The best cameras for beginners in 2019
Welcome to Creative Bloq’s guide to the best cameras for beginners. You can snap your way through life with a smartphone, but for capturing images that really stand out, a proper camera is simply the best tool for the job. The bigger decision is what sort of camera you should go for; the market is extensive and varied, and if you’re just getting started you don’t want to fork out for the wrong model.
This article guides you through the best cameras for beginners. All of our picks are suited to photography novices but will grow with you as you improve.
Already got some photography skills? Check our roundup for what we consider the best cameras for all levels to be. And while you’re getting kitted out, why not explore our guides to the best memory cards and the best camera bags.
What’s the best type of camera for beginners?
Let’s start with some tips on what features you should be looking for when hunting out the best camera for beginners. For simplicity and portability, there’s a lot to be said for a small point-and-shoot camera that you can slip into your daily bag or even a spare pocket. Most models have a respectable zoom range and a built-in flash, while some add a viewfinder that helps when composing shots under bright sunlight.
A more versatile option is a ‘system’ camera with a separate body and interchangeable lenses. With two or three lenses you can shoot anything from portraiture and still life, to action sports and wildlife, or sweeping landscapes and architecture, getting great results every time.
They start small, with mirrorless compact system cameras, whereas DSLRs tend to be more of a handful. That can be a good thing, as they often feel more comfortable and natural in the hand, and the reflex mirror gives you an unadulterated ‘through the lens’ image of what you’re shooting, via an optical viewfinder.
The problem with camera kits with multiple lenses is that you’re more likely to leave them at home, guaranteeing that you’ll miss out on photo opportunities. They also have a steeper learning curve, so they’re only a good choice if you’re serious about learning photography.
Our pick of the best beginners’ cameras includes some smart compact cameras with fixed lenses, as well as the best-buy DSLRs and mirrorless system cameras. Let’s get started.
01. Nikon D3500
The best all-round camera for beginners
Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Screen: 3.0-inch, 921k, fixed | Viewfinder: Pentamirror | Lens (effective): 27-82.5mm | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p
Keeps everything simple
Built-in photography tutor
Good all-round performance
Quite pricey for a basic DSLR
Lacks custom settings
It’s particularly easy to get up and running with the Nikon D3500. As well as an ‘intelligent’ fully automatic mode, there are wide-ranging scene modes and effects to choose from. More uniquely, there’s a Guide shooting mode, which serves as a kind of interactive photography course. There’s no shortage of quality either, with a high-performance 24.2MP image sensor and processor, a generous ISO (sensitivity) range, speedy 5fps maximum burst rate and a high-resolution LCD screen.
However, it’s not a touch-sensitive screen and lacks a tilt or pivot facility. Another drawback is that autofocus is relatively slow in live view and movie capture modes but, overall, the D3500 is currently the most appealing beginners’ camera on the market.
02. Canon EOS 4000D
This super-cheap DSLR kit is the best budget beginners’ camera
Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 18MP | Screen: 2.7-inch, 230k, fixed | Viewfinder: Pentamirror | Lens (effective): 28.8-88mm | Continuous shooting speed: 3fps | Max video resolution: 1080p
Good quality at a great price
Low-resolution rear screen
Sluggish burst rate
Despite being remarkably inexpensive for a DSLR kit that comes complete with camera body and zoom lens, the 4000D is capable of delivering lovely image quality. Full auto mode incorporates real-time ‘intelligent’ scene analysis, and there are plenty of scene modes and creative filters to choose from. There’s a built-in feature guide and a Creative Auto shooting mode that helps to bridge the gap between basic and more advanced modes.
For extra guidance, Canon also offers a Photo Companion app that you can download for Android or iOS. Overall, the 4000D is good value for money but the kit lens doesn’t feature optical stabiliaation, the continuous shooting speed is rather pedestrian, and the rear screen is relatively small and low in resolution.
03. Canon EOS 250D
All the DSLR advantages for stills, plus 4k video
Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.1MP | Screen: 3.0-inch, 1,040k, pivot, touch | Viewfinder: Pentamirror | Lens (effective): 28.8-88mm | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 4k
Compact and lightweight for a DSLR
Great for movies as well as stills
Pricier than most beginners’ DSLRs
Fairly basic main autofocus system
The Canon EOS 250D is the first entry-level DSLR to feature 4k movie capture, and it replaces the popular EOS 200D in Canon’s lineup. Indeed, the Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus system for live view and movie modes, inherited from its predecessor, makes the camera particularly good for tracking action when shooting video. The virtually silent autofocus performance of the 18-55mm kit lens is a further bonus.
Not just for video, the 250D is a very accomplished package for stills. It’s beginner-friendly with optional Guided User Interface and Creative Assist modes, which work seamlessly with the fully articulated touchscreen. The camera is also well able to grow with you as you learn new skills and techniques, Canon’s excellent Quick menu giving intuitive and instant access to important settings.
One of the most compact and lightweight DSLRs on the market, the 250D is a camera you can take anywhere and everywhere. Our only real criticism is that, in viewfinder-based stills shooting rather than live view mode, the autofocus system is fairly basic. There are only nine AF points and only one of them is cross-type, able to resolve detail in both horizontal and vertical planes.
04. Fujifilm X-T100
Great performance makes this the best mirrorless beginners’ camera
Type: CSC | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Screen: 3.0-inch, 1,040k tilt, touch | Viewfinder: Electronic, 2,360k | Lens (effective): 22.5-67.5mm | Continuous shooting speed: 6fps | Max video resolution: 4k
Simple but highly effective
Small, lightweight and stylish
Pricier than some mirrorless cameras
Slow frame rate for 4k movies
Immaculately turned out in a choice of black, dark silver or champagne gold, the Fujifilm X-T100 is is one of Fujifilm’s latest compact system cameras. The impressive feature set includes high-resolution thrills all round, from the 24.2MP APS-C image sensor, to the 1,040k 3-way tilting touchscreen and the 2,360k electronic viewfinder. There’s also 4k UHD movie capture on the menu, although it’s limited to a disappointingly slow 15fps frame rate.
Further highlights include intelligent scene analysis and intelligent hybrid AF, which combines phase-detection and contrast-detection for fast yet consistently accurate performance. The 15-45mm kit lens is also a delight, delivering very good image quality while adding optical image stabilisation and power-zoom for smooth focal length transitions when shooting movies.
05. Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX80
A smart choice for both video and stills
Type: CSC | Sensor: Four Thirds | Megapixels: 16.0MP | Screen: 3.0-inch, 1,040k, tilt, touch | Viewfinder: Electronic, 2,765k | Lens (effective): 24-64mm | Continuous shooting speed: 8fps | Max video resolution: 4k
Good for stills and 4k movie capture
High-res electronic viewfinder
Tilting rather than fully articulated touchscreen
Relatively low 16MP stills resolution
Mirrorless system camera Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX80 is small and slim (especially when fitted with its retractable 12-32mm kit lens), but still features a high-res electronic viewfinder as well as a tilting touchscreen. Typical of Micro Four Thirds cameras, it doesn’t boast a particularly high megapixel count for stills. Like most Panasonic cameras, however, it’s particularly well suited to video capture, making it a great choice if you’re planning to shoot both stills and video.
Beginner-friendly, the GX80 is competitively priced and features a clear and simple interface. The Light Speed AF system delivers fast and accurate autofocus. Panasonic’s Post Focus feature is also on hand, effectively enabling you to adjust the focus position after shooting.
Dual image stabilisation combines optical correction for stills with 5-axis sensor-shift stabilization for movie capture. And when you need to nail the definitive moment in an action sequence, you can shoot in 4k burst mode at 30fps and extract an 8MP image.
06. Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mk III
The best beginners’ camera for travel, Olympus has it in the bag with this compact system model
Type: CSC | Sensor: Four Thirds | Megapixels: 16.1MP | Screen: 3.0-inch 1,040k tilt touch | Viewfinder: Electronic 2,360k | Lens (effective): 28-84mm | Continuous shooting speed: 8.6fps | Max video resolution: 4k
Travel-friendly size and weight
Nice electronic viewfinder and tilting screen
Quite modest 16.1MP stills resolution
Autofocus can be a little sluggish
One of the upsides of Micro Four Thirds mirrorless system cameras is that they tend to be fairly small and lightweight. That’s certainly true of the Olympus E-M10, which is now in its third generation. Although small, it’s impeccably well built and beautifully turned out with classic retro styling. The 14-42mm EZ kit lens is similarly small, with a retractable design that enables compact stowage.
Even so, it features a built-in motor that enables smooth zooming during video capture. The maximum burst rate for stills is a speedy 8.6fps, although autofocus can be a little slower than in many competing cameras, making it tricky to follow fast-moving action. 4k UHD movie capture is a bonus.
07. Nikon D5600
The best beginners’ camera for wildlife, this is also a top choice for action and sports
Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Screen: 3.2-inch, 1,040k, pivot, touch | Viewfinder: Pentamirror | Lens (effective): 27-210mm | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p
Sophisticated 39-point autofocus
Fully articulated touchscreen
Slow autofocus for live view and movies
Less beginner-friendly than D3500
Great for following the action in sports and wildlife photography, the Nikon D5600 has an advanced 39-point autofocus system that boasts auto-area, dynamic-area and 3D-tracking modes. The optional 18-140mm VR kit lens is also particularly suitable for these types of photography, with its 27-210mm ‘effective’ zoom range and competent Vibration Reduction (optical image stabilisation) system. And for when you need to trek into the countryside for shooting wildlife, or stand for long periods at a sporting event, the D5600 won’t weigh you down as it’s one of the lightest and most compact DSLRs on the market.
The fully articulated touchscreen is an extra bonus, although for live view and video capture, the sensor-based contrast-detection autofocus facility can be painfully slow.
08. Panasonic LUMIX DMC-TZ100
The best beginners’ compact camera, this pocketable compact shoehorns a lot in
Type: Compact | Sensor: 1.0-type | Megapixels: 20.1MP | Screen: 3.0-inch 1,240k, touch | Viewfinder: Electronic, 1,166k | Lens (effective): 25-250mm | Continuous shooting speed: 10fps (4k 30fps) | Max video resolution: 4k
Feature-rich at a friendly price
1.0-type image sensor and 10x zoom range
Touchscreen has no tilt or pivot facility
Lacks textured grip surfaces
For such a small camera, the Panasonic TZ100 packs in some seriously big specifications and features. It has a 20.1MP 1.0-type sensor that’s physically large for a compact camera, and retains relatively noise-free image quality even at high ISO settings. It also crams in an electronic viewfinder and a high-res, 3.0inch rear screen, plus a 10x zoom lens with an effective range of 25-250mm.
To keep things steady, there’s optical image stabilisation for stills and 5-axis hybrid stabilisation for video capture. You can also shoot at 4k UHD for both stills and video, with a frame rate of up to 30fps. For full-resolution stills, the burst rate is still speedy at 10fps.
Clever tricks include ‘post-focus’, which enables you to capture a burst of stills with automatically transitioning focus distances, and select the frame with the ideal focus point afterwards.
09. Sony HX400V
The best beginners’ bridge camera packs a whopping 50x zoom range
Type: Bridge | Sensor: 1/2.3-type | Megapixels: 20.4MP | Screen: 3.0-inch, 922k, tilt | Viewfinder: Electronic, 201k | Lens (effective): 25-500mm | Continuous shooting speed: 10fps | Max video resolution: 1080p
Mighty zoom range
Typical of bridge cameras, the Sony DSC-HX400V has a fixed rather than interchangeable lens, but with a body shape that more closely resembles a DSLR than a compact camera. It makes sense really, because the massive 25-500mm effective zoom range would be hard to handle without a comfortable and natural grip on the camera, especially when you’re trying to keep things steady at the telephoto end.
The Sony is no slouch when it comes to shooting speed, with a maximum burst rate of 10fps. Although the 1/2.3-type image sensor is physically small, it boasts 20.4 megapixels and the 3.0-inch tilting screen has a high resolution of 922k. However, it’s not a touchscreen and the resolution of the electronic viewfinder is comparatively disappointing, at just 201k pixels.
10. Olympus Stylus Tough TG5
The best beginners’ underwater camera, this compact Olympus is for the adventurous
Type: Compact | Sensor: 1/2.3-inch | Megapixels: 12.0MP | Screen: 3.0-inch 460k | Viewfinder: None | Lens (effective): 25-100mm | Continuous shooting speed: 20fps | Max video resolution: 4k
An all action hero of a camera
4x zoom lens and 20fps drive
Noisy image quality at high ISO settings
Fairly expensive for a ‘tough’ compact
Like other ‘tough’ compact cameras on the market, this Olympus Tough TG-5 is designed to take the knocks. It can withstand being submerged in water to a depth of 15 metres, dropped from a height of 2.1 metres and frozen to -10 degrees Celsius. If you’re feeling particularly mean, you can even try crushing it with a 100kg weight, and it’ll still keep on working.
All in all, it’s a great camera for everything from skiing down mountains to snorkelling in the sea. The maximum burst rate is a similarly action-packed 20fps, and you can also capture 4k UHD movies. The 4x optical zoom lens adds versatility, as do the built-in macro and microscopic modes. To take things even further, a range of optional accessories includes fisheye and telephoto lens converters.