
  • Lovely retro looks
  • Fun and easy to use One-touch Panoramic and Live Comp modes
  • New autofocus algorithms have made a big impact
  • 5-axis image stabilization works like a charm

Cons

  • Battery life is not great
  • No weather sealing
  • Quite unbalanced when used with larger lenses
  • No touch menus and poor menus overall
  • Still only contrast AF

Buy now with kit lens: $799.99