Interchangeable lens cameras come in all kinds of different shapes, sizes and prices, from the very reasonable to the eye-wateringly expensive. The $500 category is a place most first-time interchangeable lens camera buyers will likely find themselves. If you’re considering an ILC in this category, maybe you're stepping up from a compact, or perhaps even your smartphone. Or perhaps you have an old, dusty DSLR in the closet, and you’re looking to buy something new without spending a lot of money. Whatever the reason, there are plenty of excellent options for around or less than $500.
All of the cameras here are mirrorless, and while plenty of mirrorless cameras offer very good electronic viewfinders, you’ll have to spend a little more to get one. There are also some excellent DSLR choices, priced just above $500 we could have included, but we felt it appropriate to instead group them with other viewfinder and EVF-sporting cameras (in our forthcoming ILC's $500-800 category). It’s not just about the viewfinder though - LCD size and resolution are plenty important too, since in the absence of a viewfinder that's how you'll be composing and viewing all of your photos and videos.
The following cameras are included in this roundup:
It's worth noting that though we categorized the cameras in our 2015 by MSRP (to avoid fluctuating prices), most of the cameras listed above can be purchased, kitted with a lens, for a street price of around $500. Some for even less.
Within this category you will also find three different sensor sizes; the largest being APS-C, then Micro Four Thirds, and finally 1"-type. In general, the larger the sensor, the better the image quality, particularly in low light, and the more you can blur out backgrounds to isolate subjects. But that's not the whole story. There are quite a few other factors that can also affect how good your pictures look.
If you’re new to photography, and you want a camera that you can grow into, many options in this category offer twin control dials, which make it much easier to learn how to shoot in full manual exposure mode. However, if you prefer to leave your camera on full auto don’t worry - the cameras in this category can do that too.