We've noticed that digital camera manufacturers are making fewer modestly priced cameras. Why produce models at the lower end of the market when the explosion in smartphones has made it easier than ever to take pics? But if you're serious about your photography, you will need a proper camera - our tough lab tests have identified the very best lower-priced models.
For decades, cheap digital cameras have stopped photography from becoming a prohibitively expensive hobby, giving novice photographers a chance to buy their first digital camera without breaking the bank.
But manufacturers have been feeling the squeeze. Now that people have cameras in their pockets most of the time, it's harder to sell standalone cameras, and harder yet to make a budget-friendly argument for why someone should buy a camera at the lower end of the market.
Because of this, we're seeing a lot of expensive cameras come into our test lab that appeal to experienced photographers, but fewer modestly priced cameras.
There are still good reasons for buying a standalone camera, and there are still models that you can pick up for a relatively low price. We've looked at what sort of high-end camera you can get on a budget of £500 or less, and we've picked out a few examples to get you started.
Even though the camera on your phone probably does a good job at snapping pics, there are still things a standalone camera can do that phone cameras simply aren't capable of.
Our tests have discovered that you can buy a good-quality DSLR or mirrorless camera for less than £500, but you have to be realistic and willing to accept that the choice is rather narrow.
On Which.co.uk at the moment we have full lab-test reviews of eight cameras that are currently under £500.
Of course, this doesn't include the possibility of snagging a more expensive camera on sale, or in buying second-hand. What is important is that you're spending your money on a decent camera - so make sure you read our reviews before you buy.
Many of the mirrorless cameras in the budget price bracket don't have viewfinders, so you'll rely on the monitor to preview your image before shooting.
The DSLRs do have viewfinders, though. This is because DSLRs use optical viewfinders that show a mirror reflection of the scene in front of the camera, while mirrorless cameras use electronic viewfinders that show you an image generated directly by the sensor.
Electronic viewfinders tend to be cut by manufacturers to keep prices down. But do look for a budget DSLR if a viewfinder is vital to help you compose your shots.
Other features that some of these cheaper cameras lack include:
We've picked out a couple of examples that are currently in stock. Budget DSLRs are especially popular, primarily because they have optical viewfinders, but stock levels are good at the moment.
Make sure that any model you're interested in is right for you and scores highly in our lab tests - use the links below to read our full expert reviews.
We last checked these prices in May 2021.
Despite its price, this DSLR still has an APS-C sensor. The APS-C sensor is only one step down in size from a premium full-frame sensor, and most DSLR and mirrorless cameras use it. APS-C sensors provide high quality in low-light environments and good image quality and dynamic range, which are vital for photography.
The EOS 2000D is a little rudimentary in many areas, capable of a disappointing 3fps in burst mode and lacking Bluetooth or touchscreen control. But you can use any compatible lens with it to customise shooting - including macro and telephoto lenses for specialist shots.
Read our expert Canon EOS 2000D review to see if this DSLR from 2018 punches above its price.
The Nikon D3500 comes bundled with a generous 18-55mm lens and an APS-C sensor. It's pretty bulky, weighing half a kilo even without a lens attached.
You do get some high-end features for your money. These include a maximum selectable ISO number of 25,600 (higher numbers help to boost the brightness of dimly lit photos), and a built-in image stabiliser, if purchased with the AF-P DX Nikkor 18-55mm lens, which mitigates the blurring effects of camera shake.
Read our independent Nikon D3500 review to see if this brand managed to make a better budget DSLR than Canon.
Bridge cameras don't have interchangeable lenses like DSLR and mirrorless cameras do. They usually have a fixed lens with an impressive zoom range, so they're a good way to graduate from smartphones without paying DSLR or mirrorless prices.
This bridge camera is pretty basic, but it has a zoom magnification of 60x, which means you can get up close and personal with your subject from afar. This is particularly useful if you're trying to capture details from a distance, or if your subject is skittish, such as a small mammal or bird.
It's a prime example of an entry-level camera that bridges the gap between phones and DSLR and mirrorless cameras.