Hey there! Looking to buy your first new camera and start your photography hobby? As a fellow beginner, I know how overwhelming it can feel to pick your first camera with so many brands and models to choose from.
But don‘t worry! I‘ve done the research for you and narrowed it down to the 5 best beginner camera options based on performance, features, and budget. I‘ll explain exactly what to look for when choosing a starter camera.
After testing many entry-level cameras hands-on, I‘m confident these picks will help capture amazing images and unleash your creativity. Ready to start your photography journey? Let‘s get started!
Our Top 5 Beginner Camera Picks
1. Nikon D3500 – Best Overall Beginner DSLR
After extensive research, I found the Nikon D3500 consistently ranks as the best all-around beginner DSLR camera. It combines excellent image quality, easy operation, and a very affordable price.
The D3500 packs a 24.2MP APS-C image sensor – the largest size available in entry-level DSLRs. This produces sharp, highly detailed images even in low light. Together with Nikon‘s EXPEED 4 image processor, you get vibrant photos with minimal noise.
It can continuously shoot at up to 5 frames per second – fast enough to capture kids or pets in action. HD 1080p video capabilities allow you to shoot home movies as well.
- 24.2MP DX-format sensor
- ISO 100-25600
- 1080/60p video
- Bluetooth and WiFi
- 5 fps continuous shooting
- 921k-dot LCD screen
- Optical pentamirror viewfinder
A major advantage of the D3500 is the interactive in-camera guide that teaches beginners how to shoot in manual mode. This allows you to graduate from automatic settings and take full control as you improve.
The camera is comfortable to hold with its deep hand grip and lightweight body at just 415g. Battery life is excellent – you can snap over 1500 shots on a single charge.
As a Nikon DSLR, you have access to their huge range of F-mount lenses and accessories. There’s lots of room to grow your gear over time.
Considering its great performance, features, and reasonable price, the Nikon D3500 is hands-down the best balance for beginners wanting to learn photography.
- Excellent image quality
- In-camera photography tutorials
- Lightweight and comfortable grip
- Great battery life
- Huge range of Nikon lenses
- No touchscreen
- Only Bluetooth, no WiFi image transfer
Best For: Beginners wanting a feature-packed entry-level DSLR to learn photography
2. Sony ZV-E10 – Best for Video and Vlogging
For beginners wanting to shoot more videos than stills, the Sony ZV-E10 is the best option. While Sony only released it in 2021, this mirrorless camera quickly emerged as the leading choice for vlogging and video content creation.
It shoots stunning 4K video at 30fps and 120fps full HD slow motion. Sony‘s advanced autofocus keeps you sharply focused even when moving around. The vari-angle fully articulating screen flips out for easy selfie-style recording.
- 24.2MP APS-C sensor
- UHD 4K 30p video
- 3.0” vari-angle touchscreen LCD
- Hybrid autofocus system
- Electronic viewfinder
- Built-in microphone and audio jack
The large right hand grip provides stability when recording handheld. The body design and button layout are optimized for video use. Shooting modes like Soft Skin Effect and Background Defocus help your videos look more cinematic.
While geared for video, the ZV-E10 features a 24MP sensor and 11 fps continuous drive for capturing crisp still images. The menu system is intuitive and guides you through all the features.
For social media creators, this camera is perfect for product reviews, tutorials, daily vlogging, and more. Just flip out the screen and record studio-quality videos!
- Exceptional 4K video quality
- Articulating screen great for vlogging
- Excellent autofocus in video
- Very lightweight at just 343g
- Designed specifically for video
- No in-body image stabilization
- Expensive for entry-level camera
Best For: Beginners focused on videography and vlogging
3. Sony a6000 – Best Budget Mirrorless for Photos
The Sony a6000 remains one of the most popular beginner mirrorless cameras six years after its debut. It matches many new models with its excellent 24.3MP image quality and performance.
It features a 24MP APS-C sensor with wide 179-point phase detection autofocus. This allows for sharp, clear images at up to 11 fps – perfect for action shots.
Its OLED electronic viewfinder provides a bright, high resolution view comparable to optical viewfinders. Shooting data like aperture and shutter speed are visible as you compose images.
- 24.3MP APS-C sensor
- Fast 179-point hybrid AF
- 11 fps continuous drive
- OLED 1440k-dot viewfinder
- 3” 921k-dot tilting LCD
- Full HD 1080p video
At just 12 oz, the a6000 remains one of the smallest and lightest mirrorless cameras. Yet its firm handgrip provides stability when shooting one-handed.
While lacking newer features like 4K video and Bluetooth, it records Full HD movies and has built-in WiFi for wireless transfer to phones.
If you want fantastic photos with pro-level controls in a portable package, the a6000 is a budget-friendly way to enter the world of mirrorless cameras.
- Excellent image quality in a small body
- Fast autofocus and burst shooting
- Sharp electronic viewfinder
- Tilting screen useful for creative angles
- Great value for performance
- No 4K video
- No touchscreen controls
Best For: Beginners who prioritize still photos over video
4. Fujifilm X-T200 – Best Beginner Mirrorless Under $1000
The Fujifilm X-T200 packs tremendous value by delivering great photos and videos in a stylish design. It‘s the best sub-$1000 mirrorless camera for beginners.
It captures 24MP images with excellent color reproduction and detail thanks to Fujifilm’s renowned sensor technology. Its high-speed autofocus locks focus in as little as 0.02 seconds for tack sharp images.
- 24.2MP APS-C sensor
- Fast hybrid autofocus
- 8fps continuous shooting
- 4K UHD video
- 3.5” vari-angle touchscreen
- Electronic viewfinder
The big 3.5” LCD not only tilts up and down but flips all the way forward for selfie shooting. It’s bright, super sharp, and offers intuitive touchscreen operation.
Advanced features like time-lapse and HDR video expand your creative options. Fujifilm‘s legendary film simulation modes produce fantastic looking JPEGs straight from camera.
Weighing just 370g, the retro-style X-T200 remains comfortable for all day shooting. The dials on top make it easy to change settings on the fly.
If you want pro-style controls, gorgeous film-like images, and great video in a stylish design, the X-T200 is a perfect beginner mirrorless camera.
- Excellent image quality
- Fast, accurate autofocus
- Flip-forward touchscreen LCD
- Great handling with dials
- 4K video with mic jack
- No in-body image stabilization
- Some plasticky build parts
Best for: Beginners wanting style and performance in a mirrorless camera
5. Canon EOS Rebel SL3 – Smallest and Lightest DSLR
The Canon EOS Rebel SL3 (250D) stands out as the smallest and lightest DSLR on the market at just 449g. Yet it remains comfortable to grip and delivers strong performance.
Canon’s Dual Pixel autofocus provides fast, accurate focus when using the viewfinder or live view screen. It shoots up to 5 frames per second, capturing quick moments well.
- 24.1MP APS-C sensor
- Digic 8 image processor
- Dual Pixel CMOS AF
- 4K UHD video recording
- 5 fps burst shooting
- 3" vari-angle touchscreen
- WiFi / Bluetooth
The fully articulating touchscreen flips out for easy vlogging and selfies. Combining 1040K dot resolution with responsive touch operation, it’s one of the best DSLR displays.
Built-in Bluetooth and WiFi allow you to remotely control the camera or quickly transfer images to your phone.
As part of Canon’s EOS system, you have access to a massive range of lenses and accessories. The EOS M50 Mark II is a comparable mirrorless option from Canon as well.
If you want the optical viewfinder and familiar DSLR shooting experience in a small, lightweight package, the SL3 is a great choice to start with.
- Excellent Dual Pixel autofocus
- Vari-angle touchscreen
- 4K video in small body
- Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity
- Intuitive menu system
- Only 9 AF points when using viewfinder
- Single SD card slot
Best For: Beginners wanting a compact and capable DSLR
How to Choose the Best Beginner Camera – Buyer‘s Guide
I know picking your first camera feels overwhelming with so many models and technical specs. Here are the most important factors to consider when deciding:
The first decision is DSLR or mirrorless:
DSLR:Offer optical viewfinders for a true what-you-see-is-what-you get shooting experience. Larger camera bodies but better ergonomics and access to huge lens ecosystems. Top brands are Canon, Nikon, Pentax.
Mirrorless: Feature electronic viewfinders and live image preview. Smaller camera bodies but same image quality as DSLRs. Popular brands include Sony, Fujifilm, Olympus, Panasonic.
I‘d recommend starting with an entry-level DSLR or mirrorless. Compare models in your budget to see which controls and features appeal most.
The image sensor size impacts low light performance and overall image quality. For beginners, APS-C sensors strike the best balance.
Common sensor sizes to know:
- APS-C – Found in beginner to enthusiast DSLR and mirrorless cameras
- Micro Four Thirds – Only in mirrorless cameras
- Full Frame – Professional models, higher cost
- Medium Format – Specialty high-end cameras
Megapixels indicate the image resolution. Beginner cameras typically have:
- 24MP APS-C sensors – Good for prints up to 13′′ x 19′′
- 20MP Four Thirds sensors – Good for prints up to 11′′ x 14′′
While more megapixels allow bigger prints, 24MP is sufficient resolution for most needs.
Look for beginner cameras that offer:
- Fast autofocus speeds, even in low light
- Continuous autofocus when shooting bursts
- Face detection capabilities
- Number of AF points – More allows accurate focus tracking
These ensure you get sharp images, especially of moving subjects.
The frames per second (fps) indicates the camera‘s continuous shooting speed. Look for beginner models with:
- 5-8 fps – Captures fast action well
- 3-5 fps – Good moderate speed
Faster is better for action shots. But 5 fps is sufficient for most beginner needs.
Choosing a camera with built-in stabilization will allow you to shoot at slower shutter speeds without blurry images from camera shake.
DSLRs stabilize using lens-based optical stabilization. For mirrorless cameras, 5-axis in-body stabilization is best.
When buying a camera, also consider the video specifications:
- Resolution – Minimum 1080p, but 4K is recommended
- Frame Rates – 60fps provides smoother motion over 30fps
- File Type – H.264/MPEG-4 offers good quality
- Mic Input – Allows connecting external mics
- Articulating Screen – Useful for vlogging
Advanced beginners may want features like slow motion recording, timelapse abilities, and more.
Fortunately, there are excellent starter cameras available across a wide range of budgets. Expect to spend:
- $400-$600 for an entry-level DSLR or mirrorless
- $600-$1000 for mid-range models with additional features
- $1000+ for specialty options like vlogging cameras
Set a firm budget and find the best camera you can afford in that price range. Lenses, bags, batteries and SD cards will be additional costs later on.
Choosing your first camera is an exciting step in the journey of photography. Do your research, figure out the features important to you, and pick a camera that inspires you to get out and start shooting!
Using Your New Camera as a Beginner
Once you have your shiny new camera in hand, I know you’ll be eager to start taking amazing photographs! Here are some tips to help you make the most of your camera as a beginner photographer:
Read The Manual
I know, who wants to read a boring manual? But it will teach you important info on how to operate your camera. Try to learn how to change basic settings like shooting modes, ISO, aperture and shutter speed.
Start With Auto Mode
Set your camera to full Auto mode initially. This lets the camera figure out optimal settings to properly expose images. Once comfortable, try scene modes like Portrait or Landscape and see their effects.
Play With Creative Modes
Many beginner cameras offer special effects like Toy Camera, Miniature, and Fish Eye. Have fun playing with these creative modes to add a cool, artistic flair to your photos.
Take the Manual Control Plunge
Don‘t be afraid to take control of focus, shutter speed, aperture and ISO as you get comfortable. Understand how changing these core exposure settings impacts your photographs.
Utilize Burst Mode
Use burst or continuous shooting mode to capture fast action shots. This increases your odds of getting that perfect moment in sports, kids running around, birds flapping their wings, etc. Just hold down the shutter!
Learn Composition Basics
Start learning photography composition guidelines like the rule of thirds, leading lines, framing subjects creatively, etc. This will dramatically improve how interesting your images look.
Invest In Lenses
The lens has a huge impact on image quality. While kit lenses are good starter options, consider adding a 50mm f/1.8 prime lens for portraits or a telephoto zoom for wildlife.
Embrace Your creativity
Have fun with your camera! Seek out beautiful scenery, afternoon golden light, intriguing textures, captivating culture. Unleash your artistic vision and embrace your own unique perspective.
The journey from photography beginner to expert starts with picking a camera you’re comfortable with. Be patient in learning. With regular shooting practice and a passion for capturing memorable images, you’ll be on your way to creating photography you love.