Looking for a nice camera for a gift that won’t break the bank? Today on The Slanted Lens we’re going to take a look at cameras under $1,000. We’re asked this question all the time. What’s the best inexpensive camera for me to purchase to be able to get into that’s under $1,000?
I just had a brother-in-law ask me this a couple of weeks ago. He said, “If I want to get my wife a camera that’s nicer than her phone that she can take really good pictures of the kids with, but not break the bank, what should I get?”
So let’s take a look at that list, we’re going to start with the least expensive. Now this is a camera with a lens. So it’s a complete system. With a complete system camera and lens that you can shoot. And we’ll just start at the very bottom. The very first one on our list is a Sony a6000, which is an older camera, but still has a lot of great features. And it comes in at $650 bucks with a lens. That is a super affordable price point for a really capable camera. It’s on the older side, four or five years old now. But it still has good autofocus and great image quality. It shoots pretty quickly in terms of frames per second, for $650. You’re also buying into a lens system because Sony cameras all use the same e-mount. Which means that if you decide to pick up nicer lenses, besides the kit lens that comes with it, you’ll be able to hold onto them and shoot them with any other Sony camera that you buy in the future. So you could buy this camera at a really inexpensive price, pick up a couple really nice lenses and then purchase a nicer full frame camera in the future. And you wouldn’t have to switch out all of your gear at once. This really becomes a decision about buying into a system. It really gives you the ability to grow with it. Because you’re not going to have to change to a new lens mount which is really appealing to me with this camera. It is older technology, but it’s still very solid technology. And at that price $650, it’s a great entry point. It’s more of a point and shoot type camera that has far greater capabilities. The small size of it gives you the ability to be able to carry it with you. The downsides of this camera are the size, it’s so small. My hands can feel cramped. It’s hard to hold onto. It’s an older Sony menu system. So the menus are kind of a mess. It’s not very intuitive to use. Also, the video capabilities are very outdated. It doesn’t do 4k. It doesn’t give you a flip out screen if you want to do any kind of vlogging or anything like that. The screen just articulates on the back. So it does have some disadvantages.
That leads us to our next camera which is about to come out. That is the new Canon M50 Mark II. That’s a step up in the market. It has some advantages and some disadvantages compared to the Sony a6000. It runs $700. It is also a really nice, portable camera. It’s a little easier to use. I think it’s more comfortable in the hands than the Sony a6000 is because it has a better grip and a slightly larger body. It has a much nicer EVF with a built in touchscreen. In terms of image quality it’s a brand new camera with a very new sensor in it. And so you’re going to have great image quality with low light and great autofocus that is incredible. It is a lot of fun. It has dual pixel autofocus, which is legendary. It’s probably the best in the business so it feels shiny and new and it’s going to feel very fast and responsive and nice. The one downside to this camera though is it does use a kind of odd lens mount. It doesn’t share any lenses with any of Canon’s other cameras. So your lens selection is somewhat limited. And you’ll probably end up selling off all your lenses and buying new ones if you ever upgrade. So if you’re looking into stepping into a system that you can grow in, this may not be the camera. I’m not sure how important for a lot of people. That is because if your goal is to build a system and to get into the professional lineup, then you probably wouldn’t be buying this camera. It’s probably not the camera for you. But if you want a great camera that you can carry with you that’s small and compact, this gives you a great image and it gives you great autofocus. This is an excellent choice at $700 with a lens. This was the camera I actually recommended my brother-in-law look at. He was looking at the Sony a6000. I suggested he take a look at the Canon M50 Mark II as well. Just because it is going to be easier and more intuitive to use than the Sony. So for someone that’s more of a casual user that just wants something they can take on vacation and things like that I think this is an excellent option. It really is an excellent option, one you’ll want to look at.
So if we jump up now to $750 we go back to the a6000 series which is the Sony a6100. The a6100 is basically the a6000 released last year. So it is mostly the same camera with a few updated things. Obviously all of the tech inside is going to be updated so you’re going to have somewhat better low light ability. And much better autofocus because their newer autofocus system is pretty fantastic. It will have better image quality overall. It also has a screen that flips all the way up so you can vlog and take selfies and things like that. Another nice thing about a6100 is it does step up to 4k video. It has that great flip out screen and it has really good autofocus. You could use it to shoot yourself which is kind of a big deal for $750. It is a great vlogging camera to carry with you to be able to shoot and work on a channel or to work on any kind of brand. It’s a great camera for a great price at $750 bucks.
If you’re thinking you do want to go with the Sony because you like the size or the E-mount or whatever, I would probably recommend this over the a6000. You’re spending $100 extra but you’re getting a camera that’s four years newer that has a nicer sensor and can do 4k video with a flip up screen. I think that just the autofocus alone is probably worth $100. So that’s a great step up.
Let’s go up another hundred $150 to $900 well barely see a Nikon on the list. In the $900 bracket we have a Nikon Z50. Now the things that the Nikon has going for it are mostly that it’s a Nikon. Nikon builds solid cameras, really good photo cameras. It is going to have great color, really good performance and low light good dynamic range It has excellent autofocus. The same autofocus system as the nicer Nikon Z6 Z7 full frame cameras. So it’s like the canon. You’re jumping into a nicer autofocus situation. And it has pretty good video and it shoots 4k. Nice video features. It does crop with the video, unlike the Sony does, so that’s one thing to consider. The Nikon Z50 does use the Z mount. It’s also only 20 megapixels. Most of the cameras on this list are 24 megapixels. This one’s only 20. So that’s a little bit of a trade-off. It is interesting because I view this camera as kind of a one off. You would buy this with a lens and you’d use it for a specific purpose. It’s not really becoming a system where you are going to have six or eight lenses with this camera. Some people may not need that and some people will want that. But generally speaking, I think this is for a specific purpose. If you want to vlog with it or you want to carry it with you to do vacation photos. So I think the fact that it has a lens mount that won’t really grow into a main system probably isn’t that big of a downside for most. But it would be nice if it did give you that option if you bought a piece of glass for this camera. It would be nice if you could apply that to the 850 or something.
Another camera that’s at the same $900 price is the Fuji X-T30. And that is probably my top choice on this list for many reasons and it’s near the top for price as well. But one of the really nice things about the X-T30 is it’s 26 megapixels. So it has decent image size, really decent image. The image size is bigger than all the other cameras on this list. It also has great video quality. You can shoot f-log which means you’re going to have more dynamic range in your video shoots at 200 megabits per second. You’re going to have double the amount of data that all of these other cameras have when you’re shooting 4k. But it’s also a great still camera and it has really good autofocus. And the thing I love about it the most are all of the dials. It’s like a real camera. It’s back to the days of film cameras. You’ve got a dial for your aperture and a dial for your shutter. It’s just really easy to see and to work with. It gives you a great image and much better video than anything else we have on this list. And it has a 26 megapixel image. I feel like it really checks all the boxes and on top of that it has the Fuji x-mount. Which means, like the Sony, you’ll be able to mount all of the Fuji lenses on this camera, which is huge. Also Fuji only makes APS-C crop sensor cameras so all of their lenses are designed for the sensor. Whereas with a Sony camera you can buy a lot of nice e-mount glass but it’s designed for full frame. So if you buy the 24mm to 70mm it’s not going to be quite the correct range for your a6000 camera. Whereas with the Fuji, all of their zooms and all of their primes, every good lens they make, is designed for this sensor.
So this is the camera I recommend to my students a lot. It’s a $900 camera with a lens. It’s a great camera because you can work up into their other cameras and get better cameras with better features and better video features. The high end of Fuji has incredible video features. I mean we’re talking 10 bit 4.2.2 internal recording. It really is a great system but it’s $900.
The next camera steps up to just under $1,000. The top of our list is the Sony a6400. It’s back to that 6000 line. They have a lot of great cameras in this lineup. The a6400 is $1,000 but it’s also top of the line and it has a lot of features. It has all the video features that are missing from the lower a6000 cameras. You can shoot s-log with this really nice camera and it has newer tech for the most part in the photo world. So I think if you’re planning to shoot video, and you want to be shooting log and things like that, the a6400 is also a really good option. It will have all the capabilities you want including nice autofocus. You have Sony e-mount. It’s definitely on par with the Z30. Whereas most of these other cameras, I think, aren’t really up to the Z30 standards in terms of video quality.
There’s a great look at cameras under $1,000. And I think it fits a place in the market for people who are looking for a beginning camera or a vlogging camera, or something just easy and light to carry on vacation with them. I think they all fall in this category. So if you’re looking for a camera to purchase for somebody as a gift, or you’re looking for a small camera to get started with, there’s a great list of cameras to choose from. So there you go. Make sure you leave a comment on our YouTube Channel. We want to hear which of these cameras you like. Maybe there’s another camera you felt like should have been on our list. We like to hear those comments. And make sure you subscribe to The Slanted Lens, ring that bell and keep those cameras rollin’ and keep on clickin’.