Sometimes your smartphone just isn’t up to the job. When you need a professional-grade photo for your portfolio or newest project, or if your social media is just overdue for a new profile picture, then a dedicated camera is better than your phone every time. Of course, cameras can be expensive, and a little bulky – unless you know where to look. And, luckily for you, that’s our job.
We’re going to show you the best mirrorless cameras that are affordable and that won’t take up your entire bag. Once you finish this article, you’ll be ready to start your own photoblog in no time with a camera that’s perfect for you.
Carry on reading to see our full list of the best mirrorless cameras that cost less than $500, followed by a recap breaking down what makes each product on our list stand out. Or jump straight to our number #1 pick here.
- What are the Perks of a Mirrorless Camera?
- What Should You Look For in a Mirrorless Camera?
- Here’s How We’ve Determined the Best Mirrorless Cameras
- Verdict: Your Best Under-$500 Mirrorless Cameras
What are the Perks of a Mirrorless Camera?
So what is a mirrorless camera, and what is it good for? As you might have guessed, mirrorless cameras don’t have a mirror. What this means is that there’s no viewfinder lens for you to look through.
Remember those lenses on disposable cameras that let you see what was in the shot? They’re a thing of the past. Now it’s all about digital viewfinders. The advantages of getting rid of the physical viewfinder lens are saving space and allowing you to see certain digital overlays on your viewfinder, like light contrast and face detection.
Of course, using less material also means the cameras are less expensive to make, which means you can expect to save some money when you buy a mirrorless camera, and that’s why we can guarantee that your camera will cost less than $500.
What Should You Look For in a Mirrorless Camera?
Now that you’re up to speed on what a mirrorless camera is, we need to know how to separate the good cameras from the bad ones. In pursuit of that goal, we’re going to write out a quick list of the criteria we used to assess our cameras. We hope that by the time you finish reading this rubric you’ll be able to easily follow along with our list and understand what separates the best cameras from the pack. This will also help you conduct your own further research if we can’t find you the perfect camera.
Criteria #1: Image Quality – I don’t think I need to explain this one too much. A camera that’s giving you a blurry picture is just not doing its job, and at that point, you’re better off just using your smartphone. The main thing to look for when evaluating picture quality is a high pixel count. To that end, we’ll be looking for cameras with as many pixels as possible, aiming for an ideal pixel count of 24 megapixels, though that won’t always be possible.
Criteria 2: Extra Features – Appreciate the little things. All of the small features that you don’t necessarily think about when you’re making your purchase can go a long way to giving you the best camera possible. We want to give you everything – including the kitchen sink – in your camera. That means instant sharing via your smartphone with Wi-Fi or NFC, autofocusing to let you take the best picture as quickly as possible, and several other features that I haven’t even anticipated yet. We want your camera to be more than just a camera.
Criteria #3: Size – As we already mentioned, a big appeal of mirrorless cameras is that they save space. We want to take full advantage of that and give you a camera that will easily fit along with all of the items you already have to carry with you throughout your day. While we will give priority to a camera with better performance over one that’s smaller, we’ll make sure to include at least one micro-sized option for everyone who prefers to travel light.
Criteria #4: Price – We’re not here to make you spend a ton of money for no reason. Meeting this criterion is less about being cheap and more about justifying your price. We’d rather buy an expensive product that’s cheaper than it should be than waste money on a cheaper product that isn’t worth the money and that will just break on you or not perform well. That being said, just because we set the limit at $500, that doesn’t mean we want you to spend every dollar of that budget if you don’t have to. Obviously, all things being equal, cheaper is better.
Here’s How We’ve Determined the Best Mirrorless Cameras
We measured the specs of the top products on the market against our listed criteria to see how they held up and if they’re worth buying. We then checked customer reviews, blog posts, and articles on the best sub-$500 mirrorless cameras to see if the products on our list performed as advertised. We also made sure to include a wide variety of products in our list that fulfill different niches so that everyone can find the camera that’s absolutely perfect for them.
And without further ado, here is our list – tailored to your specific needs – of the best mirrorless cameras for under $500.
#1: Panasonic Lumix G7KS 4K Mirrorless Camera (Best Value – All-Purpose)
Our list starts off with the Panasonic Lumix G7KS 4K Mirrorless Camera. I’m sure Panasonic is a brand that needs no introduction, and they really excel at making mirrorless cameras under $500, so you can expect to see them again on our list. The Panasonic Lumix G7KS 4K Mirrorless Camera starts off with a pixel count of 16 megapixels, which is a little lower than you may have expected from our number one pick, but you’ll understand why it’s worth it as soon as you see the extra features. That’s where this mirrorless camera really shines.
It comes equipped with autofocusing to help you stay on target, plus wi-fi compatibility to help you upload and share all of your photos and videos via your smartphone. You also get 4K video resolution to go with your photos, and my favorite feature, which lets you pause and extract photos from saved videos. This means you don’t need to worry about photography and videography at the same time, and you can just focus on getting the best video possible because you’ll always be able to get the photo later.
Our top mirrorless camera also comes with 4K burst photos and a pre-burst photo mode to let you stay creative and capture every moment. You also get an OLED Live View Finder with 10,000:1 contrast that offers high visibility even in strong sunlight. Finally, you have silent shooting mode that turns off any noise from the shutter so you can still record and photograph in more sensitive environments like concerts and lectures.
The paying customers were absolutely crazy about the Lumix G7KS 4K Mirrorless Camera. With over 900 reviews on Amazon, you see titles like “a lightweight that punches above its class”, “can’t beat the price”, and “ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT!!!”
Our top-ranked camera weighs just 0.90 pounds and has a frame of 4.92 x 3.03 x 3.39 inches, so you’ll have no problem carrying it along with you no matter where you’re headed. As for price, it does run a little expensive compared to our budget, as you’re using the entire $500 we’ve set aside, but that’s still cheaper than a lot of the competition.
In terms of the return on your dollar, the Panasonic Lumix G7KS 4K Mirrorless Camera is the best value out there. That’s why it was an easy choice to be our number one pick for the best mirrorless camera under $500.
#2: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Digital Camera (Best Overall Camera)
Okay, you’ll have to forgive me. I know this is supposed to be a list of mirrorless cameras under $500, and the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Digital Camera is just a tiny bit more expensive than that, but I couldn’t not include this camera on my list.
If our number one mirrorless camera wasn’t for you, then you’ll have to consider the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II. It’s obviously a little more expensive than what we were aiming for, but it has some amazing features that might convince you to cut some corners elsewhere and stretch your budget a little bit. Here are the reasons the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II might convince you to forgo your goal of a mirrorless camera under $500 and spend a few extra bucks.
Reason #1 to Choose This Product: Stabilizing Axis
Thanks to the 5 axis image stabilization of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Digital Camera, you don’t have to worry too much about having a steady hand or being a masterful photographer. This makes it an amazing option for beginners, as the image stabilization will make sure your photos and videos always look like they were photographed and filmed on a tripod. Speaking of tripods, this camera may be a bit expensive, but it may save you some money in that department if it ends up being the difference between your buying and not buying a tripod. This Olympus mirrorless camera is perfect for anyone who can’t stand a shaky video or a blurry picture.
Reason #2 to Choose This Product: Smoother Videos
If the image stabilization wasn’t enough for you, our luxurious Olympus digital camera has other features to make sure you always have the smoothest videos with the best image quality. The OM-D E-M5 Mark II Digital Camera gives you full HD video quality and a framerate of 10 fps while recording, so your videos will look completely professional. Whether you’re recording a lecture, a local high school or college sports game, or anything else, all of your videos recorded on the OM-D E-M5 Mark II Digital Camera will look like they were produced in a Hollywood studio.
On top of the image stabilization and amazing videos, our runner-up best camera offers crisp image quality at 16 megapixels as well as a weather-sealed design and a silent shooting mode. It comes packaged in a solid frame that weighs just a bit over a pound and measures 4.88 x 1.77 x 3.35 inches. It’s a little bulkier and heavier than our Panasonic camera, but it definitely won’t be weighing you down too much.
Other than the size, the biggest flaw in this camera is obviously the price, but it has some features that you just can’t get from cameras under $500. If you need the best videos possible, splurge for the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Digital Camera.
#3: Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS70K (Best Lightweight Option)
The main appeal of mirrorless cameras is their smaller size, so why not take that to its logical conclusion. The second Panasonic camera on our list, the Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS70K, is one of the smallest cameras out there, and it’s one of the best cameras under $500. With a weight 0f just 0.71 pounds and a frame measuring 1.62 x 4.4 x 2.64 inches, the Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS70K will fit right in your pocket, and you’ll barely notice the extra weight at all.
It also has a 3-inch digital viewfinder that’s comparable to that of the competition despite this camera’s smaller size. And just to prove that good things come in small packages, the Lumix DC-ZS70K features image stabilization, 20.3 megapixels for absolutely incredibly image quality, and wi-fi connectivity. You also get a 166K dot EVF (electronic viewfinder) with an eye sensor for easier viewing under sunny outdoor conditions.
Of course, the real shining feature of this camera is its 30x optical zoom that will have you capturing amazing photos and videos from farther away than ever before. And as an amazing bonus, the Lumix DC-ZS70K is the cheapest camera on our list. So even as far as mirrorless cameras under $500 go, this Panasonic camera is an amazing budget option. Combined with its size, this makes it perfect for beginners. If you want to save some room in your bag, buy the Lumix DC-ZS70K.
#4: Canon EOS M100 Mirrorless Digital Camera (Best Inclusive Bundle)
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To really get started on your photography, you’ll usually need more than just a camera. Running around buying everything from a different place can be stressful and annoying, not to mention expensive. The Canon EOS M100 Mirrorless Digital Camera is the best way to get everything you need in one place, as this amazing Cannon bundle comes with a 15-45mm lens, a 32GB memory card, a tripod, and a case. You’ll really be ready to start shooting the second you open the box with this camera.
As far as the actual camera itself, the Canon EOS M100 Mirrorless Digital Camera features a weight of just 0.67 pounds, so it’s actually lighter than the Lumix DC-ZS70K, but it’s a bit bulkier, sporting a frame of 4.3 x 1.4 x 2.6 inches. It boasts an amazing 24.2 megapixels that will give you dazzling image quality, and it can film videos in 1080p.
You also get Wi-Fi and NFC sharing that will help you post your photos and videos as quickly as possible, and you can leave your wires in that junk drawer. Finally, this camera also comes equipped with an optical image stabilizer that works to minimize the appearance of camera shake by up to 3.5 stops.
The Canon EOS M100 Mirrorless Digital Camera comes pretty close to our limit of $500, but considering everything you’re getting when you buy it, that should be expected. This full bundle is the entry-level camera that will help you keep the purchasing process to one-stop shopping. If you want everything in one package, go ahead and buy the Canon EOS M100 Mirrorless Digital Camera.
Verdict: Your Best Under-$500 Mirrorless Cameras
We’re reaching the end of our list, and you’re hopefully starting to get a good idea of which of our products is best for you. But if you haven’t made up your mind yet, not to worry. We don’t want to rush, and we know how important it is to make sure you’re getting the mirrorless camera that’s perfect for you. That’s why we’re going to recap all of our mirrorless cameras under $500 and focus on their standout features. This way, you’ll be able to see the highlights and really know what each product has to offer for you.
If you want the best value for your money, pick the Panasonic Lumix G7KS 4K Mirrorless Camera.
If you want to get pretty much every amazing mirrorless camera feature you can think of in one place, then this is the camera for you. It comes with Wi-Fi and NFC sharing, as well as auto-focusing and an amazing feature that lets you lift stills from already-recorded videos. Those videos, by the way, will be recorded in crisp 4K 1080p, so you don’t need to worry about your videos falling behind your pictures. The pixel count on our number one camera is 16 megapixels, and you get an OLED Live View Finder that will stay visible even in dazzling sunlight. Coming in at an affordable price, the Lumix G7KS 4K Mirrorless Camera was our number one pick for a reason, and it’s the best value out there.
If you need the smallest camera possible, pick the Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS70K.
You have enough possessions and baggage to worry about as it is. We don’t want your camera to add too much to that, which is why this Panasonic camera is perfect for you. With a tiny frame of just 1.62 x 4.4 x 2.64, this is one of the smallest cameras out there. And despite its amazing size, it has some amazing specs and features that can compete with any other product at this price point. With 20. 3 megapixels, the Lumix DC-ZS70K is a true mighty mouse, and it’s the best friend of any efficient packer.
If you need good image stabilization, pick the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Digital Camera.
We can all stand to use a little help. Thanks to the amazing 5-axis image stabilization of the OM-D E-M5 Mark II Digital Camera, your videos will always be nice and steady and your photos will always be free of any annoying blurs. That’s not all you’re getting with this camera, as you’ll also get continuous shooting modes and the smoothest video possible with the best quality and highest framerate. Get professional-grade production with the premium-grade OM-D E-M5 Mark II Digital Camera.
That brings us to the end of our list of mirrorless cameras under $500. If the products highlighted above weren’t quite what you’re looking for, you may be more interested in the full bundle you get with the Canon EOS M100 Mirrorless Digital Camera.
It might be a good idea to think about which camera feature is most important to you before you make your decision. This will help you speed up the process by quickly skipping any camera that doesn’t offer what you need.
That’s all for now. We hope our list helped, and we hope you enjoy the new camera!