The best camera for beginners needs to be lots of things all at once. It's got to be easy to use, with intuitive controls and helpful guide modes that take a novice user through its various functions. However, it's also got to offer that same user room to grow, be able to still offer them an exciting photographic experience as they develop. Ideally, once they start using it, they should want to keep on using it.
So this means something a little more sophisticated than your average point and shoot, though if this is what you're looking for, we have a guide to the best affordable point and shoot cameras which will take care of all the settings for you. However, it makes sense that if you're on the hunt specifically for a beginners' camera, you're looking not only to start photography, but you want to get better at it and develop. This means the smart choice is a low-cost DSLR cameraa mirrorless camera or a sophisticated compact camera.
If you're worried about the cost, then rest assure: our deal-finding tool regularly scours the web for the latest bargain prices on all of the cameras in our guide. You'll likely find that these cameras can and do cost less than you expect (though it's always good to make sure you keep an eye on the latest camera deals). They provide genuine, solid value for money, offering the depth of sophisticated photographic control that you need in order to master the basics of light, composition and exposure.
The fastest and best way to learn photography is to have a camera with you at all times, and this means a beginners' camera should also ideally be quite light. The best mirrorless cameras have the advantage in terms of portability, but if size isn’t a priority, or you want to use bigger lenses and an optical viewfinder, it's worth considering a DSLR like the Nikon D5600 or D3500. While DSLRs tend to be larger, you do in many ways get more for your money. To learn more, make sure to check out our best DSLR list
Our list of the best cameras for beginners includes both DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. We're not biased! But if you'd like to know more about the pros and cons, our DSLR vs mirrorless cameras article explains all the pros and cons.
There are plenty of alternatives to consider as well as the cameras we've listed here. Into your selfies, or aspiring to become a vlogger? Check out our run-down of the best cameras for selfies. If you're looking for a camera for the whole family then head to our list of best cameras for kids, where we've highlighted different cameras based on fun, price and toughness, as well as staying power for young photographers becoming more advanced. It's also worth noting that one of the cheapest and most intuitive ways to get into photography is to go analog, and a great way to do that is with one of the best instant cameras on the market.
We mentioned vlogging earlier in the context of selfie cameras, but if you really are looking into video more seriously then mirrorless cameras are your best bet because they usually have faster autofocus in 'live view' (using the screen). Flip-over LCD screens are also a must, as mentioned in our best cameras for vlogging run-down, as this allows you to see exactly what you're recording as you present to the camera.
One more thing. Most of these cameras are even cheaper if you buy them body-only, but that only makes sense if you already have lenses, as buying them separately is much more expensive. We always recommend getting beginner cameras with 'kit' lenses, and if there's one in particular we think is better than the rest, we'll say so.
So now we've given you a few things to think about, take a look at our list of the best cameras for beginners...
The best cameras for beginners in 2020
The best entry-level beginners camera around has got even better
Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Lens mount: Canon EF-S | Screen: 3in vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Max burst speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 4K UHD at 25p
This isn't the cheapest DSLR you can buy by any means, but very often it's worth paying a little extra money to get a much better range of features – and this is the perfect example. The EOS Rebel SL3 (aka EOS 250D) has Canon’s top-of-the range APS-C sensor with 24.1MP of resolution and brilliant Live View shooting, thanks to a fully-articulating touchscreen display and Canon's fast Dual Pixel CMOS AF autofocus. In fact, we’d actually say this is one of the only DSLRs where composing shots with the screen is downright preferable to using the viewfinder. Canon also packs in 4K video and Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity, wrapped up in the smallest DSLR body you'll ever see.
Nikon's entry-level DSLR is basic but cheap, and very effective
Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Nikon F (DX) | Screen: 3in, 921,000 dots | Max burst speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p (Full HD) | User level: Beginner
If you’re worried about DSLRs being complicated, don’t be. The Nikon D3500 has a brilliant ‘Guide’ shooting mode that acts as a fully interactive guide to photography and camera settings, delivered via the rear LCD screen. The D3500's controls are straightforward and easy to get to grips with. But, compared with some competing DSLRs, though it does strip back on some more advanced features. For example, there’s no Custom Settings menu for tailoring camera functions to your preferences, as featured on every other series of Nikon DSLRs. The autofocus in Live View and movie capture modes is also sluggish, though the Nikon AF-P DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens lens speeds it up and is the best kit lens to go for. Overall, the Nikon D3500's image quality and performance are extremely good for the price, and the 5fps burst rate is pretty sporty for an entry-level DSLR. Take a look at the many other great Nikon lenses that this DSLR system allows you to use.
Read more: Nikon D3500 review
3. Fujifilm X-T100
It doesn't grab many headlines, but the X-T100 has a lot going for it
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Fujifilm X | Screen: 3in tilting touchscreen, 1,040k dots | Viewfinder: EVF, 2,360k dots | Max continuous shooting speed: 6fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Beginner/Intermediate
If you've been shopping around for a while, you'll have discovered it's not so easy to find a mirrorless camera with a viewfinder at an affordable price for novices, and this is why we love the X-T100. It’s compact, lightweight and simple to use, yet features a high-resolution electronic viewfinder and a tilting touchscreen – and all at a very attractive price. There are some limitations. The X-T100 uses a regular CMOS sensor rather than Fujifilm's more advanced X-Trans design, but more seriously its 4K video capture is limited to 15fps, so don't get this camera for shooting 4K (1080 video is fine). Paired with the dinky little Fujinon XC 15-45mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS PZ lens, the X-T100 makes a great-value camera kit that’s a particularly good travelling companion, whether you’re trekking into the hills or flying to the other side of the world.
Read more: Fujifilm X-T100 review
4. Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III
High-tech performance wrapped in retro chic splendour
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Micro Four Thirds | Megapixels: 16.1MP | Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds | Screen: 3.0-inch 1,040k tilt touch | Viewfinder: Electronic | Max burst speed: 8.6fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Beginner
Available in black or silver, this mirrorless camera has a classic yesteryear look and feel, harking back to Olympus OM film cameras that launched in the 1970s. The E-M10 Mark III is the least expensive and most beginner-friendly model in the current OM-D range. Even so, it shoehorns some fab features into its diminutive and beautifully crafted body, including a high-resolution electronic viewfinder and high-res tilting touchscreen. The built-in 5-axis image stabilization works with any attached lens, and the 14-42mm EZ kit zoom lens is a joy to use. It’s a compact ‘pancake’ design and its power-zoom facility is great for movie capture. Speaking of which, the camera can shoot 4K UHD movies and rapid bursts of stills at up to 8.6fps. However, while the Micro Four Thirds format enables camera bodies and lenses to be unusually compact, megapixel counts are often less than generous. This camera’s 16.1MP image sensor is a prime example. Nevertheless, the price, size and features make this a great camera for beginners, especially if you're into blogging, vlogging and 4K video.
Read more: Olympus E-M10 III review
5. Sony A6000
An amazing APS-C bargain from Sony and great for enthusiasts
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.3MP | Lens mount: Sony E | Screen: 3in tilting screen, 921k dots | Viewfinder: EVF, 1,440k dots | Continuous shooting speed: 11fps | Max video resolution: Full HD | User level: Beginner/enthusiast
Although it’s now five years old, the A6000 is still one of Sony’s best entry-level cameras. Sony is still making them, so it's not going to disappear any time soon. Moreover, it significantly undercuts the newer A6400 and A6500 models for price. . With its APS-C format compact camera styling, and access to Sony’s range of interchangeable lenses, it’s a small body that packs a big punch. Resolution from the 24.3MP image sensor is very good, though the 1,440k-dot resolution of the electronic viewfinder is a little weak by today's standards, and the 921k-dot tilting screen feels quite cramped too. It lacks the ability to record 4K movies but the solid build quality, image quality, continuous shooting and autofocus performance are better than you'd ever expect from its price point. It's more for advanced beginners and enthusiasts for outright novice, but a serious bargain right now.
6. Canon EOS Rebel T100 / EOS 4000D
A bare-bones outfit that really strips back the cost
Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 18MP | Lens mount: Canon EF-S | Screen: 2.7in fixed, 230,000 dots | Max burst speed: 3fps | Max video resolution: 1080p (Full HD) | User level: Beginner
Nobody wants to buy an expensive camera only to discover that photography’s not for them. You can limit the risk with this remarkably cheap DSLR and kit EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 III lens, it’s well suited to beginners, with the same ‘intelligent’ full auto shooting mode and feature guide as you’ll find in pricier Canon cameras. The ‘Quick’ menu is typically intuitive, and there are plenty of scene modes as well as more advanced shooting modes. There’s also a Creative Auto mode to help you progress from ‘basic zone’ to ‘creative zone’ modes. The 18MP image sensor is a little lacking in megapixels compared with most current DSLRs, and there are more serious cutbacks in other areas. We wouldn’t expect a touchscreen at this price, but the rear LCD is disappointingly small and low in pixel count. Ultimately, it’s a very basic camera but a sensible bargain-basement buy if you just want to dip your toe in the photographic water.
Read more: Canon EOS Rebel T100 / 4000D review
A more advanced beginner DSLR if you're prepared to pay the extra
Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Nikon F (DX) | Screen: 3.2in vari-angle touchscreen, 1,037,000 dots | Max burst speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p (Full HD) | User level: Beginner
The D5600 is a pretty expensive buy for absolute beginners, and it lacks the D3500’s interactive Guide shooting mode, but it’s still easy to use with full Auto, Scene and Effects modes, and plenty of manual exposure control too. The 39-point AF system covers the frame better than the D3500, which makes it even better for following moving subjects and for more precise control in general, but for many people the single key advantage over the cheaper D3500 will be the 3.2in vari-angle touchscreen display, which is also a little bigger than most others. The live view autofocus isn’t as accomplished as on the Canon Rebel SL3 or any of the compact system cameras here (particularly for video), but the overall performance is still excellent, and lens options are plentiful. The D5600 is a good choice if you're ready to try out more advanced techniques – we recommend getting it with Nikon's retracting AF-P 18-55mm VR kit lens.
Read more: Nikon D5600 review
8. Panasonic Lumix GX80
If size is key, this tiny mirrorless camera and its kit lens are perfect
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Micro Four Thirds | Megapixels: 16MP | Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds | Screen: 3in tilting, touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Max burst speed: 8fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Beginner
The diminutive GX80 can be adapted to the needs of any user, from the beginner that just wants to rely on the leave-it-to-the-camera Intelligent Auto option, to the photographer that wants complete control over all exposure settings like shutter speed and aperture. You also get 4K video recording capability and Panasonic's speed DFD (Depth From Defocus) autofocus system. The built-in electronic viewfinder makes it a great option for using in harsh sunlight or darker conditions, while the tilting screen makes it easy to shoot from ground level. Together with Panasonic's tiny Micro Four Thirds lenses, this makes it a great choice for travelling or holidays. Try to get it with the retracting 12-32mm 'pancake' lens – this combination is not a whole lot bigger than a compact point and shoot camera.
Read more: These are the best mirrorless cameras right now
9. Fujifilm X-A5
A lot of camera for the money, and a great buy for beginners on a budget
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Fujifilm X | Screen: 3in tilting touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Max burst speed: 6fps | Max video resolution: 4K UHD (15p) | User level: Beginner
We like the Fujifilm X-A5 for its gorgeous retro-styled compact mirrorless design, with flip-up-and-over screen for selfies and vlogging, and a very good 24.2-megapixel APS-C sensor. The X-A5 has a faster and more sophisticated phase detection autofocus system than its predecessor, the X-A3, and it also shoots 4K video (though only at 15 frames a second, so that hardly counts). We especially like Fujifilm's rather good retracting 15-45mm kit lens, though it's electrically powered and can be a bit slugging when zooming. Overall, the Fujifilm X-A5 is ideal for anyone looking for their first 'proper' camera, with a dash of style and enough control to help them learn about photography, and who won't mind the lack of a viewfinder.
10. Canon EOS M200
Affordable enough, but struggles to stand out amid fierce competition
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Canon EF-M | Screen: 3in tilting touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Max burst speed: 6.1fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Beginner
While that "Canon" name on the front means you can be sure you're getting something well-made, in truth the EOS M200 is not the most exciting mirrorless camera around. Its build is not as comfortable or ergonomic as others on this list, and its images don't have the rich colours of a Fujifilm camera. What it does have going for it, however, is price: it's Canon's most affordable current mirrorless camera, and is also nice and small, making it easily transportable and thus a good choice for travel. There's even 4K video in there, albeit with a vicious 1.6x crop and no mic input socket to improve the sound quality. A decent budget choice, but nothing exceptional.
Read more: Canon EOS M200 review