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.
If you're looking for a mirrorless camera, the best camera for beginners that we've tested is the Nikon Z 50. It's a well-built APS-C model with a remarkably easy-to-use menu system, which includes a guide mode to explain certain camera functions and settings to new users. It has a large, fully articulated touchscreen that can tilt out from the body to help you shoot from different angles, and you can also flip it down to face you for selfies or vlogs.
The camera delivers impressive image quality thanks to its 20.9-megapixel EXPEED 6 sensor. Photos have good dynamic range, bringing out more detail in high-contrast scenes. The camera has great noise handling capability, meaning you can raise the ISO in dimly-lit conditions without introducing too much visual noise. It has a great autofocus system as well, with both face and eye tracking, and it's particularly reliable when shooting video. It's less consistent when tracking moving subjects for photos, but it's still adequate overall.
Unfortunately, it has mediocre battery performance. While its battery life can withstand decently long video shooting sessions, its advertised battery life in photos is unremarkable. Though it supports USB charging, you can't use it while it charges. It also has a very long buffer empty time, and its RAW photo buffer is small, so that may slow you down when shooting in burst mode. Still, this camera's well-rounded feature set and ease of use make it one of the best cameras for starters in photography.
For those looking to get started with a DSLR, the best camera for beginner photographers of those we've tested is 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 entry-level DSLRs we've tested, and most beginners should be happy with it.
Of the compact point-and-shoots we've tested, the best digital camera for beginners is the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III. This compact vlogging camera is also a capable stills camera for those looking for a lightweight camera that's easy to take on the go. Despite its small size, it feels comfortable to shoot with, thanks to its small textured hand grip and thumb rest, as well as ergonomic physical features like a dedicated aperture ring around the lens and a touchscreen that can tilt out and flip up for selfies and vlogs.
Like many point-and-shoot cameras, it uses a 1-inch sensor, so it doesn't have the best noise handling capability and performs worse in low light. However, it delivers good overall image quality and has a fantastic dynamic range. It also has a remarkably fast 16 fps burst rate, so you can capture brief moments of fast action, though it takes a long time for it to empty its image buffer if you manage to fill it up. It has plenty of video features, including 4k at up to 30 fps, 1080p at up to 60 fps, and a built-in livestreaming function.
That said, it has a sub-par battery life and suffers from major overheating issues when recording high-resolution video for longer periods. However, battery performance can vary drastically depending on your shooting habits and choice of settings. Despite its flaws, this is still one of the best YouTube cameras we've tested and a good choice for beginners interested in a compact point-and-shoot camera.
The best camera for beginners who are completely new to photography that's easy to use 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 still compatible with the many DX 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 should be happy with it.
The best camera for beginners on a budget is the Canon EOS M50 Mark II. This entry-level mirrorless camera is portable and comfortable to use, with a simple control layout, fully articulated touchscreen, and intuitive menu system. You can preview your exposure settings live through the screen or the high-resolution EVF. There's also a guide mode to explain core settings to new users.
The camera uses a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor, and it delivers great image quality right out of the box. Photos have a superb level of dynamic range, and the camera's noise handling capability is decent. It has a good autofocus system that supports eye detection and has 143 advertised focus points for more precise focusing. It tracks moving subjects decently well. While it lacks in-body image stabilization, the camera does have a digital stabilization feature that helps reduce camera shake when shooting handheld.
Unfortunately, it doesn't have the most advanced video features, particularly if you wanted to shoot 4k video. It's limited to 24 fps shooting in 4k, and that's with a severe 1.5x crop. Its autofocus is also unreliable when shooting in 4k. However, it fares much better in 1080p and can record up to 60 fps. If you're looking for an affordable entry-level camera for photography and FHD video, this is a great value option.
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'.
Nov 26, 2021: Moved the Nikon D5600 to Notable Mentions due to limited availability.
Oct 29, 2021: Checked accuracy and availability of picks; no change to recommendations.
Oct 08, 2021: Checked that picks were still accurate; no change to recommendations.
Sep 20, 2021: Moved the Fujifilm X-T200 to notable mentions and replaced it with the Canon EOS M50 Mark II as the 'Cheaper Alternative' to the Nikon Z 50. Replaced the Nikon D3500 with the Nikon D5600 as 'Cheaper Alternative' to the Canon EOS Rebel T8i. Added the Nikon D3500 as 'Easiest-To-Use Camera For Beginners'.
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.