Best camera for beginners 2020: 7 entry-level cameras reviewed and rated

Choose the best entry-level cameras to spark your photographic hobby

Best camera for beginners

If you’ve started to outgrow the capabilities of your smartphone, you might be thinking about purchasing your very first ‘real’ camera.

The market for grabbing the attention of first-time buyers is strong, with plenty of entry-level cameras to choose from. This lucrative slice of the pie is important since customers tend to remain loyal to a brand once they’ve made that first choice.

It’s likely that if you’re buying your first camera, your budget isn’t huge. All the cameras featured in this round-up shouldn’t break the bank too much, giving you the opportunity to decide if photography’s the right hobby for you. You’ll also be able to grow with all of these cameras, as you’ll be able to buy lenses and accessories for all of them as you get more advanced.

What is the best entry-level camera?

For those who are truly new to the market, the Nikon D3500 is a fantastic choice for a first-time DSLR. We like it because it offers a guide mode which talks you through all the key settings, helping you to learn and get accustomed to exactly how the camera works. There’s also literally hundreds of different optics and accessories in the Nikon system for you to choose from, should you wish to.

How to buy the best entry-level camera

We spent some time looking at all of these cameras and using them in the same way that a beginner might do. In an ideal world that means that they’re good to go right out of the box, but give you the flexibility to change settings as your confidence grows. 

When you’re picking your first camera, have a think about a few key things. Consider how much you want to spend, whether you already have an idea about which brand you’re interested in, and whether things like in-built Wi-Fi matter to you.

If budget is your primary concern, the Sony A6000 offers a hell of a lot of specifications for your money and is an extremely popular model for that reason. 

You might also want to think about portability, too. If you’re buying your first camera ahead of a big trip, choosing something small, compact and lightweight will also make a lot of sense. The camera that probably ticks that particular box the most is the Panasonic GX80, or the Olympus PEN E-PL8

Canon also offers a couple of fantastic options for beginners, the EOS 200D has the accolade of being the world’s smallest and lightest DSLR, while the 2000D is superb for those on a budget. Finally, if you’re tempted by something with retro styling and controls, the Fuji X-A10 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

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 200D

2. Canon EOS 200D

A teeny tiny DSLR to take on the might of the mirrorless marvels

Sensor: 24.2 MP APS-C CMOS
Lens Mount: Canon EF/EF-S
Connectivity: Wi-Fi & NFC
Video: Full HD
Battery Life: 650
Weight: 453g (including battery and memory card)
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight+Articulating touchscreen+Good battery life
Reasons to avoid
-No 4K Video-Larger than mirrorless cameras

Nikon and Canon are the probably the biggest rivals in the camera world, and if you’ve got your sights firmly set on this brand, the 200D is a great choice for first-timers. It’s nice and small, indeed it’s the smallest DSLR in the world to feature a vari-angle screen. There isn’t a full-blown guide mode to hold your hand here, but there is what’s known as a “guided interface” which gives you hints as to what exactly each setting is doing. There’s also a good range of automatic and semi-automatic options making it good to go right out of the box.

Best camera for beginners: Canon EOS 2000D

3. Canon EOS 2000D

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

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 Lumix GX80

4. Panasonic Lumix GX80

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

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: Sony A6000

5. Sony A6000

This older model is still extremely popular

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: Fujifilm X-A10

6. Fujifilm X-A10

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

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.

Best camera for beginners: Olympus PEN E-PL8

7. Olympus PEN E-PL8

A camera aimed at bloggers but great for beginners to photography

Sensor: 16.1 MP Four Thirds
Lens Mount: Micro Four Thirds
Connectivity: Wi-Fi
Video: 1080
Battery Life: 350
Weight: 374g (with battery and memory card)
Reasons to buy
+Cheap+Front-facing selfie screen+Uncomplicated
Reasons to avoid
-No viewfinder-No 4K video-Smaller sensor than some

Olympus has had great success with targeting its PEN E-PL models at bloggers. That kind of audience tends to want something which is capable of taking great pictures, but also looks the part too. Such is the case with the E-PL8 which has a stylish exterior – especially the leather look version. There’s a variety of different shooting modes, with fully automatic options for new users. The tilting screen faces forwards for selfies, which is great for holidays and day trips. There’s not a huge degree of complicated specs on offer here, but it’s a great option for family photographers who want something neat, uncomplicated and affordable.