Best camera for beginners 2020: entry-level cameras reviewed and rated

Find the best entry-level cameras to kickstart your photography

Best camera for beginners: entry-level cameras reviewed and rated
(Image credit: Fujifilm)

If you’re somebody who can’t stop taking photos on your smartphone, you might get to a stage where you’ve outgrown its capabilities and what to buy your very first “real” camera. 

First-time-buyers are very important customers for camera manufacturers - so you’re in luck if you’re looking for an entry-level model. You’ll have your pick of the major players vying for your attention in the hope of converting you into a lifelong brand customer. 

It stands a good chance that as a first-time buyer, your budget won’t be huge. We’ve picked cameras for this round-up which shouldn’t break the bank - which has the bonus of not investing too much before you decide whether or not photography’s the right hobby for you. But if it does turn out to be the one, then you’ll be able to grow with all of these models - being able to buy lenses and accessories for all of them as you get more advanced.

What is the best entry-level camera?

It’s a difficult question to answer in a market which is so diverse. But if you’re really very new to the market, then you can’t go far wrong with the Nikon D3500. It’s a little bit older than some of the other models in this round-up, but we particularly like it because of its fantastic guide mode which walks you through all of the camera’s key settings. It will help you learn and get accustomed to exactly how a DSLR works. You’ll also find that there are literally hundreds of lenses and accessories to choose from when you want to make the next step.

How to buy the best entry-level camera

To bring you our suggestions, we’ve spent time with all of the cameras attempting to use them in the same way a beginner might. That means that they should be ready to go straight out of the box, while also giving you the flexibility to change your settings as your confidence and skill-level increases.

There are a few things to consider when choosing your first “proper” camera. Consider what your budget is, the brand you might particularly like, and which particular functions you’re keen to get hold - for example 4K video recording, built-in Wi-Fi or a viewfinder. 

For those whom budget is the main concern, take a look at the Sony A6000. This is a camera which is a few years old but has proven to be phenomenally popular, especially as the price continues to drop. If you like the idea of an APS-C mirrorless model, the Nikon Z50 - the newest model on this list - is definitely worthy of your attention if you can stretch the budget.

Portability is also a critical factor for many. Perhaps you’re buying your first camera ahead of a big trip - in which case, something small, light weight and compact will be the obvious solution. If that’s the case, cameras which tick those boxes include the Panasonic GX9 and the Olympus PEN E-PL9.

Canon also brings some good entry-level models to the table. The EOS 250D is the world’s smallest and lightest DSLR with an articulating touchscreen, while the 2000D is even better if your budget is super-tight. 

Finally, those who crave retro-stylings will be tempted towards the Fujifilm X-A7, which is a good way into this popular brand’s offerings.

Best camera for beginners: Nikon D3500

1. Nikon D3500

An easy-to-use first-time DSLR that will show you all the photography ropes

Specifications
Sensor: 24.2MP APS-C
Lens Mount: Nikon F
Connectivity: Bluetooth
Video: 1080p
Battery Life: 1550 shots
Weight: 415g (with battery and memory card)
Reasons to buy
+Guide Mode+Extensive battery life+Affordable
Reasons to avoid
-No Wi-Fi-No touchscreen-No 4K video

Available for under £400 (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.

Best camera for beginners: Canon EOS 250D

(Image credit: Canon)

2. Canon EOS 250D

A small and neat entry into the DSLR market

Specifications
Sensor:: 24.1MP APS-C CMOS
Lens Mount:: EF-S
Connectivity:: Wi-Fi & Bluetooth
Video:: 4K (cropped)
Battery Life:: 1070 shots
Weight:: 449g (including battery & memory card)
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight & compact (for a DSLR)+Articulating touchscreen+Great battery life+4K video 
Reasons to avoid
-Dated AF system-4K video is cropped-Not a huge upgrade over previous model -Larger than mirrorless models 

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.

Best camera for beginners: Nikon Z50

(Image credit: Nikon)

3. Nikon Z50

A new APS-C model which is perfect for travel

Specifications
Sensor:: 20.9 APS-C CMOS
Lens Mount:: Z
Connectivity:: Wi-Fi & Bluetooth
Video:: 4K
Battery Life:: 300-shots
Weight:: 450g with battery and memory card
Reasons to buy
+Neat and compact+Great viewfinder+Tilting touchscreen
Reasons to avoid
-Limited number of native lenses-High price point for beginners-Limited battery life

This is not the cheapest model in our list, but it is the newest, so is a great choice for those who have a bit of cash to spend. Following on from the success of Nikon’s full-frame mirrorless cameras, the Z6 and the Z7, the Z50 distils a lot of what makes those cameras excellent into a cheaper and smaller version which is well-suited to beginners. The smaller form factor is facilitated by an APS-C sized sensor. The screen and viewfinder are excellent, but the biggest gripe for now is the lack of choice when it comes to native lenses - but we expect that to become much less of a problem as the months and years go by.

Best camera for beginners: Sony A6000

4. Sony A6000

This older model is still extremely popular

Specifications
Sensor: 24.3MP APS-C
Lens Mount: Sony E Mount
Connectivity: Wi-Fi & NFC
Video: 1080p
Battery Life: 360
Weight: 285g (with battery and memory card)
Reasons to buy
+Super light+Fast AF+Affordable
Reasons to avoid
-No 4K-Screen not touch-sensitive-Older technology

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. 

Best camera for beginners: Canon EOS 2000D

5. Canon EOS 2000D

A cheap and cheerful first time DSLR that is great to learn with

Specifications
Sensor: 24.1 MP APS-C
Lens Mount: Canon EF/EF-S
Connectivity: Wi-Fi/NFC
Video: 1080p
Battery Life: 500
Weight: 475g
Reasons to buy
+Super cheap+Good battery life+Wi-Fi connectivity
Reasons to avoid
-Fixed, non touch-sensitive screen-No 4K video

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 £300 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.

Best camera for beginners: Panasonic GX9

(Image credit: Panasonic)

6. Panasonic GX9

A stylish Micro Four Thirds model, which is ideal for travelling

Specifications
Sensor: 21.7MP Four Thirds Live MOS
Lens Mount: Micro Four Thirds
Connectivity: Wi-Fi & Bluetooth
Video: 4K
Battery Life: 260 shots
Weight: 450g (inc. battery & memory card)
Reasons to buy
+Compact design +4K video and photo modes+Great range of native lenses
Reasons to avoid
-Smaller sensor than some others here-Limited battery life-Small viewfinder 

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.

Best camera for beginners: Fujifilm X-A7

(Image credit: Fujifilm)

7. Fujifilm X-A7

A cheaper way into this premium brand for lovers of retro styling

Specifications
Sensor: 24.2MP APS-C CMOS
Lens Mount: X
Connectivity: Wi-Fi & Bluetooth
Video: 4K
Battery Life: 270 shots
Weight: 320g (inc. battery & memory card)
Reasons to buy
+Retro design +Very large screen+High image quality 
Reasons to avoid
-No viewfinder-Slightly plasticky finish -Still a high price for beginners 

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.

Best camera for beginners: Olympus E-PL9

(Image credit: Olympus)

8. Olympus E-PL9

Vloggers and bloggers will love this camera - but so will those new to photography

Specifications
Sensor: 16.1MP Four Thirds Live MOS
Lens Mount: Micro Four Thirds
Connectivity: Wi-Fi & Bluetooth
Video: 4K
Battery Life: 350 shots
Weight: 380g (with battery and memory card)
Reasons to buy
+Good price+Great for vlogging +Simple to use
Reasons to avoid
-No viewfinder-Smaller sensor than others here

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.

Best camera for beginners: Panasonic Lumix GX80

9. Panasonic Lumix GX80

A small, light and well-featured compact system camera for first-timers

Specifications
Sensor: 16MP Four Thirds
Lens Mount: Micro Four Thirds
Connectivity: Wi-Fi
Video: 4K
Battery Life: 290
Weight: 426g (with battery and memory card)
Reasons to buy
+Small & lightweight+4K video+Tilting screen
Reasons to avoid
-Smaller sensor than some-Small viewfinder-Limited battery life

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, getting towards being three 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.  

Best camera for beginners: Fujifilm X-A10

10. Fujifilm X-A10

A cheaper entry into Fujifilm’s venerable X series range of compact system cameras

Specifications
Sensor: 16.3MP APS-C
Lens Mount: X Mount
Connectivity: Wi-Fi
Video: 1080p
Battery Life: 410
Weight: 331g (including battery and memory card)
Reasons to buy
+Selfie screen+Inbuilt Wi-Fi+Lightweight
Reasons to avoid
-No viewfinder-No hotshoe for attaching accessories-Cheap construction

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.