Choosing the best camera for beginners means sifting through a wealth of amazing choices. There are DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, compacts, instant film cameras and more all vying for your attention, and if you're not sure what some of these terms mean it can get pretty overwhelming.
The secret is, though, that it doesn't matter too much. If you want to have a grasp of what's best out there then by all means jump straight to our what to consider when buying a camera section where we explain the key terms, but in truth, any type of camera can be great for a beginner. What matters most are two things: what you plan to shoot with it, and how much you have to spend.
Beyond that, the best beginner cameras will have many things in common. They need to strike a balance between user-friendliness and room to grow, so that novices can use them, but won't chafe against their limitations once they get the hang of things. Beyond that, it's all about what you need. Some cameras have faster burst-shooting rates, others have more megapixels. Some shoot 4K video, some don't. Which features you like, and which you can live without, is up to you.
This guide is expressly oriented towards beginners. If you feel you already have a grasp of the fundamentals of photography, consider taking a look at our best cameras guide. If you're not buying for yourself but for a little one, don't miss our round up of the best cameras for kids.
All these cameras on our best camera for beginners list, by our reckoning, provide a great learning experience for beginners while also leaving room to grow, and do so for a reasonable price. So, let's get started with the best cameras for beginners!
The best camera for beginners list
The best camera for beginners needs to be easy to use, but also have enough potential that you won't get bored of it the instant you've figured out the basics. The Nikon D3500 is still the top of the pile in this regard. Really, the D3000 series always has been, and there's a reason these cameras are so enduringly popular with photography students.
One the one hand, you've got an incredibly easy camera to use, with heaps of handy guide modes and tutorials for getting a handle on the basics. And then, on the other, you've got a generously sized sensor, a solid autofocus system, and access to the incredible F-mount stable of lenses. This means that once you get the hang of what the camera can do, you can upgrade to a telephoto or a wide-angle and explore different facets of photography. The D3500 will grow with you, and that's what makes it such an ideal choice for beginners.
You could argue that the lack of 4K video inhibits it, though realistically how many beginner photographers actually care? More significant perhaps is the fact that manufacturers are mostly moving away from DSLRs and ploughing resources into their mirrorless ranges. Would it make more sense for a photographer with an eye on the future to learn the ropes on a mirrorless camera? Perhaps. But that doesn't stop the Nikon D3500 from being the best (and best-value) beginner's camera around, for now.
When shopping for the best camera for beginners, it makes sense to look at slightly older models, as these will likely provide everything you need but at a much more reasonable price. The Sony a6000 is probably the best and best-known example of this, a camera that was first announced in 2014, but is still widely available today just because it's so good!
The images from this mirrorless camera still look great, and its autofocus system can still compete today, making it a solid choice for pretty much any type of photography. You have access to Sony E-mount lenses, which are seriously great, and the 11fps burst speed is, once again, still competitive today!
There are a few ways in which the a6000 shows its age; probably the most obvious is the lack of 4K video. If this isn't a deal-breaker for you, then this fabulous, quick-shooting wonder of a camera is a seriously good choice.
For our money, the Fujifilm X-T200 is another excellent choice of mirrorless camera. Part of Fujifilm's stylish X-series, this camera blends cool retro looks with top-notch imaging potential.
Lightweight and easy to use, the X-T200 makes a number of smart choices, not least of which is the gloriously large and vari-angle 3.5-inch touchscreen that's a boon for composing images or monitoring video. And speaking of video, the 4K on the X-T200 is really excellent. The original X-T100 stumbled somewhat in this department, with 15p 4K footage that, in all honesty, looked pretty crappy. Fujifilm have corrected the mistake here, and the 30p 4K on the X-T200 looks the part.
It's still a little pricier than some of the other beginner cameras on this list, but you do get access to the superb X series of lenses, which has some of the highest-quality lenses of any mirrorless system around right now. We feel very comfortable recommending the X-T200 as one of the best beginner mirrorless cameras you can buy.
The Canon EOS 250D is the first entry-level DSLR to feature 4K movie capture, and it replaces the popular EOS 200D in Canon’s lineup. Indeed, the Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus system for live view and movie modes, inherited from its predecessor, makes the camera particularly good for tracking action when shooting video. The virtually silent autofocus performance of the 18-55mm kit lens is a further bonus.
Not just for video, the 250D is a very accomplished package for stills. It's beginner-friendly with optional Guided User Interface and Creative Assist modes, which work seamlessly with the fully articulated touchscreen. The camera is also well able to grow with you as you learn new skills and techniques, Canon’s excellent Quick menu giving intuitive and instant access to important settings.
One of the most compact and lightweight DSLRs on the market, the 250D is a camera you can take anywhere and everywhere. Our only real criticism performance-wise is that, in viewfinder-based stills shooting rather than live view mode, the autofocus system is fairly basic. There are only nine AF points and only one of them is cross-type, able to resolve detail in both horizontal and vertical planes. Our other main criticism is the price, which is a little much for an entry-level DSLR. If you're willing to pay the premium though, this is a good choice.
A perfect way to induct a newbie into photography is by reminding them of how much fun it can be, and the Polaroid Now does that in spades. Part of the ongoing revival of the old Polaroid brand, this camera continues in the tradition of the OneStep 2 and OneStep+ in making instant photography accessible to all.
It works exactly the way you remember: hit the shutter button, the powerful flash goes off (or not, if you don't want) and seconds later the camera will spit out a print that will develop in a few minutes, and doesn't need any shaking to do so, no matter what OutKast may have informed you. The Polaroid Now is the most recent camera in the new series, as well as the most affordable, lacking features like Bluetooth connectivity that you get on the more expensive OneStep+. For beginners, though, this is perfect, as you really do just point and shoot and create awesome physical prints that you can keep, mount, frame and enjoy as you please.
if you know you're likely to want to capture stills AND video but are perhaps a bit of a novice at both, the Panasonic Lumix G100 is the place to start. A super-small camera weighing in at just 412g body only, the G100 nevertheless packs in loads of great features. It shoots sublime 4K/30p video and excellent 20MP stills, and thanks to the Micro Four Thirds mount, there are absolutely loads of lenses to choose from.
The control layout also scores major points for how approachable it is; you tap the big red button to start recording, for instance. The customisable Fn buttons are a good way to encourage yourself to experiment with different settings, while the touchscreen is also flexible and user-friendly. Also, in a remarkable development, Panasonic has teamed up with Nokia to give the camera OZO audio, a multi-mic system that makes the camera's on-board audio recording... actually quite decent! This alone makes it a great starter camera for vlogging.
Don't be fooled by the slim dimensions of this compact camera: it's actually an impressive stills-and-video shooting machine, with not only the ability to shoot high-quality Full HD and 4K video, but also to directly livestream it online. Indeed, you might be surprised how many YouTube creators you enjoy shoot a lot of their stuff on the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III; it's a popular camera for a reason.
The fast 24-100mm equivalent lens gives you an enormous amount of shooting versatility; no matter the lighting conditions, no matter how distant the subject, you'll probably be able to have a decent crack at capturing it. Video features are also further bolstered by such vital extras as an external mic port, ensuring that your videos will sound as good as they look. The camera feels premium in the hand, and with the LCD that flips around 180 degrees for easy monitoring, you've got a capable machine in all categories.
Olympus is now on the fourth iteration of its hugely popular line of travel-friendly mirrorless cameras, and the E-M10 Mark IV is a fantastic entry. It makes for a great gateway into mirrorless shooting, lightweight enough to take everywhere, but boasting a deceptive number of sophisticated features - a solid entry in this list of the best camera for beginners list. It's got a generous in-body stabilisation system that makes it easier to shoot handheld in low light, and plenty of assistive shooting modes that help novice users get their head around settings.
The 4K video capabilities and flip-around screen also make it decent for vlogging, though the lack of a mic port is a strike against it in this area. Some may also be turned off by the plastic build, as opposed to the metallic alloys of more expensive cameras. If that doesn't bother you, this is a great starting choice for a beginner's travel camera
Canon's EOS M series may not steal a lot of headlines, but the range has expanded in recent years to include some well-specced and lightweight mirrorless cameras, making them a worthy addition as a best camera for beginners. Our recommendation would go to the EOS M50, a mid-range CSC with a built-in viewfinder and the impressive Dual Pixel Autofocus system – a nice get for a camera at this price. In fact, even though an EOS M50 Mark II has recently been announced, we'd still plump for this one; the new model is a disappointingly modest update, with a few new video features and nothing else really to shout about.
On the subject of video, though, do bear in mind that while the EOS M50 shoots 4K UHD, it does so at 25p, with a 1.6x crop and without the Dual Pixel AF. If you're looking to focus on video, there are better choices on this list, but for a capable little stills/video hybrid or pure stills camera, the EOS M50 is a great choice.
For such a small camera, the Panasonic TZ100 packs in some seriously big specifications and features. It has a 20.1MP 1.0-type sensor that’s physically large for a compact camera, and retains relatively noise-free image quality even at high ISO settings. It also crams in an electronic viewfinder and a high-res, 3.0inch rear screen, plus a 10x zoom lens with an effective range of 25-250mm.
To keep things steady, there’s optical image stabilisation for stills and 5-axis hybrid stabilisation for video capture. You can also shoot at 4k UHD for both stills and video, with a frame rate of up to 30fps. For full-resolution stills, the burst rate is still speedy at 10fps.
Clever tricks include ‘post-focus’, which enables you to capture a burst of stills with automatically transitioning focus distances, and select the frame with the ideal focus point afterwards.
The best camera for beginners: What to consider
As mentioned above, cameras will always have certain advantages over smartphones. These include larger sensors, which mean the cameras perform better in low light, as well as massive improvements in the matter of lenses. Whether you're using a DSLR or mirrorless camera that lets you swap lenses depending on the situation, a zoom-equipped compact that can get close to a subject, or even a fixed-focal-length compact that's been engineered for optical perfection, you're guaranteed to have something superior to the lens on the back of your phone. Or the front, for that matter – and thanks to many cameras now having flip-out screens, your selfie game can step up considerably.
Then there's also the fact that cameras can burst-shoot faster for capturing quick-moving subjects, have more sophisticated autofocus systems, and tend to offer higher resolutions that allow you to make larger physical prints of your images. There's no doubt about it – selecting one of the best camera for beginners is the way to go!
The best camera for beginners: What type?
Before buying the best camera for beginners, let's look at the different types of camera available for beginners. If your priorities are simplicity and portability, there’s a lot to be said for a small best point-and-shoot camera that you can slip into your daily bag or even a spare pocket. These cameras will have a lens fixed on the front, so while you won't be able to use any focal length that isn't specified on the box, most models will offer a respectable zoom range to work with. There will generally also be a built-in flash, and possibly a viewfinder that helps you compose your shots.
A more versatile option is a 'system' camera, which consists of a separate body and interchangeable lenses. Once you're equipped with two or three lenses, you can shoot anything from portraiture and still life, to action sports and wildlife, or sweeping landscapes and architecture, getting great results every time.
They start small, with mirrorless or compact system cameras. These tend to be portable and offer faster shooting speeds than their larger siblings, DSLRs. However, don't count DSLRs out, as they are able to offer an optical viewfinder that gives you an unadulterated 'through-the-lens' view of what you're shooting. They also tend to be better weather-sealed and equipped with chunkier handgrips for a secure hold.
Also worth considering are instant print cameras! Analogue is back in a big way, and there's something to be said for a camera that doesn't necessitate messing about with memory cards and hard drives, and just spits out an instant physical print. If your creative work is more tactile/physical (perhaps incorporating collage) then this is definitely a viable option.
Finally, there are also 'tough' cameras, which have smaller sensors than mainstream compacts, but are heavily waterproofed and can survive rough conditions.
But which best camera for beginners to pick? Well, it depends on what you need. Do you want something small and portable or hardy and weatherproof? Are you likely to be shooting video as well as stills? Do you see yourself buying more lenses, or would you prefer a single package that does it all? The answers to all these questions will affect which camera is best for you.