It used to be that the natural step-up from a compact camera was a DSLR, but things are a lot more complicated these days. The desire for the better quality shots a larger sensor brings and flexibility of interchangeable lenses remains, but the options are more varied and interesting than ever before.

Nothing epitomises this better than the Compact System Camera, or CSC, which has in recent years presented greater opposition to the DSLR as an upgrade from a compact camera, or even a smartphone. Not only do CSCs offer larger sensors than compact cameras and smartphones, they do so with a lot less bulk than a DSLR.

Better still are the prices. While there are expensive CSCs, many compact system cameras cost less than £500. Some even cost about the same as top-end compact and bridge cameras, two other traditional upgrade paths for people looking to advance their photography skills.

To help you decide what camera to buy we’ve picked out six of the best cheap compact system cameras, all of which retail for less than £500. We have a camera from each of the big brands, with one or two of the models representing outstanding value as they’ve come down in price significantly since their launch. This makes it the perfect time to take a second look to see which truly is the best cheap compact system camera going.

Best Cheap Compact System Cameras: Specs

The rest of this feature is split into sections, starting with features, design and performance and finally image quality. You can skip to any specific section using the links above, while below is a quick look at the specs of each of our best cheap CSC contenders.

Left to right: Canon EOS M (£349); Nikon 1 J3 (£439); Olympus PEN E-PL5 (£449)


Best Cheap Compact System Cameras under £500
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