In a nutshell
- Action cameras in the budget range offer features like 360 video and stabilization, making them a versatile choice for budget filmmakers.
- Smartphones are becoming an all-in-one solution for budget videographers, offering decent camera capabilities along with convenience.
- USB PTZ webcams are increasingly offering high-quality video and advanced features like AI-powered controls, making them a solid choice for budget streamers.
Choosing a new camera on a budget can be difficult. But we’ve researched to find the best cheap video cameras right now to help you make an informed decision on your next purchase.
Your gear should never get in between you and making great videos. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best video cameras that won’t break the bank. Whether you’re a seasoned videographer, vlogger or someone just getting started, saving money on quality new equipment is always exciting. If you’re looking for an excellent video camera at a great value, read on to learn about our favorite budget-friendly video cameras of 2023.
What to consider
There is a lot to consider when choosing a new camera. The more important factor is what your primary use for it is. For example, a travel vlogger would benefit from a small and lightweight camera without compromising its image quality. Teachers and tutors who work remotely could benefit from the hands-free qualities of a PTZ (Pan, Tilt, Zoom) webcam.
The best cheap cameras right now
We’ve organized our picks into five categories outlining the best budget action video camera, smartphone camera, USB PTZ, camcorder and mirrorless camera available right now. We will speak to the advantages of each, considering their:
- Image quality
It’s important to note that cheaper cameras often compromise image quality. For this list, we set the baseline that each of these cameras can shoot a minimum of 1080p Full HD resolution. Let’s dive in.
Best cheap action camera
While the action camera market continues to be saturated with competitors, the original maker of the tiny, wide-angle, mountable camera remains the consumer favorite. GoPro has several models currently on the market, and the GoPro Max stands out as the best bang for your buck. With its stabilization qualities, 360 video and high-resolution capabilities, the GoPro Max offers tons of benefits in a miniature package.
These tiny cameras have many uses, and GoPro offers a variety of accessories, mounts and cases that expand what their cameras are capable of. On top of the GoPro Max’s waterproof rating, its front-facing touch screen and full HD live streaming capability make it an excellent choice for travel vloggers, influencers or anyone who wants a straightforward, easy-to-use action camera. Not to mention, the GoPro app makes it easy to download, edit and share your videos right on your smartphone. The GoPro Max is available for $399, and for about $100 more, you can get a bundle that includes extra batteries and a handy tripod/grip.
Best cheap smartphone for video creators
Apple iPhone SE
Who says you need a dedicated camera to shoot great video? Sometimes, the best option for a budget camera isn’t what we traditionally know as a camera. Instead, it’s a smartphone. The baseline Apple iPhone is a fully capable, high-functioning camera in and of itself and a great option for influencers and filmmakers alike. Its dual functionality as a phone and camera makes it a great all-in-one device for a videographer on a budget.
While the iPhone SE’s camera allows the user to make basic adjustments through the Settings App, a fully manual camera app will unlock its full potential. Apps like this can allow you to change the shutter speed, aperture and other settings just as you would when shooting manually with any other camera. Starting at just $429 for the 64 GB version, the iPhone is a great option for a capable, inexpensive camera. However, if you plan to store a lot of video on your phone, we suggest opting for more storage.
Best cheap USB PTZ
OBSBOT Tiny 2
There are several high-quality smart webcams on the market this year, but one, in particular, stands out as having the best picture quality at an incredible value. The OBSBOT Tiny 2 is an AI-powered 4K PTZ webcam and is perfect for anyone looking to have a dedicated camera for live streaming — especially in front of a computer. They are a great option for those looking to upgrade their work-from-home setup and create more dynamic, engaging videos.
The OBSBOT Tiny 2 is an upgrade from their Tiny 4K webcam. It offers a larger sensor, voice and gesture control, as well as 4x faster autofocus than the previous version. The OBSBOT Tiny 2 is available now and starts at just $329. OBSBOT also offers a PowerUp Combo that includes the Tiny 2, a smart remote, an extendable tripod, HQ microphone and an extendable mini ball head, all for about $450.
Best cheap camcorder
For those looking for a casual, no-nonsense video camera in an all-in-one package, a camcorder is the way to go. Consumer camcorders are designed for various videographers, all ranging from professionals to those with minimal experience operating a camera. A traditional camcorder features a fixed zoom lens, a flip-open monitor and easy-to-reach controls that access its functions.
The Panasonic HC-V180K is our favorite budget camcorder because of its image quality, built-in stabilization and impressive optical zoom. The HC-V180K features a 1/5.8-inch BSI MOS sensor and can capture up to 60 frames per second (fps) when shooting in full HD. It has built-in five-axis Hybrid O.I.S. (optical image stabilization) that will help keep your shots smooth when shooting handheld. It also performs well in low light, making it a great value for just over $200.
Best cheap mirrorless camera
Canon EOS R100
Mirrorless cameras are more popular than ever, offering high functionality at a usually reasonable price. However, when purchasing a camera, you should always factor in the cost of accessories that you may want to add to your arsenal. In the case of a detachable-lens mirrorless camera, it’s also necessary to budget for lenses.
Our favorite budget mirrorless camera in 2023 is the Canon EOS R100. With a 24.2-MP APS-C CMOS sensor, the EOS R100 can capture (cropped) 4K video at up to 24 frames per second and full 1080p HD video at up to 60 frames per second — which is excellent when compared to other mirrorless cameras in the same price range.
While the theme of this article is budget cameras under $500, it’s important to note that you will need to spend a little bit more to get a fully functioning EOS R100. Unless you have a usable Canon lens lying around, you may want to consider the kit that includes an 18-45mm zoom lens. Even so, the EOS R100 is Canon’s least expensive camera and is a great way to enter the world of mirrorless photography and video.
Which camera should you buy?
With so many options out there, it can be tough to decide on a camera that will fit your needs and stay within your budget. It’s important to consider your primary use for the camera as well as the features it needs to have. Consider our top picks, and do your own research to make an informed decision on your next purchase. You don’t need the latest and greatest camera to shoot high-quality videos. As long as you have the desire, any decent camera will do.
If you need more help choosing a camera, see our guide: How to buy a camera.
Contributing authors to this article include Tony Morales and Chris Monlux.