The best camera for beginners in 2018: The best entry-level DSLR, mirrorless and compact cameras


Buying your first camera isn't an easy decision. Do you go for a beginner camera from a brand with a rich photographic heritage, or something from a company that may have also made your television and microwave? Should you opt for an entry-level DSLR or a mirrorless camera? And how much should you spend?

The great news is, this is the best time of year to buy a beginner camera. We're expecting a host of Black Friday camera deals and Cyber Monday camera deals in November – and our price comparison tool will pull in the very best offers below, so you can be sure you're getting the cheapest price possible.

So what's the best entry-level camera right now? Everyone has different needs, and the best model for one person may not necessarily be right for another. Fortunately, it's difficult to buy a genuinely 'bad' camera today, but it still pays to do a little research to make sure you stay as satisfied with your choice in a couple of years' time as you are when you first start using it. 

Here, we'll look at three crucial considerations to make to help you narrow down your shortlist. Then we'll bring you our pick of the eleven best cameras for beginners, split into the best entry-level DSLR, mirrorless and compact options. If you already know what type you want, you can use the quick links above to navigate to the section.

How to choose the best beginner camera for you 

Before purchasing a new camera, you need to ask yourself three questions.

1. How will you use it?

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. A compact camera such as the Panasonic TZ70 (number 11 in this list) or a light mirrorless setup like the Panasonic GX80 (number seven) would be ideal. 

Of course, there are reasons to go for something a little larger. If size isn’t a priority, or you want to use bigger lenses, consider a DSLR like the Nikon D5600 (number five) or Pentax K-70 (number six). These are better suited for some types of photography, and provide great handling.

If you take selfies, look out for a camera with a rear LCD screen that flips all the way round to face the front, like the Sony A5100 (number nine) or Fujifilm X-A10 (number eight).

If you've got children, read out list of best cameras for kids, where we highlight fun, price, toughness and staying power for more advanced young photographers.

2. What other camera and lens options are in that system?

If you're investing in a system with lenses and accessories, it pays to examine what other camera and lens options are currently available. 

You may find one particular system provides you with lots of different lenses and camera bodies you can see yourself using in the future, and this may make the most sense. 

That's not to say that you shouldn't go for a system that has fewer compatible lenses or bodies that you may switch to in the future, just that you should be aware of what your options are and are likely to be as you build up your kit. Many mirrorless camera manufacturers are working hard to develop their ranges, and we're seeing new products announced frequently.

3. Do you want a camera just for stills, or video too?

 If you fancy giving video recording a shot, look out for models with focusing systems that work well during video recording. Sony's Fast Hybrid AF and Canon Dual Pixel CMOS AF systems, found inside the Sony A5100 (number nine) and Canon EOS 200D (number one) respectively, are two examples of this.

The Canon EOS 200D (EOS Rebel SL2)  and Nikon D5600 also both offer microphone inputs, so they're great for when you want to use an external microphone to take audio recording to the next level. The microphones built into cameras are only suitable for general use, and no videographer serious about their work would consider using them for anything beyond that. 

Flip-up LCD screens are also a must for for vlogging, as this allows you to see exactly what you're recording as you present to the camera. Bear in mind that on DSLRs, these screens typically swing around the side to face the front rather than up or down.

With these three key considerations in mind, read on to discover the best cameras for beginners on sale today.

The best DSLR cameras for beginners

1. Canon EOS Rebel SL2 / EOS 200D + EF-S 18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM

The best all-round DSLR right now, with a beginner's focus but plenty of growing space

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

Guided screen options
Pivoting touchscreen
Kit lens maximum aperture only f/4
AF system only has nine points

Best all-rounder Canon's entry-level EOS Rebel SL2 DSLR (sold as the EOS 200D in Europe)  has a vari-angle touchscreen at its rear as its main shouting point, and 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 get 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, as well as 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. On top of that, the camera will accept over 30 years' worth of lenses, and many from companies other than Canon. The company has squeezed a lot of goodness into the EOS 200D's body, and it's one of the best cameras for beginners out there, so it deserves to be as high up on your shortlist as it is on ours.

Read more: Canon Rebel SL2/EOS 200D review

2. Nikon D3500 + AF-P DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR

A DSLR that shows you how to take photos

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

Interactive 'Guide' shooting mode
Solid performance and good handling
Fairly basic controls
LCD has no tilt or touchscreen facilities

Best novice DSLR  If you’re worried about DSLRs being complicated, don’t be. Typical of Nikon’s D3xxx series of cameras, the latest 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 D5xxx 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.

Read more: Nikon D3500 review

3. Canon EOS Rebel T7 / EOS 2000D + EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II

Good specifications and features with a budget price tag

Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.1MP | Lens mount: Canon EF-S | Screen: 3in fixed, 920,000 dots | Max burst speed: 3fps | Max video resolution: 1080p (Full HD) | User level: Beginner

Inexpensive for a DSLR with kit lens
Built-in WiFi and NFC
Kit zoom has noisy autofocus motor
Slow burst rate
No 4K movie capture

Best budget DSLR  Most of Canon’s DSLRs are pretty beginner-friendly but the new EOS Rebel T7 (known as the EOS 2000D outside North America) is especially easy to get on terms with. The simple shooting mode dial has a fully automatic setting complete with ‘intelligent’ real-time scene analysis, plus plentiful scene modes. There’s a useful feature guide built in, to help you make sense of menu options, plus an interactive ‘Creative Auto’ mode that bridges the gap between basic and more advanced shooting modes, like aperture/shutter priority and fully manual modes. With a respectable 24.2 megapixel count, high-res LCD and adjustable dioptre viewfinder, the Rebel T7 / 2000D has much of the finery that’s stripped out of the cheaper 4000D, and is excellent value at the price. However, while the T7’s kit lens gains image stabilization, it’s still a relatively old design with a noisy autofocus motor.

4. Canon EOS Rebel T100 / EOS 4000D + EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 III

A bare-bones outfit that 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

Super-cheap to buy
Easy to use
Poor viewfinder and screen
No image stabiliser on kit lens

Nobody want to buy an expensive camera, only to discover that photography’s not for them. Canon limits the risk with this new and remarkably inexpensive DSLR kit. 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 dioptre 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

5. Nikon D5600 + AF-P 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G DX VR

A more advanced DSLR for those who have a slightly bigger wallet

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

Advanced AF system
Performs well at high ISOs
Not the cheapest entry-level camera
SnapBridge not great

Best advanced DSLR Perhaps less suited to absolute beginners, the D5600 lacks the D3400’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 saturates the frame to a greater extent than the systems on the DSLRs above, which makes it even better for following moving subjects and for more precise control in general, while the 3.2in touchscreen is more generously sized than most others. Autofocus isn’t as accomplished as on the Canon EOS 200D or any of the compact system cameras here (particularly for video), but overall performance is still excellent, and lens options are plentiful.

Read more: Nikon D5600 review

6. Pentax K-70 + HD DA 18-50mm f/4-5.6 DC WR RE

Rugged build and great specs make the K-70 a great alternative to more mainstream models

Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Pentax KAF2 | Screen: 3in tilting, 921,000 dots | Max burst speed: 6fps | Max video resolution: 1080p (Full HD) | User level: Beginner

Image stabilisation
Robust and weather-resistant
Autofocus noisy and sluggish
Somewhat heavy

Best value entry-level DSLR The K-70 is a little pricier than some of the other options here, but it's arguably the best value entry-level DSLR you can buy right now, as it features so much you just won't find in any other DSLR at this price point. The standard pentamirror viewfinder you tend to find on every other similar DSLR, for example, is in fact a larger, brighter pentaprism on the K-70, while burst shooting is at 6fps and the maximum shutter speed very respectable at 1/6000sec. Perhaps more importantly, image stabilisation is built into the camera rather than the lens itself, which means you benefit from this with all mounted lenses, and the whole thing is wrapped up in a weather-resistant, freezeproof body. It's not the lightest model, and you won't quite get the same swift video autofocus as you do with Canon's EOS 200D, but if you want the best specs-to-price ratio at this level, the K-70 is a mighty fine choice.

The best mirrorless cameras for beginners

7. Panasonic Lumix GX80 + Lumix G VARIO 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH. MEGA O.I.S.

If size is key, this tiny mirrorless camera with an equally compact kit lens is a perfect partner

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

4K video recording
Electronic viewfinder
Limited long exposures
Restricted tilt-screen range

Best for portability 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 want complete control over all exposure settings like shutter speed and aperture. This is also the only option in this selection that features 4K video recording, in contrast to the Full HD options found elsewhere (although you do also get Full HD recording here, for times when you don't need 4K). 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.  

Read more: The 10 best mirrorless cameras

8. Fujifilm X-A10 + XC16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS II

A handsome, solid entry-point to a much-loved system

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 16.3MP | Lens mount: Fujifilm X | Screen: 3in tilting, 1,040,000 dots | Max burst speed: 6fps | Max video resolution: 1080p (Full HD) | User level: Beginner

Great image quality
Optical stabiliser
Lacks a hotshoe
No viewfinder

Best for style Despite lacking a viewfinder, the X-A10's body isn’t quite as slim as the other CSCs here, but it's still thinner than any of the DSLRs. That advantage is lost by the comparatively large size of the kit lens. As on the Canon EOS 1300D, there’s a basic feature guide to help beginners get going, with fully automatic, basic scene modes and PASM settings available direct from the shooting mode dial. More advanced, wider-ranging scene modes and filter effects are also available. Image quality is very good overall, and the kit lens’s optical stabiliser helps to maintain sharp results.

Read more: 10 ways to get the best out of your Fujifilm camera

9. Sony A5100 + E PZ 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS

An oldie perhaps, but the A5100 is still a credible choice for today's novice user

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.3MP | Lens mount: Sony E-mount | Screen: 3in tilting touchscreen, 921,600 dots | Viewfinder: na | Max burst speed: 6fps | Max video resolution: 1080p (Full HD) | User level: Beginner/Enthusiast

Excellent AF system
Sound image quality
No viewfinder
LCD not vari-angle

Best value mirrorless The A5100 is now over three years old, but the fact that it remains in Sony's lineup says a lot about just how relevant it still is. It was so well specified upon its launch that it still offers particularly good value for money now that its price has fallen, with its 24.3MP APS-C sensor, Full HD video option, 6fps burst-shooting mode, flip-up touchscreen and both Wi-Fi and NFC all things we would expect to find on more modern cameras. Its ace card, however, is its autofocus system, which fuses 25 contrast-detect points with 179 phase-detect AF points so that it can focus speedily for stills and continuously when recording videos. This kind of system is stronger than those on similar budget cameras released today. Overall, it's a bargain buy.

Read more: The best mirrorless cameras you can buy right now

10. Olympus E-M10 III + M.ZUIKO 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ

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

Classic yet functional retro design
Tilting touchsreen 
High-res viewfinder
Relatively low megapixel count
Pricier than some DSLRs

Best retro camera   Available in black or silver, this mirrorless camera has a classic yesteryear look and feel, harking back to Olympus OM film cameras that launched with much aplomb in the 1970s. The E-M10 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. The styling is easy on the eye, as is the 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

The best compact camera 

11. Panasonic Lumix ZS50 / TZ70

This powerful compact provides plenty of growing space and a capture-everything zoom lens

Type: Compact | Sensor: 1/2.3in type | Megapixels: 12.1MP | Lens: 24-720mm f/3.3-6.4 | Screen: 3in LCD, 1.04million dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Max burst speed: 10fps | Max video resolution: 1080p (Full HD) | User level: Beginner

Huge zoom
Great image quality
No 4K video
LCD fixed in place

Best budget all-purpose compact Not everyone wants a bulky DSLR or even a mirroless camera, and the good news is that any such user that may be drawn more towards a compact camera doesn't have to settle for something basic. If you want a small, pocket-friendly camera that will still cater for your needs as you develop your technical skills and gain confidence, the TZ70 is a fitting choice. Just set it to the Intelligent Auto mode and make use of the huge 24-720mm zoom at first, then play around with the Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority options when you want to get creative. Once you master these, you can move on to Raw shooting, manual exposure and even manual focus. Don't let the 12MP sensor put you off; image quality is still sound for a camera of its class, and you get an awful lot for the modest initial outlay. 

Read more: The 10 best compact cameras

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