Mirrorless cameras are a great option for beginner photographers thanks to their electronic viewfinders, which allow you to see how different camera settings affect your image in real-time through the viewfinder. With plenty of options at a range of different price brackets and experience levels, making the jump from your smartphone has never been easier. While it might be tempting to dive right into a more advanced model, the good news for those just starting out is that any modern mirrorless camera will be more than capable of doing what you need it to. The most important thing is to just start shooting and get a handle on the basics because if you can't take good photos on a budget model, you won't get very far with a more advanced camera anyway.
Thankfully, we've done some of the work of narrowing down your options for you. We've bought and tested over 75 cameras, and below you'll find our recommendations for the best entry-level mirrorless cameras. If you're looking for a more advanced camera, you can check out our picks for the best mirrorless cameras. Otherwise, you can also take a look at the best mirrorless cameras under $1,000. Or, if you already know you'd prefer the optical viewfinder and longer battery life of a DSLR, check out our list of the best DSLR cameras for beginners.
The Nikon Z 50 is the best entry-level mirrorless camera we've tested, with plenty of features that even more advanced users can take advantage of. At this price point, you get a very well-built camera with a sturdy magnesium alloy body that includes some degree of weather-sealing. It has a large high-res viewfinder and overall feels super comfortable to shoot with. Photos look amazing straight out of the camera thanks to Nikon's excellent color science and a sensor that does well in low-light and preserves a wide range of detail in high-contrast scenes.
That said, it doesn't have the most reliable autofocus. It isn't bad, but its tracking isn't the quickest or most accurate compared to the similarly-priced Sony α6400. The Sony is a great alternative, although its menu system is a lot less accessible to beginners and is less comfortable to shoot with. Ultimately, the Nikon is a well-rounded camera that can easily grow with you as your skill level improves.
If you don't want to spend quite as much, consider the Sony α6100, the entry-level model of Sony's latest slew of APS-C cameras. It's very similar to the Sony α6400 mentioned above. However, unlike that model or the Nikon Z 50, it has a lower-resolution viewfinder and a more plasticky build without weather-sealing. Despite these hardware differences, this is still a great option for those just starting with photography. It uses the same high-resolution sensor as more expensive models in the α6x00 series and has the same highly effective autofocus system that Sony cameras are known for.
It's also a great option if you do a lot of traveling since it's portable and easy to take wherever you go. It also has a very good battery life compared to most other entry-level mirrorless cameras. That said, it uses Sony's older menu system, which is pretty convoluted and hard to navigate, which is especially annoying given the limited number of command dials. If you don't mind some of its design quirks, this is a great camera to start photography with.
For those on a budget, the best beginner option we've tested is the Canon EOS M50 Mark II. This small but mighty camera is one of the most popular entry-level cameras, offering a ton of value for its price, especially for aspiring photographers and vloggers. Unlike the previous picks, it has a fully articulated screen, which is good for selfies and vlogs but less convenient for waist-level shooting. The camera is very lightweight and incredibly easy to use, with a simple control layout and intuitive touch menu navigation. However, the big tradeoff with this camera is that, while it's technically capable of shooting 4k video, it crops in significantly, resulting in poor autofocus and stabilization in this resolution, so picks like the Sony α6100 or the Nikon Z 50 are better if you want to shoot 4k video.
Another thing to note is that Canon has all but abandoned its EF-M mount to focus on RF mount cameras, including new APS-C models like the Canon EOS R10. What that means is we're unlikely to see any new EF-M lenses, but the good news is that the M50 Mark II is still a great deal, especially if you don't see yourself buying a whole bunch of different lenses. If you'd like more lens options, the older Sony α6000 is still around and makes for a great bargain, despite showing its age in areas like viewfinder resolution and autofocus.
If portability is your biggest concern, check out the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV. It's the only camera on this list with a Micro Four Thirds sensor, which means not only a smaller body but also smaller (and, generally, cheaper) lenses, making for a highly portable camera system. This model is also very beginner-friendly, with an intuitive button layout and a 'Live Guide' function that lets you adjust aspects of the image when shooting in auto mode, a handy stepping stone to learning how to shoot manual.
While the smaller sensor isn't as well-suited to low light as APS-C alternatives like the Canon EOS M50 Mark II above, it does leave more room in the body to implement sensor-shift stabilization. It's the only camera on this list to feature in-body image stabilization (IBIS), which helps reduce camera shake when shooting handheld. Still, if the sensor is a dealbreaker, the compact Canon EOS M200 has the same high-res APS-C sensor—just know that you'll be ditching a viewfinder, and lenses won't be as compact as Micro Four Thirds lenses.
While crop sensor cameras offer beginners the best balance of price and performance, a full-frame camera gives you about an additional stop of low-light capability and better bokeh, though these advantages will likely be lost on you before you've even got a handle on the basics. If you're set on jumping right into full frame or know you'll need the extra low-light capability, the Canon EOS RP is Canon's entry-level full-frame offering. It's even pricier than our top beginner pick, the Nikon Z 50, and you'll also be paying more for lenses, but it'll give you full-frame image quality at about as low a price as you can get.
The RP is relatively light and portable compared to other full-frame options, and its simple button layout is designed to be as accessible as possible to newcomers, although more advanced manual shooters might find the relative lack of control dials limiting. Thankfully, it's very comfortable to use and has a large viewfinder and a fully articulating touch screen. While it can take high-resolution photos with less noise in low light, it lags behind many of our APS-C picks in battery life, burst rate, and dynamic range, so you should only consider it if you need that added low-light performance.
Aug 22, 2022: Restructured article and adjusted picks to better align with user needs and expectations.
Jan 24, 2022: Renamed the Canon EOS M50 Mark II the 'Best Budget Mirrorless Camera For Beginners' with the Canon EOS M200 as its 'More Portable Alternative'; renamed the Panasonic LUMIX G100 the 'Best Beginner Mirrorless Camera For Vlogging'; added the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV as the 'Best Micro Four Thirds Camera For Beginners'.
Nov 25, 2021: Verified that picks still represent the best choices for their given categories.
Sep 28, 2021: Moved the Fujifilm X-T200 to Notable Mentions and replaced it with the Canon EOS M50 Mark II as a 'Cheaper Alternative' to the Nikon Z 50. Added the Panasonic LUMIX G100 as a 'Vlogging Alternative' to the Sony a6400.
Jul 30, 2021: Replaced the Canon EOS M50 with the Nikon Z 50 and moved the Canon to Notable Mentions.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best mirrorless 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 tested mirrorless cameras that retail for under $1,000, arranged in descending order of price. 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.