The best cameras for beginners form the ideal first step on an image-making journey. If you want to take pictures or shoot video but don't know your aperture from your aspect ratio, these cameras will help. Designed to be easy to pick up and use, but still capable of taking great images, the best cameras for beginners will get you used to the ins and outs of photography and videography – and represent a serious step up in quality from your smartphone.
The main types of cameras we're looking at in this guide are DSLRs, mirrorless cameras and compacts. You can click to jump to our what to look for when buying a camera for beginners section if you need a primer on the differences between these types. The main thing to remember is that DSLRs and mirrorless cameras offer interchangeable lenses, while compacts have a fixed lens that can't be changed.
Which camera you pick is ultimately going to come down to what you plan to shoot with it. Whether you want to capture fast action and sports, or want to make high-quality prints of landscape images, or just want a fun camera for messing about with your friends – all of it will affect which one is right for you.
To that end, this list includes ten cameras for all different stripes of user, and all different budgets. We have kept price in mind when making our picks, as beginner cameras shouldn't be too expensive, and while we've made sure that every camera on here is worth buying, there's nothing too expensive.
If you want more choice, we also have a general best cameras guide where we look at more advanced cameras as well as beginner options. If you've got a little one who wants to take photos in 2022, then check out our guide to the best cameras for kids.
The best camera for beginners available now
We'd happily recommend the Sony A6000 to any new user – even though it first came out in 2014! There's no need for any beginner user to pick up the latest and greatest camera model, and opting for an older camera is a terrific way to get everything you need at a bargain price. These days it's not uncommon to find this camera available for less than $499 in a kit with a lens, and that's some of the best value you can get in the world of cameras right now.
The Sony A6000 is an APS-C camera, a sensor size that offers a considerable upgrade over a smartphone. It's fast too, with 11fps burst shooting and a sophisticated autofocus system that's still competitive today, and the huge range of E-mount lenses gives you loads of optics to choose from, allowing you to customise your setup with versatile zoom lenses or super-sharp prime lenses.
Of course, in the intervening eight years since this camera first arrived, technology has moved on, and there are a few contemporary features you don't get with this model. The biggest one is probably that it predates the 4K boom, so video tops out at Full HD. You may be bothered about this, or you may not. There's also no touchscreen functionality, so changing settings involves a lot of delving into Sony's menu system – famously one of the weak points of its cameras.
Overall though these are minor points. The Sony A6000 is capable of capturing terrific images, is relatively easy to get to grips with, and is an absolute bargain at its price. For our money, it's the best camera for beginners right now.
The Nikon D3500 is a DSLR; this means that, unlike the Sony A6000, it uses an internal mirror system that gives you an optical viewfinder. While this makes DSLRs bulkier than mirrorless cameras, many photographers prefer the immediacy of an optical viewfinder, and the more rugged, hardy body of the good old DSLR. For beginners, the Nikon D3500 is the best beginner's DSLR you can buy.
Its APS-C sensor boasts 24.2MP of resolution, which is more than enough for high-quality printing of your images. What's more, it comes packing a host of useful guide modes and tutorials that allow you to get to grip with the camera's functions. There's a reason that Nikon's D3000 cameras are some of the most popular cameras for students – they are the ideal tool to learn photography, while also offering plentiful room to grow.
The camera takes Nikon F-mount lenses. One of the most venerable lens ranges around, Nikon F-mount has been going for decades, giving you absolutely loads of lenses to choose from, and a chance to pick up some at bargain prices. While it's not Nikon's flagship system – that honour belongs to the newer mirrorless Z cameras – it's still a superb system to buy into. The Nikon D3500 is going to be an excellent beginner's camera for a very long time indeed.
This is the most premium beginner's camera on our list, and may exceed your budget. But if you have the cash to spare for the Fujifilm X-T30 II, your reward is a fantastic camera that's a joy to use and produces excellent-looking images with minimal editing required. Like the majority of Fuji X cameras, it uses a dial-based physical control layout that hearkens back to film cameras of old, and is so much more enjoyable than rooting around in digital menus.
Another strength of Fujifilm cameras is the fact that they produce such great-looking JPEGs, full of vibrancy and colour, with the option of adding one of Fujifilm's excellent Film Simulation modes for a real classic feel. If you don't like the idea of spending a lot of time behind the computer editing images, this is a great camera to choose.
As we mentioned, it is the most expensive option on our list. One way to save money is to look at the original Fujifilm X-T30 – this Mark II version is a very minor update, improving the resolution of the LCD screen and upgrading the internals to improve operability. We can expect this camera to be phased out, but if you can find it on the cheap, it's worth considering.
Another DSLR at the entry-level, the EOS 250D is not Canon's cheapest DSLR, but it's the cheapest one we think is worth buying. It's the first entry-level DSLR to come packing 4K video, so while it's a shade pricier than the Nikon D3500, you do get more for your money.
Lots of Canon's most popular features have made their way onto this camera. The Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus system is present and correct, providing superb autofocus capability for both photos and videos. Plus, the 18-55mm kit lens this camera will generally come bundled with is a decent optic, and offers virtually silent autofocus performance, which is excellent for video.
Canon also took a leaf out of Nikon's book and made the EOS 250D extremely accessible for beginners. The Guided User Interface and Creative Assist modes help you slide your way into understanding how the camera works, and the Quick menu continues to give you easy access to the most vital settings.
Once you've got to grips with the EOS 250D, you've bought your way into one of the most venerable and popular camera systems around, and even if it has some drawbacks – a slightly basic autofocus system, for one – it's a superb beginner's camera. On the expensive side, but worth it.
The Polaroid Now+ is the latest chapter in the ongoing success story that is the regeneration of Polaroid. These revitalised instant cameras combine the best of the old and new; producing instant film prints with all the lo-fi charm you remember from years gone by, while also offering smartphone connectivity to unlock loads of cutting-edge features.
Polaroid has extensively reworked its app, and the result is a camera-control experience that feels smooth and modern. It lets you play around with specialised shooting modes like Double Exposure, Self Timer, Light Painting and more, and introduces Aperture Priority mode for the more confident of settings-tweakers. The Now+ uses a two-lens autofocus system, and can be mounted to a tripod if that's something that interests you.
The prints, naturally, look great. They're not going to win awards for technical perfection, but that's never been the point of Polaroid. They simply ooze retro charm, and provide significantly better image quality than Fujifilm's Instax range. Though, granted, this means that they're more expensive to buy. The only real downside of the Polaroid Now+ is that you have to factor in the ongoing costs of film.
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.
While Sony’s A6000 cameras are pretty great for video, those whose interests lie more firmly in this field may want to look at the ZV series instead. The Sony ZV-E10 is the second camera in this series, and is a superb little vlogging camera that can also shoot pretty good stills when it needs to. It’s also really well-priced, more affordable than many rivals.
Ergonomically, it’s not really designed for photography. There’s no viewfinder and no mode dial on the rear for quickly shifting modes – something done more in stills than video. That’s not to say it’s useless for stills - a smartphone is not ergonomically designed for photography, and most of us manage just fine. But if you’re focusing mostly on stills, best look elsewhere.
The video, of course, is great. The 4K 30p footage looks crisp and punchy, and Sony’s video autofocus is absolutely class-leading. The built-in microphone is also good enough to be useable – something of a rarity on cameras like this – and it comes with a handy clip-on wind muffler that really does make a difference. The lack of stabilisation is a shame; maybe it would have made the camera too expensive, but it would have been welcome all the same.
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
A take-everywhere, slip-into-a-pocket kind of camera is a great idea for a beginner, as the fastest way to get better at shooting is to always have your camera with you. The slim, 182g Canon PowerShot SX620 HS certainly fits the bill in that regard, and it’s also a highly capable travel camera. The zoom lens on its front covers an equivalent focal range of 25-625mm, and is more useable at the telephoto end thanks to the lens-shift optical stabilisation system, which compensates for camera-shake.
Those who upgrade to this camera from a smartphone may chafe at the lack of a touchscreen, and it’s also true that the 1/2.3inch sensor is basically the same size as you’ll find in a phone. It’s worth the upgrade if you want a capable travel compact with a zoom lens that will cover a broad range of shooting situations, but don’t expect a radical upgrade in image quality.
With the price having come down since launch, the PowerShot SX620 HS now represents a really sound buy for any beginning photographer looking to get to grips with real camera controls.
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
Why buy a camera for beginners when you’ve got a perfectly decent camera in your pocket? While it may seem easier to stick with the smartphone, cameras do have many advantages of their own that the physical limitations of smartphones mean they can’t compete with.
The main one is sensor size. The physical size and shape of a camera means it’s able to field a much larger sensor than a smartphone. Professional cameras tend to have full-frame sensors, while enthusiast models have APS-C. Beneath that we see Four Thirds sensors, then 1-inch, and then finally, 1/2.3-inch, which is the sensor size of a smartphone camera.
Don’t worry about memorising the terms; the main thing to remember is that a larger sensor can have larger pixels, which means cleaner images with less noise, especially in low light. Images taken with a larger sensor have much more dynamic range (tonal difference between areas of light and dark).
The camera’s other main advantage is lens quality. Cameras can make use of optical zoom lenses, allowing you to get closer to your subject with no loss in quality, and can also use high-quality prime (fixed focal-length) lenses designed to produce as sharp an image as possible. Whether you’re going for maximum shooting versatility or maximum image quality, a camera can outstrip a smartphone on both fronts.
The list of advantages goes on. Cameras have more sophisticated autofocus systems, capable of tracking moving subjects, and can burst shoot at high speeds to ensure you never miss the moment. Higher megapixel counts also mean that images can be printed at higher quality.
What are the different types of camera?
There are a few main types of camera that we’ve included in this guide, as each one can be well-suited for beginners. Here’s a quick rundown of the key types and the differences between them,
DSLRs: Once the professional standard for digital cameras, the DSLR is still among the most popular type of camera around. The name stands for “digital single-lens reflex”, which refers to the fact that it uses a single lens for shooting and focusing (old rangefinder-style cameras used two). DSLRs have an internal mirror mechanism that allows them to field an optical viewfinder, which many photographers still prefer to an LCD screen for composing images. They also tend to be hardier and more weatherproof than other types of camera, though this varies from model to model.
Mirrorless: Mirrorless cameras, like DSLRs, have a lens mount that allows lenses to be swapped at will. However, they forgo the mirror mechanism that allows for an optical viewfinder, the trade-off being that this allows them to be built smaller and lighter. Mirrorless cameras are very much seen as the future in the photo and video community, and this is generally where the most exciting developments in imaging technology are taking place.
Compact: Compact cameras have a fixed lens on their front that cannot be changed; this may be a zoom lens that allows for covering a set focal range, or a fixed-focal-length “prime” lens with an emphasis on quality. Compact cameras, also known as point-and-shoot cameras, were once thought of as cheap and poor-quality, but now have been forced to up their game to compete with smartphones. These days, amny compacts offer imaging quality to rival that of interchangeable lens cameras.
Instant film: Like the Polaroids of yesteryear, instant film cameras are capable of producing a physical print of an image moments after capture! While they’ll never win awards for technical perfection, these cameras provide a kind of knockabout fun that makes them great for beginners – and these days they can connect wirelessly to smart devices to open up new shooting possibilities.
But which is the best camera for beginners to pick? 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.