With a budget around $500, you'll find an impressive mix of advanced point and shoot cameras, along with entry-level DIL and DSLR cameras. The feature lists for these sub-$500 cameras are very impressive, and you'll find some unique features in this price point.
Here are the best cameras for under $500, listed alphabetically.
And, if you want some help in finding the best DSLR camera, click the link and read our DSLR camera buying guide.
Canon's Rebel T3i camera builds on the successes of past Rebel DSLR cameras while incorporating a nice list of technologies and features.
The T3i uses an APS-C size image sensor and uses Canon EF lenses. With 18 megapixels of resolution, the T3i is near the top end of consumer DSLR cameras. The award-winning T3i allows for nine AF points and includes a 3-inch high-resolution LCD that can swivel away from the camera.
The T4i includes some impressive features, including 18MP of resolution in a CMOS image sensor, full HD video, five frames per second shooting speed, and a 3.0-inch widescreen LCD that swivels and tilts away from the camera body.
The PowerShot G16 is a very powerful fixed-lens camera with some high-end features. You'll find a fast f/1.8 lens with this camera, something that's rarely found outside of a DSLR lens.
The G16 has a 1/1.7-inch CMOS image sensor carrying 12.1 megapixels of resolution. The fast lens is a 5X optical zoom lens, which is pretty good for this type of camera. You can pick between the G16's optical viewfinder and its high-resolution 3.0-inch LCD screen to frame photos.
There are quite a few features found here that will appeal to advanced photographers.
Nikon's latest entry into the low end of the DSLR market is the D3300, which Nikon calls an HD-SLR camera. (I'm not exactly sure what makes the D3300 an HD-SLR other than it shoots full HD movies, so I'll just refer to it as a DSLR to avoid confusion.)
Simply put, this is a strong still image camera offered at a reasonable price. Nikon has given the D3300 a large image sensor with 24-plus megapixels of resolution, and the image quality with this model is outstanding.
The PEN family of DIL cameras has always had great looks and fun-to-use options. One of the latest models, the Olympus PEN PL-5, includes an improved feature set over its predecessors too.
The PEN PL5 has an articulated touchscreen LCD, 16MP of resolution, interchangeable lenses, and burst mode shooting up to 8 frames per second. You'll find it in silver, black, or white camera bodies.
I reviewed the Olympus PL3 recently, and it was a great camera. I'm sure the PL5, which is also called the "PEN Lite," will follow in its footsteps.
The latest "mini" camera from Olympus, the PEN E-PM2, is another very nice DIL model to build upon last year's success with the Olympus Mini PEN E-PM1, which made my list of the best 5-star cameras. The E-PM2, meanwhile, made my list of 2013's best cameras.
The E-PM2, which is now available in silver, black, white, or red camera bodies, features 16.1MP of resolution, interchangeable Micro Four Thirds lenses, a 3.0-inch touch screen LCD, and full HD video.
The Panasonic Lumix GF2 makes use of the Micro Four Thirds standard, meaning it uses interchangeable lenses, like a DSLR camera. However, because of its mirror-less design, it's not a DSLR. Panasonic calls the GF2 a DSLM (DSL micro), although DIL and EVIL are common acronyms, too.
The Lumix GF2 features a 12.1 megapixel Live MOS sensor, which combines the low power usage of a CMOS sensor with the image quality of a CCD sensor. You'll also find a 3.0-inch touch-screen LCD with the GF2.
The next step in wireless connectivity for digital cameras -- NFC (Near Field Communication) -- is part of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LF1, which is now available.
Using NFC technology, you can connect the Lumix LF1 to a DLNA-enabled Panasonic TV to show your images directly from the camera with no wires, for example. The LF1 also has built-in Wi-Fi capabilities.
Panasonic gave the LF1 a 1/1.7-inch image sensor with 12.1MP of resolution, which should yield better image quality than point-and-shoot cameras. Additionally, the LF1 has a 7.1X optical zoom lens, a 3.0-inch LCD, an electronic viewfinder, and full HD video recording.
The Lumix LF1 is available in black or white camera bodies.
Panasonic's latest high-end fixed-lens camera, the Lumix DMC-LX7, offers a high-quality lens, a 1/1.7-inch MOS image sensor, and high-end features, including an aperture ring.
With its high-end image sensor, having 10.1 megapixels of resolution will provide you with impressive results. In addition, the LX7 carries a 3.0-inch high-resolution LCD, full HD video capabilities, 3D photography options, and a 3.8X optical zoom lens with good wide-angle options. The LX7 is available in either black or white camera body colors.
Its high price tag means the Lumix LX7 might not appeal to everyone, but this is a very strong camera that can help you achieve great photos.
Samsung is currently showing off a new model called Galaxy Camera, which is an award-winning camera that will be running the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean operating system, further blurring the line between digital cameras and cell phones.
The Galaxy Camera is expected to have a 16MP CMOS image sensor, can shoot 1080p HD video, built-in Wi-Fi, 3G or 4G support, a 4.8-inch touch screen LCD, and a 21X optical zoom lens. Those are some impressive features.
With its Cyber-shot DSC-HX300 camera, Sony has hit two interesting numbers that no other camera on the market has hit -- a 50X optical zoom lens and 20 megapixels of resolution.
Along side the 50X optical zoom lens, the Cyber-shot HX300 has a 3.0-inch LCD screen that tilts and can shoot at 1080p HD video resolution.
The Sony HX300's price may seem a bit high for a camera with a small image sensor. However, no one else can pair the 50-20 numbers that are found with the HX300.
Sony created a bit of buzz in the camera marketplace with the introduction of two lens-style digital cameras, and the first is now available for sale, the Sony Cyber-shot QX100.
This lens-style camera looks like a lens but contains all of the components needed to record photos. With the QX100, you can attach it to a smartphone port, add a Sony PlayMemories Mobile app to your smartphone, and begin shooting images using the lens-style camera and using the smartphone screen to frame the image. The app gives you the ability to control the camera's settings.
The QX100 has an expensiveprice tag, but it also includes some really nice items in its specification list, including a 1-inch 20.2MP CMOS image sensor and a 3.6X optical zoom measurement. There's also a manual focus component. This is a very interesting camera ... even if looks more like a lens.
If the QX100's price is out of your budget, you can consider the entry-level QX10 lens-style camera for about half the price.