On the hunt for the best camera for beginners? You've got quite a decision on your hands, as there's absolutely loads of choice out there. From classically styles DSLRs to cutting-edge mirrorless cameras and capable compacts, the entry-level camera market has absolutely loads going for it!
The best way to choose is to shop around and get a feel for what you might want – and don't worry, if all these different camera types have already got you feeling a bit confused, you can jump straight to our what to consider when buying a camera section for a primer on the different options available.
The best beginner cameras will not only be friendly for novices, but will ideally also offer room to grow as you learn the basics. 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.
We've factored in price as well when making our picks of the best beginner cameras, so you can be sure there will be something to fit your budget.
The best cameras for beginners available now
For anyone who wants to learn photography, the Nikon D3500 pretty much cant be beat right now. It's a camera expressly designed for the photography student, equipped with useful Guide Modes and tutorials to take you through the basics. However, thanks to its powerful 24.2MP APS-C CMOS 4 sensor and features like 5fps burst shooting and an ISO range of 100-25,600, it's capable enough for a user to grow into. You won't be itching to upgrade the instant you get the hang of the basics, which is a great feature for any beginner's camera.
The battery life is also fantastic; Nikon credits it as being able to get 1500 shot per charge, and while this will depend on real-world usage, you can still shoot in confidence that you aren't going to run out of juice halfway through the day. Having access to the incredible stable of F-mount lenses is also a serious asset, allowing you to explore different techniques and styles of photography. Okay, it doesn't have 4K video, but if this isn't a deal breaker for you – and it probably isn't – the Nikon D3500 is a superb choice of camera for a beginner.
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 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.
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.
Fujifilm's mirrorless cameras not only look fantastic, with cool retro styling that has been a hit with photographers for going on a decade now, but they're also some of the best shooters on the market. The Fujifilm X-T200 is one of the newer models, designed for entry-level users who want room to grow their skills and shoot high-quality images and videos. Its upgraded sensor produces a wide dynamic range and pleasingly low noise, and this combines well with Fuji's Film Simulation modes to produce images with real pop.
The X-T200 shoots 4K video in impressive quality, and its articulated touchscreen allows you to get creative with your shooting angles. Having access to the stable of pin-sharp Fujifilm X-mount lenses is also no bad thing, and ensures you'll have plenty of room to grow and explore in your shooting, whatever direction you take it in.
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.
There have been plenty more cameras released in Sony's a6000 series since this one, so why have we included it? Well, this is a still a fantastic machine in its own right: a fast-shooting, lightweight and dependable mirrorless camera, with an APS-C sensor and a sophisticated autofocus system. A beginning photographer who wants a solid foundation on which to grow and develop their skills will find the a6000 offers all of this and more. Plus, with all the subsequent models that have been released, this camera can now be picked up for an absolute bargain price.
Equipped with a powerful 24.3 APS-C sensor, the Sony a6000 is an E-mount camera, meaning there's a fantastic range of lenses to choose from in addition to the bundled 16-50mm kit lens. This is an ideal choice for those who want to hit the ground running; it doesn't have as many guide modes as other cameras, but if you're prepared to put a little work in, you'll find it to be a rewarding and capable imaging machine.
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. 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 worth consideration 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 – a camera is the way to go!
The best type of camera for beginners
First, 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 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.