Do you desire better photos? Today’s smartphones are indeed capable of the job and have certainly evolved. And with their current camera technology, we are now at a point where virtually anyone can become a competent photographer. Plus, given their convenience, most opt to use them and they’re the only tool of choice for most budding photographers. Especially when compared to dealing with the hassle of using larger and more complicated cameras.
But, smartphones alone only offer a point & shoot experience, which disconnects you from the moment. And since they lack any necessary skill and technique, many never truly harness their photographic creativity and style. Not to mention, they also have limitations in the design, ergonomics, features, and are lackluster in image quality. And ultimately, these are the reasons people eventually desire a more capable photographic platform.
Now, whether you’re desiring to hone your current skills or wanting an upgrade in image quality, getting your first camera matters. And while shooting on a smartphone may have been the gateway until now, if you’re ready to take things a step further, this is the ideal way to do so. But, you’ll quickly realize that buying your first camera is quite a daunting experience, particularly so given the current market. And they’re seemingly endless factors to consider and an overwhelming amount of options. Thankfully, you’re at least on the right track and in a much better-starting place than where we started. In this post, we’ve compiled a diverse and detailed guide on beginner cameras. We will explore the various types available, give you insight into each. And also cover the top ten best cameras for beginners.
Jump to a Section
- 10 – Panasonic G100
- 9 – Panasonic G7
- 8 – Canon EOS M200
- 7 – Nikon D5600
- 6 – Canon EOS M50
- 5 – Canon SL3
- 4 – Olympus E-M10 Mark IV
- 3 – Fujifilm X-T200
- 2 – Sony a6000
- 1 – Nikon D3500
- Buyers Guide
- What camera is best for beginners?
- How do I choose a beginner camera?
- Point & Shoot Cameras
- Is mirrorless or DSLR best for beginners?
- Is Canon or Nikon better for beginners?
- What should I look for when buying a camera?
- Image quality & Quality of the Photos
- Beginner friendly controls & Ease of Use
- Form factor
- Manual Control
- Interchangeable Lenses
- Body Only or Kits
- How Much Should I Spend on my First camera?
- Complexity, Features, and long-term potential
- What does a beginner photographer need?
- What is the best camera to get for a beginner photographer?
10 – Panasonic G100
Panasonic’s G100 is the latest mid-range camera and one they’ve designed with vloggers in mind. Released in 2020, it features a 20-megapixel sensor, the Venus Engine processor, 4K 30 FPS video, 1080p 120 FPS video, a fully articulating touchscreen, HDR, stop motion, focus stacking, time-lapse, hybrid stabilization, 4K photo, and a microphone input.
The G100 uses Panasonic’s 49-point AF system with Face Detection. And it offers the 4K Live Crop feature, which creates digital pans or zooms in-camera along with Panasonic’s full suite of famous black and white filters for outstanding B&W images. But, crucially, it debuts a groundbreaking directional microphone system called OZO audio, which produces class-leading audio quality for an in-camera microphone. And the camera is ideally suited for those wanting to document experiences without worrying about external microphones.
Overall, Panasonic’s G100 is an excellent hybrid camera for both stills and videos. And being explicitly designed this way, it’s equally capable in both regards. Yet, it remains remarkably light and compact, all without skimping out on functionality.
9 – Panasonic G7
Panasonic’s G7 is easily their most popular release and the backbone of the G series. Released in 2015, it features a 16-megapixel sensor, the Venus 9 processor, 4K 30 FPS video, 1080p 60 FPS video, a fully articulating touchscreen, time-lapse, panorama, and a microphone input.
The G7 uses Panasonic’s 49-point AF system, which also has Face-Detection, a similar setup as the flagship GH4 and the newly released G100. But, it obtains several high-end continuous shooting options that make it ideal for capturing sports and action. In this case, it shoots 8 FPS natively. But, you can turn things up to 30 FPS using the 4K burst mode then extract 8-megapixel images after the fact. And given how important timing is to capture the perfect moment, these speeds make it an afterthought. Plus, it even has Post Focus Simulation, which lets you shoot with confidence, knowing you can also change the focus later.
Overall, Panasonic’s G7 is the miniature GH4, sure, with many of its high-end features. And as such, it’s an excellent option for beginners wanting a competitive hybrid camera for both photos and videos.
8 – Canon EOS M200
Canon’s EOS M200 is their latest entry-level beginner’s camera and their most affordable mirrorless option to date. Released in 2019, it features a 24-megapixel sensor, the DIGIC 8 processor, 4K 24 FPS video, 1080p 60 FPS video, a tilting touchscreen, HDR, time-lapse, and vertical video.
The EOS M200 uses Canon’s 143-point AF system with Dual Pixel CMOS AF along with Face and Eye-detection. And its new DIGIC 8 processor brings 4K video to this lineup, far outpacing the EOS M100, which only offers 1080p. Canon’s even added Vertical Video so that you can shoot vertically for easy sharing on social media without any need for editing.
Overall, Canon’s EOS M200 delivers a brilliant sensor and autofocus combination into a palm-sized package. And one that easily rivals the high-end 80D, with a fraction of its price. But given its smartphone level simplicity, it’s a much stronger option for beginners looking for a take-anywhere camera.
7 – Nikon D5600
Nikon’s D5600 is the more advanced mid-range option in their current lineup. Released in 2017, it features a 24-megapixel sensor, the EXPEED 4 processor, 1080p 60 FPS video, a fully articulating touchscreen, time-lapse, and a microphone input.
The D5600 uses Nikon’s 39-point AF system, with 9 higher-end cross-type points to increase accuracy. Nikon also removed the Anti-Aliasing filter surrounding the sensor, which noticeably improves overall image quality. And unlike their more straightforward D3000 line, this range provides a fully articulating screen, which offers superior versatility. And it also combines brilliantly with Nikon’s excellent touch interface, creating a supremely easy to use camera.
Overall, Nikon’s D5600 is straightforward, sure. But it’s not basic. It adds several advanced features and functionality over its predecessor, the D5500. And it’s ideal for enthusiasts looking for long-term growth. But not outlandishly so that it overwhelms beginners.
6 – Canon EOS M50
Canon’s EOS M50 was their first dedicated camera aimed towards beginners wanting to shoot both stills and videos. Released 2018, it features a 24-megapixel sensor, the DIGIC 8 processor, 4K 24 FPS video, 1080p 60 FPS video, a fully articulating touchscreen, digital stabilization, time-lapse, and a microphone input.
The EOS M50 uses Canon’s 99-point AF system, but it also receives their acclaimed Dual Pixel AF technology with similar performance to the higher-end 80D. However, it now has Eye-detection to increase accuracy when shooting portraits. And it was the first Canon camera to offer this particular feature. Additionally, the M50 was the first camera in the EOS M range to debut a fully articulating screen, which is invaluable when shooting at awkward angles. Yet, at only 351 grams body alone, it’s small enough to easily fit into a cargo pocket.
Overall, Canon’s EOS M50 is small, sure, but it matches much of the higher-end 80D in performance. And it remains the most capable mirrorless camera below the EOS M6 range.
5 – Canon SL3
Canon’s SL3 is their latest Super Lightweight DSLR. Released in 2019, it features a 24-megapixel sensor, the DIGIC 8 processor, 4K 24 FPS video, 1080p 60 FPS video, a fully articulating touchscreen, HDR, time-lapse, digital stabilization, and a microphone input.
The SL3 uses Canon’s 9-point AF system, but it also receives their high-end Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology. Additionally, it gets Digital Image Stabilization when shooting videos to reduce shake and the 4K Frame Grab option to pull photos from movies or time-lapses. But, where this camera shines is in size. At 402g body alone, it’s the smallest and lightest DSLR to date. But, it maintains a class-leading battery life of 1,630 shots per charge, so you can shoot virtually endlessly without worrying about recharging.
Overall, Canon’s SL3 improves significantly on the SL2, with a new processor, superior battery life, and 4K video. And it’s a powerful DSLR given its apparent small size.
4 – Olympus E-M10 Mark IV
The E-M10 Mark IV is the company’s latest release following their sale to JIP. Released in 2020, it uses a 20-megapixel sensor, Cinema 4K 24 FPS video, 1080p 120 FPS video, a tilting touchscreen, 5-axis stabilization, multi-exposures, HDR, Live Composite, time-lapse, and panorama.
The E-M10 Mark IV uses Olympus’ 121-point Imager AF system with the same software-based technologies from the flagship E-M1 Mark III. Olympus also redesigned the sensor with this new model, which is quite similar to the higher-end Pen F. And this change dramatically improves the overall image quality compared to its predecessor’s outgoing 16-megapixel sensor. And with its 16 Art Filters, images are sharp and highly unique. But, crucially, the E-M10 is one of few cameras in the entry-level segment that provides a stabilized sensor. And it helps compensate for shaky hands to help maintain sharp images when shooting in low light.
Overall, the E-M10 Mark IV obtains several high-end professional-grade features. But, it also maintains the attractive entry-level price point. And it’s a powerful option in this segment that’s both capable and stylish.
3 – Fujifilm X-T200
Fujifilm’s X-T200 is their latest mid-range camera to sit just above the entry-level X-A7. Released in 2020, it features a 24-megapixel sensor, 4K 30 FPS video, 1080p 60 FPS video, a fully articulating touchscreen, HDR Movie, time-lapse, digital stabilization, and a microphone input.
The X-T200 uses Fuji’s high-end 425 point AF system, which offers both Face and Eye Detection. It also has the new High-Speed Movie Mode, which records super slow-motion videos up to 120 FPS in Full HD. Additionally, it offers two HDR modes, one for stills and one for videos, both combining the results in-camera to preserve detail. But, easily it’s key selling feature is the color science and historic color rendering, which give its images a unique appeal challenging to replicate otherwise. Plus, it offers the rare option of converting the USB-C port into a headphone output, making it a better option as a hybrid shooter to record video.
Overall, Fujifilm X-T200 is a substantial update to the X-T100. It offers superior autofocusing, updated processing, real 4K video, and a new screen. And while it’s technically a beginner’s camera, it’s powerful enough to give mid-range professional models stiff competition.
2 – Sony a6000
Sony’s a6000 was the groundbreaking release to initiate this lineup. Released in 2014, it features a 24-megapixel sensor, the BIONZ X processor, 1080p 60 FPS video, a tilting screen, HDR, and Clear Image Zoom.
The a6000 was the first camera to debut Sony’s new 179-point hybrid AF system with 4D focus. And it was an industry setting configuration during its time, admired for its precision, speed, and consistency compared to traditional systems. Yet, at only 285g body alone, the camera’s extraordinarily lightweight and compact. But it still maintains strong continuous shooting speeds of 11 FPS and access to Sony’s enormous lens ecosystem and third party support.
Overall, Sony’s a6000 was the camera that persuaded many to initially leap to mirrorless, ditching their bulky DSLRs, long before it became popular. And, despite its age, it remains a popular camera today with ample technical ability to meet a beginner’s needs.
1 – Nikon D3500
Nikon’s D3500 is their latest entry-level DSLR camera aimed squarely at beginners. Released in 2018, it features a 24-megapixel sensor, the EXPEED 4 processor, 1080p 60 FPS video, and Bluetooth connectivity.
The D3500 uses Nikon’s 11-point AF system with 3D and Dynamic tracking, a combination typically reserved for their higher-end DSLRs. These allow the camera’s autofocusing points to work together, dramatically increasing overall precision. But, crucially, this camera is one of few entry-level DSLRs that lacks an Anti-Aliasing filter on the sensor, which noticeably improves image quality. And it gives the camera resolving power that virtually matches Nikon’s flagship D500. Yet, the camera still manages to provide a class-leading battery life of 1,550 shots per charge.
Overall, while Nikon’s D3500 is even more straightforward than the mid-ranged D5600, it remains a fan favorite. And given its extraordinary battery life, comfortable ergonomics, and powerful sensor, it makes sense why. As a package, it’s an excellent option for beginners and a bargain in Nikon’s current entry-level lineup.
What camera is best for beginners?
While this seems like a relatively straightforward and simple enough question, it’s more complicated.
There are many approaches to find the best camera. And in the subsequent sections, you’ll see, in order, the most important factors. But easily, the most crucial consideration is the type of camera and its general form factor.
Let’s cover that now.
How do I choose a beginner camera?
So, how do I choose a camera? Well, the most crucial consideration, above all else, is what kind of camera do you want?
Point & Shoot Cameras
These ultra-small and compact cameras are ideal for traveling, as they are quite pocket friendly. But, the trade size and portability, for image quality. And even the highest-end options have small sensors, which eventually become a limitation. Technically, bridge cameras (point & shoot cameras with a longer lens) also fall into this category. However, they trade portability and image quality for the benefit of a longer than average zoom range. So, in general, these cameras are quite a mixed bag. They’re convenient on one end and the ideal solution given their portability. But, they don’t offer as much room for growth and the best image quality for the price.
Most people generally think about DSLRs (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras when they first think about a dedicated camera to step up from a smartphone. And for many, this becomes the default beginner’s camera. DSLR cameras offer excellent image quality in an affordable, easy to use package. The main trade-off is that they’re rather large, bulky, and quite cumbersome when traveling. But, their larger sizes do afford superior ergonomics and more comfortable handling than any other category. Plus, they’re also the most rugged and most rigid, making them a great choice to survive accidental falls. But, again, they trade portability.
These cameras offer excellent image quality and virtually match DSLRs in every regard. They’re also equally easy to use and quite affordable these days. However, they’re much smaller than most DSLRs, which limits their ergonomics. And those with larger hands may find the lacking grip somewhat uncomfortable. But, simultaneously, their smaller size makes them far more portable than a DSLR. So these cameras trade ergonomics and comfort for superior portability without compromising quality.
So, which is best?
Ultimately, the best cameras for beginners offer the right balance between price, features, ease of use, and potential. And the best cameras are convenient but flexible enough for continued growth. Really, the last thing anyone wants is for an inferior camera to ruin your experience and passion for photography.
Thus, in our opinion, the best camera for beginners inevitably becomes an interchangeable lens camera, be it a DSLR or mirrorless. Both of these cameras offer larger sensors, which give their images better detail, sharpness, and overall clarity. And, ultimately, this is the real difference-maker compared to point & shoots or bridge cameras. While you can undoubtedly use a point & shoot or bridge camera, and we’ve showcased what’s possible there, long-term, a larger sensor camera offers better value, given their marginal price difference.
Is mirrorless or DSLR best for beginners?
When it comes to beginner cameras, the leading contenders are mirrorless or DSLR cameras. Each has its advantages, like we covered above. But, in short, mirrorless cameras offer greater portability and are far lighter than comparable DSLRs. However, DSLRs are generally more rugged, tough and with superior ergonomics. But, they’re also much bulkier. So much so that if you’re accustomed to shooting with only a smartphone, you may find it’s size and weight a burden.
But, which one is best?
In years prior, DSLRs were the go-to choice for new photographers. But, since 2014, things have changed. And while mirrorless is still a relatively new format to the mainstream consumer market, most manufacturers are steadily making the switch over to this format. But, DSLR’s are still quite popular today. And they remain capable. So, the best camera for you individually comes down to the form factor that best suits your hands and style. For some, this will mean mirrorless cameras. For others, a DSLR. Otherwise, only minor bonus features separate DSLR and mirrorless cameras. There are no differences in quality. Both offer high-level images and interchangeable lenses. Both also provide ample room for continued growth and full ecosystems with extra lenses, accessories, and more. So you can’t go wrong either way.
Is Canon or Nikon better for beginners?
The age-old question, which particular manufacturer is best. Gone are the days where DSLR ruled the overwhelming majority of the market share. No. Instead, today’s market is quite different, and the titans that once were Canon and Nikon have much smaller percentages.
But let’s answer the question. Both Canon and Nikon offer an excellent selection of entry-level and mid-range cameras. And they’re both equally as intuitive and easy to use. But, Canon and Nikon aren’t the only players these days. Fujifilm and Panasonic have equally capable options.
So, is Canon or Nikon better? Neither. Today’s best cameras come down to the style you like, the form factor that fits your particular sized hands, and the user interface that resonates. Otherwise, the playing field is level. No one is specifically better than the next these days. Things have changed.
What should I look for when buying a camera?
Before we cover the factors to consider, it’s essential to understand that buying a camera isn’t solely about the camera itself. When you buy a camera, you purchase into an entire ecosystem, including lenses and accessories. And buying into a camera ecosystem sometimes means you’ll use that same ecosystem for the foreseeable future. For many, this fate ultimately becomes permanent due to the expense and inconvenience of changing systems.
Unfortunately, some ecosystems are more versatile than others with better cross-compatibility via adapters and third party support. For example, Micro Four Thirds, which consists of both Olympus and Panasonic, allows you to freely transition between any of these types of lenses.
It pays dividends to take your time here and do your research before picking up a camera. So you can ensure you purchase the right ecosystem that fits your needs best.
But, otherwise, let’s cover the next factors to consider, in order of importance.
Image quality & Quality of the Photos
Many factors combine to create the quality of images a camera produces. But, as your skills sharpen, you’ll be less reliant on the camera itself. And experienced photographers will always create better photos even with the lousiest cameras than beginners with the best camera on the market.
However, as a beginner, there are still a few significant takeaways to know regarding image quality. And easily the most important is the camera’s sensor size, which dictates its low light performance and the sharpness of its images. A small sensor gathers less light than a larger sensor. And the less light it collects, the worse its low light photos. This is why most photographers ultimately end up upgrading over a cellphone. Both mirrorless and DSLR cameras have sensors that are upwards 1.6x larger than a phone.
Next, you’ll want a camera that offers manual control over the aperture so that you can control the blur of the background. And lastly, image stabilization, as a shaky hand, will quickly ruin an otherwise great image.
In today’s camera market, 24-megapixel sensors are the industry standard of resolution. And this is the standard in both entry-level cameras and the higher-priced mid-ranged models. For the overwhelming majority of cases, this is more than enough resolution for large format printing and post-processing. So, there’s no reason to look for a camera with more resolution. Instead, focus on its sensor size, ideally APS-C, manual control, and image stabilization, be it lens based on camera-based.
Beginner friendly controls & Ease of Use
Photography takes time to master. And when you’re a beginner just starting, the last thing you want is an overcomplicated menu, interface, and control layout. A complicated interface makes the overall process challenging and intimidating. And in this case, it won’t help make capturing better images easier. Only harder.
Instead, you want to focus on options that have straightforward and easily mastered controls. And you want a camera that you’ll enjoy using and has a layout that makes sense to you. Additionally, the best beginner cameras also offer plenty of automatic or scene selection modes, which will help you start with confidence. And they will greatly simplify the process of capturing images for you. Others will even have on-screen tips, guides, and descriptions with visual aids, which are excellent. And from there, you can learn and master the technical details.
Thankfully, even the most expensive and sophisticated cameras still offer fully automatic modes. So even if your budget allows getting a flagship class-leading model, you can still capture great photographs without understanding the technicalities. But, know, they won’t provide anything extra as far as guidance is concerned.
While most photographers end up overlooking this, form and size are critical considerations when looking at cameras. Not all beginner’s cameras are small and compact. And the last thing you want to do is have an unnecessarily large and clunky camera that becomes tedious to lug around all day. And if you have small hands, the size can become a real-deal breaker as it becomes strainful.
As your skills progress and you become comfortable with the basics, you’ll naturally want more control over how the camera captures images than the fully automatic modes. At this point, having a camera with manual exposure controls and individual focusing options is crucial.
But, there’s an interesting paradox here. That is, the more control you have, the less intuitive the camera becomes. And more control also increases the complexity and the factors to juggle while shooting. However, it’s essential, as it gives you the creative freedom to capture the images you want. And it removes any artificial limits on creativity.
Now almost all cameras offer manual control over the basic exposure triangle, focus, and shooting modes, which are the necessities in capturing more nuanced artistic shots. But, not all provide easy and convenient access to these parameters. And the ease of adjusting these controls will vary between cameras. The best cameras strike a balance between the level of control and ease of use. And they offer plenty of assistance to control things manually. But, they do so in an intuitive and easy to understand fashion.
The reality is that there’s only so much you can ever do with a fixed lens, regardless of its sharpness and optical greatness. And eventually, you’ll want to explore other angles and perspectives. This is where interchangeable systems come into play. An interchangeable lens camera gives you the option and freedom to tailor your camera’s abilities. And they’ll give you access to anything from wide-angles for landscapes or cityscapes to telephoto angles for wildlife or sports.
Body Only or Kits
Most cameras come in one of two varieties, either “body alone” or part of a kit. Generally, buying the body only option saves money, initially. But, as a beginner, it’s best to avoid these and get the camera as a part of a larger kit.
Beginner kit-lens bundles not only include the camera and a lens. But, they also often have SD cards, card readers, and sometimes a tripod. And together, these bundles offer substantial value and savings since you won’t have to deal with added shipping fees and tax. They’ll also reduce any confusion with buying your first camera since you won’t also have to consider the right SD card formats, types, and so on.
How Much Should I Spend on my First camera?
Everyone has a slightly different budget. Of course, when you’re starting, it’s unlikely that you’ll feel comfortable throwing $2,000 at a new camera system. After all, this is your introduction to photography, and you’ll want to find out if something you’ll enjoy long-term. Plus, you may want to explore other brands and camera systems over time. And for this reason, we recommend beginners focus on cameras between $500-1,000—ideally, around $500. Granted, many cameras on this list are closer to the higher end of this range, but for a good reason. They simply offer more features and provide a better value ratio.
But, even so, we understand that most beginners don’t have the luxury of an unlimited budget. And price becomes an essential consideration when choosing a camera. But, it’s also important to stress that less expensive cameras, generally, have more limitations that you’ll have to face and overcome. And often, these limits can significantly reduce its ability to capture high-quality images. So much so, your phone becomes the better option. However, things are not as simple as buying the most expensive high-end camera you can afford. Sure, a high-end camera offers fewer limitations, more features, and delivers higher quality images. But, you can also easily overdo things. And quickly find yourself with more camera than you realistically need for your skill level.
Now, we also understand it may be somewhat controversial to recommend secondhand options. Sure. But, as a beginner, getting value and saving money is essential. And this is ultimately the area we overlooked when we first started.
Friends. The reality is that there’s genuinely no need to spend a lot if you’re a beginner. It’s just not necessary whatsoever.
Complexity, Features, and long-term potential
Each camera has varying features, and the most affordable beginner cameras have fewer features than more expensive ones. So, depending on how fast your skills improve, you may quickly find yourself wanting to upgrade. But, the best cameras offer enough and they give you plenty of room for long-term growth.
Below is a list of the most practical features that offer the most value in real-world use. Take the time to check out videos on each:
- High Dynamic Range (HDR)
- 4K Video
- 4K Photo
- High-Speed video
- Live Composite
- High Res Shot
- Focus Stacking
- Focus Bracketing
- Multiple Exposures
- Image Stabilization
- Vertical Video
What does a beginner photographer need?
Well, we have a detailed guide on this particular topic. But, once you get your camera, you’ll want to consider immediately grabbing a few other accessories. In short, you’ll want the following: a prime lens, a tripod, spare batteries, an SD card, a card reader, cleaning supplies, an external hard drive, and a camera strap. Now, you may not need the tripod and external drive immediately, but they’ll become particularly important as your skills develop. However, the rest are essentials. So, if possible, look for kits and bundles that include as many of these items as possible.
What is the best camera to get for a beginner photographer?
So then, let’s take a look at the best cameras for beginner photographers. Below, you will find a list of the best options, ranked in order based on features, quality, and overall value.