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?
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As ever, this is 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 2023, 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 are hundreds of lenses and accessories to choose from.
If you do want to head towards mirrorless, the good news here is that there are 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 are 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.
Reasonably priced for the build quality and specification on offer is the Fujifilm X-T30 II, with the resolution of its rear LCD screen, now at 1.62 million dots, being one of the only major differences over its predecessor. Still we do get the solid pairing of a 26.1 megapixel APS-C sized CMOS sensor wedded to the fourth generation of Fuji’s X processor, which is the same as the original generation camera, along with, for creative types, new Classic Neg and Eterna Bleach Bypass digital filters. These ape the look of traditional film processes, and there are 18 filters provided in all. The design of the camera remains distinctly old school – rear screen and eye level electronic viewfinder, or ‘EVF’, aside – with an attractively classic look and solid feel.
Unsurprisingly the AF system, complete with face and eye detection, is identical to that found on its X4 forebear. Videographers can choose from Full HD 240 fps high-speed video recording, which allows for the slow motion replay of captured footage, or 4K resolution video at a more regular cinematic 30fps. With the foundations staying the same as the original camera, but other specs upgraded to match that of Fuji’s X-T4, it’s largely a case of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ when it comes to the Fuji X-T30 II. Still, factor in a manageable body weight and size, and this camera will appeal just as much to beginners as photo enthusiasts.
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.
Available in a silver or black body, this interchangeable lens mirrorless camera from Fuji’s popular retro look ‘X’ series is all about the diminutive size and attractive styling – making it a blogger’s favourite – as much as its under-the-bonnet specifications. Bound to act as further catnip to the influencer crowd is a 180° tilting LCD, while a dedicated thumb rest and handgrip are available as an optional extra; and usefully so, as there’s no image stabilisation built into the body.
Otherwise the magnesium construction Fujifilm X-E4 is very much an everyday go-to camera suitable for beginners and beyond, in combining a decent 26.1-megapixel resolution with swift-ish 0.02-second auto focus and the ability to shoot up to 4K video. Further creativity is supplied by a Full HD video mode shooting up to 240fps, to allow for a slow motion replay.
This being a Fuji camera we also get 18 film simulation modes, digitally ape-ing the visual effects of darkroom processes of old to ensure we don’t tire of its charms easily. To conclude, if we’re seeking Fuji’s most compact camera to date to feature its latest fourth generation processor and sensor, making for a beginner friendly package, then we need to look no further.
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.
The Olympus E-PL10 is the most recent in a long line of PEN ‘Lite’ cameras, with a feature set designed to appeal to photography beginners and content creators alike. Arriving in a choice of several body colours, happily this camera is no gimmick, however. On the contrary, it feels robust and solid in the palm, even if its manufacturer is describing it to would-be purchasers as lighter than a bottle of water. That’s a plus, we think.
Providing 16 megapixels of resolution from a Four Thirds sensor, when most rivals in its class are offering 20 megapixels from an APS-C sized chip, may feel a little modest, but we do get the expected 4K resolution video and latest generation TruePic processor thrown in. The 3-inch backscreen here can be happily tilted this way and that and flipped around to face the subject to boot.
Features we’ve always admired across the Olympus camera range are present and correct here, including touch AF and touch shutter operation – whereby a finger tap of where our intended subject appears on the LCD prompts the camera to adjust the focus in the blink of an eye and just as rapidly take the shot. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity further feature as standard, allowing us to pair the product with our smart device of choice. Overall this is a compact, pocket-sized option for would-be photographers and YouTube-rs that to our mind barely puts a step, or a shutter click, wrong.
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.
Looking to be tempted away from your smartphone by a high quality camera that blends classic design with contemporary, user-friendly features? Enter Fuji’s 26-megapixel resolution, APS-C sensor incorporating X-S10, complete with leather look surface yet a more modernistic approach than its manufacturer has pursued of late. In fact it reminds us of Sony’s rival E-mount cameras. We still have the throwback Fuji features such as film simulation effects modes, however, which replicate the look of tilt and shift lenses or toy cameras. A touch screen provides further intuitiveness for anyone stepping up to this camera from a smartphone.
Even if we’ve some grumbles about the high-ish asking price, we loved the fact the X-S10 can be handily squeezed into a jacket pocket even with an 18-55mm standard zoom fitted to its faceplate.
Stills and videos are composed and reviewed via either an eye level viewfinder or 180° rotating LCD screen below, which can be turned to face the subject infront of the lens, thereby appealing to YouTube-rs and the selfie obsessed. We were less keen about the fact that our nose butted up against the rear screen when using the eye level viewfinder or the fact that Fuji has opted to place a joystick in place of the usual control pad on the camera back, however. It may look neat, but we found using it to be a tad fiddly.
Ultimately this is a camera that will appeal to smartphone users with deep pockets, as well as giving fledgling photographers room to grow thanks to its blend of auto and manual operation. In short this one is a capable all-rounder.
This DSLR resembling mirrorless camera is the physically smaller 24.2MP sibling to the simultaneously released EOS R7, which offers a bigger resolution but omits some of the EOS R10’s user-friendly features, such as a built-in flash. It’s intended to tempt smartphone photographers to upgrade to a ‘proper’ camera, and perhaps help existing DSLR owners make the switch to smaller, lighter mirrorless bodies at 382g here, albeit ones that handle in a very similar way.
As well as a respectable stills resolution, the Canon EOS R10 features the ability to record up to 4K resolution video, meaning it suggests itself as an affordable option for vloggers and content creators. Shots are composed via an eye level electronic viewfinder, which here offers a generous 2.36 million dot resolution, or the familiar LCD screen just below, which boasts tilt and swivel versatility and can be turned to face the subject – ourselves? – in front of our lens.
Surprisingly, given its entry-level camera status, Canon has introduced the new HEIF file format on this model, alongside more familiar JPEG and Raw file options. The EOS R10 likewise matches its bigger brother in the EOS R7 in having the fastest continuous mechanical shutter of an APS-C EOS camera at 15fps. Factor in impressive response times and picture quality and there is little about the Canon EOS R10 that feels compromised in order to hit its entry-level price point.
Choosing, like Canon, to fashion its mirrorless cameras to look like more compact DSLRs, Nikon’s Z 30 is currently the most affordable mirrorless digital camera that its maker offers, which is reason enough to show interest. In being a simplified version of more advanced models in the Nikon Z range, however, the Z 30 jettisons both an eye level viewfinder and integral flash, which is something of a shame in our eyes. We do get a chunky handgrip, however, which aids hand-held shooting, but its styling does make the camera too large to fit in a typical jacket pocket, particularly with lens attached.
Nikon can justify the above omissions however because it’s marketing the Z 30 as a ‘video first’ camera – that is to say it sees its primary audience as vloggers and content creators first, photographers second. Happily it doesn’t feel compromised or fudged in pandering to both.
As expected, we get a flip out 3-inch LCD screen that can face whatever or whomever is in front of the lens. Upon turning said screen to face our subject the camera cleverly and automatically switches into a dedicated selfie mode. Images display bright and vibrant colours and are generally on the flattering side, while 4K resolution video at a cinematic capture rate of 30fps comes as standard. Picture and sound quality from the camera is impressive straight out of the box. To conclude, then, the Nikon Z 30 may be small and beginner friendly, but it’s far from insubstantial.
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.
Another entry-level APS-C sensor incorporating camera option from Canon, the EOS M50 Mark II, the second iteration of the M50, resembles a DSLR that’s been shrunk, but still manages to squeeze in a very useful 24.1 resolution. Modest improvements over its predecessor include boosted Dual Pixel CMOS AF and Eye Detection AF, to help the camera quickly and accurately achieve sharp subjects, while a flexibly ‘vari angle’ touchscreen LCD has video bloggers in mind.
Impressively the camera can record 4K-resolution video, or switch to a lower resolution to achieve a 120fps slow motion performance. HDMI output or Wi-Fi connectivity are offered for the transferal of images, while a standard 3.5mm jack allows for an external microphone to be hooked up, if desired. We liked the fact that Canon has still found room for an eye level viewfinder here, while older and existing Canon EF lenses can be used alongside dedicated EF-M lenses with the aid of an adaptor. Compact yet versatile is our summary here, and even if it’s not a massive step on from its predecessor, it will suit beginners down to the ground.
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.
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.
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.