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The 5 Best Cameras For Beginners - Summer 2022 Reviews

Best Cameras For Beginners

Photographers and videographers looking to make the jump from their smartphones to a dedicated camera may be baffled by the sheer array of relatively affordable models on offer. These range from compact point-and-shoots to more advanced mirrorless options and traditionally-designed DSLRs, so it can be hard to know what route to take. Unfortunately, there's no single best camera for beginners, and it's most important to choose a model that suits your ergonomic preferences, your shooting habits, your budget, and the type of content you'd like to create. Keep in mind, too, that there's a large used market for cameras, and you can often find great deals on older models that make for excellent starter cameras.

A camera's overall performance can vary heavily 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. Your chosen lens affects the amount of light that enters the camera, so it plays a role in an image's depth of field and the camera's autofocus and stabilization performance. Lenses can also add a bit of weight to your camera, which can impact their portability. We currently test cameras with their standard kit lenses, so for the sake of consistency, this article focuses on cameras that retail for under $1,000 with their kit lens included.

We've tested over 70 cameras, and below you'll find our recommendation for the best cameras for beginners. For more options, see our lists for the best mirrorless cameras for beginners, the best DSLR cameras for beginners, and the best cameras.

  1. Best Mirrorless Camera For Beginners

    The Nikon Z 50 is the best mirrorless camera that we've tested for beginners. This entry-level mirrorless camera has a fairly compact, lightweight body, styled similarly to a more conventional DSLR, but on a smaller scale. It feels comfortable to use, with a deep handgrip and well-spaced controls. Its menu system is also very intuitive, and there's a built-in guide mode to help explain the function of different features. Its tilting screen also makes it easier to take pictures from unconventional angles. While its battery life isn't especially long, it supports USB charging while in use, which is handy if you have a mobile battery pack.

    This camera's 20.9 MP APS-C sensor has a lower resolution compared to some other alternatives, but this doesn't keep it from capturing impressively sharp JPEG images out-of-the-box. If you want to try your hand at shooting RAW, you'll find that images are also low in noise, even when shooting at higher ISO levels in darker environments. Its maximum continuous shooting speed of 11 fps when using its electronic shutter will make it easier to snap clear stills of fast-moving subjects, but unfortunately, it clears its image buffer quite slowly, so it's best to keep continuous bursts very short.

    It's also worth noting that there's no in-body stabilization system, which can make it a little harder to capture clear, shake-free shots when shooting at slower shutter speeds. Its autofocus system can also behave a little inconsistently when tracking faces. Still, if you're looking for a fairly portable camera that delivers great image quality and feels comfortable to use, this is one of the best cameras for beginner photographers.

    See our review

  2. Best DSLR For Beginners

    For those looking to get started with a DSLR, we recommend the Canon EOS Rebel T8i. It's the latest model in Canon's entry-level Rebel lineup, and it has a fully articulated touchscreen and a 24.1-megapixel sensor. Canon's menu system is incredibly intuitive and easy to navigate, and the camera is compatible with any of Canon's EF-S or EF lenses, so you have plenty to choose from as you grow.

    It delivers very good image quality, with excellent dynamic range to bring out a wider array of detail in high-contrast scenes. It also has decent RAW noise handling capability, so you can shoot at reasonably high ISO settings without introducing too much visual noise. Its autofocus system supports eye-tracking and does a fantastic job tracking moving subjects for photography. While it doesn't have in-body image stabilization like more advanced models, its kit lens does a great job steadying the image when shooting without a tripod.

    It's also one of the few entry-level DSLRs to offer 4k video capability, but unfortunately, its video features are limited. It can only shoot in 4k at 24 fps with a severe 1.51x crop. Its autofocus is also sluggish and unreliable when shooting 4k video. On the upside, it performs much better in 1080p. All in all, this is one of the best cameras for starters that we've tested, with a robust set of features that can grow with you as your skill increases.

    See our review

  3. Easiest-To-Use Camera For Beginners

    The best camera for beginners who are completely new to photography is the Nikon D3500. This simple APS-C DSLR has a unique 'Guide' shooting mode built into the mode dial. This feature gives users a hands-on guide to the camera's features and the basics of photography, making it an excellent beginner camera. On top of that, it's compatible with the many DX and FX lenses Nikon has to offer.

    It delivers impressive overall image quality, with excellent dynamic range to bring out a greater range of detail and good noise handling capability. It doesn't have in-body image stabilization, but its kit lens does a great job stabilizing photos. It also has a remarkable battery life, advertised to last for approximately 1,550 photos, though battery performance can vary drastically with real-world conditions.

    Unfortunately, its autofocus system is very basic, with only 11 detection points. It's not especially reliable when it comes to face or object tracking. Also, it isn't the best option if you're interested in recording video since it can't record in 4k, and its FHD video quality is mediocre overall. Despite that, it's still one of the best cameras to start photography with, and most beginners will be happy with it.

    See our review

  4. Best Compact Camera For Beginners

    The best camera for beginners that we've tested with a compact fixed-lens design is the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III. While this point-and-shoot camera is aimed at vloggers, it also works well as a stills camera, and its compact size makes it incredibly easy to take traveling or on the go. It feels comfortable to use despite its small size, thanks to its small handgrip and intuitive controls.

    Like other Canon cameras, it has an incredibly easy-to-use menu system that makes it easy to pick up and start shooting. Its touchscreen can tilt out to help you shoot from different angles, and it also flips up for selfies and vlogs. The camera delivers good overall image quality, although it's not well-suited to shooting in low light because of its smaller sensor. Its video quality leaves something to be desired, but it offers many frame rate options, including 1080p up to 60 fps and 4k up to 30 fps without a crop.

    Unfortunately, its battery life is disappointing, although battery performance varies drastically depending on how you use your camera. Still, it overheats and shuts down frequently when recording 4k video continuously for longer periods. That said, this is fairly typical behavior for a compact camera. Overall, if you're looking for a point-and-shoot for travel or everyday photography, this is still a great option.

    See our review

  5. Best Budget Camera For Beginners

    The best digital camera for beginners on a budget is the Canon EOS M50 Mark II. Like most Canon cameras, this entry-level mirrorless model has good ergonomics, with logically-arranged controls and a highly-intuitive menu system, though the camera's small grip can be uncomfortable to hold onto for long periods if you have large hands. Like most mirrorless cameras, it uses an electronic viewfinder, which is a great fit for novice photographers since it allows you to preview your exposure adjustments before taking any pictures.

     This camera's autofocus system is a slight improvement on the older Canon EOS M50, as it now supports eye detection while recording video. It does a decent job tracking moving objects and faces in still photography and performs remarkably well when shooting FHD video. Out-of-the-box JPEG image quality is good, with a fairly wide dynamic range at low ISO and minimal loss of sharpness when shooting at higher ISO levels. RAW image quality is satisfactory overall, though you might notice some noise at higher ISO levels.

    Unfortunately, unlike the similarly-priced Micro 4/3s alternatives like the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV, there's no in-body stabilization system to help smooth out camera shake when shooting handheld, though it does have a digital stabilization function somewhat effective when shooting FHD video. In addition, while this camera can shoot in 4k, it's best to stick with shooting FHD video, as the camera is limited to shooting 4k video at 24 fps with a severe crop of 1.5x. Still, its compact size and ease of use make it one of the best travel cameras that we've tested.

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Canon PowerShot G5 X Mark II: The Canon PowerShot G5 X Mark II is a compact camera that's a good alternative to the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III thanks to its more comfortable ergonomics and pop-out viewfinder. It lacks the latter's built-in livestreaming function and is notably pricier. See our review
  • Canon EOS M200: The Canon EOS M200 is a highly compact interchangeable lens mirrorless camera that's significantly more portable than the Nikon Z 50. However, its lack of a handgrip or a viewfinder makes it notably less comfortable to use. See our review
  • Fujifilm X-T200: The Fujifilm X-T200 is a great beginner camera and a solid alternative to the Nikon Z 50. It has a retro-inspired design and excellent image quality, but its autofocus system isn't as reliable as the Z 50 or the Canon EOS M50 Mark II. See our review
  • Nikon D5600: The Nikon D5600 is a good alternative to the Canon EOS Rebel T8i. It's a tad more portable and delivers slightly better image quality. However, it can't shoot 4k video, has a less reliable autofocus system, and has a slightly slower continuous shooting speed. It may also be hard to find. See our review
  • Sony α6400: The Sony a6400 is a compact interchangeable-lens APS-C camera that's a great alternative to the Nikon Z 50, thanks to its superior autofocus performance and video quality. However, its menu system can be tricky to navigate, and it doesn't feel as comfortable to use. See our review
  • Sony ZV-1: The Sony ZV-1 is a compact camera designed for on-the-go vlogging with great video quality, fantastic autofocus performance, and superb video stabilization. Its menu system is tricky to navigate, and it lacks the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III's YouTube livestreaming function. See our review

Recent Updates

  1. Feb 21, 2022: Ensured all main picks are still available and represent the best fit for user needs and expectations.

  2. Jan 19, 2022: Verified review for accuracy with no change to recommendations.

  3. Dec 24, 2021: Renamed the Canon EOS M50 Mark II from 'Cheaper Alternative' to the Nikon Z 50 to the 'Best Budget Camera For Beginners'.

  4. Nov 26, 2021: Moved the Nikon D5600 to Notable Mentions due to limited availability.

  5. Oct 29, 2021: Checked accuracy and availability of picks; no change to recommendations.

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best 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.