We're often asked for our opinion on what's the best camera for under £500. And while our answer invariably depends on any specific traits or features required, it's safe to say that CSCs and DSLRs are locked in direct competition when it comes to determining the best camera for under £500.
That's because both types of camera generally offer strong feature sets, impressive performance and great overall image quality. In addition, both types of camera also offer a good level of variety in terms of their physical dimensions, although CSCs usually present a more portable package overall.
We've picked out seven different models of all shapes and sizes in the hunt for the best camera under £500. Is your next camera among them?
Best for... Resolution
£499 body only
Released earlier this year the D3300 succeeds the D3200 as the entry-level model in Nikon's DSLR line-up. It retains the class-leading 24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor of its predecessor, however the anti-aliasing (low-pass) filter has been removed for even sharper images. Full HD movie recording options have also been expanded with the D3300 able to offer 1080p capture at 60fps (compared to 30fps on the D3200). Other notable improvements include new automatic HDR and Panoramic capture modes, along with a faster continuous shooting speed of 5fps. The newer model keeps the useful Guide Mode of its predecessor though, which aims to help you learn how to use the manual and semi-manual shooting modes by providing on-screen shooting advice.
WDC Score: 90%
Best for... Portability
£479 with 18-55mm lens
Released in the summer of 2013, the diminutive 100D comes equipped with an 18MP CMOS APS-C sensor and Canon's own DIGIC 5 image processor. It's big selling point, however, is that it's currently the smallest DSLR on the market, making it ideal for those with smaller hands. That doesn't mean that it skimps on specifications elsewhere though - far from it. Other headline specs include a 9-point AF system, 1080p Full HD movie recording and a range of in-camera digital filter effects. Better still, the 100D is now available for around £200 less than its initial launch price, making it a bit of a bargain too.
WDC Score: 90%
Best for... Features
£489 with 18-55mm lens
Released in 2013, the Pentax K-50 is built around a 16.3MP APS-C CMOS sensor and Pentax's own PRIME M image processor. These enable the K-50 to offer a highly impressive sensitivity range of ISO 100-51,000 along with a top continuous shooting speed of 6fps. This is topped off by an 11-point AF system and a 3in, 921k-dot rear LCD display. The thing that really elevates the K-50 though - especially over the cheaper Pentax K-500 - is the 81-point weather sealing, which means the camera can be used in all weathers. All in all, it's one of the best entry-level DSLRs for the money.
WDC Score: 90%
Best for... Starting Out With
£449 with 18-55mm lens
While the older Canon EOS 1100D was by no means a bad camera, the market has moved on considerably since its introduction in 2011. The recent release of the 1200D redresses this by improving on the older model in a number of key areas. Headline upgrades include a new 18MP sensor that's able to capture more detail, a larger and sharper rear LCD display and the ability to record 1080p Full HD movies. In addition, the outer body of the 1200D has been finished with a textured coating, giving it a much nicer feel in the hand.
WDC Score: 89%
Best for... Size and Features
£449 with 16-50mm lens
The Sony NEX-5T succeeds 2012's NEX-5R model as the mid-range offering in Sony's popular NEX range of compact system cameras. Built around the same 16MP APS-C CMOS sensor that was used by its predecessor, the NEX-5T isn't a radically different camera. The main addition that it brings to the table is NFC connectivity, which can be used instead of Wi-Fi for swapping files with other NFC enabled devices. Elsewhere, the NEX-5T retains the same articulated 3in/921k-dot LCD rear display, the same 99-point "Hybrid" autofocus module that uses phase-detection sensors built into the main sensor to speed up autofocus performance. On top of this you also get Full HD movie recording, along with automatic HDR and Panorama modes.
WDC Score: 87%
Best for... Overal Handling
£489.00 with 14-42mm lens
The Lumix G6 succeeds 2012's G5 model and although there are only a handful of improvements, it's a fantastic all-round camera. At its heart the G6 sticks with the same 16MP Micro Four Thirds LiveMOS sensor found inside its predecessor, which is paired with Panasonic's own Venus image processor. This enables it to shoot at sensitivities ranging from ISO 100-25,600 while continuous shooting maxes out at 7fps. At 1.44m-dots the EVF is impressively detailed, while on the back the 3in/1.03m-dot vari-angle LCD display also offers touchscreen functionality. Throw in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity and the G6 is undoubtedly one of the best cameras for under £500 on the market today.
WDC Score: 90%
Best for... Portability and Features
£439 with 16-50mm lens
Fujifilm's premium ‘X' series has won much critical acclaim in recent years for its effortless blend of retro-themed styling and advanced technology. The X-M1 continues this trend while also aiming to bring the range to a wider audience via a lower price point than other X-series models. Equipped with the same innovative 16.3MP APS-C X-Trans sensor and Fuji's proprietary EXPEED 2 image processor, the X-M1 offers a sensitivity range of ISO 100-25,600 and a maximum continuous shooting speed of 5.6fps. Other highlights include a 3in/921k-dot rear LCD display, built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, Full HD movie recording and a 49-point AF system. Best of all though, the launch price has now fallen by around £250, making the X-M1 a real bargain.
WDC Score: 89%