When you think of a camera for beginners, what comes to mind? Is it a simple point and shoot with most of the functionality automated? Mirrorless and especially DSLR cameras can be intimidating to a lot of amateur photographers, but they don’t need to be. The full breadth of camera styles are now accessible to beginners both in terms of pricing and accessibility.
We’ve carefully scoured the selection of models to find 10 contenders for the best camera for beginners. Each review will provide you with the crucial specs you need to better understand your options, and our guide can help you more confidently shop for a camera and know what you’re talking about.
- 10 Best Cameras For Beginners
- Cameras For Beginners Buyer’s Guide
10 Best Cameras For Beginners
1. Canon EOS Rebel T6
Canon's EOS Rebel T6 wants to prove that you don't need to be a professional to take advantage of (or afford) a DSLR camera, and it makes a pretty compelling argument. $500 gets you not just the camera but a whole slew of accessories that fills out all the fundamentals an aspiring photographer would need, and that can save you the money to invest in some quality lenses for filling out your kit.
The Rebel line is all about taking the polished technology of the generation that came before and applying it at a budget price point. And while that means that this isn't cutting edge, it is representative of the last generation's professional gear. The relatively simple design means that it won't be intimidating for new users either. It's basically a point and click with the ability to swap out a variety of different lenses to suite your needs.
2. Nikon D3500
The Nikon Dxxx series is built with the needs of beginners and hobbyists alike in mind, and the D3500 could be seen as a reasonable alternative to the aforementioned Rebel T6. This camera for photography is equivalently priced and comes with a similar variety of accessories that can help you hit the ground running with your aspiring photography career, although it won't turn you into a camera master overnight.
The megapixel count is actually decently higher than its Canon counterpart, putting this camera in a comfortable liminal space between amateur level and semi-pro photography. And it exceeds most of its contemporaries with a continuous burt rate of 5 frames per second. Unlike the Rebel T6, it doesn't include Wi-Fi, but the Bluetooth connectivity should be more than sufficient until you're willing to make the step up to more professional grade cameras for photography.
3. Canon PowerShot SX420
If you're looking for cameras for beginners that are a little cheaper and you don't really care about interchangeable lenses, you can get a reasonable camera model for half the price with the Powershot SX420 by Canon. As a bridge camera, it marries the high-quality image and video capabilities of a DSLR or mirror with the lower price, weight, and simplicity of a point and shoot. It's an exceptional gateway into the world of camera in photography.
All told, this camera weighs and measures barely more than a traditional smartphone, and it sports a sleek and streamlined look that makes it incredibly simple to operate. But that doesn't mean that it doesn't offer versatility. The lens offers an incredible 42X zoom so you can close in on your subjects even when shooting from a great distance away. It also comes with a tripod and other accessories.
4. Sony Alpha a6000
The Sony Alpha a6000 doesn't come with any special equipment packed in, and it costs more than any of the other cameras listed thus far, but it's a price tag that this mirrorless camera has undoubtedly earned. While you may pay extra, this is hands down one of the best cameras on the market for beginners, and it's suitably powerful and versatile enough to even stick with you as you develop beyond your novice status.
It sports a 24 MP sensor just like the D3500, and both its high burst rate for continuous shooting and its autofocus system means that it can keep up with you even if you're trying your hand at action photography. The optical viewfinder isn't the clearest available today, but it's more than enough to provide you with a nice view of the action so that you can capture that perfect window for a shot.
5. Canon PowerShot SX530
Another camera in the Powershot series, the SX530 actually one ups its little cousin by offering a maximum zoom of 50X. It's a serious point and shoot camera that will make you consider the need for interchangeable lenses but won't make you question the reasonable price point. Unfortunately, that means it's not as compact as some of its point and click brethren, but that's a small price to pay for the other options on offer here.
Notably, this is a camera that's really built thoughtfully and with the needs of beginners in mind. The menu is clear, clean, and easy to read, and it even has a feature to assist you with framing shots properly. The additional Creative Shot is additionally unique, essentially shooting in burst mode and applying a range of different filters that are ideal if you're looking to share your pictures on social media platforms.
6. Panasonic Lumix FZ80
The Panasonic Lumix FZ280 may be an affordably priced point and shoot, but don't fool yourself into thinking that this camera is a toy. It offers some serious specs that allow it to hang with the big boys. The presence of 4K video should be the first sign to tip you off that there's something special about this camera, but it further bolsters that credibility with burst speeds of 10 fps and a massive 60X zoom lens.
That's just scratching the surface of what this camera offers. Connectivity is simple with its Wi-Fi capabilities and a simple USB charging port, and the low light performance is well above what you could expect in this price range. It's undoubtedly a solid camera that offers nearly professional level quality in a package that's both affordable and accessible to absolute amateurs. It's a camera that's ready to grow with you.
7. Nikon COOLPIX B500
The Coolpix B500 is a bridge camera that's clearly calculated to serve as a learning exercise for new photographers. A decent megapixel count is accompanied by a 40X optical zoom that can double to an 80X digital zoom, but it won't overload you with options. Nikon has eschewed any manual mode whatsoever for the sake of a wide variety of different auto modes. Fortunately, those modes still lend a lot of versatility to this camera, and they do so in a way that won't isolate beginners.
Another great selling point here is the tilting touchscreen which allows you to more accurately capture tricky shots. This is a small and relatively simple camera that's lightweight and feels great in the grip of a photographer. It can serve capably as the first camera for an amateur or even as a backup model for a photographer who finds themselves traveling frequently.
8. Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II
The OM-D E-M10 Mark II may be Olympus' entry level model, but it certainly doesn't feel like it. The magnesium alloy body gives it a sense of heft while still being light to carry, and the 5 axis image stabilization system works like a dream. That lends this mirrorless camera a great sense of range to work even in low light conditions, a huge asset when working in the wild. It's a pretty impressive system.
But this is still reassuringly a mirrorless camera for beginners. The LCD tilt touchscreen helps you perfectly frame your shots, and a number of auto modes let you cater your experiences without having to handle anything fully automatically. But one of the coolest features here is the presence of art filters. These can add some really dramatic elements to your photos without having to go back and edit them in post.
9. Canon EOS 4000D / T100
Canon's EOS 4000D isn't a camera that excels in any one particular category. It's certainly not the best in anything. But the basic specs are well balanced in every major instance, and that's an advantage in its own right, particularly when you're looking for the best camera DSLR for beginners. The optical viewfinder lets you capture the world as it's really seen rather than filtered through an electronic sensor.
One thing beginners won't have to fret about is how they're supposed to navigate this camera. While DSLRs have a reputation for being complicated, Canon does an incredible job of making this DSLR menu clearly laid out and easy to comprehend. And while the kit lens isn't the best around, swapping it out for something a little more impressive will reveal an image quality that's actually pretty impressive. It also comes with Wi-Fi for easy sharing of your photos.
10. Olympus TG-5
The TG in TG-5 stands for tough. If you're looking for a great camera for shooting footage out in the wild, you won't find a better option for amateurs than this one. It's waterproof, crush proof, dust proof, and shock proof, making it arguably the best option for outdoor adventurers and putting it comfortably in the range of an action camera like a GoPro in terms of raw utility.
Modest zoom capabilities complement a sensor that works pretty great in low light, and it's an exceptional choice if you're looking to capture incredibly small objects in magnificent detail. That's due partly to the great auto focusing options that come built right in. And while it works brilliantly in automatic mode, more experienced and creative photographers will love the fact that it offers some serious manual options as well, so it's a camera you can grow into comfortably.
Cameras For Beginners Buyer’s Guide
If you’ve been reading through each review and you’r still new to cameras, there’s probably a lot to unpack. Even cameras for beginners offer a ton of features and specs to worry about. You can check out our guides to the best DSLR camera, best mirrorless camera, and best point and shoot camera if you want to get into more detail about what to look for. But below we’ll focus our attention on what you should be looking for as a beginner to photography.
Types of Cameras
Before you decide what specific camera you want, you have to decide exactly what type of camera you want. Modern cameras are typically split into two categories, and those two categories have their own subcategories. We’ll start with the most general and work towards the specific.
Cameras With Interchangeable Lenses
For the most part you won’t find a professional photographer caught dead shooting with a camera that doesn’t offer an interchangeable lens. Rather than utilize a single lens, each of these comes with a mount that you can be used to slide in your own lenses. The advantage here is pretty obvious. A single camera can effectively achieve whatever results you want whether you’re a nature photographer looking to capture a picture of an insect up closed and personal or a real estate photographer trying to get a wide angle shot that really capture the spaciousness of your property.
Interchangeable lens cameras are broken down into DSLR and mirrorless models, and while both have a reputation for being overly complicated, more and more manufacturers are making the effort to make these cameras user friendly. Every DSLR and mirrorless on our list should be a suitable fit for anyone still new to photography, but they’re also cameras you can grow into. If you invest in an interchangeable lens camera today, it will continue to be a suitable choice for you even if you transition into professional photography. There are two types of interchangeable lens cameras to choose from:
– DSLR cameras were the recognized standard for professional work for a long time, and they still have a prominent role in the professional world. Since they’ve been in existence for years and years, a DSLR camera is likely to offer a wider range of advanced features and more compatible lenses than its mirrorless contemporaries. But they also tend to be heavier and more expensive than mirrorless models. Some photographers prefer the fact that they can look straight through the lens at the real world rather than relying on a touchscreen interface too.
– Mirrorless models ditch the mirror that DSLR cameras use to reflect the outside world and instead read out a sensor filtered version of what’s on the other side of the lens electronically. This allows them to be both more lightweight and less expensive. And while they haven’t been on the market nearly as long as DSLRs, they’re starting to catch up in terms of features. And many mirrorless cameras come with accessories that allow you to mount traditional DSLR lenses on them.
If you decide to invest in an interchangeable lens camera, the obvious advantage will be the ability to change the lenses. The lens that a new camera comes with is known as the kit lens. While a kit lens on a beginner camera is often not the best around, it will be an adequate choice for learning the ins and outs of the camera. But we still recommend investing in a new lens or two quickly. A kit lens can only do so much for you, and sticking with one means missing out on one of the key advantages of mirrorless and DSLR cameras.
Cameras Without Interchangeable Lenses
Chances are that you’ve used a camera without an interchangeable lens at some point in your life, even if it just happens to be a Fujifilm disposable camera. While few pros would be caught dead using one of these models to capture a serious shot, that doesn’t mean they aren’t without their uses, especially to amateurs. These tend to be incredibly compact cameras in their own right, and the fact that you don’t need to carry extra lenses with you only makes their portability that much more worthwhile.
Cameras without interchangeable lenses are often half the price of their interchangeable counterparts, and they’re much easier to operate. That means that you have less advanced features to monkey around with, but it also makes the barrier to entry of learning to capture footage less intimidating than with a mirrorless or DSLR counterpart. And while investing in a compact camera like this means that you’re giving up the right to change out a lens, most are designed with pretty versatile lenses built in that offer a decent amount of range and scale.
Cameras without interchangeable lenses can typically be broken down into two categories:
– Point and shoot cameras are the simplest cameras around, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be a great choice if you’re trying to learn the fundamentals of photography. Learning how to frame a shot and make the most of lighting isn’t something reserved for more serious cameras, and the lack of manual adjustment modes in point and shooting models means that you can focus instead on perfecting the fundamentals. They also tend to be the smallest, most lightweight, and cheapest cameras around.
– Bridge cameras are called that because they bridge the gap between point and shoot and DSLR/mirrorless models. Falling somewhere between the two in terms of both price and size, they also offer some more complex options than their point and shoot counterparts. They allow more adjustment options (generally achieved through a menu system) as well as longer zoom capabilities. That said, they still tend to be very easy cameras for shooting with.
Manual vs. Automatic Shooting Modes
Mirrorless and DSLR cameras can often be intimidating to those new to photography because they offer the option to shoot in manual mode. And while you don’t have to make use of these advanced features, they are one of the biggest selling points for investing in these more expensive types of models. But what exactly is the difference between automatic and manual shooting mode?
The anatomy of a cameras shots can roughly be broken down into three settings.
– Shutter speed refers to the length of time that the shutter over the lens is open, and that determines how much light can spill into the camera during the shot. Slower shutter speeds are great in low lighting, while higher shutter speeds allow you to create a greater sense of stillness.
– The aperture determines how wide the whole in the camera lens is and thus the sheer volume of light that manages to enter the sensor. This too affects how overly or underlay lit a shot is, but it also adjusts the depth of field in a shot.
– ISO is generally seen as a way of balancing the two preceding settings if you’re trying to find the perfect balance between stillness and depth of field. It’s a great way to adjust the lighting independent of those two characteristics, but at extreme levels, it can bring graininess into the photo.
A camera in manual mode will allow you to control all three of these factors to a precise degree. If that sounds like a lot, it’s because it is. Learning the fundamentals is difficult but essential to creating the perfect shot that you’re looking for, particularly when you’re shooting in extreme conditions. If you intend to become a professional, you should consider starting with a DSLR or mirrorless or upgrading to one at some point.
Fortunately, most interchangeable lens cameras offer a range of different automatic modes now. These allow you to choose from a variety of different settings, and the camera will automatically adjust these three characteristics accordingly. They aren’t always perfect, but playing around with automatic modes can actually be a great way to understand how those three components work in conjunction with one another and get a feel for how you want to adjust your own photos as you begin messing around with manual mode.
It’s important to not just check the price for each of the items we review but instead to consider the value that comes with them. The best deals aren’t just about image quality and features but the total package. Many of the cameras we have on display here come with a range of accessories, so you should consider not just what those accessories are worth in total but what they’ll be worth to you.
Consider the value of any packed in bonuses along with the essentials that you’ll need to buy as you start your hobby in photography. Investing in a range of lenses for your shiny new DSLR camera can quickly add a serious amount to your total and flip you over your designated budget.
Investing in your first camera is an exciting adventure. A good model can last you a lifetime and serve as both a learning exercise in a new craft and a way to potentially transition into a new career. Each review above spotlights the best of the best, but they also cover a wide variety of disciplines. Be sure to read both the reviews and the guide carefully so you can zero in on the model that’s best for you and add it to your own collection.