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The best cameras for beginners

Finding the best camera as a photography beginner can be a daunting task. Here are some of the best to consider!
February 15, 2020
best camera for beginners
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Stepping into the world of photography is exciting, but it can also be very expensive. The first step is to find a camera. Picking the right one is important, so today we will help you find the best cameras for beginners.

Because we are focusing on photography beginners today, we will limit our choices to entry-level cameras for $1,000 or lower. Anything above that is likely too much money for someone starting out in this hobby.

Best cameras for beginners:

Editor’s note: We’ll be updating this list of the best cameras for beginners regularly as new ones launch.

What makes a good camera for beginners?

Camera lens showing shutter
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

There are multiple factors to consider when picking the best cameras for photography beginners. Image quality is an obvious factor. New photographers want a shooter that can facilitate learning the fundamentals of photography while sporting helpful automatic modes and features that will help capture moments without fear of missing the right shot. You might also want something that isn’t too expensive, so sacrificing some features is a must. The trick is to pick what gives you the most bang for your buck.

Other factors to consider are portability and the ability to upgrade. The most portable systems are point-and-shoot cameras, but while many of these can offer amazing features and image quality, they don’t leave room for upgrading. These have no interchangeable lens systems or room for external accessories. You will be stuck with what you bought until you buy another camera.

Photography terms explained: ISO, aperture, shutter speed, and more
Camera lens diaphragm shutter

DSLR and mirrorless cameras are more modular, offering interchangeable lens systems that will adapt to different shooting scenarios. These cameras also tend to have hot shoes (mounting points on top) and other expandable features, such as headphone/microphone ports, USB connections, battery grips, and more.

How much you want to spend on upgrades is another factor to consider. Nikon and Canon units have an ample selection of lenses in the market. This means there will be more affordable lenses around, as well as pro-level equipment. Other brands like Sony and Fujifilm can be more specialized, and third parties might not produce many lenses for their cameras. Chances of you spending more on glass down the road are higher.

1. Canon Powershot G9 X Mark II

Canon Powershot G9 X Mark II

If you want the smallest possible profile and are set on limiting your upgrade-ability in exchange for portability, then the Canon Powershot G9 X Mark II is an amazing point-and-shoot camera for its price point.

It is one of the Sony RX100’s closest competitors, but it costs only a fraction of the price. Specs include a 20.1MP 1-inch sensor, 3x optical zoom (28-84mm equivalent), a 3-inch screen, and 8.2fps shooting speeds.

The Canon Powershot G9 X Mark II is affordable, but it is a great pocket camera for learning photography. It comes with full manual controls, a large sensor (for point-and-shoot cameras), and is absolutely gorgeous.

2. Nikon D3500

Nikon D3500 with kit lens

The Nikon D3500 is a great starter camera that can also take amazing shots if you are a proficient photographer. A previous version of this camera lived in my bag for a couple of years, and though something better would have made my job easier, I liked that the lack of features forced me to learn. I made the most of what I had and pushed the camera to its limits.

The 24.2MP APS-C sensor is enough to handle lowlight situations well while offering good image quality. It only has 11 autofocus points, but you are also paying a very low price and can find ways to overcome that issue with skill.

The good news is you are dealing with a Nikon camera, which has an abundance of available lenses, both from the manufacturer and third-party makers. These lenses can then be taken to a better camera body. You can start with the 18-55mm kit lens, so there is no rush to get a separate lens at first.

3. Nikon D5600

Nikon D5600 front body only

The Nikon D5600 is a nice upgrade over the D3500 if you have some extra cash to spare. It keeps nearly all features, including the 24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor, 5fps shooting, and 1080p video recording.

What makes it one of the best cameras for beginners is the few added extras. The Nikon D5600 has a full-articulating swiveling screen that can really make a difference when shooting at difficult angles. In addition, it has integrated wireless functionality, improved battery life, a touchscreen, and more.

4. Sony RX100 III

Sony RX100 III camera

The Sony RX100 series is praised among professional photographers. These point-and-shoot cameras are portable but can shoot stunning images that rival larger competitors. There are newer versions of this camera, but we believe the third iteration offers the best balance between quality and affordability.

The Sony RX100 III comes with a 20.1MP 1-inch sensor, a flipping screen, an electronic viewfinder, a built-in flash, and cool software features like eye-autofocus. Its main limitation is the inability to switch lenses, but the included glass guarantees ZEISS quality. The 24-70mm focal length also adapts to many shooting scenarios and the variable aperture is outstanding at f/1.8-2.8.

This camera is expensive considering it’s from 2014, but it is still a great shooter. Also keep in mind you won’t be wasting your money, as this is a camera you can learn on and also continue using when you upgrade to something bigger. Many photographers keep these as secondary cameras for when on-the-go.

5. Canon Rebel SL3

Canon Rebel SL3 with kit lens

While Canon makes great cameras at a lower price than this one, we believe the EOS Rebel SL3 is their best camera for beginners. Not only does it have a great build quality, but it also matches some of the features seen only in expensive models, making this one of the best cameras for beginners. Specs include a swiveling screen, 4K video recording, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and dual-pixel autofocus. It’s super light and compact, and you get a wide variety of lens options.

The reason why it’s affordable is that it has a 24.1MP APS-C sensor and a 9-point autofocus system. This is definitely one of the best cameras for beginners in terms of DSLR options.

6. Fujifilm X-T200

Fujifilm X T200 without a lens

Fujifilm has a cult following for good reason. The company produces cameras with great build quality and beautiful designs reminiscent of classic cameras.

Manual dials make learning photography more enticing, as you can physically change settings and learn what they do. Working with a touchscreen or random buttons is a bit more confusing and less tactile.

Despite the classic style, the tech found inside Fuji cameras is not old. These are great mirrorless contenders with superb image quality. The Fujifilm X-T200 has a 24.2MP APS-C sensor, hybrid phase and contrast autofocus for fast focusing speeds, face/eye detection, 4K recording, HDR movie mode, and a 3.5mm microphone port.

The Fujifilm X-T100 strikes a good balance between quality and price. And the good news is you likely don’t need to upgrade this camera soon. Because Fujifilm is adamant about not releasing full-frame cameras, APS-C sensors in other models are very similar and you can stick with this camera as long as you don’t mind missing out on some fancy features in newer and more expensive models. At least until you switch to medium format, which Fuji does offer.

7. Sony Alpha A6100

Sony Alpha A6100 camera front
This camera features things you won’t find even in some of the best DSLR bodies out there, including a 0.02-second autofocus speed, real-time eye-autofocus, focus tracking, 11fps shooting, gorgeous 4K video recording, a touchscreen, electronic viewfinder, Wi-Fi/NFC connectivity, 425 autofocus points, and a 24.2MP APS-C sensor.

Sony makes amazing camera hardware and software, and their selection includes great quality glass. If you want to get into the Sony mirrorless world, this is a great way to do it without spending well over a grand.

8. Canon EOS RP

Canon EOS RP camera without a lens

If you have the money, are serious about photography, and really want to future-proof yourself for a much longer period of time, the Canon EOS RP is arguably the best camera for beginners featuring a full-frame sensor. The EOS RP is the only camera in this list with a full-frame sensor, which ensures improved low-light performance and much better image quality than APS-C (or smaller) sensors.

Aside from image quality, the Canon EOS RP offers all the features of a modern mirrorless camera. These include fast focusing speeds (0.05 seconds), 4,479 focusing points, eye autofocus, an electronic viewfinder, integrated Wi-Fi/Bluetooth, a swiveling screen, and more.

Because you are stepping into full-frame territory, glass will be more expensive, so that is something to keep in mind. Regardless, there is a converter that will allow you to use Canon EF/EF-S lenses, so you have a wide variety of glass to pick from if you don’t mind using an adapter.

Try a smartphone

Pixel 4 XL camera shootout hero image

Spending money on a dedicated camera may be a bit much. If you are still wondering if photography is something you want to spend hundreds (or thousands) of dollars in, you might want to start learning the fundamentals with a capable smartphone camera. Sometimes these are the best cameras for beginners.

Modern smartphones can take amazing photos, and most devices now offer manual controls so you can test out your knowledge. You can use a smartphone to experiment with lights, reflectors, audio, and other advanced photography accessories.

I have previously tried to get pro-level photographs using an affordable handset and the results were outstanding. A smartphone is very likely something you are already spending good money on, so maybe try to upgrade and buy one of the best camera phones around instead of spending extra money on a standalone camera.

The Android Authority team currently recommends the Google Pixel 4. We have put it through our tests and it is currently the best camera phone you can get. Check out this comparison between the Pixel 4 and the best current smartphone cameras for more details.

Now that you are ready to embark on this photography adventure with the best camera for beginners, we want you to make sure you have the necessary tools for learning the fundamentals of photography. Check out the links below for a series of educational photography articles.