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Starting a hobby or a career in photography doesn't have to break the bank.
While it can be tempting to go all-out and buy a DSLR or top-spec mirrorless camera along with a selection of lenses for different effects and lighting equipment, an entry-level camera is a less expensive route.
By opting for a lower-spec and more affordable option 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 even more unique.
By taking the time to learn and explore, you can make a more informed decision later on about purchasing the best camera and kit for you.
Below, you can find my top choices for beginner cameras.
Tech specs: Entry-level DSLR | Bundled with case, strap, and memory storage | Canon EF-S 18-55mm lens
Currently on sale at Walmart is a Canon bundle that has everything a new photographer needs. This offer caught my eye because of the value. The $635 price tag 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.
Tech specs: 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.
Tech specs: Affordable | 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.
Tech specs: 20.1MP CMOS sensor | Full HD video capture | Bundle includes kit, bag, memory card
The Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 III is currently on sale with a hefty discount. 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.
Tech specs: 18-55mm 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.
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.
Value for money
Canon EOS 250D bundle
Panasonic Lumix G7
Nikon Red COOLPIX B500
Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100
When on sale
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.
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
Lens options off the bat with full HD 1080p video recording capabilities
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
There are a few terms you should become familiar with when you're starting out in the world of photography.
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. Below are some excellent resources to get started:
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.
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.
A waterproof (rated to IPX8) point-and-shoot camera capable of handling your most rugged adventures.
A point-and-shoot long lens camera with an 18.1-MP MOS sensor and 4K video capture.
With its 3-inch LCD screen and 24MP APSC sensor, this is the ultimate Vlogger camera.