So what's the best entry-level camera right now? There's only so much you can learn from a fixed-lens compact camera and only so much you can achieve with a smartphone, so we reckon anyone ready to take their next steps in photography needs a cheap DSLR camera or mirrorless camera.
These cost less than you might think thanks to the latest cheap camera deals, and offer all the photographic controls you need to develop your skills while still being simple enough even for beginners to pick up and use. These cameras have much larger sensors than smartphones and point-and-shoot compact cameras, and they take interchangeable lenses, so you can experiment with a much wider range of photographic styles and subjects as you learn.
If you need a camera for everyday shooting, you’ll want something as light as possible. The lighter (and smaller) the camera, the more inclined you'll be to use it and take it with you where you go, which is where the best mirrorless cameras have the advantage. If size isn’t a priority, or you want to use bigger lenses, consider a DSLR like the Nikon D5600 or D3500, and remember that even a cheap DSLR will always have a viewfinder, but you often have to pay more to get one with a mirrorless camera. If you think a DSLR is the best option, you might want to check out our best DSLR list too.
What to look for in a beginners camera
If you take selfies or you are into vlogging, look out for a camera with a rear LCD screen that flips all the way round to face the front, like the Canon Rebel SL2 / EOS 200D or Fujifilm X-A3. If you've got children, read our list of best cameras for kids, where we highlight fun, price, toughness and staying power for more advanced young photographers. (One of the cheapest and most intuitive ways to get into photography is to go analog with one of the best instant cameras on the market.)
Do you want a camera just for stills, or video too? If you want to try your hand at vlogging, 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 in the best cameras for vlogging, 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...
1. Canon EOS Rebel SL2 / EOS 200D
The best all-round beginners camera right now, with potential to spare
Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Canon EF-S | Screen: 3in vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Max burst speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p (Full HD) | User level: Beginner
Canon's entry-level EOS Rebel SL2 DSLR (sold as the EOS 200D in Europe) is one of the best all-rounder beginner DSLRs you can buy, along with a Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM kit lens. It has a vari-angle touchscreen at its rear as its main shouting point. This lets you frame up images and Full HD videos from all kinds of awkward positions (and even take selfies without bother). We also love the fact that you can start from a simple Guided user interface when you're just cutting your photographic teeth, and then switch to the standard setup when you feel more confident and want more options to hand. On top of that, you get Wi-Fi and NFC to keep you connected to smart devices without cables. You also get 5fps burst shooting and the DIGIC 7 processing system, in addition to Canon's Dual Pixel CMOS AF system to keep autofocus swift in live view and smooth when shooting videos. Another real bonus is that the Rebel SL2 / 200D will accept over 30 years' worth of Canon lenses – and many from companies other than Canon. The company has squeezed a lot of goodness into the EOS 200D's body, making it one of the best cameras for beginners out there right now.
Read more: Canon Rebel SL2/EOS 200D review
Update: The Canon EOS 250D / Rebel SL3 has been announced, so with this arriving in the shops soon the price of the EOS 200D / SL2 has become even more of a great deal.
2. Nikon D3500
A beginner DSLR that shows you how to take photos, and at a great price
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. Typical of Nikon’s D3000-series of cameras, the latest Nikon D3500 has a brilliant ‘Guide’ shooting mode. This acts as a fully interactive tutorial on photography, delivered via the rear LCD screen. It explains how, when and why to use different camera settings for best effect, simply and efficiently. The camera’s controls are similarly straightforward and easy to get to grips with. But, compared with some competing DSLRs, the Nikon D3500 is less able to grow with you as you learn new tricks and techniques. For example, there’s no Custom Settings menu for tailoring camera functions to your preferences, as featured on every other series of Nikon DSLRs, from the D5000-series cameras upwards. Autofocus for Live View and movie capture is also very sluggish. Overall though, image quality and performance are very good, and the 5fps burst rate is sporty for an entry-level DSLR. If you like the look of it, we advise grabbing a Nikon AF-P DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens while you're at it, or one of the many other great Nikon lenses that this DSLR system allows you to use.
Read more: Nikon D3500 review
3. 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. Canon limits the risk with this remarkably inexpensive 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. A bigger problem if you don’t have perfect eyesight is that the viewfinder lacks a diopter adjustment, as featured in just about every other DSLR on the market. 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
4. 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 for shooting 4K video. 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
5. Nikon D5600
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, though 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 EOS 200D 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
6. Olympus 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. 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.
Read more: Olympus E-M10 III review
7. 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 over four 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. Indeed, it’s currently little more than a third of the price of the A6500. 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 qualtity, 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.
8. Panasonic Lumix GX80
If size is key, this tiny mirrorless camera and kit lens its kit lens is 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: The 10 best mirrorless cameras
9. Fujifilm X-A3
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, 1,040,000 dots | Max burst speed: 6fps | Max video resolution: 1080p (Full HD) | User level: Beginner
We like the Fujifilm X-A5, but we also like the X-A3, its slightly more primitive predecessor, because it's such incredible value for money. From the outside they look almost the same – both are rather gorgeous retro-styled compact mirrorless cameras, both have flip-up-and-over screens for selfies and vlogging, and both have very good 24.2-megapixel APS-C sensors. The X-A5 has a faster and more sophisticated phase detection autofocus system, however, and it also shoots 4K video (though only at 15 frames a second, so that hardly counts). If you don't mind slightly old-tech autofocus, though, the X-A3 is nigh-on as good but for a lot less money. And if you get it with Fujifilm's rather good retracting 15-45mm kit lens, it's an absolute bargain – it's ideal for anyone looking for their first 'proper' camera, with a dash of style and enough control to help them learn about photography.
10. Canon EOS M100
Canon's cheapest EOS M is rather charmless – but look at the price!
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Canon EF-M | Screen: 3in 180-degree tilting touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Max burst speed: 6.1fps | Max video resolution: 1080p (Full HD) | User level: Beginner
We'll be honest straight off and say this is not our favourite mirrorless camera. The body is a little slippery and hard to hold, there's no viewfinder and the controls have been made so simple that there's not even a regular mode dial. You can make all the manual adjustments possible with other beginner cameras, but you have to spend a lot more time in the camera's digital interface to do it. But that's enough of the negatives, because the EOS M100 isn't just Canon's cheapest mirrorless EOS M models, it's one of the cheapest cameras for beginners full stop. If you want to start taking proper high-quality pictures with the option of moving on to some different lenses in the future but you find other cameras a little too daunting, the EOS M100's stripped back approach will suit you fine. The 15-45mm retracting kit lens is compact, the 24-megapixel sensor delivers sharp, detailed images, and Canon's Dual Pixel CMOS AF autofocus system is pretty snappy too.