It’s time to explore the best DSLR camera under $500. If you aren’t entirely sure what a DSLR camera is, it actually stands for digital single-lens reflex camera. These cameras are typically quite expensive, they are almost always superb quality, and they offer the most versatility and range for a professional photographer.
But if you’re an amateur just starting out, or you’re a professional who wants to pick up a great camera at a good deal, there are a lot of options for under $500. You can still get a great DSLR camera with premium features without spending a fortune.
But what’s the big deal about a DSLR? Why is it such a better system than a normal digital camera? The truth is that a DSLR has a bigger sensor, which means more impressive images. A DSLR is also able to be used with any lens that you need. This greatly expands your horizons when it comes to photography. DSLRs are the best for travel, for dramatic landscapes, and even for things like architecture and astrophotography.
If you’re a bit confused about what exactly to look for in a DSLR, be sure to read the following reviews of the best DSLR cameras under $500, and check out the buyer’s guide at the end!
The Canon EOS Rebel T6 DSLR camera is a slightly older model, but it’s one of the best beginner cameras that a person can buy. In fact, we highly recommend the T6 to anyone who’s just starting out their journey into photography. This camera is small, lightweight, it has a fantastic build quality, and it takes some pretty sharp images. The sensor is a little smaller than more expensive cameras, boasting only 18 megapixels, and the camera doesn’t come included with 4K. However, if you’re perfectly happy with full HD video and magnificent photographs that will make your smartphone look like a child’s toy, the T6 is definitely the way to go.
The T6 is wildly more affordable than most DSLR cameras, and it surprisingly still has some professional features, such as the mode dial for creative shooting, the 9-point AF system, quick continuous shooting, and a quality optical viewfinder for quick focusing and framing. Plus, this is a fairly new DSLR, so it does come with built-in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity.
- Expandable ISO @ 12800
- NFC & Wi-Fi Connectivity
- Simplistic Use & Easy Features
- Convenient Mode Dial
- Wide Compatibility of Lenses
- Small 18MP Sensor
- Beginner’s Camera/Not Recommended for Pros
If you’re looking for the best Nikon DSLR camera for under $500, the D3500 is perfect. It’s easy to use, you can operate it just like a traditional point-and-shoot digital camera, it’s incredibly comfortable, and its ergonomic design is gentle on a person’s hands during a long day of shooting. This makes it perfect for travel, special events, and everyday activities. The image sensor is over 15x larger than the one inside a normal smartphone, meaning the images you get with the D3500 are going to blow you away.
And talk about technology! The camera utilizes 1080P HD video, Bluetooth, app sharing to transfer pictures directly to your smart device, and endless possibilities with beautiful Nikon DSLR lenses. You can even shoot at 5 frames per second to capture every memory in superb detail and amazing color.
- Great Autofocus & Large Screen
- Ideal for Amateurs
- Comfortable & Ergonomic / Great for Travel
- Outstanding Color Performance w/ 24.2 Megapixels
- Easy Connectivity to Smartphone or Tablet
- No Touchscreen
- Slightly Expensive Compared to Others
The Olympus M5 Mark II is a very special camera. In fact, this is the most professional camera on the list today, which explains why it has such a huge price tag. It’s also more than a DSLR camera. This is a full travel system designed for light carry, amazing versatility, and unparalleled image quality. The Mark II uses a 5-axis image stabilization system so that taking photographs has never felt smoother. Forget about a tripod and forget about blurry pictures. This camera is smooth, stable, it shoots full HD video, it’s completely weather-sealed, and it’s 40% lighter than a conventional DSLR. And yet it still takes spectacular photos like you would expect with a conventional DSLR!
What you also get is an excellent camera for taking selfies. The viewing screen folds out so that you can get up close and personal with yourself, taking dramatic selfies that will gain you some serious attention.
- 10 FPS Continuous Shooting
- Amazing Image Stabilization
- Totally Weather-Sealed/ Splashproof + Dustproof
- 40% Lighter Than Traditional DSLR
- Responsive & Accurate
- Not Technically a DSLR
- Quite Expensive
The Nikon D5300 DSLR Camera is a fantastic model, and it differs just slightly from its cousin the D3500. At an extremely reasonable price, you get some of the best pictures ever! Everything about the D5300 is perfect. Even with limited experience, you’ll find yourself taking the best-quality images of your life. The color rendering is amazing, the autofocusing is sharp, and the variable-angle LCD allows you to capture every moment with precision. Plus, if you’re interested in taking videos, you can take amazing 1080P full HD videos while using the integrated stereo microphone for professional sound. There are even optional accessories to enhance your videography, which is excellent for vloggers.
As for the camera itself, it’s extremely comfortable. This is one of the most compact and lightweight DSLRs offered by Nikon – and yet at the same time it’s very rugged. This camera was designed to be ergonomic yet strong. You can really feel the quality just from holding the camera. It also has a massive 24.2MP sensor to give you long-lasting and beautiful memories of your travels and your everyday life.
- Huge Expandable ISO @ 25600
- Fantastic Autofocus w/ 3D Tracking
- Built-In Wi-Fi @ GPS
- Variable-Angle Display for Great Selfies
- Integrated Stereo Microphone for Amazing Videos
- Wi-Fi Technology is Lacking
- Flash OK But Not Great
The Canon EOS Rebel T7 is going to turn you into an instant photographer. It’s a huge upgrade from the Rebel T6 at a marginal price increase. The T7 offers outstanding autofocus and built-in wireless technology to make it easier to connect to the world around you. The T7 combines next-class features with simplistic operation to make amateur photographers really feel like they’re learning as they take stunning images. When it comes to the T7’s photographs, you can guarantee they will be perfect every time thanks to the massive 24.1MP sensor, the high ISO range, and the new and improved DIGIC 4+ image processor for faster performance, reduced image noise, and improved low-light functionality. If you’re looking to spend your entire $500 budget, this is the DSLR camera you should invest your money in.
- Huge 24.1MP Sensor
- Huge Viewing Coverage w/ Optical Viewfinder
- Next-Level Image Processing w/ Reduced Image Noise
- Remote Shooting Via Hands-Free Operation
- Integrated Connectivity
- No Bluetooth
- No 4K Video
Now that you’ve seen the best DSLR cameras under $500, it’s time to look at some of the more specific features that might determine which purchase you make. The most important thing when selecting an affordable DSLR camera is its sensor size. This is critical for the quality of your photographs. As a general rule of thumb, a bigger sensor means better pictures. You don’t only want to look at megapixels, but also at the image processor and the sensor.
The reason the size of the sensor is so important is that bigger sensors have bigger pixels, which means you get a better performance in low-light situations, you get reduced noise, a better dynamic range, and the ability to absorb more information into your photograph. That means more details, brighter colors, and overall a better result. This is wildly important if you’re trying to take professional photographs!
Another thing you want to think about is the ISO range. This kind of ties in with the sensor. If you have a large sensor, you should have a fairly large ISO range. If not, your ISO will be restricted, which means you won’t take very good photographs at night. With a larger ISO range, you’re able to capture brighter and more stunning images in darker situations.
And finally, you have the comfort and convenience features to think about. If you’re going to be traveling a lot with your DSLR camera, you don’t want it to be very bulky. Believe it or not, these cameras can be fairly heavy, which will require tripods and straps to take the best photographs. We always recommend reading user reviews before purchasing to find out how comfortable and convenient the camera is to use.