If one of the main uses you get from your smartphone is taking lots of pictures, then you might find you’ve outgrown what it can do. In which case, you could be thinking of taking the next step and investing in one of the best cameras for beginners.
Manufacturers are extremely keen for you to become a customer. It stands to reason that if you like the brand you opt for, you’ll stick with them for a very long time, buying lenses and accessories - and more advanced models for a long time to come. As such, you’re extremely important to them and there’s a lot of competition for your business.
As a first-timer, there’s every chance you won’t have an enormous budget. It's for that reason that we’ve included a slew of affordable models that should be friendly for your wallet. That said, it’s also true that investing a little more can save you cash in the long run, as you might keep the camera for longer. Those new to photography might therefore also want to consider mid-range, slightly more expensive options too.
In essence, what you're looking for is a camera that you can grow and learn with. With it, you’ll learn all the key fundamentals of photography, and you’ll be able to add lenses and accessories as and when you need them. One day it’s likely you’ll outgrow it and will want to replace it with an enthusiast or even professional model if things go really well.
The cameras in this guide cover both DSLR and mirrorless, but if you already know what you want, don’t forget to check out our guides to the best mirrorless camera, best DSLR and best compact camera. Those with a bit more adventure in their soul might also want to take a look at the best action cameras.
What is the best entry-level camera?
As ever, this is a really quite a difficult question to answer. A lot will depend on the type of photography you want to do, but it will also likely come down to how much you want to spend and how future-proof you want your purchase to be.
The Nikon D3500 has long been considered an excellent choice for beginners. In 2022, this is quite an old model, especially when manufacturers are concentrating on mirrorless technology. That’s not to say that the DSLR is completely dead, but if you think you’ll be sticking with cameras for the long haul, it might make more sense to invest in the newer technology now. Opting for a DSLR does mean you get an excellent bargain however, and there’s hundreds of lenses and accessories to choose from.
If you do want to head towards mirrorless, the good news here is that there’s tonnes of excellent mirrorless options for entry-level users. Our pick here is probably the Nikon Z50, or perhaps the Nikon Zfc if you want something which looks as good as it performs. There’s also models such as the Sony A6100 and the Fujifilm X-T200. Cameras like the Olympus E-P7 have a smaller sensor but are ideal for travel and new users since they’re small and light. Vloggers who want a good all-rounder to get them into the game would do well with the Panasonic G100 or the Sony ZV-E10.
How to buy the best entry-level camera
The cameras that have been included in our list have to be particularly friendly to newbie photographers. That means they should be good to go straight from the box, but also have enough settings and shooting modes that you can grow and learn with the camera as you progress.
Before committing to any purchase, it’s worth having a little think about exactly what kind of specs are “crucial” for you, and which might be more “nice to have” features. For you, that could be 4K video, inbuilt Wi-Fi, a flip-out screen, fast frame rates, an extensive lens range, a touch-sensitive screen or a viewfinder. Pay close attention to the specs list to make sure it’s got everything you need.
For those with tight budgets, don’t be afraid to take a look at older models. With camera technology being so advanced, those that were released a few years ago are still excellent - especially if you don’t necessarily need the same kind of bells and whistles that a more experienced professional user might demand. The ever-popular Sony A6000 has been on the market for a long time and still sells by the bucketload - even though it’s since been replaced by the newer Sony A6100.
If you think it’s DSLR that’s the one for you, then the Canon EOS 2000D is another good beginner-friendly option, despite being a few years since its release.
Portability is a key factor for many first-time camera users. If you're used to the convenience of your smartphone, it stands to reason that you’ll want something small and light for your first “real” camera too. With that in mind, we recommend cameras such as the Panasonic G100, Fujifilm X-T200 and Olympus E-P7.
Available for under £450 (including a kit lens), the Nikon D3500 is our top choice for anybody looking for their first step into “proper” photography. It has an innovative Guide Mode which explains all those alien concepts, or you can quite simply leave it in Auto mode and just start snapping. Once you start to get a bit more serious, there’s the option to invest in a huge variety of different lenses, or other accessories such as remote controls. It features a great 1550-shot battery life, making it a great choice for trips and days out, but budding video makers might be put off by the restriction to Full HD only. Bluetooth is included for sending your shots to your smartphone, but there’s no Wi-Fi, unfortunately.
Nikon and Canon are the big two rivals in the camera world. Our top pick for new users who have a little bit of budget to spend is the Canon EOS 250D. This neat and compact DSLR isn’t the cheapest Canon model, but it does give you the benefit of being well-built and neatly put together. It doesn’t have a full-blown guide mode to handhold you through using it, but the “guided interface” helps you to get to grips with the various functions and settings.
The Nikon Z50 is aimed squarely at beginners and was the first Nikon Z series camera to feature an APS-C sized sensor. It’s not as cheap as Nikon’s DSLR equivalents, but it’s also a lot newer so you benefit from more modern technology - and the idea that your system will be better supported in the years to come.
It uses a small form factor, which still manages to include an excellent screen and viewfinder. For now, the lens choice is a little limited, but we expect that to keep growing as more people buy in to the system.
For those that fancy the internals of the Z50 but want something a little bit more attractive externally, it’s worth checking out the Zfc, which combines the features of the Z50 with a well-styled retro body.
Sony’s runaway success with the a6000 has made it the entry-level model of choice for a lot of photographers. Towards the end of 2019, the company finally released a successor to its popular model, building on its popularity and adding a range of enticing new features for those considering purchasing their first interchangeable lens camera.
Some of the improvements here include the addition of 4K video, improved picture quality and a fantastic autofocusing system. The a6100 has got pretty much everything you could need and will give you great scope to learn with - it should take quite a while before you outgrow it.
It’s a versatile option, offering 11fps shooting, so it should be adept at a number of different subjects - great for beginners who may want to photograph a bit of everything.
The downside here is the higher price you’ll pay for it compared to the a6000, but if it lasts you longer, then it’s arguably a better-value buy.
The A6000 has been replaced a few times since it made its debut, but that means that you can get what was once at the forefront of camera technology at a super bargain price. It’s a great option for beginners too because it has a range of different shooting modes, meaning you’re less likely to outgrow it quickly. Sony has a huge range of lenses and accessories for its compact system cameras, so the A6000 is a good place to start your photographic journey. It comes with super fast autofocusing, a tilting LCD screen and inbuilt Wi-Fi and NFC. Unsurprisingly for an older model, video is restricted to full HD though.
With its Four Thirds sensor, the tech inside the E-P7 isn’t new or particularly revolutionary, but it is solid and well-proven, which is pretty much all a beginner photographer needs. Being small in size and weight, it’s ideal for those who don’t want to suddenly leap to using big and bulky devices, especially if you’re after something to take with you on your travels. With 4K video available for also recording those movie clips, it serves well as a good all-rounder. As there’s no viewfinder, you’re restricted to composing your shots via the screen - but if you’ve come from using a smartphone, that’s unlikely to be a big deal breaker.
At the time of its launch, the Panasonic G100 was primarily aimed at vloggers. With its range of video-centric features such as 4K recording and triple microphones to record sound from all angles, it’s easy to see why the camera has found popularity in that market.
However, if you put vlogging to one side for a moment, this is an ideal small and light camera that is well suited for travel photographers. It’s also ideal for those new to photography not looking to be overwhelmed with a massive camera.
Panasonic’s Micro Four Thirds range is extremely well-established, so should you find yourself outgrowing the kit lens, you’ll never be short of different lenses to choose from.
Available at an excellent price, the Sony ZV-E10 makes a lot of sense for those new to the vlogging game. Specifically targeted at those for whom video is their primary objective, Sony has distilled the specific parts of its A6000 series for this kind of user. As a result, it’s a camera which you probably won’t want to pick up for stills (though it can do them), but is ideal for those trying to carve a brand-new YouTube career. One of those key features is a fully vari-angle screen, something we’ve not seen before on a Sony APS-C camera. You can use this to record video from awkward angles, as well as presenting to camera without having to worry about the mechanism getting in the way of other mounts or tripods. You do lose a viewfinder - but again for video work that’s no deal.
If your budget is super low but you want to get into the DSLR game, you can do worse than opt for the Canon EOS 2000D. For less than £400 you get a 24.2 megapixel APS-C sensor and all the shooting modes that somebody just starting out could wish for. To keep that price low then some sacrifices are needed, such as a fixed non-touch sensitive screen, but otherwise it’s a good little model to begin with. You can add different lenses and accessories should you outgrow the kit lens, but video shooters might feel the need to look elsewhere.
Fujifilm makes some beautiful cameras, so if you want your camera to look good on the outside as well as produce excellent photos, the X-T200 is worth considering. It feels a little plasticky, so it’s not perfect, but its small size and weight make it a great choice for travelling light.
We also love the very large 3.5-inch articulating touchscreen and inbuilt viewfinder, while other specifications include 4K video and inbuilt Wi-Fi. You can buy it as part of a kit package with a 15-45mm electronically powered lens, which is also neat and compact. If you outgrow that, Fujifilm has a good range of different optics to choose from.
On the downside, this is one of the more expensive options in our list - Fujifilm models tend to be on the pricey side.
Panasonic is a good option for those new to photography, offering user-friendly models at a variety of different price points and styles. Our pick for beginners at the moment is the GX9, which is smart, stylish and also ideal for travel. With 4K video and photo modes, you can get really creative with the type of content you create, so bloggers and vloggers will also like it. Micro Four Thirds lenses are extremely numerous, so you’ll never struggle to find an accessory once you’ve outgrown the kit lens, too.
Fujifilm cameras usually attract a premium price. For your money you get beautifully designed models and high image quality. If you’re just starting out but are keen to get into this brand, the Fujifilm X-A7 is its latest entry-point. It’s still fairly expensive compared to some of the models here, but you do get rewarded with great image quality. As the X system has been around for a while, there are many excellent lenses you can expand with once you move past the kit lens, too.
Aimed fairly squarely at vloggers and content-creator types, the E-PL9 is also a smart choice for those wanting a boost from their smartphone. It doesn’t have a viewfinder, but if you’re coming from a phone, you probably don’t mind so much. The sensor is one of the smallest here, but unless you’re consistently shooting in low-light situations, that’s not going to be a huge deal breaker. The trade off is that you get a pleasingly small system, which can be expanded via similarly small lenses as you grow with it. The addition of 4K video compared with its predecessor - the E-PL8 - is a bonus too.
A good way to get a good deal when looking for your first camera is to seek out slightly older models. The Panasonic GX80 fits this brief perfectly, despite being about five years old now. That means you can pick it up for a fraction of its original price, but still lots of benefits over using your smartphone. This cute little compact system camera is ideal for travelling and comes with a range of modes to help you get the best pictures, moving up to more advanced options once you know what you’re doing. Movie makers and vloggers may also be tempted by the 4K video recording, and it helps that it looks cute too.
Fujifilm makes some seriously beautiful cameras, but they generally come with quite a high price tag. Chances are if you’re just starting out that you might wince at big bucks, in which case, the X-A10 makes for an ideal starting point. You make some sacrifices by coming in at the entry-level, but it’s still got a range of great modes for beginners to get their teeth into. Fujifilm has a good selection of lenses should you wish to expand your repertoire, but at its most basic, the X-A10 makes a lot of sense as a small and light travel camera.