Sometimes as a content creator, you can outgrow your video camera, and need to upgrade in order to match the kinds of videos you want to produce.
But if you don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on professional equipment, are you doomed to create mediocre quality videos?
Thankfully, that isn't the case in 2018. We've summarized the four best video cameras under $500 that you can buy in 2018, as well as the key factors that you should keep in mind in your purchasing decision.
Best Video Cameras Under $500 - 2018
To start, it is interesting to note where the money goes when you get a really expensive camera, so lets check out DSLRguide's comparison of a $500 Video Camera versus a camera that costs a whopping $50,000.
Keep reading to review reviews of each cheap entry-level video cameras that produce excellent video quality in many different circumstances.
If you are new to purchasing affordable video cameras, then we’ve answered a few important questions about what you might need in a good video camera for $500 or less.
Let’s take a look.
Different Type Of Budget Video Camera
Many content creators want a video camera for vlogging where they are the main subject of their videos. These videos are relatively simple, but do benefit from specific features.
You will likely want a flipscreen camera to give you flexibility to see yourself while filming. We haven't included any of those on this list, so we recommedn you check out the best flip screen cameras here instead.
Thankfully, you don't need a large budget for these vlog cameras - often the can be found for less than $300.
Camcorders are the original home video cameras, and today represent an excellent choice for video creators who want high-quality video for the money that they spend.
Many popular video camcorders are under $500 and if you aren't concerned about digital photography, then they are a great choice.
Over the last 10 years, action cameras have developed into some of the most popular cheap video cameras on the market.
While they lack the features of more expensive dedicated video cameras, they have the benefit of small sizes and durable or waterproof bodies.
The GoPro Hero series is regarded as the best action cameras, but there are many good GoPro alternatives to choose from for less money.
Even if they aren't the most technically powerful video cameras, they can really capture some special moments.
DLSR Cameras (especially from Canon and Sony) are popular video cameras that creators use in various settings for both video and photography.
These tend to be more expensive, and we don't cover any on the list below, but there are good DSLR cameras for less than $500 available if that is your preference.
Choosing a Video Camera For Under $500
There are a few considerations you need to make to determine if a camera is going to match your needs.
There are several key specs and features to consider which we review in detail below. The first thing you need to decide is just what type of content you are going to make.
If you are a vlogger on the go, that will likely lead you to a different decision than somebody who creates short films or skits for youtube, and even different than someone who wants to create professional looking interviews or Marketing videos.
Carefully consider how you will use your video camera to make sure that your budget is placed in the best place possible.
If you’re vlogging, you don’t want to release videos like your mom took when you were a kid, right? Most professional vloggers release HD video, and that’s what you need to do.
Look for a video camera that shoots at least 1080p video and preferably can shoot 24p for cinema style quality and at least 30p for action shots (though up to 60p is going to give you the best quality.)
You also need image stabilization within the camera so that as you’re shooting outside, your shaking video doesn't give someone nausea. Ideally, it should have five-axis stabilization to account for all different kinds of shake within the video, but three-axis will provide you with excellent image quality at the very least.
Wide angle lenses give you better options for taking action shots and video composition. A wide angle with some zoom gives you better control over what’s in the frame and takes better account of available light so that you shoot better in lower light conditions.
Another option is a camera that takes into account the high lights and lowlights of high contrast shots. If you’re outside on a sunny day and suddenly go behind the shade of a building, a better video camera won’t swing as wildly between each type of light. Instead, the transition will be more smooth, and you’ll retain the same detail with each circumstance.
One thing you might not think about is the sensor size. The sensor enables the camera to capture as much light as possible. If you have two cameras with the same resolution, but one has a more significant sensor, that camera is going to turn out better quality videos.
If you shoot in low light conditions, and unless you have professional studio lighting, indoors qualifies as low light, you’ll want as big a sensor as you can get for the camera you want. The sensor will also capture finer detail in action shots, so you’ll get less blur and your subject moves.
To make things a lot easier, you’ll want software that doesn’t require a corded connection to a computer to upload your videos and photos. If your camera is wifi-enabled, you can immediately check the footage through a compatible smartphone or device.
Some cameras use NFC, or near field communications, to connect instantly to another NFC enabled device. Some other cameras connect via blue tooth. All of these options make it infinitely easier to get your videos off your camera and where they need to be.
You can also use a smartphone to control the video camera, giving you more shooting options. This allows you to edit and compose shots, take other angles, and work a camera from a tripod without having to have a dedicated remote.
It also gives you the ability to see what your camera sees right on your phone if you aren’t close enough to the camera itself.
Video Cameras Under $500 Reviewed
Canon’s PowerShot series is a favorite among YouTubers and vloggers, and the G9 Mark II provides an affordable video camera option with impressive high-end features. In our opinion, this is the best video camera for under $500 that you will find in 2018 that isn't a camcorder.
It has a 1.0 inch, 20.1mp CMOS sensor for crisp images and video. The processor can capture all parts of the image even in high contrast situations such as a bright sun with shadows behind obstructions.
It has the new Digic 7 image processor that increases shutter speed, even in lower light conditions so that you can capture the images you need. Faster shutter speeds also reduce blur in lower light conditions and give you a full range of ISO options when shooting.
Enhanced tracking abilities lock on to your subject during shoots and help reduce blur and shake while the image is processing. It also has improved facial recognition tracking to keep your chosen subject in focus during movement, which helps during action shots.
It has an internal shake reduction system to limit blur caused by natural body movements and by slight camera shake during longer exposures. This capability makes this camera better at capturing quality photos and videos during low light conditions.
It offers 3x optical zoom and aperture capabilities to f/2 so that you can blur backgrounds to capture better shots with more depth. It can shoot video in HD even in low light conditions.
The touch panel view screen gives you the chance to edit photos and videos directly, or to choose different presets and view the image the way it will appear in the file. Even the control ring round the lens can be rotated for further control without difficulty.
The camera is wifi enabled for more comfortable file sharing to compatible devices. It’s also Bluetooth enabled, so you can control the camera a with a compatible smartphone, use your phone as a viewfinder, and download pictures taken with the camera directly to the phone
Camcorders are excellent affordable video cameras for less than $500 and the Sony HD Video Recording HDRCX405 is a full HD camcorder that shoots in 60p at an excellent price. It features a wide-angle Zeiss lens for better functionality even in lower light conditions.
It uses Sony’s back-illuminated ExmorR CMOS sensor that relocates the light diodes above support circuitry. This allows better light capture per pixel, so your dark shots come out clearer.
SteadyShot stabilization with Active mode is an internal shake reducer that works with three way capture. It reduces shake even in optical zoom or low light capture so your videos always come out clear and in better shape. It also has face detection technology so you can keep your chosen subject in focus for longer.
The LCD is a 2.7 inch screen that provides clear image capture and a full range of menu options. It has intelligent auto settings, a collection of 60 different settings that your camera can automatically assign to a shot.
You can choose between the AVCHD and mp4 formats for HD recording based on your goal. Mp4 is easier to share for times when you plan to download or share the video to a program and AVCHD offers cinematic quality film clarity.
Panasonic’s HC-V770 camcorder shoots full HD 1080p video with a built in stabilizer and optical zoom. It has an exclusive high dynamic range mode (HDR) that allows you to shoot better video through a combination of over and underexposed shots. Overlapping the shots eliminates sharp contrast and creates a more realistic and cinematic quality of video.
It has 50x optical zoom and a 90x intelligent zoom. The stabilization method is a five-way stabilizer that takes into account several types of shake. This allows you to take better quality video even with the full optical zoom without having to tripod your camera.
It has a built in second camera that takes picture-in-picture recordings, and the entire unit is wifi and NFC enabled for better sharing capabilities. You can also control the camera using a compatible smart device.
It reclaims many of the shadows or highlights lost with lesser quality cameras and offers a full menu of recording options to help you get the shot you need.
Sony a5100 16-50mm
The Sony a5100 16-50mm mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses is a great, lightweight camera/video recorder with ultra fast autofocus, just over 24mp image clarity, and full HD video.
The autofocus is a .7 second refocus. It shoots six frames per second with the AF tracking option. It uses Sony’s Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor, a higher level sensor than most mirrorless cameras, but uses the same gapless lens structure.
You can record full 1080p video in cinematic 24p or up to 60p for action shots. It has a 179-point auto tracking, so your subject stays in focus the entire time you’re recording. You can choose between several different video options including mp4, AVDHD, and 8bit 4:2:2.
It’s about half the weight of other DSLRs and has interchangeable lenses to give you more variety for shooting. It’s completely wifi-enabled so you can both control the shot with a compatible smart device and transfer files to compatible devices. You can also use NFC functions in one touch mode.
It has a new lever on the body for one hand zooming, bringing the ease of pocket cameras into the world of interchangeable lenses.
Our pick for the best video camera under $500? The Canon Powershot G9 X Mark II.
The G9 X Mark II is a great entry level video camera that also functions as a stylish photo camera. It’s wonderful in low light conditions and has image stabilization for both action shots and low light. The image processing sensor helps capture all the detail you’ll need for many kinds of shooting circumstances.
Vlogging will probably happen in some indoor circumstances, and having a camera that makes the best use of indoor light will take your videos to a more professional level. And since it offers wifi sharing, your files will be simpler to transfer to your editing software or to upload directly.
Which video camera do you have your eye on, and what are your must haves? Let us know in the comments below.