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The best camera for beginners in 2019: we help you choose the right camera

Best camera for beginners

The best camera for beginners has several jobs to do. Obviously it has to be easy to to pick up and use, even for a novice, but it has to have some real depth and staying power, so that as you learn more about photography, the camera has all the controls and features you need to develop your skills.

If all you want is an easy life, there are lots of cheap point and shoot cameras which will take care of all the settings for you. But if you want to actually learn about photography and get better at it, we reckon the smart choice is a a cheap DSLR camera or mirrorless camera. These may cost less than you expect (though it's always good to make sure you keep an eye on the latest camera deals) but they give you real value for money, while offering all the depth of photographic control you're going to need later. 

For everyday shooting and taking your first steps into photography, you’ll also want something as light as possible. The lighter (and smaller) the camera, the more inclined you'll be to take it with you where you go, which is hands-down the best way to improve your photography. The best mirrorless cameras have the advantage in terms of portability. If size isn’t a priority, or you want to use bigger lenses and an optical viewfinder, consider a DSLR like the Nikon D5600 or D3500. DSLRs are a little larger, but you also get more for your money, so you might want to check out our best DSLR list too.

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.

Best camera for beginners

(Image credit: Canon)

Beginner alternatives

If you take selfies or you are into vlogging, you'd be best off taking a look at our run-down of the best cameras for selfies. 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...

Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / Canon EOS 250D

(Image credit: Canon)

1. Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D

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

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) 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. 

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

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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

2. Nikon D3500

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

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. 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

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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

Stylish, lightweight design
High-resolution EVF
Simple, clean design
4K video limited to 15fps

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

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4. 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

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

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

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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

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

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.

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

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Front view: Canon EOS 4000D (rest of the world)

Front view: Canon EOS 4000D (rest of the world)
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Rear view: Canon EOS Rebel T100 / EOS 4000D

Rear view: Canon EOS Rebel T100 / EOS 4000D
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Side view: Canon EOS Rebel T100 / EOS 4000D

Side view: Canon EOS Rebel T100 / EOS 4000D
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Top view: Canon EOS Rebel T100 / EOS 4000D

Top view: Canon EOS Rebel T100 / EOS 4000D

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

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

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

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Side angle: Nikon D5600

Side angle: Nikon D5600
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Rear view: Nikon D5600

Rear view: Nikon D5600
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Side view: Nikon D5600

Side view: Nikon D5600
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Top view: Nikon D5600

Top view: Nikon D5600

7. 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

Advanced AF system
Performs well at high ISOs
Vari-angle screen
SnapBridge not great

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

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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

4K video recording
Electronic viewfinder
Only 16 megapixels
Restricted tilt-screen range

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

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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

Great image quality
Handy 15-45mm kit lens
No in-body stabilisation
No viewfinder

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.

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

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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

Canon's cheapest EOS-M
Simple to use
No viewfinder
Cut-down features

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.

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