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The 5 Best Cameras For Beginners - Fall 2022 Reviews

Updated
Best Cameras For Beginners

It might be tempting when you're just starting in photography to splurge on a shiny 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. While we've included some mid-range options for those willing to spend more or simply want the latest tech, our best advice for beginners is to get whichever camera is within your means and work on learning the basics and, most importantly, to 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 large used market for cameras, and you can often find great deals on older models that make for excellent starter cameras and will be more than capable for most subjects. Note also that a camera's overall performance will vary depending on the lens you use. Your chosen lens affects the amount of light that enters the camera, so it plays a big role in image quality, depth of field, and low-light performance, not to mention autofocus and stabilization. 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, see our lists for the best mirrorless cameras for beginners and the best DSLR cameras for beginners, respectively. If you're looking to get into YouTube or content creation, check out our recommendations for the best cameras for YouTube instead.


  1. Best Camera For Beginners

    Our top choice for someone totally new to photography is Nikon's budget DSLR, the Nikon D3500. We believe this entry-level DSLR from 2018 is still the best cheap camera for photography 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, it's very helpful, as it's essentially a built-in learning resource.

    While it doesn't have a lot of the bells and whistles that you'll find on newer, more advanced models, that's actually to your advantage when you're just starting since it frees you up to focus on the basics and figure out what kind of photos you want to take. It's no slouch in the photo department, either. It has an excellent high-resolution sensor that punches above its weight and a simple design that makes it easy to navigate your way around all the different camera settings.

    While older DSLRs like this (or even previous iterations, if you can find them) are a great cost-effective option to dip your toe into photography, we'd be remiss not to mention a mirrorless alternative that falls around the same price point: the Canon EOS M50 Mark II. It won't hold your hand the same way the Nikon will; however, it's a newer mirrorless option with an electronic viewfinder, allowing you to see how different camera settings affect your exposure in real-time. It also has a much quicker and more advanced autofocus system than the Nikon, so it's a good choice if you already know you're interested in shooting sports or fast action.

    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 that you can travel with, 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 end up paying less for lenses and get a more portable camera system overall. The other advantage of Micro Four Thirds is that even smaller entry-level options like the E-M10 have built-in sensor stabilization, which makes it easier to get stable handheld shots in tricky lighting conditions.

    This camera is aimed at beginners, too, so it's very user-friendly. It has a 'Live Guide' feature when using auto mode that lets you adjust certain aspects of the image in simple terms like background blur, motion blur, and color temperature. It means you can get a feel for what aspects go into a photo before you move up to shooting in manual mode. The Live Guide is less in-depth than the Nikon D3500's Guide Mode, but it gives beginners some shooting tips and more control when shooting in auto mode. Overall, it's one of the best cameras for photography beginners, especially if you're interested in the more compact Micro Four Thirds 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 it's your daughter's softball game or birds in the park. Though its menu system is confusing and 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, but if these aren't dealbreakers, the α6100 will nab you the same image and video quality and leave a bit more room in your budget to put toward lenses. If you're set on Sony but have an even tighter budget, the older Sony α6000 holds up surprisingly well. However, it shows its age when you compare its autofocus performance and viewfinder resolution to newer models. Bottom line: though they're probably the least intuitive options on this list, Sony's APS-C lineup includes some of the best digital cameras for beginners, so you can't go wrong with any of them, especially if you need top-of-the-class autofocus for fast 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 doesn't need as much handholding and wants the latest tech. A higher price tag means you get a sturdier body with weather-sealing, a solid tilting screen that can flip all the way down for selfies, and a large high-res viewfinder for a crisp view of your subjects.

    It has a fairly sophisticated autofocus system with animal and human eye detection; it's also decently reliable at subject tracking. The camera can also take burst shots at up to 11 fps, meaning it's well-suited to capturing fast-moving subjects. If you're interested in video, it can record 4k at up to 30 fps and slow-motion 1080p. Throw in a wide range 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 even 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 can set you up to take great photos down the line. However, it also leaves less room in your budget to buy different lenses, and 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.

    See our review

  5. Best Bridge Camera For Beginners

    While the best cameras for beginner photographers are interchangeable-lens models, we recognize that investing in a camera body, lenses, and other gear like extra batteries, memory cards, and maybe a tripod can quickly add up. 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 one of the best cheap cameras for photography beginners. While a bridge camera sensor won't necessarily blow your smartphone out of the water in terms of image quality, the glass on this thing will give you a much longer zoom range than you can get with your phone. It also provides a more comfortable shooting experience, and having a viewfinder to shoot through will give you a better feel for composition.

    It also has plenty of extra features, including a macro mode for close-ups, an 'Artistic Nightscape' mode for nighttime shooting, and a '4k PHOTO' mode for sports and fast-moving subjects. These are nice features that'll let you play around with different styles and subjects. All in all, this is a solid, versatile option for the casual or family shooter.

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

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

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

  4. 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'.

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

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.

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