Best cameras under $1000: Digital Photography Review

Updated Nov 2, 2023

$1000 might sound like a lot to spend on a camera, but it’s probably the least we’d recommend spending on a new camera if you want a device that will take better photos and deliver a more satisfying photographic experience than your smartphone. We’ve selected a series of cameras that succeed on both those fronts.

For this much money you can buy either an entry-level interchangeable lens camera or a compact camera with a built-in lens designed for enthusiasts. The compact camera will offer more control than a smartphone, as well as the main thing smartphones struggle with: zoom.

Meanwhile, an interchangeable lens camera won’t be as easy to carry around but can make you feel even more involved in the photographic process and has the flexibility to let you swap lenses to learn and grow into different types of photography as you develop your passion.

It’s worth noting, though, that camera makers sometimes assume that the beginner user will only ever want the basic ‘kit’ zoom that comes with the camera, so it’s worth checking whether a good selection of lenses is available (at a price you’re willing to spend) before deciding which brand’s system to buy into.

Our recommendations:

Best camera under $1000: Nikon Z fc

20.9MP APS-C sensor | Oversampled 4K video | 11fps burst shooting

Photo: Richard Butler

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What we like:

  • Excellent image quality
  • Attractive, lightweight design
  • Reliable autofocus performance

What we don’t:

  • No in-body stabilizer
  • Autofocus interface can be a bit clunky
  • No headphone jack

The Nikon Z fc is a compact, attractive 21MP APS-C mirrorless camera, designed for stills and video creators.

With the arrival of the Nikon 24mm F1.7 and three ∼$500 primes from Sigma, you can build an interesting little kit around the Z fc.

We like the Z fc’s classic looks and direct controls. The solid feel of the body is countered by a flimsy battery door, and Auto ISO control is somewhat awkward. Some users will prefer to add a grip for a more secure feel in the hand. The fully articulating LCD works well for vlogging.

Autofocus performance on the Z fc is good, though the interface – which keeps subject tracking and face/eye detection separate – is slower/clunkier than the competition. In use, though, the Z fc gives high autofocus accuracy in both stills and video, even when shooting 4K or the maximum 11fps burst speed.

Fujifilm’s X-T30 II is also worth a look: it’s not a match for the Z fc’s autofocus but there are many more lenses available and it looks the part, too.

«Nikon’s Z fc is a solid choice for camera buyers who don’t want to sacrifice substance in the name of style.»

The Z fc’s oversampled 4K video doesn’t quite match the best of the competition, but it’s very good, as is 1080 capture. The mic input will help you get better audio, but without a headphone output, you can’t monitor it. Lack of in-body stabilization necessitates a tripod, gimbal or stabilized lens for smooth footage, though digital correction helps somewhat.

Image quality is excellent, showing competitive amounts of detail and dynamic range as compared to the competition. JPEG shooters may find the auto white balance sometimes skews a bit too blue, so may want to make some adjustments.

Nikon’s Z fc is a solid choice for camera buyers who don’t want to sacrifice substance in the name of style. While it isn’t a market leader in any one respect, it is competitive across the board, with excellent image and video quality and classic looks. For everyday shooting or vlogging, the Z fc is well worth a look.

The powerful bargain: Sony a6100

24MP APS-C sensor | Hybrid AF with Real-time Tracking | 4K video capture

The Sony a6100 offers a lot of power in a compact, well-priced body. The 16-50mm power zoom isn’t the best, though.

Photo: Richard Butler

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What we like:

  • Excellent autofocus system
  • 4K/30p video recording
  • Tilting touchscreen LCD

What we don’t:

  • Less robust build quality
  • Rolling shutter ‘jello effect’ present in 4K video
  • Crop when recording 4K/30p video

The Sony a6100 is almost the antithesis of the Nikon: it’s nothing like as stylish and doesn’t encourage so much direct control, but it offers some of the best autofocus in its class and can be combined with a vast range of lenses.

The Sony a6100 is an entry-level APS-C mirrorless camera. It’s equipped with a 24MP sensor, a touchscreen for easy focus placement and Sony’s excellent autofocus tracking which makes it especially easy to focus on people and pets.

Sony’s autofocus system has been trained to recognize people and pets as subjects, and will follow them flawlessly throughout the frame. Coupled with the ability to touch the screen to place a focus point, it’s a system that will serve beginner users very well, whatever they’re shooting.

The a6100 makes it easy to record 4K footage or slow-motion 1080 video. There’s a socket to connect an external mic but no way to connect headphones for monitoring. It can be set up for tap-to-track autofocus in video, too. There’s significant ‘jello-effect’ distortion in the 4K footage though, especially in 24p mode.

The a6100 is a good entry-level camera with a very powerful, easy-to-use autofocus system. We’re not huge fans of the kit zoom and the interface isn’t especially welcoming, but with a few settings changes, it can help you get excellent shots, easily.

Also consider: Canon EOS R10

24MP Dual Pixel APS-C CMOS sensor | 4K/30p video (60p with crop) | 15fps shooting (23fps with e-shutter)

Photo: Dale Baskin

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What we like:

  • Capable stills and video camera
  • Simple, effective AF in stills
  • Relatively easy-to-use

What we don’t:

  • Video autofocus is less effective than stills
  • Mediocre battery life
  • Few sensible RF lens choices

The Canon EOS R10 would probably be our first choice if there were more well-priced lenses available for it, as it combines autofocus to rival the Sony with useability to match the Nikon. As things stand, though, it’s best for users who plan to stick with the lens it comes bundled with.

The Canon EOS R10 is a 24MP mid-level APS-C mirrorless camera for stills and video shooting.

«The EOS R10 is an approachable, capable option for stills and video»

With the EOS R10 Canon has re-created the capability and usability of its popular Rebel series DSLRs in its newer RF mirrorless lens mount. You can adapt older DSLR lenses but there are currently few RF lenses that are a good match for the R10. A very strong option if the kit zoom is sufficient for you.

Which is the best Canon camera under $1000?

In this buying guide we’ve selected the EOS R10 as our prefered Canon mirrorless camera under $1000. Its twin-dial interface and its full mechanical shutter (better suited to shooting action) help make it our choice. The less expensive Canon EOS R50 is worth a look, though: there are fewer control points and it loses out on features such as 4K/60p video capture, but it’s still pretty capable.

We’re less excited by the EOS R100, though. This is the least-expensive model but it feels like it, and is based on a previous generation of technology, so it’s slower and has less sophisticated autofocus. Our concerns about sensible lenses to pair apply to all three models.

Best compact camera under $1000: Sony Cyber-shot DSC RX100 Va

20MP 1″ Stacked CMOS sensor | 24-70mm equiv. F1.8-2.8 lens | 4K video capture

The RX100 VA can deliver excellent image quality, backed up by good autofocus

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What we like:

  • Excellent photo quality
  • Very good AF for a compact
  • 24 fps burst shooting with deep buffer

What we don’t:

  • Interface and controls can be overwhelming
  • No touchscreen
  • Limited battery life

Sony essentially created this class of cameras with the original RX100 model. A large sensor gives image quality that’s still a match for a good smartphone but with the benefit of an actual zoom lens. The Stacked CMOS sensor and a built-in viewfinder add to the cost but also create a very powerful camera.

The Sony Cybershot DSC-RX100 VA is an updated RX100 V with the same 20MP Stacked CMOS sensor, fast 24-70mm equiv. lens, hybrid AF system, clever popular viewfinder and excellent 4K video quality. The ‘VA’ adds a larger buffer, new metering, white balance and AF modes, an improved EVF refresh rate and more.

«Offers the best combination of photo and video quality, autofocus and speed of any compact camera»

Handling and ergonomics are the RX100 series’ weak point, and they’re most enjoyable when used as point-and-shoots in auto modes. But nothing else offers this combination of photo and video quality, speed and compactness, and the viewfinder makes it useable in a wide range of circumstances.

The RX100 VII is also worth a look. It’s more expensive and its lens is slower, taking away some of the low light performance but it offers a much longer zoom, giving still more benefit over a smartphone.

The enthusiast choice: Canon PowerShot G7X III

20MP 1″-type stacked CMOS sensor | 24-100mm equiv. F1.8-2.8 lens | 4K/30p video capture

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What we like:

  • Nice grip and well-placed controls
  • 4K/30p recording with live streaming to YouTube
  • Fast burst shooting

What we don’t:

  • Lens is soft at wide-angle
  • Limited battery life
  • Contrast-detect only autofocus

Canon’s G7 X Mark III comes with an updated 20MP sensor and processor, 4K video recording, live video streaming and well thought-out controls, making it a versatile and well-rounded camera for both photographers and video shooters.

The Canon Powershot G7X III is pretty similar to Sony’s RX100 VA on paper, but the clicking control wheel around the lens, dedicated exposure comp dial on the shoulder and slightly longer lens make it a more satisfying camera to shoot with, even if the autofocus isn’t as quick or dependable. It also lacks the Sony’s viewfinder.

«If you’re after a pocketable high-quality compact, the Canon G7 X Mark III is well worth a look»

Overall, we’re impressed by the upgrades on this model. The Mark III brings improved video and continuous shooting performance while maintaining excellent controls and a competitive price point. If you do a lot of wide-angle shooting, there are options with better lenses, but if you’re after a pocketable high-quality compact, the Canon G7 X Mark III is well worth a look.

Best vlogging camera under $1000: Sony ZV-1 Mark II

20MP Stacked CMOS sensor | 24fps burst shooting | 4K/30p, 1080/120p video

Photo: Shaminder Dulai

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What we like:

  • Low rolling shutter
  • 3-way mic array
  • Touchscreen interface for vlogging

What we don’t:

  • Limited body buttons/dials
  • No stabilization for stills
  • 8-bit color not ideal for grading

The other type of camera that still perhaps makes sense at this price is the dedicated vlogging camera. The Sony ZV-1 Mark II brings a wider lens than the original model, meaning it’s much better suited to self-shooting than the previous version.

The Sony ZV-1 Mark II is a vlogging-focused compact camera with good AF tracking and minimal rolling shutter thanks to a fast 20MP Stacked CMOS sensor.

The ZV-1 Mark II has dependable autofocus and maintains a usefully wide view on the world even if you crop in by applying digital stabilization. This wasn’t true of the Mark 1, which is why we strongly prefer the newer camera.

The ZV-1m2 shoots detailed video in its 4K and 1080 modes, though this is reduced in the 1080/120p slow-mo mode. A ‘Cine Vlog’ mode changes settings to give a widescreen ‘cinematic’ look. There are Log options but the camera’s 8-bit output limits the grading flexibility. Digital stabilization works reasonably well in video, at the cost of a crop that still allows a wide-angle view.

The ZV-1 Mark II is a big improvement on the original thanks to a more selfie-video-friendly zoom range. Video footage and autofocus are both very good. It is a camera that thrives in auto modes, making it best suited for users seeking a simple-to-use camera.

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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