When I wanted to get started as an aspiring vlogger, the first problem I had was the initial money I had to invest in equipment. Thankfully, the options new vloggers have are much better than when I started almost 10 years ago.
Nowadays, I like recommending cameras around $500 because it’s the best range to find cameras that can record better than most smartphones without breaking the bank.
You might not find excellent, or unbelievably good cameras at this price, but they certainly will allow you to deliver beautiful content to your viewers.
Here they are. Bear in mind that some of them may go slightly above the $500 threshold, as prices vary a lot according to demand. The prices are updated daily:
|Canon EOS M200
|242g (0.53 lb)
|DJI Pocket 2 III
|283g (0.62 lb)
|GoPro HERO12 Black
|154g (0.34 lb)
Table of Contents
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1) Sony ZV-1F – Best for Vlogging
- Designed for vlogging
- Good in low light for a compact
- High-quality lens
- The small sensor makes it lackluster in low light
- Limited 4k recording
Flip Screen: No | Type: Compact | Stabilization: Yes | Resolution: 4k30p | Weight: 256g (9.1 oz)
Sony has been trying really hard to become the best vlogging camera designers. They are always pushing the limits of how many vlog-friendly features they can deliver for the lowest price. Their latest impressive attempt at this was the Sony ZV-1F.
Before it came out, there were barely any true cameras for vlogging under $500. It still has some flaws, which I’ll tell you about in a second, but the fact that it’s the only camera in this price range that was specifically made for vlogging makes it an easy winner.
It’s lightweight and portable, has SteadyShot stabilization, and Sony’s industry-leading autofocus and face-tracking capabilities with 4k.
4k recording is limited to 5 minutes only though. You can turn this off, but the camera will still turn off when the heat builds up.
The camera also features a fully articulating screen with touch capabilities, and a Product Showcase mode with a bokeh switch, which vloggers who love the blurred background effect will appreciate.
In conclusion, the Sony ZV-1F is a great choice for beginner vloggers looking for a camera that is easy to use, portable, and capable of producing high-quality videos.
2) Canon EOS M200 – Best for Low Light
- Interchangeable lens and APS-C sensor
- 4k at 24fps
- Flip screen
- Great autofocus
- No external mic port
- Poor battery life
Flip Screen: Yes | Type: Mirrorless | Stabilization: In the kit lens | Resolution: 4k24p| Weight: 299g
The EOS M200 is always hovering a bit above $500 (sorry), but sometimes you can find it for lower, depending on demand at the moment. This is the successor of one of the first Canon mirrorless cameras ever to be released, and it’s probably the best you can find for less than $500—sometimes.
What makes this one stand out from the rest of the cameras at this price range is the flip screen together with the fact that it has a large sensor (APS-C). This makes it the best option for low-light recording.
Amazingly, you can record in 4k with this camera at 24fps. However, you only have 10 minutes of continuous recording, after which you will need to stop and start recording again. This only applies in 4k. For 1080p and others, the limit is 30 minutes.
Canon’s Dual-Pixel autofocus is the type of focus you need for vlogging. The camera can follow your face and keep it in focus with surprising accuracy for a camera at this price.
And the APS-C sensor will let you record in low light without losing too much image quality. This sensor is much larger than most point-and-shoot cameras, so you can expect a higher-quality image when you’re recording indoors or during the night.
Also, Canon offers a good variety of lenses, so having an interchangeable lens camera adds a lot of value to this purchase. It uses the same mount as the Canon EOS M50, which is one of the best vlogging cameras. So you can get this one to get started, upgrade later to the M50, and use the same lenses.
One thing to notice though, is the low battery life. Since it’s been a few years since its release, the battery is not as good as the newer cameras. You should take with you a few extra batteries if you want to record for an entire day.
3) Sony DSCHX99 – Most Versatile
- Flip screen
- Small and portable
- Good price
- Has better photo capabilities than the ZV-1F
- Small sensor
- No external mic port
Flip Screen: Yes | Type: Compact | Stabilization: Yes | Resolution: 4K/30p | Weight: 242g (0.53 lb)
While the ZV-1F is aimed at vloggers, this is a similar camera that is more balanced between photo and video capabilities.
It has a huge zoom of up to 60x thanks to its 24-720mm lens and its Clear Image Zoom feature. The Autofocus is also really fast, which is an important feature for people wanting to take quick snaps.
It can also record in 4k at 30p with a recording limit of 5 minutes, like the ZV-1F. On the other hand, it lacks the quick bokeh feature and the Product Showcase settings, which is great for changing the focus between your face and a product you are showcasing to your viewers.
This camera is a better choice if you’re looking for an overall good compact camera that you can also use for vlogging. However, if you’re looking for a camera purely for recording vlogs, the ZF-1F will give you more of what you need.
You might be interested in The 5 Best Cheap Cameras for Youtube
4) DJI Pocket 2
- 4k at 60fps
- External mic port
- Can act as a gimbal for your phone
- Small and compact
- Poor battery life
- No optical zoom
- Poor low-light performance
Flip Screen: Yes | Type: Pocketable | Stabilization: Yes | Resolution: 4kp60 | Weight: 283g (0.62 lb)
The DJI Pocket 2 is an interesting device. It’s a 4k camera but also a gimbal for your phone. This makes it a versatile choice for vlogging.
It has a built-in three-axis stabilizer with a larger sensor than its predecessor, a wider lens, an improved autofocus system, more microphones, and the ability to shoot higher-quality photos and videos.
It has a 1/1.7” CMOS sensor, 20mm (equiv.) F1.8 lens, 64MP and 16MP photo modes, and video capabilities of 4K/60p, 2.7K/60p, 1080/60p. It also offers 8x zoom in 64MP mode, 4x lossless zoom in 1080p or 16MP mode, and panorama modes in 3×3 and 180°.
The camera has 4 microphones with directional audio and soundtracking, a Micro SD slot up to 256 GB, and a battery life of 140 min. at 1080/24p1.
The microphone doesn’t just pick up all sound without discrimination, it will always pick up up mostly sound from the front, but the other microphones around the camera allow it to get a feel of what’s going on around you. This allows you to record with other people without making background noise unbearable. And you can also connect an external mic using its 3.5mm audio port.
However, the DJI Pocket 2 is not without its drawbacks. It has the camera struggles with high-contrast scenes and has poor low-light performance, as is usual with cameras of this sensor size. Similarly to GoPros, you’re also stuck at ultra-wide-angle, which does distort your face and makes everything feel too, well, wide.
While it does have some limitations, particularly in low light and high-contrast situations, its positives far outweigh its negatives, making it an interesting option for vloggers who don’t want the typical camera.
- 5-axis image stabilization
- Can record with video effects/filters applied
- Good low-light performance
- No mic jack
- Not as compact as others
- No flip screen
Flip Screen: No | Type: Action | Stabilization: Yes | Resolution: 5.3k60 | Weight: 154 g (0.34 lb)
I’m not a fan of GoPro cameras, but there aren’t that many options under $500, and to be honest, this latest version of the GoPro is much better than previous models and could be used as your main vlogging camera, at least for a while.
The main reason is that they can now use external microphones. Better yet, the HERO12 Black now also lets you connect an external mic over Bluetooth, without requiring the infamous Media Mod that costs around $80 bucks.
It’s the camera that can record in the highest resolution on this list, by far. It can also record really smooth video thanks to its new HyperSmooth 6.0 Stabilization. This new version also has High Dynamic Range shooting, making it achieve highly detailed images even in high-contrast lighting situations.
This sounds impressive. What’s the problem then? Well, you’re stuck with an ultra-wide-angle lens without any optical zoom. When you use this type of lens, you’re basically using a fisheye lens. This makes your face look distorted, and can even make some viewers uncomfortable if you use it too close to your face.
The camera is meant to record action footage and should be used mainly for that. But it’s not a bad investment as a first camera that you can keep as a secondary when you have enough money to buy a proper one for vlogging.
Will has been a full-time content creator since 2014. He’s an audio, video, and tech hobbyist dedicated to reviewing products and giving you the best tips he knows to grow your audience.