Video cameras are the best way to digitally record life’s little milestones as they pass by. Yesterday might now be gone, but with the help of a good quality video camera, you can replay those cherished memories as much as you like. Video cameras don’t always come cheap, but we’ve covered some of the best video cameras under $500 in our list below.
If your budget is a little more open, you may want to take a look at our Video Cameras under $1000 guide. You don’t need to be a professional videographer to enjoy the best feature-packed cameras that are available on the market today.
You do, however, need a tiny bit of knowledge under your belt before rushing out and buying the first camera you come across. If you are a YouTuber, see our guide on vlogging cameras, and If you’re looking for something more basic as a beginner, you may wish to look into budget point-and-shoot cameras.
We have made choosing the best possible video camera a little less overwhelming by doing the research for you. We’ve compiled a list of what we believe are the top ten best video cameras under $500 on the market at the moment.
TL;DR - Best Budget Video Camera:
- Canon EOS Rebel T6 Digital SLR
- Nikon D3400 1572
- YI 4K Sports and Action
- Sony a5100 ILCE5100/B
- Canon EOS Rebel T5
- Panasonic HC-V770
- Panasonic DC-ZS70S
- GoPro HERO9 Black
- Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II
- 360fly 4K VR
1. Canon EOS Rebel T6 Digital SLR
Great Functionality and Quality from the Experts
First up we have the Canon EOS Rebel T6 Digital SLR video camera. This is a compact and sleek SLR featuring an 18MP APS-C CMOS sensor and a DIGIC 4+ image processor. These two technologies combine to give you the best video quality with the least amount of noise possible. The 9-point autofocus system with phase-detection incorporates a single cross-type point, providing a high degree of focusing accuracy for when lighting conditions are mixed or low contrast.
Videos can be played back and viewed on the large 3.0inch 920k-dot LCD monitor, and a feature guide will help you to familiarize yourself with the best features by giving a short description of shooting modes, settings, and special effects.
To achieve a more creative look, simply select the Basic+ and Creative Auto modes or go wild with a wide range of creative filters such as Toy Camera, Fisheye, and Miniature effects. Not to mention that it comes with built-in Wi-Fi, which means you can pair your smartphone or tablet to easily upload photos or movies.
One of the best camera options for low or contrasting light conditions and a long list of features that are listed under the feature menu/guide. What more could you want from a top-line video camera, and all for under $500?
2. Nikon D3400 1572
An Ideal Beginner's Choice
Another great video camera option is the Nikon D3400 1572. This device was designed for entry-level photographers who want a more advanced shooting platform than their smartphones. It features Full HD and an 11-point focus system as well as Bluetooth LE connectivity for transferring images. The D3400 has a longer-lasting battery life and is extremely lightweight thanks to it being made entirely of composite plastic material. Beginners will most likely enjoy the difference in weight on this camera because it allows you to use it for extended periods of time without becoming too heavy or cumbersome.
Nikon opted for a very simple control design here which is great for entry-level photographers who may still be finding their way around a video camera. If you are on the more advanced side of photography, then you might find yourself slightly frustrated at some of the more basic features of this device. Shooting in tough lighting conditions is a bit of a challenge because of the fixed 3inch LCD Live-View screen.
The built-in flash is relatively bright and can be turned off when you are shooting in a well-lit area. Keep in mind that this is an entry-level device and has the same optical viewfinder as its predecessor, the D3300. This camera also offers 96% coverage and o.85x magnification which is not bad considering the level of use and the fact that it is under $500.
For an entry-level photographer, this is a great beginner camera. The functions and features are easy to use and understand. It might lack the oomph of many bigger and more professional cameras, but sometimes less is more when starting out. This is the best video camera option for an avid beginner photographer or for a family holiday trip.
3. YI 4K Sports and Action
An Impressive and Nifty Little Action Cam
One of the smallest additions to our list is the YI 4K Sports and Action cam. This nifty little device is loaded with features such as an Ambarella A9SE75 chipset, a Sony IMX377 image sensor, and a high-speed Broadcom BCM43340 dual-band Wi-Fi module. This small camcorder has a very responsive touch screen which is manufactured from high-strength, scratch-resistant gorilla glass. There is no denying that this small-sized action cam is an excellent deal when you consider its brilliant video quality and super small compact design.
There are add-on extras available such as waterproof housing and remote-controlled selfie sticks and a flat color setting for easier color adjustments. The device itself might cost less than $500, but the extras might push you over that depending on what you buy. This is one cam that enjoys being where the action is. It doesn’t stop there, though, since YI has continued to issue firmware updates for the cam, which means regular performance improvements and fresh shooting options.
Hands-down the best option for an action camcorder as far as price and features go. With regular firmware updates and an easy-to-use editing app, the sky is the limit with this nifty gadget. This device is highly recommended for thrill-seeking sports junkies or anyone else that wants to shoot their action-packed adventures for less than $500.
4. Sony a5100 ILCE5100/B
Surprisingly Compact for a Mirrorless Camera
The Sony A5100 is one of the smallest APS-C sensor cameras you will find for under $500. Add to that the fact that this is mirrorless, has a built-in flash and a touch screen. It comes with a new 24.3-megapixel sensor instead of the older 20.1 MP sensor on its predecessor. Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC allow it to connect to devices such as smartphones and tablets. The BIONZ X image processor is designed to produce clear, low-noise, and detailed images when shooting at up to ISO25600. A 179-point phase-detection focus is integrated into the sensor and has a 16-50mm lens.
Photos and videos can be uploaded directly onto Facebook by using the Direct Upload app or any other software available on the PlayMemories Camera App website. By using the creative picture modes, you can choose between poster effects, miniature, and selective color, plus many more playful effects.
Videos are recorded in full HD with stereo sound, and by using the power zoom lens, you can zoom in and out without losing focus. When your device is switched off, the lens collapses into the unit, making it compact and easy to store while keeping your lens safe against bumps and knocks.
This is a very compact mirrorless device compared to many others of its kind on the market. It produces good color images with reasonable detail and has a number of useful features. This is a plain and straightforward device with no unnecessary bells and whistles. Video is captured in high-quality Full HD with stereo sound, and you can zoom in and out without losing focus. Overall, this is without a doubt one of the best options for a video camera under $500.
5. Canon EOS Rebel T5
The Standard for Entry-Level Cameras
The Canon EOS Rebel T5 is the most typical entry-level camcorder you will find for under $500. The T5 produces usable JPEG photos up to about ISO 800, after which you will begin to see image degradation in shadowed areas. The default Auto Picture Style increases the contrast to the extent that some of the colors actually shift, so you're best off using the Neutral Picture Style for more accuracy. This is the best camcorder for beginner photography in which the subjects will not be moving particularly fast or erratically and the lighting is good.
It takes under half a second to power on, focus, and shoot, but in dim light, it’s quite slow and uses all of the autofocus points. This runs the risk of not focusing where you want it to. The battery life is reasonably long, and a reflective, low-resolution 3 inch LCD display displays Live View, Stills, and Video. It has a 170-degree viewing angle which makes it ideal for menu navigation and reviewing your videos and photos. You can capture Full HD 1080p video by way of the T5’s Movie Recording/Live Feed Button.
This camcorder falls under the entry-level device category and more avid photographers might become frustrated with its limited features. It would, however, make the perfect Christmas gift for a member of the family looking to break into photography.
6. Panasonic HC-V770
Hugely Versatile and Functional
When you pair the Panasonic HC-V770 Full HD Camcorder with your smartphone or tablet device, you can record two viewing angles at once! Your main image will be in Full HD from the camcorder’s sensor while a second picture-in-picture image appears on your smart device. This camcorder is able to record Full HD video at 120fps slow-motion, which you can switch to by selecting the option on the LCD screen. For a more dramatic slow-motion effect, the Crystal Engine’s Intelligent Frame Creation interpolates frames to achieve 240fps.
The Level Shot feature automatically detects and corrects any tilting in images and can be adjusted to three different levels: OFF, Normal, or Strong, depending on the conditions you are shooting under. Thanks to the Real-Time Broadcasting feature, you can live-stream events on USTREAM as they are being recorded. All you need is a wireless access point and you can easily keep a check on your baby in her crib or monitor your home or pets while you are not at home.
You can enjoy Highlight Playback with a smart device right after shooting and your favorite scenes can be shared on SNS by simply dragging and dropping.
For just under $500, you can have not only a great little camcorder but peace of mind, too. The Panasonic HC-V770 can be used as a baby monitor as well as to keep an eye on your home or pets when you are not around. All you need is an access point to transfer data wirelessly to the TV or Smart device.
7. Panasonic DC-ZS70S
Impressive 4K Capability in a Portable Package
The Panasonic DC-ZS70S provides the clarity of 4K video with up to 3840 x 2160p detail, which is four times the quality of Full HD. It has a 24mm LEICA DC VARIO-Elmar Lens which includes a 30x optical zoom to get you as close as possible to your subject. A Control Ring provides smooth and manual control of the aperture, shutter speed, zoom, and focus. The Live Viewfinder activates automatically when you lift the camera to your eye, allowing you to see every detail even in the bright midday sun.
Optical Stabilization detects and compensates for five different types of movement while the camera’s Level Shot function detects and keeps the images horizontal even when the camera is tilted. A 20.3-megapixel High Sensitivity MOS sensor records high-quality images in the best detail. The sensor works together with the Venus Engine to give you stunningly sharp pictures even under the dimmest light conditions.
The 180-degree tilt-able display will also always give you the perfect selfie. The Focus Stacking Function allows you to adjust the focus area after shooting by blending multiple images taken at different focus distances to create a totally unique depth of field.
This device is jam-packed with quality features and the best functions to impress any professional photographer. You will be able to capture all of the sights, and sounds of your travels with this compact and lightweight unit which is priced under $500. Photos and videos come to life in even more vivid color and detail than you could remember.
8. GoPro HERO9 Black
The Ultimate Action Camera from the Pros
If you are looking for a compact and easily mountable action video camcorder for just under the $500 mark, then the GoPro HERO9 Black is definitely for you. This model's new and improved functions enable 5K video shooting at 30 frames per second. This means silky smooth high-resolution video footage absolutely anywhere. This action cam has a 2-inch touch screen on the back with new and improved picture display quality and another smaller screen at the front for better selfie angles. Voice controls allow for hands-free control of your action cam and the wake-on-voice function enables the device to move into a low power listening mode for several hours.
This will allow you to turn the device on again with a voice command. The GoPro remains waterproof for up to 33 feet without needing any extra underwater housing covers, although separate housing is available for scuba diving fans. There is no limit as to where you can attach this tiny unit and GoPro has launched a few new mounts to go with this newer model which means that any place you can think of mounting it has already been covered. What's more, this model is the first in the series to implement a fully modular build, allowing you to add on extra features should you choose to do so.
The best choice among action cameras thanks to its hands-free voice command and super slow motion abilities. You can mount this action cam on top or under anything and everything to make sure you record each and every moment of your most action-packed adventures. Without a doubt, this is the best action video camcorder for under $500.
9. Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II
Lightweight, Compact and Pocketable
Create stunningly crisp stills and steady movies with the Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II. This pocket device offers fast and powerful performance under any circumstances. The large sensor and f/2 -4.9 lens lets in a lot of light to produce high-quality shots under any lighting. Shoot with manual or auto focus and choose from a range of expert features that will allow you to take your photography to new artistic levels. Shoot movies in Full HD and with a host of clever features that make it easy to capture everything from the starry night skies to short movie clips with the best results every time.
Connect your smart device and maintain a constant connection so you can shoot and share online in an instant. Keep your PowerShot charged via a USB Smartphone charger or your PC. Image Stabilization technology ensures steady images and movies under any and all circumstances, and the 3-inch touch screen allows for simple operation. The superfast AF function enables smooth and continuous shooting when switching from auto to manual focus.
This is a fun yet efficient pocket device that allows you to take superb and professional shots and videos without fail. This camera is lightweight and compact enough to fit into your pocket, making it the perfect travel camera for under $500.
10. 360fly 4K VR
The Most Uniquely Designed Budget Camera
The 360fly 4k 16-megapixel camera is the coolest-looking camera you will find for under $500. Shaped like an outer space golf ball, this gadget is water- and dust-resistant as well as shockproof. It also comes with a standard tripod mount, 64GB of internal storage, and a single button for power and recording. When you turn the camera on, you automatically turn on the WI-Fi and Bluetooth which join the camera's network with your smartphone. If you open the 360fly app, you will be given a live preview from the camera as well as control over its settings.
The top resolution is 2880 x 2880 pixels and records at 30fps both with the live view on and off. There is only one lens, which has a 360x240 degree field of view. This means that you lose 120 degrees under the lens. Once you have shot a clip, you can edit it with the help of the app. Select only the best sections you want to use or include and then add music or an image filter and then adjust the playback speed for part of your clip.
This is another great little action camera which allows you to capture and edit all your best adventures while they are happening. One of the best options for creating immersive photos and videos for online use while being water resistant for up to under 10m and a rubberized exterior for better grip in sweaty situations. A single button for power and recording makes it easy to see if the camera is on or not.
Buyers Guide Questions
How does a Video Camera Work?
To know how a video camera or camcorder works, you need to know that it actually has nothing to do with lenses, gears, or electronics at all. Sure, the physical camera is made up of these elements, but it’s more about how our eyes and brains work together. When your eyes see a series of still images in quick succession, it holds the image for a little while after it disappears before being replaced by the next one. Basically, each picture leaks into the next one until they blur together to form a single moving image. This is known as the Persistence of Vision and it’s how video cameras are able to bring images to life.
Can you record video with a DSLR?
Not only is your new DSLR sharper and faster, but it can also be used for shooting Full HD video as well. There are some useful tips to remember when using your DSLR to shoot movies. Although you might think you’d be able to stand as still as a statue, even the slightest breath can cause a camera to shake so it would be a good idea to use a tripod when shooting video with your DSLR. Autofocus is also a great tool to have when you are trying to shoot moving subjects, but using manual focus can be a valuable creative technique when shooting stationary subjects.
Manual focusing takes practice but it’s well worth it in the end. You might think that you need to continuously record an event and then go back and choose the best sections, but this can actually cause your DSLR to overheat. Instead, you should shoot in short sequences using a variety of different types of shots.
What are Action Cameras?
An action camera is very much like a normal camera except for a few minor differences. The first of these is size. They are normally smaller in order to allow the user to clip them to their helmets, handlebars, or just about anything else. These cameras provide a firsthand point of view of the action while it is taking place. Unlike shooting from the sidelines, these cameras go where you go and film what you are doing, while you are doing it. Scuba divers might take them underwater on a dive or you might attach them to yourself as you go rock climbing or mountain biking.
Which Video Camera is Best for Outdoor Use?
The Panasonic HC-V770 Video Camera is an affordable device that records high-grade video and is a perfect camera for hiking and outdoor use. Its compact shape allows it to be transported easily without feeling heavy or bulky. The long telephoto 20x optical / 50x intelligent zoom and High Sensitivity Sensor make for greatly improved low-light images.
The user is able to stream to a smart device via Wi-Fi and the Level Shot detects and corrects the tilting of captured images. These features make it the best option for an outside video camera. Whether you plan to use it on a hunting trip or as a security device, you will be pleasantly surprised by its Full HD video abilities.
How do I connect my DSLR to my laptop?
Tethered shooting is a photography technique that is favored by many photographers. It allows you to connect your camera to a laptop or tablet and view your digital images within seconds of being captured. The quickest and easiest way to use tethered shooting is by using ADOBE Lightroom’s Capture feature. Here’s how to set it up:
- Connect your camera to the laptop with a USB cable and turn on your camera.
- Open the Lightroom app on your computer and navigate to File > Tethered Capture > Start Tethered Capture.
- When you open the Tethered Capture Settings dialogue box, you have the option to choose the destination for your photos and add metadata and keywords. Pay attention to where the photos are saved so that you can access them later.
- The screen below will pop up, giving you a narrow control panel for some light remote shooting options as well as a Library in which your photos will be captured via the tethered shooting connection.
Related Post: Check out our guide if you’re looking for a laptop for photo editing.
What to look for when Buying a Video Camera
A video camera with 3840 x 2160 pixels offers four times the resolution of a Full High Definition camcorder, which has 1920 x 1080 pixels. Many newer camera models can provide finer detail, but you will need an Ultra High Definition television to see the detail.
Most video camera screens are LCD and measure more or less 3 inches, however some are larger. Action camcorders tend to have any type of display and a few full-size models suffer from too much glare which makes them difficult to use in bright sunlight. It’s a good idea to check the display screen in the store to make sure you are happy with it before buying it. The display might look fine indoors but in full midday sunlight, viewing performance will vary greatly from model to model.
Typical optical-zoom ratios range from 10:1 to about 50:1, which are otherwise listed as 10x optical zoom or 50x optical zoom. The zoom relies on optical lenses, just like a film camera. This feature is usually controlled at the press of a button or turn of a dial. Most camcorders also include a digital zoom which can extend the range to 400:1 or more, although this will be lower quality than an optical zoom can give.
Video Capture Resolution
Almost all recently released video cameras have the ability to capture high-definition video. New types of higher-resolution HD video cameras called 4K camcorders are also beginning to appear on the market. The resolution of a 4K camera is 3840 x 2160 pixels, but most 4K cameras are still too expensive for most consumers at the moment, which is why your best bet is still to buy an HD video camera.
The size and weight of your video camera will largely depend on what you plan on using it for. It should fit comfortably in your hand and the controls and switches should be easily reachable. If you are shopping for an action cam, then the size and weight will depend on where you are planning to attach the camera during an event. Check that you can change the battery and reach the controls easily before purchasing your camera of choice.
Life is full of memories to be made and video cameras are there to help us keep them. Whether you are a thrill-seeker looking to document your action-packed adventures or a proud father wanting to immortalize your child’s first steps, the best video cameras can help you to do this. A video camera can be a costly device, but the memories you will cherish for years to come are priceless.If you liked our article on video cameras under $500, please share and comment below what your favorite product is.