What is the best camera for beginners? We think it's a camera that's not too expensive to buy, but still offers great image quality and the scope to try out more advanced techniques and shooting styles as you learn more about photography.
Interestingly, when it comes to recommending the best camera for beginners, the debate about DSLR vs mirrorless cameras is more relevant than it is for perhaps any other user.
Both will give you a brilliant start in photography but, broadly, DSLRs are bigger, have better battery life, and are chunkier but cheaper. Mirrorless cameras are smaller, lighter, better for video and show you exactly what your finished image will look like as you are taking it.
When it comes to the best cameras for beginners, more important than whether or not it has a mirror is the kind of lens you get with it. Cameras are sold both 'body only' or with a 'kit lens' – typically a starter lens with around a 3x zoom to cover most of the bases. We recommend a kit lens for each of these cameras below and they are almost always the standard lens option for these cameras.
Best camera for beginners: our top picks
For my money, if I'm looking for a DSLR, the best camera for beginners would be the Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / Canon EOS 250D. This isn't the cheapest DSLR by any means, but it has a fantastic lens selection, great performance, and Canon's impeccable APS-C image quality and user interface.
For a mirrorless option, I'd choose between the Canon EOS R100 and the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV. The R100 is essentially the mirrorless replacement for the SL3 / 250D, but is remarkably more advanced. It has inferior battery life and fewer native lenses (though it can also use Canon's DSLR glass, so in a sense it actually has more lenses overall), but if you want a mirrorless APS-C camera this would be my choice over the DSLR.
However, my personal recommendation would be the brilliant E-M10 Mark IV. This phenomenal camera offers some clever computational tricks, has built-in image stabilization (to correct camera shake and help you shoot in low light), its lens selection is virtually unsurpassed, and it's the most compact and lightweight system on the market – I used to have one of these, and I loved it.
Best camera for beginners: our top picks
Best DSLR for beginners
The EOS Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D has Canon’s trusty 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.
Best for beginners
Its 20MP sensor is supported by brilliant in-body image stabilization, guided shooting menus, and 180°-tiltable LCD touchscreen makes it easy to shoot selfies or capture shots or 4K footage from low angles.
Best Canon for beginners
Canon's brilliant autofocus technology comes to a beginner mirrorless camera, along with guided menus, 24MP APS-C image quality, 4K video and cutting-edge RF-mount lenses (though you can also use EF-mount DSLR glass with an adapter).
Best camera for beginners in 2023
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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. It boasts Canon’s impressive 24.1MP APS-C sensor 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 wrapped up in the smallest DSLR body you're likely to see – though if it's specifically video you're after, one of the SL3's mirrorless rivals will probably do a better job.
Don't be fooled by its stunning retro looks – this is a very advanced camera, and it's far from style over substance! Its 20MP image sensor doesn't have as much resolution as its rivals, and is physically smaller than an APS-C sensor, but it still delivers beautiful image quality. And its size offers other key advantages.
First off is in-body image stabilization, as the Olympus is able to compensate for a remarkable amount of camera shake while shooting stills and video. The smaller sensor also means that both the camera and the lenses are truly compact, meaning you have significantly less weight in your (much smaller) kit bag. With 4K video and a tilting touchscreen that flips 180° for selfies or presenting vlog-style to camera, this entry-level camera can do pretty much everything.
We would have loved to see a non-fixed screen with touch input, but the D-pad on the back of the camera still makes it easy to navigate menus and settings – and the simple controls and guided user interface are invaluable for newcomers. It packs Canon's advanced Dual Pixel CMOS AF system with face tracking and eye detection for photographs, and its 24.1MP sensor delivers great image quality for both stills and video.
Canon's RF mirrorless mount is one of the newest and most advanced lens formats on the market. This means there are fewer native lenses currently available, though it has the benefit of being compatible with Canon's EF DSLR mount – so you can take advantage of the best Canon lenses designed for DSLRs as well, via an adapter.
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 somewhat sluggish, though the Nikon AF-P DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR 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 enables you to use.
Although it’s now many years old, the A6000 is still one of Sony’s best entry-level cameras – especially as it can often be had with some decent discounts. It significantly undercuts the newer Sony A6100, A6400, and A6600 models in price, while being pretty much in the same ballpark for stills photography. 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.
The 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 – though with some alternatives having a fixed screen, it's not a deal-breaker. The same might not be true for its lack of 4K, however, and its AF system is solid but definitely showing its age. However, the solid build, image quality and continuous shooting performance are better than you'd ever expect from its price.
Like the Olympus at the top of this list, the cool-looking Nikon Z fc t's a retro-styled mirrorless machine with dial-based controls, and it's a joy to handle, use, and be seen using. Internally, it's basically the same as the Nikon Z50, with the same APS-C sensor and processor and many of the same specs. A few extra features like a built-in flash have been shaved off, and it is more expensive than the Z50, so if you don't care about aesthetics then Nikon's other APS-C camera is the smarter choice.
But if you're the sort of person who can't resist the siren song of the best retro cameras, the Z fc will be right up your alley. It's not the cheapest camera for beginners, but you get a lot of features for your money including 4K 30p video and 11fps shooting – and its looks alone could inspire you to take up photography seriously.
Interested in the idea of vlogging? The Panasonic Lumix G100 is a great alternative to the Sony ZV-E10. It has a smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor but it does have an electronic viewfinder which the Sony doesn't, so it's a pretty even match. In fact, 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. With its mini-DSLR styling and an electronic viewfinder, Panasonic has given the G100 an edge in a highly competitive market. Its contrast-detect Depth From Defocus autofocus system is inconsistent when it comes to human subjects, however.
If your interest lies half and half with video and photography, then a dedicated vlogging camera like the new Sony ZV-E10 is perfect. It cuts back a little on the photography side, lacking an electronic viewfinder, but it comes back with video features, including 4K video and a fully-vari-angle screen.
It also packs a large and well-performing internal microphone (with clip-on muffler), Sony's excellent autofocus, and an appealing price tag. It's a shame that there is no in-body image stabilization, and the menus can't be touch-controlled (a rather glaring omission for a vlogging camera, perhaps), but for beginners to video, this is unlikely to be a big drawback. What's more important is that because it uses the Sony E mount, it has access to a large number of Sony and independent brand lenses.
Recommended kit lens: Sony E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 power zoom
Read our full Sony ZV-E10 review for more details
Best camera for beginners: What to look for
1. Price: Yes, price is important, especially for beginners, we get that! Don't rule out spending a little extra, though, as it will often get you a lot more features.
2. Lens selection: There's only so much you can achieve with your kit lens, so if you plan on buying more, go for a camera with a good lens range behind it.
3. Simple controls: All these cameras have automatic modes that will help you build your confidence, and manual controls for later on, when you get more ambitious.
4. Manual modes: The auto modes on cameras may start out smarter than you are, but that won't last! You'll also need manual control because one day you will need to take charge.
5. Video: 4K has become the new norm for video capture, so if your main interest is vlogging, choose a more recent 4K mirrorless camera.
6. Megapixels: Megapixels aren't everything, but they do have an impact on image quality. However, almost all beginner cameras are in the 16-24MP range, and you won't see colossal differences in the results.
How we test cameras
We test camera resolution, dynamic range, and noise under scientifically controlled conditions using two key testing tools: Imatest Master and DxO Analyzer. All DSLRs and mirrorless cameras are subjected to these tests and, in some instances, high-end compact cameras.
We use these real-world testing and lab results to inform our comments in buying guides.
1. Resolution (ISO-12233): We use a resolution chart based on ISO-12233 from Applied Image inc to indicate the limit of the camera’s vertical resolution at the centre of the frame. The higher the value, the better the detail resolution.
2. Dynamic range (DxO Analyzer): This is a measure of a camera’s ability to capture detail in the highlights and shadows. We use DxO’s transmissive chart, which enables us to test a dynamic range of 13.3 stops.
3. Noise (DxO Analyzer): We use the dynamic range transmissive chart to analyze the signal-to-noise ratio for RAW and JPG files at every sensitivity setting using DxO Analyzer. A higher value means the signal is cleaner.
What cameras do beginner photographers use?
Many beginner photographers gravitate towards the traditional "big two" camera brands, Canon and Nikon, and tend to favor DSLR cameras for their combination of competitive price and capable performance. In particular, the Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / Canon EOS 250D and Nikon D3500 are popular choices.
What's a good camera for a 13-year-old?
Since youngsters have been raised on smartphones with touch-operated cameras, they will likely be most at home shooting on a smaller mirrorless camera with a fast and accurate touchscreen. Good options here include the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV.
Should beginner photographers start with a phone camera?
The best camera phones are a great place for photographers to cut their teeth, as they're a straightforward way to teach basics like composition. However, to truly learn the craft of photography, a traditional DSLR or mirrorless camera is the best way to understand fundamentals such as aperture, shutter speed and depth of field.