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As good as smartphone cameras are now, you still need to upgrade to a dedicated camera if you want to get serious about photography. A bigger sensor, swappable lenses, and full manual controls will all help unleash your creativity.
But which camera is right for you? Let’s take a look at the best cameras for photography beginners, no matter what you want to shoot.
Best Overall DSLR Camera for Beginners:
Canon EOS Rebel SL2
The Canon EOS Rebel SL2 is often described as the best DSLR for beginner photographers, and it’s easy to see why. Its ultra-compact design makes it a lot less bulky than many other cameras, while the touchscreen controls and built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC make sharing pictures a breeze. You’ll be right at home if you’ve only ever used a smartphone.
Image quality is highly rated, naturally, and there are tons of lens options when you’re ready to upgrade. Like all Canon DLSRs, it’s great for video as well, although the HD resolution may be a limiting factor.
Alternative DSLR Camera for Beginners:
If you find yourself favoring Nikon over Canon—or just want something a lot cheaper—then the Nikon D3500 is about the lowest priced DSLR around.
It’s an excellent camera for learning photography thanks to the special Guide Mode. This helps you optimize the settings depending on the type of shot you want to take. The D3500 offers a large 24.3-megapixel sensor with low light performance that rates very well considering the price point. There’s a built-in flash, 5fps burst mode, and you can shoot HD video.
There are surpisingly few compromises given the low price; there’s no flip screen, no touch controls, and no 4K video. Those points aside, there’s an awful lot to like here.
Best Mirrorless Camera for Beginners:
Entry level cameras don’t come any more attractive than the classy, retro-styled Fujifilm X-T100. The camera isn’t style over substance either; the photos you take with it should be just as pleasing. The camera features Fuji’s famed JPEG output, which helps revive the feel of the company’s classic photography film.
The 24.2-megapixel APS-C sensor is 14 times larger than you’ll get in a typical smartphone. It’s got a tilting screen, customizable dials, and there’s built-in Wi-Fi for quick image transfer. You’ll never miss a shot thanks to the clever 4K burst mode; shoot some 4K video then extract your favorite frame as an eight megapixel still.
Alternative Mirrorless Camera for Beginners:
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III
The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III has a micro four-thirds sensor which is slightly smaller than you’ll get on other DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. But don’t let that put you off—this camera has received rave reviews.
The camera has a premium design and build quality, and is loaded with dials that put all the controls at your fingertips. Despite its small size, the in-body image stabilization works with any lens and aids low light shooting. The 16-megapixel sensor is lower resolution than you’ll find elsewhere but is highly regarded.
The best thing about micro four-thirds is that it has well over a hundred lenses to choose from. You might be a beginner now, but the E-M10 is a camera that will grow with you.
Best Beginner Point and Shoot Camera:
Panasonic Lumix TZ90
If you’re looking for an upgrade from your smartphone’s camera, but aren’t quite ready for a DSLR, then look no further than the Panasonic Lumix TZ90. Depending on your region, this camera is also known as the ZS70.
The TZ90 is packed with functionality. There’s a 20.3-megapixel sensor, massive 30x zoom with optical image stabilization, a touch display, Wi-Fi, and 4K video shooting. Full manual controls will enable you to learn and master photography.
In our TZ90 review we found it to be a great general purpose camera capable of producing excellent photos.
Best Beginner Full Frame Camera:
Sony Alpha A7
The high price of full frame cameras means they’re usually limited to professionals and enthusiasts. However, the Sony Alpha A7 is one of the cheapest full frame cameras you can buy. This model is a few years old, but with a sensor at least 2.5 times larger than everything else on this list, the image quality remains unrivaled.
You get 24.3 megapixels, with 16-bit image processing, support for 60p and 24p HD video, and Wi-Fi built in. It’s also surprisingly compact; 25 percent smaller and 50 percent lighter than other full frame cameras, yet it still manages to include a tiltable screen and moisture resistance.
Best Camera for Sports Photography Beginners:
The Fujifilm X-T3 is powerful enough to handle the demands of sports shooting. It’s one of the best all-round mirrorless cameras and offers pro-level performance.
The near instantaneous autofocus can lock onto to its subject in as little as 0.06 seconds, while the burst mode can capture an incredible 30 frames per second. The battery will get you close to 400 shots on a single charge. You can take 26.1-megapixel stills, and shoot 4K video.
The ergonomic design includes a vast array of easy-to-access dials, so you can change settings without shifting your gaze from the viewfinder. Fortunately, the camera is weather sealed for those times when you need to shoot in wet conditions too.
Best Camera for Wildlife Photography Beginners:
Sony RX10 IV
Wildlife photography needs very long lenses, and those can cost thousands of dollars when you buy them for a DSLR or mirrorless camera. The Sony RX10 IV comes equipped with a long lens and is a greater choice for anyone just starting out. It’s technically a point and shoot camera, but that doesn’t prevent it from being perfect for the job.
For a start, it’s got a 25x zoom lens, which stretches to an impressive 600mm. Autofocus speed is super-fast too at just 0.03 seconds. The one-inch, 24.1-megapixel sensor produces highly detailed images, while the 24 frames per second burst shot will help you capture animals in motion.
Plus, as it’s moisture and dust resistant, you can shoot in all weather conditions without fear.
Best Beginner’s Camera for Travel:
Sony RX100 IV
Don’t let your camera gear slow you down when you’re on the road. The Sony RX100 IV fits near-DSLR performance into the tiniest of packages.
A classy point and shoot camera, the RX100 IV packs a one-inch, 20-megapixel sensor, a bright f1.8-2.8 lens that’s great for shooting in low light, 3x zoom, and fast autofocus. It’s great for video, too. It can shoot 4K, or slow motion HD at up to a mind-boggling 960 frames per second. And at just 4 x 2.3 x 1.6 inches, you’ll be able to squeeze it into your pocket, wherever you are.
There’s six models in the RX100 series, offering you choice to suit your budget. If you’re after a higher zoom range, take a look at the RX100 VI too.
Best Camera for Street Photography Beginners:
Ricoh GR II
The Ricoh GR II is a popular camera among street photographers. That’s due in equal parts to its combination of understated style and high-quality output. The GR II is affordable enough to make it the perfect camera for street photography beginners.
The fixed lens, with a focal length of 28mm is similar to what you’ll get from your smartphone, but the GR II is leagues ahead on performance.
The 16.2-megapixel sensor is physically much larger, producing more detailed images with far better low light performance. You get fast focussing, full manual controls, battery life for over 300 shots, Wi-Fi, and HD video recording.
Best Camera for Vlogging:
Sony Alpha a6400
The Sony Alpha a6400 was designed with vloggers in mind and offers a winning combination of outstanding stills and professional video.
Sony claims it has the world’s fastest autofocus speed, at just 0.02 seconds. There are focus points spread across 84 percent of the 24-megapixel sensor. The included eye-tracking ensures the image will stay pin sharp even when your subject is in motion.
For video recording, there’s a 180-degree tilting screen and high-quality output. You can shoot 4K video at a bitrate of up to 100Mbps. This delivers unrivaled quality for an affordable consumer camera.
The Best Camera for Photography Beginners
Once you’ve got your camera, you can get straight to work on these fantastic ideas for improving your photography skills.
Or if you’d prefer a more straightforward camera while you find out if photography is for you, check out our guide to the best point-and-shoot cameras for every budget.