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The best cameras for beginners, according to photographers

ZDNET talked to expert photographers to find the best cameras for those just starting out to capture awe-inspiring photographs.
Canon EOS 250D / Rebel SL3 bundle | Best beginner camera overall
canon-eos-250d-rebel-sl3-bundle
Canon EOS 250D / Rebel SL3 bundle
Best beginner camera overall
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Panasonic Lumix G7 Mirrorless Camera | Best beginner camera for mirrorless photography and video
panasonic-lumix-g7-mirrorless-camera
Panasonic Lumix G7 Mirrorless Camera
Best beginner camera for mirrorless photography and video
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Nikon Red Coolpix B500 Compact Camera | Best cheap beginner camera
nikon-red-coolpix-b500-compact-camera
Nikon Red Coolpix B500 Compact Camera
Best cheap beginner camera
View now View at Walmart
Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 III | Best beginner camera in a compact form for versatile shoots
sony-cyber-shot-dsc-rx100-iii
Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 III
Best beginner camera in a compact form for versatile shoots
View now View at Amazon
Nikon D3500 DSLR Camera | Best beginner camera with lens versatility
nikon-d3500-dslr-camera
Nikon D3500 DSLR Camera
Best beginner camera with lens versatility
View now View at Walmart

Starting a hobby or a career in photography doesn't have to break the bank. By opting for a lower-spec and more affordable camera first, you can learn the basics of photography while figuring out where your particular interests lie, whether you enjoy shooting live events, landscapes, portraits, or something else. By taking the time to learn and explore, you can make a more informed decision later on about purchasing the best higher-end camera and kit for you. 

ZDNET researched the top camera options for beginners based on factors like features, size, and price. We also asked expert photographers for their favorite cameras for beginners, too. Our pick for the best camera for beginners overall is the Canon EOS 250D / Rebel SL3 bundle, thanks to all of the different components you get (including a creative filter set, a battery pack, and a storage card) for a great price. 

Also: The best webcams of 2023

Below, you can find the rest of our top choices for beginner cameras. (You can also check out our picks for the best camera overall.) 

The best cameras for beginners of 2024

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Excellent value for money
  • Complete kit with bag, memory card, and more
Cons
  • You may want another lens or two
More Details

Canon EOS 250D / Rebel SL3 bundle features: Entry-level DSLR | Bundled with case, strap, and memory storage | Canon EF-S 18-55mm lens

The Canon bundle has everything a new photographer needs. It first caught my eye because of the value. Your purchase gets you a Canon EOS 250D DSLR camera (also known as a Rebel SL3), 18-55mm lens, battery pack and charger, neck strap, creative filter set, camera bag, a cleaning kit, and a 64GB storage card. 

The camera is a lightweight, versatile DSLR containing a 24.1MP CMOS sensor and a DIGIC 8 image processor. It also features an optical viewfinder, and you can shoot video in up to 4K.

One of the biggest challenges facing new photographers can be capturing the image in the proper lighting. Thankfully, this camera offers a wide ISO 100-25600 sensitivity range to help you take a beautiful picture in a variety of lighting environments. 

"The Canon EOS 250D is like that reliable friend who gently guides you through a new experience," says Mal Hellyer, a travel photographer for Raw Mal Roams. Hellyer used the 250D as a springboard into professional photography. "Its user-friendly interface and an 18-55mm lens bundle create an ideal learning environment for beginners, simplifying the journey from being a novice to an experienced photographer," she adds.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Portable
  • Crisp, quality images
  • Touchscreen
Cons
  • Limited range lens (14-42mm)
More Details

Panasonic Lumix G7 Mirrorless Camera features: 16MP Live CMOS sensor | 14-42mm lens (f/3.5-5.6)  | 4K UHD video capture

The Panasonic Lumix G7 mirrorless camera is a popular device that has been compared to some of the best mid-range DSLRs on the market. If you want a high-grade camera that can handle streaming or videography, the Lumix G7 is a solid option for beginners.

The camera comes with a 16MP Live CMOS sensor, Wi-Fi connectivity, and Venus Engine 9 image processor. The G7 is capable of shooting at 8fps (AF & ISO 25600), or 4K UHD video at 30/24fps. 

It also has DFD auto-focusing which can come in handy when you're trying to capture subjects quickly. It works by quickening the camera's focusing speed so you can get accurate tracking on the subject you're trying to photograph. 

"When I started my photography journey, I primarily used the Panasonic Lumix G7 mirrorless camera," says Nick Kembel, a travel blogger at FunWorldFacts.com. "This camera, though a little older now, was a reliable travel companion due to its compact size, 4K video capabilities, and cost-effectiveness." 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Great option for novice photographers
  • 40x zoom
Cons
  • Basic functionality and image quality
  • Limited storage - Memory card not included
More Details

Nikon Red Coolpix B500 Compact Camera featuresAffordable | Travel-friendly | 40x zoom

For years, the Nikon Coolpix range has been known as a lineup of entry-level, user-friendly cameras. As a beginner in the photography world, you could do worse than opt for a Nikon Red Coolpix B500. The B500 is a small point-and-shoot camera that can introduce the foundations of photography.

This camera comes with a 16-megapixel CMOS sensor, 40x zoom (extendable, but be wary of potential image degradation), Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as vibration reduction. You can also control it remotely through the Nikon mobile app.

"It's been by my side on countless adventures, capturing stories in their most authentic form," says Nadia Cuthbertson of Perth Weekend. "It's a wonderful bridge for budding photographers -- allowing one to be daring, to experiment, but not to the point of being daunted."

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Powerful lens
  • Compact
  • Modern pop-up viewfinder
Cons
  • Not the best option for low-light photography
  • LCD screen
More Details

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 III features20.1MP CMOS sensor | Full HD video capture | Bundle includes kit, bag, memory card

The Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 III packs excellent value. This camera is equipped with a 20.1MP Exmor CMOS sensor, a BIONZ X image processor, Wi-Fi connectivity, and a speedy 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 lens.

For self-portraits, the three-inch multi-angle Xtra Fine LCD provides a robust display to capture your subjects the way you want. And the Optical SteadyShot image stabilization helps keep your pictures clear even if your camera shakes.  

The bundle also includes a carry case, spare battery, 64 GB memory card and reader, wrist strap, and cleaning products. 

"Sony's Cyber-shot DSC RX 100 III is one of my favorite beginner cameras, and it's one of the first two that I used when getting into photography," says Tom Golubovich, a photographer hobbyist and head of marketing at Ninja Transfers. "The basic lens is great, and the image quality along with performance is top-notch for the price range." 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Two lenses included
  • In-camera special effects
Cons
  • LCD screen
  • Not the cheapest option
More Details

Nikon D3500 DSLR Camera features18-55mm and 70-300mm lens pack | 24.2MP DX-Format CMOS sensor | Full HD 1080p video recording at 60fps

The Nikon D3500 is a DSLR camera for photographers who want to learn more. If you've progressed beyond the basics of compact designs and point-and-shoot cameras, this versatile device is an excellent option.

This entry-level DSLR comes with a 24.2MP DX-Format CMOS sensor, EXPEED 4 image processor, Bluetooth connectivity, and strong video capturing. It's capable of 5fps image capture with an ISO range of 100-25600.

As a bonus, this Nikon comes with two lenses: an 18-55mm and a 70-300mm telephoto lens. The vendor has also included a Guide mode, useful for learning as you shoot and leveling up your photography skills.

"The Nikon D3500 DSLR is an excellent choice for beginners due to its user-friendly interface, Guide Mode for step-by-step instructions, compact design, and good image quality," says Kevin Mercier, a travel blogger and photographer for Kevin MRC

What is the best camera for a beginner?

When you choose the best camera as a beginner, you should consider the value and advanced features (like setting an ISO) that you can learn to use over time. If you want advanced features, it may be worth skipping entry-level compacts and choosing a mid-tier camera, instead. Below is a look at how the best cameras for beginners compare based on value, advanced features, and price. 

Best cameras for beginners

Cost

Advanced features

Megapixels

Canon EOS 250D bundle

$749

24.1 megapixels

Panasonic Lumix G7

$548

16 megapixels

Nikon Red COOLPIX B500

$257

16 megapixels

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100

$750

Limited

20 megapixels

Nikon D3500

$257

Limited

16 megapixels

When we were selecting the best options, we wanted to include a variety of choices that offered different features and price points. In turn, you have more options that might closely align with your needs. 

Which is the right beginner camera for you?

Our top picks include cameras with simple and advanced features, different price points, and various sizes. When you choose your camera, you should also consider portability and whether or not you can switch lenses. I created a decision tree to help you decide which top camera is best for you.

Choose this beginner camera...

If you need…

Canon EOS 250D bundle

A DSLR with a full kit and Cannon EF-S 18-55mm lens included

Panasonic Lumix G7 

A mirrorless camera with 4K UHD video capture

Nikon Red COOLPIX B500

A budget-friendly option offering 40x zoom, 16MP CMOS sensor, and Bluetooth connectivity 

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100

A powerful pocket point-and-shoot complete with a 20.1MP CMOS sensor and full HD video capture 

Nikon D3500

Lens options off the bat with full HD 1080p video recording capabilities

How did we choose these digital cameras for beginners?

When you're just starting out, you don't need to invest in a kit full of lenses, bodies, lighting accessories, flash guns, and more. 

My first camera was a basic Olympus point-and-shoot, and while it was very limited, I could comfortably take it backpacking. It was the best hands-on education for learning the basics of photography. 

I've since moved on to a Canon and professional-grade kit. But when starting out, all you need is a camera with enough functionality to make you explore features like depth of field, ISO, lighting, and framing. When I chose the best cameras for beginners, functionality, and affordability were at the forefront of my mind.

Also: The 5 best DSLR cameras

What are basic photography terms to learn?

There are a few terms you should become familiar with when you're starting out in the world of photography. 

  • Aperture: A camera's aperture lets light in and its size is recorded with f-stops or f-numbers. 
  • Shutter speed: Shutter speed determines how long a camera's sensor is exposed to light (exposure time). Generally, you want higher shutter speeds for motion and action photography. 
  • ISO: ISOs can be set to change how sensitive your camera is to light. A higher ISO is for higher sensitivity, and a low ISO setting reduces sensitivity. 
  • Exposure: Exposure is how much light reaches a camera sensor.
  • Bokeh: Bokeh is the blurry background effect you often see in professional photos. This can be achieved with lenses or during the editing process. 
  • Depth of field: Depth of field is the distance between the closest and furthest objects that are still sharp. You can change this by tweaking your aperture settings or by switching lenses. 
  • Burst: Burst modes are used to simultaneously capture images in quick succession. You could use this mode to capture a bride walking down the aisle, for example, but there may be a subsequent delay in shooting as they are processed. 
  • RAW: RAW is a file format -- like JPG or PNG -- which photographers often prefer. Images are not compressed and so these source images save a lot of information. During editing, the more information, the better. 
  • Noise: Noise is the term used to describe distortion in images that can appear as specks or grain.

I want to learn about photography, but where do I start?

Once you've acquired a camera and your basic necessities, you can start learning what a camera can really do. To get started, you can either simply go out and learn as you go, or read up on foundational concepts first. 

There are other ways, too, say the experts. 

"Dipping your toes into the photography world is not unlike venturing into a new city. Start by exploring your immediate surroundings and let your curiosity guide you," Hellyer says. "As you gain confidence, challenge yourself with varied subjects and lighting conditions, just like trying different cuisines in a new city."

You can also look to collaborate with others. "After learning the basics, I joined a photography community for feedback and inspiration," Mercier says. "After some time, I started challenging myself with projects, which allowed me to enhance my creativity."

There's also always YouTube tutorials, and other online resources: 

Are lenses important?

Arguably, lenses can be more important than a camera body. If you have a camera able to support interchangeable lenses, you can experiment with different ways to frame an image -- whether by using a telephoto, a fixed lens, a fisheye, or macros -- and this can also further your own development as a photographer. It's absolutely worth exploring both fixed and zoom lenses, too, as the former can give you better still quality -- but the latter has more versatility.

"Lenses are as crucial as your camera," says Kembel. "Different lenses offer a variety of perspectives and can greatly influence the mood and story of your photos. I'd suggest beginners start with a versatile zoom lens, then explore prime lenses as they get more comfortable with their camera and style."

Are there alternative cameras for beginners worth considering?

There is a massive range of beginner and intermediate-level cameras, kits, and bundles on the market that are suitable for different skill levels. Your choice also depends on your budget, and whether or not you want to learn with a basic point-and-shoot, casually, or go straight for a DSLR/mirrorless device. 

Other alternatives worth considering are below.

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