If you're looking for a high-quality camera, you don't need to spend a ton of cash, nor do you need to buy the latest and greatest new product on the market. If you're willing to miss out on some features, you can save a lot of cash by picking up a last-generation model or shopping around for deals on refurbished or older, but still current, cameras.

In this buying guide we want to direct your attention to some great-value cameras, which are still available. We'll start with the least expensive options and go up in price from there. See something we missed? Let us know in the comments!

Street prices listed below are current as of February 27, 2020 and are subject to change.

Compact cameras:

Interchangeable lens cameras:


Olympus Tough TG-6
$379

The Olympus TG-6 is the most capable waterproof/rugged camera on the market. It has a relatively fast F2.0-4.9, 25-100mm equivalent lens (with image stabilization) along with a 12MP sensor. The camera can dive as deep as 15m (50 ft) and can be dropped, crushed and function at low temperatures. It has the ability to log your location, direction and altitude/depth.

The TG-6 has dedicated underwater modes which make sure white balance and other settings are accurate. It also has a microscope mode which lets you photograph a subject from 1cm (0.4") away. Photo quality is good for a camera with a small sensor, and the TG-6 is the only camera in its class that supports Raw. In addition to stills, the TG-6 can capture good quality 4K video.

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Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II
$429

The Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II is one of the cheapest and smallest compact cameras with 1" sensor that you can buy. The larger-than-average sensor will produce better-looking images than your typical compact, though the slow-ish lens will reduce that advantage in low light.

The lens has a small 28-84mm equiv. focal range, which isn't as versatile as most of its peers. Despite that, the G9 X II has a well-designed touch interface, snappy performance, Full HD video capture and the latest wireless features.

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100
$397

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100 (TZ100 in some regions) is a compact camera with a 1" sensor and 25-250mm equiv. lens. It fits easily in your pocket, making it an ideal camera for travel. Its lens has a relatively slow maximum aperture, so it won't perform terribly well in low light, though it will still out-do compacts with smaller sensors. It doesn't get the nicer JPEG colors of newer Panasonic models.

The ZS100 has a fixed touchscreen display and a 'better than nothing' electronic viewfinder. In addition to taking 4K video, the ZS100 also has genuinely useful features like 'Post Focus' and '4K Photo'. For those looking for a portable, versatile travel camera, the ZS100 is a bargain.

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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III
$598

Now that its price has become more reasonable, the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III is an attractive buy. It has a super-fast F1.8-2.8 lens, though its focal length of 24-70mm equiv. doesn't have a lot of reach. The lens has a built-in neutral density filter, which lets you use slower shutter speeds and wider apertures in bright light. The RX100 III takes excellent photos, and its Full HD video looks great, as well.

The RX100 III's party trick is its pop-up OLED viewfinder, which makes shooting outdoors a lot easier. The camera has a tilting LCD, though it's not touch-enabled. Two of the most frustrating aspects on this camera are its confusing menus and its laggy, 'click-less' control dial. Overall, though, the RX100 III offers a lot of bang for the buck and is well worth considering.

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Nikon D3500 w/18-55mm lens
$397

The D3500, a mild update to the D3400, is Nikon's latest entry-level DSLR. Like other Nikons, the D3500's 24MP APS-C sensor has excellent resolution and dynamic range. Its autofocus system is dated and it can't take many photos in a burst, so it's not well-suited for sports.

What makes the D3500 so appealing is that it's great for beginners, with its 'Guide mode', selecting the correct settings for you based on use case, and tells you which of them were actually changed so you learn. The camera also features Full HD video capture (though AF is essentially unusable) and Bluetooth for easy photo sharing. Battery life is exceptional.

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX85 w/12-32mm and 45-150mm lenses
$597

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX85 (known as the GX80 in many regions) is a compact Micro Four Thirds camera with a 16MP sensor, in-body image stabilization and a built-in EVF. It produces images of very good quality, despite having a smaller-size sensor than its APS-C peers, and its UHD 4K looks great, as well. It uses Panasonic's Depth from Defocus AF system, which is respectable in terms of speed and subject tracking.

As much as we like electronic viewfinders, the one here uses field sequential technology which can lead to a distracting 'color tearing' effect. It also has a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is awkward for still shooting. Battery life is fair, but below average for its class.

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Sony a6100 w/16-50mm lens
$698

We've long recommended the Sony a6000 but now think it's worth spending a bit more to get the considerably more modern a6100. The real highlight on the a6100 is its autofocus system, which is especially good at focusing on people and can track them seamlessly, with nearly zero effort on the user's part. Both image and video quality is very good, though the latter has substantial rolling shutter at 24p and a large crop at 30p.

The a6100 is a pretty 'plasticky' camera, which isn't surprising given its price. It has a tilting touchscreen LCD as well as an electronic viewfinder with so-so resolution. The menus can be a little intimidating and the RX100 III can't be customized as much as its sister models. On a brighter note, area in which the a6100 shines is battery life: it's among the best in its class.

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Sony a7 II
$898 (body only)

The Sony a7 II is a solid full-frame mirrorless camera that currently sells for a remarkably low price. It has built-in 5-axis image stabilization, a 24MP sensor, reasonably fast hybrid autofocus system and Full HD video capture. The camera has a relatively rugged body with some weather-sealing, a high resolution EVF and tilting (non-touch) LCD. It misses out on the further improvements Sony has made in terms of JPEG color, autofocus and user interface in its latest models.

Photos have great resolution and excellent Raw dynamic range, though the a7 II struggles a bit at high ISOs. Some users might find the buttons and dials to be too small, so it's worth trying one in person before you buy.

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Canon EOS RP
$999 (body only)

The EOS RP is least-expensive full-frame camera ever launched (as of early 2020). We like its compact size, out-of-camera JPEGs and reliable autofocus system. Despite being an entry-level model, the RP is well-built, weather-sealed and has a good number of external controls. While we like the RP's ability to charge over its USB-C port, only certain chargers will work. Battery life on the camera is poor. Something else to consider is that most of the RF-mount lenses are quite large and heavy, which makes the RP a lot less compact.

Straight out of the camera JPEGs look very good, especially in terms of color, though Raw images are noisier than the competition. The RP's video capabilities are disappointing: autofocus is poor and 4K footage is heavily cropped with a lot of rolling shutter. That's too bad, since the camera does sport mic and headphone sockets. The EOS RP isn't the most sophisticated camera on the market but is an enjoyable and affordable way to get into one of the latest full-frame mirrorless systems.

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Nikon D750
$1496 (body only)

Despite being released way back in 2014, the D750 is still one of the most attractive full-frame DSLRs on the market and an incredible bargain as it approaches its fifth year of production. The D750's 24MP sensor produces beautiful photos with low noise at high ISOs and plenty of dynamic range. Its autofocus system tracks subjects with ease, though the camera's buffer fills quickly when shooting bursts.

The D750's body is compact for a full-frame DSLR and it has a giant optical viewfinder, a 3.2" tilting (non-touch) LCD, built-in flash, dual SD card slots and Wi-Fi. It can shoot good quality Full HD video, though autofocus performance in video and live view is for static subjects only. Battery life, on the other hand, is exceptional.

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