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If you’re looking to get into filmmaking, chances are you’ve heard of DSLR or mirrorless cameras.
Because these cameras feature interchangeable lenses and often have great specifications, they are a favorite of many independent filmmakers.
Unfortunately, a lot of these cameras can be really expensive and out of the price range for many people.
Finding an affordable camera can be a difficult process, so I’ve decided to make a list of the three best DSLRs you can get for under $500 in 2020.
Now, of course, if you want to get these cameras with more than one kit lens it may affect the price slightly. But even then, the three cameras on this list are still very budget-friendly options that will suit a lot of new beginner filmmakers out there.
However, most filmmakers looking to get a DSLR should be able to find something that should suit their needs on this list.
Additionally, don’t think that a cheap camera means what you make will look bad. Paired with great lighting, sound, and performances, all these cameras can make some really impressive products.
As a filmmaker, getting your hands on your first DSLR is a great way to start learning the ropes and understanding things such as manual exposure, manual focus, and the differences between lenses.
After reading this article I hope you’re able to select the best camera for your needs!
Canon EOS Rebel T7
The first camera we’ll look at is the Canon EOS Rebel T7.
The Canon Rebel line is great DSLRs for entry-level filmmakers and the T7 is no exception. The T7 has a 24.1MP APS-C sensor and can record video in 1080p at 24/30 frames per second.
It’s very easy and affordable to get this camera with an included lens, so you will be able to start filmmaking from the get-go.
Additionally, if you’re looking to expand down the road having a canon lens mount is great since it is such a common mount.
If you decided to pick up some nicer lenses, there’s a good chance you will be able to continue using them if you upgrade your camera body.
The camera has an ISO range of 100-51200 which is outdone by more expensive cameras but still suits everyday use. If you’re shooting in low light conditions you will need to make sure you light your subject carefully though.
One of the largest drawbacks of the T7 is the lack of external audio input. If you are using this camera you most likely will want to add an additional audio source to make your content better.
Overall, the Rebel T7 is a great introduction to filmmaking with DSLRs. It’s a very basic camera but gets the job done.
It is a great way to explore the features of DSLRs but lacks some of the more advanced features such as better low light performance, an option for external audio, and solid autofocus.
Canon Lens Mount
HDMI Type C output
|No External Audio Input|
Where to buy: I found this great deal on Adorama that includes the 18-55mm lens. And for only approximately 100 bucks more, you can get it with two lenses instead – the 18-55mm + the 75-300mm.
The Nikon D5600 is a great DSLR camera that you can get for under 500 for the body only if you find a refurbished or used model.
It features a bunch of impressive features that typically are not included in cameras at its price range.
Some of these features include a 24MP sensor and the ability to record 1080p video at up to 60fps. This means you will be able to get slow-motion footage without having to reduce the video quality.
The D5600 also can autofocus while recording video. For DSLRs under 500 this is an extremely rare feature. Still, it’s important not to rely on autofocus. Though it’s an option, it’s very spotty with the D5600.
Though this camera has better lowlight than some cheaper models, don’t expect miracles. If you’re shooting at nightime, you will certainly need a light to find your subjects and boosting the ISO will still result in quite a bit of noise.
Finally, this is the first camera on the list with an external audio in. This means that you can attach an external microphone which is a huge plus for filmmakers working without a sound crew or unable to run sound on their own.
1080p up to 60fps
Articulating Touch Screen
Can Autofocus While Recording Video
|Nikon Lens Mount|
Autofocus Still Isn’t great
Where to buy: Adorama sometimes has refurbished versions you can get for cheap. Check the current options here.
The Nikon D3500 is the last camera we’ll look at. This is another great Nikon DSLR for entry-level filmmakers with some great features.
It has a 24MP sensor, an external audio input, and can record at 1080p putting it in competition with other cameras we’ve looked at.
Unfortunately the Autofocus on this camera isn’t very strong and there are better options at its price point.
However, the D3500 gets great images and will perform strongly in all other categories.
As with any cameras in this price range, things like low light will be a struggle, however, the Nikon D3500 does have a pretty good usable ISO range.
If you’re looking for a DSLR to hold onto for a while, this could be your camera and, when used properly, you will certainly get some great looking footage.
|External Audio In|
1080p at 60 fps
Where to buy: I found this great deal on Adorama that includes the 18-55mm lens. But for only approximately 100 bucks more, you can get it with two lenses instead – the 18-55mm + the 75-300mm.
As of 2020, these are three of the top DSLRs you can get for under 500 dollars.
For an entry-level filmmaker, any of these cameras will do great. Focusing on the seemingly little things such as lighting, framing, and audio will do wonders and it is certainly possible to make some pretty impressive films with a DSLR such as these.
Cade Taylor is a filmmaker and writer based out of Los Angeles. Originally from Seattle, he continues to work as the Outreach Coordinator for the Bigfoot Script Challenge, where he helps connect up-and-coming writers with industry professionals. When he’s not working on his own projects, helping out with Bigfoot, or covering desks, Cade loves to share what he knows with other filmmakers and promote great content.