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The best camera for beginners in 2021: perfect cameras for learning photography

Best camera for beginners

The best camera for beginners isn't necessarily about finding the cheapest camera available (although affordability is definitely an important factor). It's also about looking for a camera body that's easy to use and that will grow with you as you improve your photographic skills. 

The best camera for beginners will have a combination of both automatic modes and manual modes. This means that you can practice your technical abilities while being able to fall back on Auto mode whenever you like. This is perfect for beginner photographers who want to commit to mastering their craft – but it's also good for more casual shooters who are looking for a step up in quality from the best point and shoot cameras or the best camera phones.

If you're at the beginning of your photographic journey, then you may be working with more of a limited budget. This is understandable, as you might not want to invest too much of your hard-earned cash at this early stage. Luckily, entry-level digital cameras have reached a point where they're not only almost universally decent quality, but they're also pretty affordable too. 

If you're looking for the best camera for beginners, we would recommend an interchangeable lens camera. This can be either a DSLR or mirrorless camera – both of which give photographers the ability to explore manual modes. We've drawn up a selection of our favorite models currently available below.

Best camera for beginners in 2021

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Best camera for beginners

(Image credit: Nikon)
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Side view: Nikon D3500

Side view: Nikon D3500
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Rear view: Nikon D3500

Rear view: Nikon D3500
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Side view: Nikon D3500

Side view: Nikon D3500
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Top view: Nikon D3500

Top view: Nikon D3500
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Front view: Nikon D3500

Front view: Nikon D3500
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1. Nikon D3500

Nikon's entry-level DSLR is basic but effective and has a great sensor

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; good handling
Fairly basic controls
LCD has no tilt or touchscreen

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. Its price means 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.
• Recommended kit lens: Nikon AF-P DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR

• Read more: Nikon D3500 review | Nikon D3500 vs D3400

(Image credit: Fujifilm)

2. Fujifilm X-T200

The X-T200 is great for photo novices and Instagramers

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Fujifilm X | Screen: 3.5in vari-angle touchscreen, 2,760k dots | Viewfinder: EVF, 2,360k dots | Max continuous shooting speed: 8fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Beginner/Intermediate

Big 3.5-inch vari-angle touchscreen
Good 4K video features
Neat design, and now even lighter
Simplified external controls
Regular CMOS not X-Trans sensor

The Fujifilm X-T200 is light and compact, but looks and feels like an old-school 35mm SLR film camera. Best of all, the X-T200 has a big new 3.5-inch vari-angle touchscreen with twice the resolution of most rivals and a 1:6 aspect ratio perfectly suited to video. It also has an electronic viewfinder and can shoot 4K video as well as 24-megapixel stills. Its 15-45mm kit lens is electrically powered and is a bit of an acquired taste, but it's really compact and offers a much wider angle of view than most kit lenses, making it ideal for interior shots and big landmarks. We loved the X-T200 when if first came out, but we love it even more now that the prices have come down – and they really have come down.
• Recommended kit lens: Fujinon XC 15-45mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS PZ

Read more: Fujifilm X-T200 review

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Best camera for beginners

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3. Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D / EOS 200D Mark II

It's not the cheapest beginner DSLR, but you get what you pay for

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

A lightweight, intuitive DSLR
Superb Live View shooting
Larger than mirrorless rivals
Relatively few AF points

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 / EOS 200D Mark II) 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 as well as Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity, wrapped up in the smallest DSLR body you're likely to see. 
• Recommended kit lens: Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM

Read more: Canon EOS SL3 / Canon EOS 250D review

(Image credit: Olympus)

4. Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV

The E-M10 Mark IV looks cute, but it's a pocket-sized powerhouse

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Micro Four Thirds | Megapixels: 20.3 | Lens mount: MFT | Screen: 3-inch 180-degree tilting touchscreen, 1,037k dots | Viewfinder: EVF, 2,360k dots | Max shooting speed: 8.7fps | Max video resolution: 4K UHD | User level: Beginner/intermediate

Latest 20MP sensor
5-axis in-body stabilisation
MFT sensor smaller than APS-C
Plastic build

With a new 20MP sensor, incrementally improved in-body image stabilization and a new flip-down and tiltable monitor, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV has plenty to shout about. Retaining the 4K video and attractive styling that made the Mark III so attractive to consumers, the Mark IV is a great choice for anyone looking for an entry-level camera that can do pretty much everything. This is one of our favorite pint-sized cameras ever: it's small enough to carry around anywhere, and much more powerful than it looks. The OM-D E-M10 Mark IV is a camera that could be with you for a long time to come.
• Recommended kit lens: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ

Read more: Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV review

(Image credit: canon)

5. Canon EOS M50 / Mark II

Canon's mid-range mirrorless camera ticks a lot of boxes

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: APS-C | Lens mount: Canon EF-M | Screen: 3in vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040k dots | Max burst speed: 10fps | Max video resolution: 4K UHD

Built-in electronic viewfinder
Excellent vari-angle touchscreen
4K video limitations
Simplified exterior controls

The Canon EOS M50 packs a lot of tech into its compact body, and the fact it has a viewfinder – when so many similarly priced mirrorless cameras don’t – is a big selling point. The retracting 15-45mm kit lens, however, is a little awkward to use, and the 4K video mode has some unexpected limitations. Nevertheless, this is a big step in the right direction for Canon’s EOS M-series cameras. This is a cute and easy to use camera which is really rather versatile, and it's a great mirrorless alternative to the Canon Rebel SL3/EOS 250D as it offers similar features in a smaller camera. There is now a newer Canon EOS M50 Mark II which is a good camera in its own right, but it's hardly changed from the original M50 - only some minor autofocus tweaks and the ability to shoot vertical video really separate the two cameras. Consequently, if you see the older model at a knock-down price, go for it!
• Recommended kit lens: Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM

Read more: Canon EOS M50 review

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Best camera for beginners

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6. Sony A6000

It's Sony's oldest A6000-series model, but both powerful and affordable

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

Small and lightweight build
Built-in electronic viewfinder
No 4K video
Relatively old model

Although it’s now almost six years old, the A6000 is still one of Sony’s best entry-level cameras, especially as it can often be had with some huge discounts. Sony is still making them, so it's not going to disappear any time soon. Moreover, it significantly undercuts the newer A6100, A6400 and A6600 models on price. With its diminutive 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 and it doesn't have the high-tech AF of Sony's latest A6000-series cameras. But if you can live without those, the solid build, image quality, continuous shooting and autofocus performance are better than you'd ever expect from its price.
• Recommended kit lens: Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS

Read more:
Sony A6000 review

(Image credit: Nikon)

7. Nikon Z 50

Nikon's first APS-C mirrorless camera is a star in the making

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 20.9MP | Monitor: 3.2-inch tilting, 1.04m dots | Continuous shooting speed: 11fps | Viewfinder: EVF, 2.36m dots | Max video resolution: 4K UHD at 30p | User level: Beginner/enthusiast

Good value from the start
Compact body and kit lens
4K video and 11fps shooting
No in-body stabilization

The Nikon Z 50 is a much smaller camera than Nikon's full frame Z 6 and Z 7 cameras, but clearly shares the same design DNA. Despite its small size, it has a good grip and good external controls, and the retracting 16-50mm kit lens is remarkable not just for its pancake lens dimensions but for its overall performance. Nikon may have come to the APS-C mirrorless market comparatively late, but it's arrived with a camera that has so many good points it's hard to know where to start. Key selling points include 4K video, 11fps burst shooting, and the fact that its Z mount is identical to that on the larger cameras, so you can use dedicated Nikkor Z DX lenses, full frame Nikkor Z lenses and regular Nikon DSLR lenses via the FTZ adaptor. Best of all, the Z 50 is terrific value, especially when bought as a twin-lens kit. It's an expensive option for beginners, but this is a powerful camera that starts simple and could last you a long time as a lead-in to the Nikon full frame mirrorless system.
• Recommended kit lens: NIKKOR Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR

Read more: Nikon Z 50 review

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Best camera for beginners

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8. Olympus PEN E-PL10 & E-PL9

Retro chic design meets sensible form and function in this style icon

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Micro Four Thirds | Megapixels: 16.1MP | Screen: 3.0-inch 1,040k tilting touchscreen | Viewfinder: None | Lens: Micro Four Thirds | Continuous shooting speed: 8.6fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Beginner/intermediate

Stylish design
4K video
No viewfinder
Same 16.1MP count as E-PL8

The Olympus E-PL9 and E-PL10 are technically very similar, with very little to choose between them except in the interface design. A highly capable street, vlogging and fashion camera, the E-PL9/E-PL10 comes with a 180-degree selfie/vlogging screen and 4K video, though on release we were a little disappointed that Olympus has stuck to its older 16.1-megapixel sensor instead of swapping to its latest 20.4MP sensor. This camera has excellent build quality despite its compact, lightweight construction; the diminutive build is ideally suited to travel photography, especially when the body is paired with the remarkably small Olympus 14-42mm EZ ‘pancake’ kit lens. We've put a link to our E-PL10 review below but, honestly, the older E-PL9 is just as good.
• Recommended kit lens: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ

Read more: Olympus E-PL10 review

(Image credit: Panasonic)

9. Panasonic Lumix GX9

Rangefinder styling in a small, easy-to-use body, with great image quality

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Micro Four Thirds | Megapixels: 20.3MP | Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds | Screen: 3in tilting, touchscreen, 1,240,000 dots | Max burst speed: 9fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Beginner

4K Photo modes
Tilting electronic viewfinder
Reliance on digital menus
Small physical controls

The Lumix GX9 is a Panasonic classic, blending stylish looks with impressive imaging capabilities and a Micro Four Thirds lens mount that gives you a huge range of lens options. Like all contemporary Panasonic cameras, it can also shoot 4K video, and comes with a range of impressive 4K Photo modes that allow the user to extract high-quality stills from 4K footage. This also includes Post Focus modes: impressive wizardry that lets you choose a focus point after the image is captured. The small body means a lack of physical controls, meaning you'll be delving through a lot of menus in the touchscreen to change settings, but happily the Intelligent Auto mode can take all of that responsibility away from you, which is a useful touch for the novice photographer.
• Recommended kit lens: Panasonic Lumix G Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH.

Read more: Panasonic Lumix GX9 review

Best camera for beginners: Panasonic Lumix G100

(Image credit: Panasonic)

10. Panasonic Lumix G100

Panasonic's latest vlogging camera is pretty good at stills, too

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Micro Four Thirds | Megapixels: 20.3 | Lens mount: MFT | Screen: 3-inch vari-angle, 1,840k dots | Viewfinder: EVF, 3.69m dots | Max continuous shooting speed: 10fps | Max video resolution: 4K UHD | User level: Beginner/enthusiast

Quality video and stills
Audio-recording capabilities
Bright EVF and articulated LCD
No in-body stabilization
No headphone jack or USB-C

Both photographers and vloggers will enjoy the simplicity of the Lumix G100. It makes it easy to capture high-quality video and stills with its approachable button layout. Even people uninterested in the technicalities of capturing great-looking videos will be able to get results with this camera. There’s an inherent risk of dumbing things down too much when creating a camera for social media creatives, but Panasonic has avoided that pitfall with the Lumix G100. By giving it a decent viewfinder and “proper camera” ergonomics, Panasonic has given the G100 an edge in a highly competitive market. This is a great camera to start out with if you're more interested in vlogging than regular photography – or both!
• Recommended kit lens: Panasonic Lumix G Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH.

Read more: Panasonic Lumix G100 review

Best camera for beginners: What to look 

  • Price: We get it – when you're picking up a new hobby, you're not going to want to splash too much cash until you're sure that you're going to stick with it. Luckily, there are plenty of affordable beginner cameras out there.
  • Interchangeable lenses: One of the hidden costs with photography is lenses. There's only so much you can achieve with your kit lens, so make sure to do a little research into the other pieces of glass that manufacturers offer (and how expensive they are). Canon and Nikon are both known for their wide range of DSLR lenses – of which many are very reasonably priced!
  • Simple controls: There's nothing worse than being handed a contraption with so many buttons that you want to give up before you've even begun. Look for a camera with straightforward automatic modes that will help you build your confidence…
  • Manual modes: …However, once you feel comfortable with your camera, you're going to want to dive into the manual modes to make progress as a photographer. Look for cameras that offer manual exposure and manual focus options.
  • Video: Over the past few years, video has become much more important, with social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok prioritizing the moving image over the still photo. Luckily, many of the best cameras for beginners offer 4K video (or at least Full HD 1080p). 
  • Megapixels: While megapixels aren't everything, but they do have an impact on image quality. Many of the best cameras for beginners use APS-C sensors, which will range between around 16MP to 24MP. If you can, look for a body that features a sensor on the higher end of that scale.

When you buy a camera, you're not just getting one product – you're investing in an entire ecosystem of lenses and accessories that will only be specific to that mount or manufacturer. For example, if you buy a Canon EF mount camera, you will only be able to use EF mount lenses (while adapters are available, they're not foolproof and you'll generally want to stick with native lenses).

It's worth noting that some mount systems are more cross-compatible than others. For example, Panasonic and Olympus share the Micro Four Thirds mounts, which means that you can use Panasonic lenses on Olympus cameras and vice versa. 

We would also recommend considering what kind of photography you're interested in. If you're a portrait shooter, then you can rest assured that you'll be able to find a good quality telephoto lens from most manufacturers. However, if you think you'll be interested in capturing ultra-wide landscapes or super telephoto wildlife shots, it might be worth researching what sort of glass is available from different manufacturers. While you won't be buying it now, if there's nothing available for you to "grow into", then you might want to buy into a different mount system. 

Best camera for beginners: Kit lenses

Before you invest in the best camera for beginners for you, take some time to consider whether you want to throw in a kit lens as well. While most cameras will be cheaper body-only, the price difference with a kit lens added on top is often nominal (and usually much cheaper than buying them separately). Kit lenses have had a bad rep in the past, but many of the ones available now are actually surprisingly decent. 

Some entry-level cameras will have multiple kit lens options, so if there's one that we would specifically recommend, then we've said so. Keep an eye out for cameras bundled with ancient kit lenses that retailers are trying to offload – while these can be temptingly cheap, it's better spending a little more and ending up with a better lens that you'll ultimately be happier with. 

Read more: 

Best cameras to buy
Best point and shoot cameras
Best cameras for kids
Best DSLRs
Best mirrorless cameras
Cheapest full frame cameras
Best cameras for vlogging
Best professional cameras
Best travel cameras
Best instant cameras

Rod Lawton

Rod is the Group Reviews editor for Digital Camera World and across Future's entire photography portfolio, with decades of experience with cameras of all kinds. Previously he has been technique editor on N-Photo, Head of Testing for the photography division and Camera Channel editor on TechRadar. He has been writing about photography technique, photo editing and digital cameras since they first appeared, and before that began his career writing about film photography. He has used and reviewed practically every interchangeable lens camera launched in the past 20 years, from entry-level DSLRs to medium format cameras, together with lenses, tripods, gimbals, light meters, camera bags and more.