Best cameras under $1500: Digital Photography Review Leave a comment

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

Spending $1500 – or the equivalent amount in your local currency – on a camera can seem like a daunting prospect, but this is the price bracket where the cameras start to get really good. The past few years have seen great advances in the power and simplicity of autofocus, and the cost of full-frame cameras has dropped, meaning there are some really capable options at this price.

The $1500 price bracket includes the more affordable full-frame cameras – so-called because their sensors are the same size as a piece of 35mm film – or some of the higher-end APS-C models.

With the right lenses full-frame can offer better image quality than an APS-C camera. But choosing a sensor size is a balance between size, price and image quality. An APS-C camera can be smaller, especially once you factor the lenses in, and one in the $1500 price range is likely to shoot faster and may have more sophisticated features than a full-frame model at the same price. After extensive use, the following cameras would be our picks, in this price range:

Our picks:

Best camera for under $1500: Canon EOS R8

24 MP full-frame CMOS sensor | 4K/60p 10-bit video recording | 8 fps burst shooting

The EOS R8 is one of the most affordable way to gain the image quality benefits of a full-frame sensor. Lens availability is a concern, but it’s a capable and enjoyable camera to use.

Photo: Richard Butler

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What we like:

  • Great image quality
  • Very good AF subject detection and tracking
  • Good starting price

What we don’t:

  • No in-body image stabilization
  • Short battery life
  • No AF joystick

The Canon EOS R8 is a surprisingly capable compact full-frame mirrorless camera that has the features and image quality of Canon’s EOS R6 II at a much lower price.

The EOS R8 has a comfortable grip and twin dials, giving a good level of direct control. There aren’t many buttons so more committed users may want to move up to the EOS R6 II, rather than rely on the quick menu for changing settings.

Autofocus is the R8’s strong suit: tracking and subject detection are simple to use and very effective. There’s no AF joystick, so you’ll have to use the touchscreen or select a subject and recompose. Battery life is very limited for an entry-level full-frame camera, though it can charge over USB, at least.

“If you’re partial to Canon and are new to full-frame mirrorless, the EOS R8 is a great place to start your photographic journey.”

The R8 shoots attractive video, including 4K footage at up to 60p. The lack of in-body stabilization means you’ll need a stabilized lens or a tripod to get the best results.

Photos are on par with more expensive full-frame cameras, with great high ISO performance, detail-preserving noise reduction, and Canon’s pleasing JPEG colors. The 40 fps burst mode is prone to rolling shutter distortion, reducing its usefulness for capturing action.

The EOS R8 offers the image quality and many of the features of Canon’s more expensive models but battery life and viewfinder resolution are part of the price you pay for that. The RF mount is still fairly new so it’s worth researching your lens options before buying, but an adapter allows the use of EF DSLR lenses if you have them.

Enjoyable to shoot with: Nikon Z5

24MP full-frame sensor | In-body image stabilization | 4K/30p video

The Nikon Z5’s view and autofocus aren’t as good as those of the Canon EOS R8 but it can be nicer to use in some regards, not least thanks to its larger battery and high-res viewfinder.

Photo: Dan Bracaglia

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What we like:

  • Excellent image quality
  • Superb build quality
  • Effective image stabilization

What we don’t:

  • 4K video has heavy crop
  • Heavy-handed high ISO noise reduction
  • Noticeable rolling shutter

We also really liked the Nikon Z5, which sells for around the same price as the Canon.

The Nikon Z5 is among the most affordable entry-level full-framer cameras ever released. It sports a stabilized 24MP CMOS chip with on-sensor phase detect AF, packed inside a robust, best-in-class body.

“The Z5 is good for anyone seeking a well-priced, stills-oriented full-frame mirrorless camera”

Its autofocus isn’t quite as reliable as the R8’s and its video is nowhere near as good, but if anything we find it a slightly more enjoyable camera to actually use and it offers in-body image stabilization, which the Canon lacks. It has a higher resolution viewfinder and a joystick for positioning its autofocus point, which makes a surprisingly big difference to usability. It also offers significantly better battery life than the Canon, which is another nice-to-have feature.

Other full-frame cameras we considered

We also considered the Sony a7 II, which is still available at some very tempting looking prices. This isn’t the bargain it might seem. The a7 II was launched in late 2014 and cameras have come a long way since then. Sony has updated the autofocus, menus and ergonomics of the a7 series significantly since the launch of the a7 II, and has adopted a much larger battery, all of which are worth spending more money to gain. Sony’s E-mount has the widest selection of lenses of any mirrorless system, but we’d recommend saving for an a7 III instead of buying the a7 II at this point.

It’s a similar story with the Sony a7C, at this point. The a7C includes many of the features of the a7 III in a smaller body, but its small, low resolution viewfinder and lack of a front command dial mean you pay a significant cost in terms of usability in that downsizing.

Most versatile option: Sony a6700

26MP BSI CMOS sensor | 4K/60p video capture | Fully articulating screen

The Sony a6700 combines all-round stills and video capabilities with class-leading autofocus. The standard 16-50mm kit zoom’s not great, though.

Photo: Richard Butler

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What we like:

  • Front and rear command dials
  • Excellent AF in stills and video
  • 4K/120p capture (with crop)

What we don’t:

  • No AF joystick
  • JPEG sharpening can be aggressive

The Sony a6700 is an enthusiast-level APS-C mirrorless camera built around an image-stabilized, 26MP BSI CMOS sensor. It includes an impressive collection of features for both photo and video shooters.

The a6700 has a twin-dial interface missing from less expensive models. It’s just slightly larger than previous models in the line, but in exchange, you also get a fully articulating display. However, it lacks the AF joystick found on many cameras in its class.

Autofocus on the a6700 offers class-leading subject detection and tracking capabilities. Combined with a dedicated ‘AI’ processor, it effectively tracks subjects around the frame even when shooting at the maximum 11 fps burst shooting rate.

“Excellent photo and video quality with best-in-class AF in stills and video make it an excellent choice for enthusiasts.”

Image quality is very good in JPEG or Raw. JPEG colors are pleasing to the eye, though sharpening can be a bit aggressive. Base ISO noise levels are consistent with other modern APS-C models but in low light it exhibits a little more noise.

The camera produces very detailed 4K video up to 60p with 10-bit color, with good rolling shutter performance. There’s also a 4K/120p mode, albeit with a 1.58x crop. Autofocus performance is top-notch, with a well-designed touch interface. It’s a strong option both for videographers and vloggers.

Excellent photo and video quality, best-in-class AF in stills and video, and a deep set of features to support both make it an excellent choice for enthusiasts. Sony’s E-mount also includes a good range of available lenses.

The creative choice: Fujifilm X-S20

26MP X-Trans APS-C sensor | Up to 6.2K/30P 10-bit video | In-body image stablization

We found the X-S20 to be a capable stills and video all-rounder, though the autofocus tracking isn’t quite as reliable as its rivals’.

Photo: Brendan Nystedt

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What we like:

  • Excellent still and video quality
  • Long battery life
  • Comfortable, simple ergonomics

What we don’t:

  • AF tracking still lags behind peers
  • Small electronic viewfinder
  • Micro HDMI instead of full-size

The Fujifilm X-S20 is a compact 26MP APS-C mirrorless camera with image stabilization that takes features of the company’s higher-end models and puts them into a DSLR-styled body with a large grip.

In most respects the Sony a6700 has the edge over the X-S20, particularly in terms of autofocus performance. But what the Fujifilm offers is a wide selection of photographer-friendly prime lenses, both from Fujifilm itself and companies such as Sigma and Viltrox. This, and the attractive Film Simulation modes, make it worth considering.

“The X-S20 delivers a long list of options to still shooters and vloggers alike, all while offering solid battery life.”

The X-S20’s video specs are impressive, with 10-bit 4K capture at up to 60p. Videographers will appreciate its F-Log capture, while the Eterna color profile is attractive if you want a simpler workflow. An optional fan extends record times but autofocus isn’t especially dependable.

The X-S20 takes Fujifilm’s higher-end still and video features and puts them into a simple, cleanly designed body with built-in image stabilization. Image quality is great, autofocus is good in most situations, and the breadth of video features is impressive.

The affordable kit: Fujifilm X-S10 with 18-55mm F2.8-4.0 OIS lens

26MP X-Trans CMOS sensor | In-body image stabilization | 4K/30p video capture

The X-S10 isn’t as sophisticated as the X-S20, particularly in terms of video capture, but the 18-55mm F2.8-4.0 OIS lens (pictured) is a really good lens, whereas some of the lenses included with other cameras are not.

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The older Fujifilm X-S10 is also worth considering. It’s a little less sophisticated than the X-S20, with less reliable autofocus, less effective image stabilization, lower video spec and a smaller battery all making the newer model a better choice. Our reason for including it comes down to what you can get with it if you have a strict $1500 budget: a good lens. The other cameras here are typically only fit within the price range when bought body-only or with a rather basic zoom.

For less than $1500 you can buy the X-S10 with the 18-55mm F2.8-4.0 OIS lens. This is one of the best ‘kit’ zooms on the market: covering a useful range, offering good optical performance and letting in more light than is typical, which helps you access more of the camera’s image quality potential. An X-S20 with the 18-55mm is an even better choice, but it strays over this guide’s headline target price.

Other APS-C cameras we considered

Also available in this price range is the Canon EOS R7. It’s a very capable camera with impressive specs and the same highly effective autofocus system as the EOS R8. However, at present there are relatively few lenses available for it, and most of them are fairly slow aperture zooms or prime lenses with focal lengths that make more sense on full-frame cameras, effectively reducing the options further.

You can adapt Canon’s EF-mount DSLR lenses, but the extra depth of the adapter makes this rather unweildy. If you’re happy to stick with one of the rather pedestrian RF-S kit zooms, the EOS R7 is a lovely camera, but the Fujifilm and Sony currently offer so much more room to grow.

The compact option: OM System OM-5

20MP Four Thirds CMOS sensor | 4K/30p video | In-body stabilization rated to 6.5EV (7.5 with some lenses)

The OM-5 offers a smaller, more rugged alternative to APS-C or full-frame cameras.

Photo: Shaminder Dulai

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There’s a third option when it comes to striking the size/price/image quality balance of sensor sizes: Four Thirds. The Micro Four Thirds system uses a sensor one quarter the size of that in ‘full-frame,’ which means there’ll be an appreciable image quality hit in many situations and it’ll be harder to achieve the blurry backgrounds that full-frame can give. The flipside, though is a significantly smaller system for which some of the lenses are much less expensive.

What we like:

  • Attractive JPEG output
  • Selection of clever photo features
  • Excellent image stabilization
  • IP53 rating supports claims of weather sealing

What we don’t:

  • AF tracking is disappointing
  • Image quality is behind larger sensor cameras

The OM System OM-5 is a compact 20MP image-stabilized Micro Four Thirds mirrorless camera.

The OM-5 has a compact body but a decent number of control points and offers a high degree of customization. Its menu system is quite cluttered by the camera’s extensive array of features. Viewfinder and rear screen are typical for the price.

It has good phase-detect autofocus with face detection, but tracking for other subjects is distinctly unreliable. Using a single point or zone of focus and trying to keep up with the subject yields best results, but is somewhat awkward due to the lack of an AF joystick.

“Its combination of IP-rated weather sealing, image stabilization and compact size helps the OM-5 offer something different”

Image quality is good for its sensor size, with attractive JPEGs and flexible Raw files. A 12-shot handheld high-res mode lets it punch above its weight if your scene has relatively little movement. Excellent image stabilization expands the camera’s working range, and unique features like Live ND mean you rarely need a tripod.

The OM-5’s 4K video isn’t the most detailed, but this is made up for by some of the best image stabilization on the market, making the OM-5 a competent hand-held video option. Video AF tracks faces and people decently, but can struggle with other kinds of subjects.

The OM-5 offers strong all-round capability with excellent image stabilization in a compact IP53-rated weather-sealed body and access to one of the largest mirrorless camera lens systems.

Why you should trust us

This buying guide is based on cameras used and tested by DPReview’s editorial team. We don’t select a camera until we’ve used it enough to be confident in recommending it, usually after our extensive review process. The selections are purely a reflection of which cameras we believe to be best: there are no financial incentives for us to select one model or brand over another.

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