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The 5 Best Cameras For Beginners - Winter 2023 Reviews

Best Cameras For Beginners

It might be tempting when you're just starting in photography to splurge on a brand new high-end camera with all the bells and whistles, but the truth is that all the gear in the world won't make you a better photographer if you don't know what you're doing. So, the best camera to start photography with is often the one that's most available to you. For that reason, we've structured this article, for the most part, in order of ascending price, as our top pick also happens to be our top budget model. We've included some mid-range options for those willing to spend more or who simply want the latest tech, along with some of the best cheap cameras for photography beginners, but our best advice for beginners is to get whichever camera is within your means and work on learning the basics. Most importantly, have fun with it!

This list is geared (no pun intended) toward users who want to buy a new model, but keep in mind that there's a huge used market for cameras, and you can often find great deals on older models that make for excellent starter cameras. Don't forget that a camera's overall performance will also vary depending on the lens you use. As a general rule, it's better to invest in a less expensive camera body and higher-quality lenses than it is to invest in an expensive camera body and cheap lenses.

We've bought and tested over 75 cameras, and below you'll find our recommendations for the best cameras for photography beginners. If you already know whether you'd prefer a mirrorless or a DSLR camera, you can try our lists for the best mirrorless cameras for beginners or the best DSLR cameras for beginners, respectively. Or, if you're looking to get into vlogging or content creation, check out our recommendations for the best cameras for YouTube instead.

  1. Best Camera For Beginners

    Though it was released back in 2018, the Nikon D3500 is still one of the best cameras for beginners, thanks to its unique interactive Guide Mode. Built right into the mode dial, the Guide Mode walks you through the camera's features in simplified terms, so you can learn the ropes of photography as you go. For someone just starting, this built-in learning resource can be invaluable. While it doesn't have some of the bells and whistles you'll find on newer, more advanced models, the D3500 has an excellent high-resolution sensor that punches above its weight, along with a plethora of high-quality lens options, so you'll still be able to take beautiful photos.

    Older DSLRs like this—or even previous iterations, if you can find them—are a great cost-effective option to dip your toe into "serious" photography. The Canon EOS M50 Mark II is a popular mirrorless alternative that falls around the same price point. It won't hold your hand the same way the Nikon will, but it's a newer camera with an electronic viewfinder, allowing you to see exposure adjustments in real time. It also has a much quicker and more advanced autofocus system, so it's a good choice if you're interested in shooting sports or fast action. The Nikon is still the best camera for beginners we've tested.

    See our review

  2. Best Lower Mid-Range Camera For Beginners

    If your budget is a little higher and you're looking for a more portable option, you can't go wrong with the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV. Unlike most options on this list, it's part of the Micro Four Thirds (M43) system, so it has a smaller sensor, which means a tradeoff in image quality and low-light performance. However, you'll generally pay less for lenses and get a more compact camera system overall. It's one of the few entry-level cameras to feature built-in sensor stabilization, making it easier to get stable handheld shots in tricky lighting conditions.

    This camera is also very user-friendly. It has a 'Live Guide' feature when using auto mode that lets you adjust aspects of the image in simple terms like background blur, motion blur, and color temperature. The Live Guide is less in-depth than the Nikon D3500's Guide Mode, but it gives beginners a feel for what aspects go into a photo before moving up to shooting in manual mode. Overall, this is one of the best cameras for photography beginners, especially if you're interested in a more compact camera system.

    See our review

  3. Best Mid-Range Camera For Beginners

    Sony cameras are known for their incredibly reliable autofocus, so the mid-range Sony α6100 is a great option if you want to shoot sports or moving subjects, whether birds in a park or your kid's softball game. Though its menu system takes some getting used to, the camera has plenty of customization options and a fairly simple button layout in a relatively compact form factor. Sony's Alpha lineup also tends to stand above the pack for battery life, at least among mirrorless cameras, which drain the battery faster than DSLRs like the Nikon D3500 above.

    For a little more money, the Sony α6400 will give you a sturdier, weather-sealed body and a higher-resolution viewfinder. If, on the other hand, you're looking for something more affordable but set on getting a Sony camera, the older Sony α6000 still holds up surprisingly well, despite its less effective autofocus and low-res viewfinder. Bottom line: though Sony cameras aren't the most user-friendly, its APS-C lineup includes some of the best digital cameras for beginners, especially if you need top-notch autofocus for faster subjects.

    See our review

  4. Best Upper Mid-Range Camera For Beginners

    The Nikon Z 50 is the most advanced option on this list. While jumping into a higher-end model won't automatically make you a better photographer, this is one of the best cameras to start photography with if you're the kind of person who wants the latest tech and doesn't need as much handholding. A higher price tag also means you get a sturdier body with weather-sealing, a solid tilting screen that can flip down for selfies, and a large high-res viewfinder for a crisp view of your subjects. On top of that, a solid autofocus system and quick burst rate make it great for action photography.

    Throw in a fair amount of native and adaptable lenses, and you've got a camera that can grow with you as you develop your skills. If you don't know your way around a camera yet, some of these features may be a bit lost on you. Buying a more expensive body off the bat also leaves less room in your budget to buy different lenses. If you're still unsure what kind of photos you enjoy taking, you probably won't be squeezing the full value out of a higher-end camera like this until you've got more experience under your belt. That said, if you want a more advanced entry-level camera that's fit for a wide range of photo and video work, this is it.

    See our review

  5. Best All-In-One Camera For Beginners

    While the best cameras for beginner photographers are interchangeable-lens models, costs can quickly add up when you have to invest in a camera body, lenses, and other gear like extra batteries, memory cards, and maybe even a tripod. If you'd rather buy a cheap all-in-one camera that still gives you an SLR-like shooting experience, consider a budget bridge camera like the Panasonic LUMIX FZ80. It's affordable but still offers a lot of value for its price, making it the best cheap camera for photography beginners.

    While bridge camera sensors aren't too far off from modern smartphone cameras in terms of image quality, the glass on this thing will give you much more zoom than is possible with most phone cameras. It also provides a more comfortable shooting experience, and having a viewfinder to shoot through will give you a better feel for composition. This camera also has plenty of extra features that'll let you play around with different styles and subjects, including a macro mode for close-ups and a '4k PHOTO' mode for sports and fast-moving subjects. Overall, it's a solid, versatile option for the casual or family photographer, especially if you're on a very tight budget.

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Canon EOS Rebel SL3: The Canon EOS Rebel SL3 is a great budget DSLR that's relatively portable. Unlike the Nikon D3500, it has a fully articulated screen and can record 4k video, but it has a worse battery life and lacks an interactive guide mode. See our review
  • Fujifilm X-T200: The Fujifilm X-T200 is another great beginner option with retro styling. It takes pleasing, high-quality photos straight out of the camera and has a large screen and accessible controls, along with a more user-friendly menu system than you get with the Sony α6100. However, it's very hard to find in stock. See our review
  • Fujifilm X-T30 II: The Fujifilm X-T30 II is a good upper mid-range option that's more portable than the Nikon Z 50 and captures photos with pleasing colors and minimal noise straight out of the camera. However, its dedicated exposure controls are less accessible to newcomers, and it's more expensive. See our review
  • Nikon D5600: The Nikon D5600 sits above the Nikon D3500 in Nikon's lineup of entry-level DSLRs. It doesn't have the interactive guide mode, and it's a bit pricier, but it's a great mid-range option that gives you a more advanced autofocus system and a fully articulated screen. See our review

Recent Updates

  1. Jan 20, 2023: Tweaked text for readability.

  2. Dec 21, 2022: Renamed the Panasonic LUMIX FZ80 from 'Best Bridge Camera For Beginners' to 'Best All-In-One Camera For Beginners'.

  3. Nov 21, 2022: Made sure picks were still accurate; no changes to recommendations.

  4. Oct 28, 2022: Reviewed article for clarity.

  5. Aug 02, 2022: We've overhauled the article and renamed the pick categories for clarity and to align more closely with user expectations.

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best digital cameras for beginners to buy, according to their needs. We factor in the price, feedback from our visitors, and availability (no cameras that are difficult to find or almost out of stock in the U.S.).

If you'd like to choose for yourself, here's the list of all our reviews for cameras under $1,000. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There is no single perfect camera. Personal taste, preference, and shooting habits will matter more in your selection.