An illustration featuring three cameras.

Best Cameras Under $500

These budget models may not sit atop CR's ratings, but they beat out your smartphone in performance and image quality

You could easily spend thousands of dollars on a new camera, but if you're just looking to fill the gaps where your smartphone camera fails, you can get away with spending a lot less.

For $400 to $500, you can get a powerful digital camera that not only produces high-quality photos and video—even indoors, when the lighting is low—but also arms you with helpful features. Think manual controls, image stabilization, and WiFi connectivity, which lets you seamlessly transfer images to a phone or computer through an app.

The models listed below don't quite measure up to the higher-priced models on our recommended lists, but they do offer all of those features—and they represent a big improvement over that decade-old point-and-shoot in your closet, and even the latest high-end smartphone cameras.

Each one was rated by our testers on almost 150 data points over the course of three to four weeks to help you make an informed choice. To guarantee that the camera you buy is no different from the one we tested, we purchase every specimen that enters our labs from a retailer—just like you would.