Written by 9:03 am 4K Cameras, Gear Reviews • 57 Comments

Best Cameras for Beginners in 2020: 14 Entry-Level Options

A guide on what to look for when buying a new camera, plus 14 favorites from the past year in a variety of price points and brands.

cameras and notebook on table

This post has been fully updated to reflect 2020 camera options.

Over the past ten years, there has been an incredible explosion in camera technology. We’ve reached the point where virtually everyone has a very capable camera in their pocket at all times (their smartphone’s camera). But as great as your phone’s camera is, you’ll have to compete with some very real limitations if you want to improve your images.

If you’re looking to get into photography, you need to be able to take control of what your camera is doing. A cell phone will create an acceptable picture, but it has its limitations. Fortunately, if you’re looking for the best camera for beginner photographers, there are a lot of fantastic options to get you started.

 

What Should I Look for in a Beginner Camera?

When you start to look for a camera to start exploring photography, there are a few things for you to consider.

1. Quality of Photos

A lot of factors go into the quality of the pictures your camera produces. An expert photographer can get better pictures with a bad camera than a bad photographer can get with the most amazing camera in the world.

However, as a beginner there are things to look for that will help you to get better quality photos. Some sensors will be able to record a sharper image than others or perform better in low light situations. The quality of the lens has a huge impact over the final image quality. Being able to choose your own exposure settings (particularly aperture) will make a very real difference.

Image stabilization can also help in a wide range of situations. A shaky picture will ruin what would otherwise be a great image. Image stabilization systems help to protect against this, allowing you to use slower shutter speeds without introducing camera shake. In turn, this lets you lower the ISO settings to reduce image noise or use a smaller aperture to achieve a wider depth of field.

At the end of the day, the reason to choose a dedicated camera over a cell phone is to get better quality of image, and not all cameras can do that equally.

2. Ease of Use

Photography is a learning process. If your camera isn’t easy to use, or if it intimidates you, you’re not likely to put the effort into learning how to capture better images. You need to find a camera that you enjoy using and that doesn’t make the process harder.

Fortunately, any good beginner camera will have a variety of automatic (and semi-automatic) modes to help simplify the process for beginners.

And, while it might seem silly, the size of a camera may be intimidating for some people. Many beginner cameras are relatively small which helps people feel comfortable with them (and makes them less of a chore to lug around all day).

3. Control Over Settings

In a lot of ways, the more control you have over a camera, the less easy it will be to use. Everything gets a little more complex and you have to think about and juggle more variables. However, control is also what lets you take the pictures you want to take. It allows you to make creative decisions and achieve your goals, making it less likely for the camera to limit your results.

Good beginner cameras strike a compromise over control and ease. They will give you plenty of options to take control when you want to while also giving you the choice to let the camera make decisions about the best settings to use.

4. Price

The reality is that most people don’t have an unlimited budget, and price is an important consideration when choosing a camera, particularly for beginners.

The less expensive the camera, the more limitations you are likely to face. Often, super affordable cameras also have extremely limited potential to capture high quality images, and you might as well just use your phone. Conversely, more expensive cameras will allow you to take better quality pictures, but you might find yourself with more camera than you realistically need for the pictures you’re trying to take.

As a beginner, it’s not a bad thing to find a compromise, spending an amount that will allow you to have enough features and quality to learn from without becoming overwhelmed.

5. Ability to Grow

When choosing a camera for beginners, you want to choose something that will let you grow. We’ve already seen this from the aspect of unlocking new levels of control as you learn and become more comfortable.

Additionally, it can be good to view camera options as ecosystems. You can often start out with an inexpensive camera kit and then gradually expand it. For example, many cameras from the same manufacturer can share lenses. As you develop your skills, upgrading your lenses (or adding different types of lenses) will often give you the most significant improvement. If you plan correctly, once you’re ready to upgrade your camera, you might only need to buy a new camera body and keep using the same lenses you already own.

Best Cameras For Beginners

There are a few approaches you can make when choosing what camera will be best. One of the most important considerations is what type of camera form factor you want — there are three general categories you are likely to choose from: point and shoot, compact interchangeable lens cameras, and DSLR or SLR-style mirrorless cameras.

Point and Shoot Cameras

Point and shoot cameras can be a bit of a mixed bag. They are an incredibly convenient option for many beginners because they offer an all-in-one solution in a small, portable package. You don’t have to worry about deciding what lens to buy or bring with you, and many are small enough to fit in your pocket.

However, many point and shoot cameras don’t produce quality images. In a lot of cases, you will actually probably get better results from your phone than from a cheap point and shoot.

However, that’s not always the case. Some point and shoot cameras have fantastic lenses and very good sensors that let you capture high quality images. Many have robust options to give you full control over your shooting. There are even some point and shoot cameras (namely the Leica Q2) that offer a full set of features (and a price) to rival professional grade DSLRs.

For beginners, there are a few point and shoot cameras that stand out as fantastic options.

Sony RX100 VII

sonyrx100 next to phone

Quick Specs:

  • ISO Range: 100-12800
  • FPS: Up to 90
  • 3.0″ Touchscreen Tilting LCD
  • Optical Image Stabilization
  • Weight: 0.66 lbs

Sony’s RX100 line has positioned itself as among the best point and shoot camera models and a great choice for beginners. The RX100 VII is the latest in this series and brings some exciting features. It has a built-in lens with a 24-200mm focal length equivalent, giving you options for most events you might find yourself shooting in. The autofocus system is fantastic for a point and shoot, letting you get sharp shots in challenging situations. Not only can you get great quality pictures out of the RX100 VII, but you can also shoot 4K video.

The RX100 VII is a little more expensive than some of the other options, but once you factor out added lenses or other equipment into your kit, this could be a worthwhile choice.

Canon G7X Mark III

Quick Specs:

  • ISO Range: 100-12800
  • FPS: Up to 20
  • Live View, 3.0″ Tilting Touchscreen LCD
  • Built-In Optical Image Stabilizer
  • Weight: 0.67 lbs

Canon’s G7X line has become quite popular, especially among vloggers who want a tiny, all-in-one system. The G7X Mark III improves on this tradition thanks to its 4K video options and articulating LCD screen that can flip up to be seen from in front of the camera.

The G7X Mark III gives you a 27-270mm equivalent lens and the ability to shoot bursts of up to 20 frames per second. The optical image stabilization system will help both in low light and keep video smooth. If there’s one thing we would like to see added to this camera, it’s the addition of Canon’s Dual Pixel Autofocus System to upgrade its already good autofocus to a fantastic one.

Fuji X100V

fujix100v next to watch

Quick Specs:

  • ISO Range: 160-12800 (Extended Mode: 80-51200)
  • FPS: Up to 20
  • Live View, 3″ Touchscreen LCD
  • Weight: 1.05 lbs

Fuji’s X100 lineup is going to appeal to more of a niche audience due to its use of a 35mm equivalent prime lens as opposed to the more common zoom lenses as seen in the Sony and Canon cameras above. However, the 35mm lens is a great focal length for many uses and the reduced complexity of a prime lens instead of zoom lens often leads to sharper, better-composed images. When you combine this with Fuji’s decision to remove the low-pass filter, you have the capability of getting top notch images out of the X100V.

Additionally, this camera uses an APS-C sensor, considerably larger than the sensor found in most point and shoot cameras. Larger sensors collect more light, giving you better image quality, especially in low light conditions.

The X100V also offers Fuji’s popular Fuji Advanced Filters to simulate the look of classic films (a system that works surprisingly well). It also offers a built-in neutral density filter to help control bright lighting conditions, a strong Macro mode, and an advanced hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder that lets you quickly switch between the two viewfinder methods.

Panasonic LX 100 II

Quick Specs:

  • ISO Range: 200-25600 (Extended Mode: 100-25600)
  • FPS: Up to 30
  • Live View, 3″ 1240k-dot TFT LCD Touchscreen
  • Optical Image Stabilization
  • Weight: 12.31 oz

The Panasonic LX 100 II offers a lot of great features at a great price. The Four Thirds MOS sensor, while smaller than the Fuji’s APS-C sensor, is still larger than your typical point and shoot camera (or your cell phone’s camera sensor) and comes with many of the same benefits.

Despite a lower resolution (17MP), it can increase the image quality in low light conditions.This is possible as the sensor removes the optical low pass filter, which can render slightly sharper, more detailed images — albeit, often at the expense of false colour moiré and maze-like aliasing. These things combine to give you the capability of taking incredibly high quality pictures for a point and shoot camera.

Additionally, the LX 100 II sports a 24-74mm lens equivalent, matching perhaps the most popular professional zoom lens focal length. It has a quick autofocus, relatively fast bursts, and well placed controls, making shooting with the LX 100 II quite enjoyable.

Sony RX10 IV

sony rx10 on map

Quick Specs:

  • ISO Range: 100-12800 (Extended Mode: 64-12800)
  • FPS: Up to 24
  • Live View, 3.0″ Tilting Touchscreen LCD
  • Built-In Image Stabilization
  • Weight: 2.41 lbs

Technically speaking, the Sony RX10 IV falls under the “bridge camera” category rather than being a true point and shoot camera. Bridge cameras are larger and have a form factor more closely matching a DSLR, although the lens is not removable.

The Sony RX10 IV is also considerably more expensive than the other options in this section. However, you get a remarkable set of features in this camera. The camera sports an astounding 24-600mm equivalent lens with a relatively fast f/2.4-f/4.0 aperture, letting you better blur the background and shoot in low light. It also has optical image stabilization, fantastic autofocus, and improved shooting speeds over previous RX10 versions.

And if you want to shoot video, the RX10 IV offers 4K video with Sony’s S-Log color profiles for the most flexibility during editing.

Compact Interchangeable Lens Cameras

If you’re wanting something with more options than a point and shoot but aren’t ready for a full fledged DSLR type camera, there are a number of compact interchangeable lens cameras that will let you customize your setup. Many of these are, with good quality lenses, able to capture professional grade images.

These camera bodies are often relatively inexpensive, but keep in mind that you will need to pair them with separate lenses. However, you can choose just a lens that best suits what you shoot and gradually expand your selection over time as you find holes in your kit.

Sony a6600

sony a6600 on table

Quick Specs:

  • ISO Range: 100-32000 (Extended Mode: 100-102400)
  • FPS: Up to 11
  • Live View, 3″ Tilting Touchscreen LCD
  • In-Body Image Stabilization
  • Weight: 1.11 lbs

The newest in Sony’s a6600 line, the a6600 pulls many features from their full frame mirrorless lineup and gives them to you in a smaller package. The a6600 has a number of marquee features from their a7 series, such as Real-Time Eye AF, 5-axis in body image stabilization (IBIS), 11fps burst shooting, and silent shooting options. The 24.2MP APS-C sensor offers fantastic low light capabilities, rivaling (or even besting) many full-sized DSLRs.

For video shooters, the a6600 offers 4K S-Log video with no limits on clip length (aside from running out of battery life or storage on your memory card).

Overall the a6600 is a little bit more on the pricey side for many beginners, but you can also go back to earlier models such as the a6100 for incredible performance at deep discounts.

Fuji X-T30

fuji xt30 on table

Quick Specs:

  • ISO Range: 160-12800 (Extended Mode: 80-51200)
  • FPS: Up to 20 at 26.1MP (Up to 30 at 16.6MP)
  • Live View, 3″ Tilting Touchscreen LCD
  • Weight: 0.84 lbs

The Fuji X-T30 is a powerful APS-C camera that pulls many professional grade features from their higher end X-T3 but at a considerably lower price.

You get 26MP stills and DCI 4K video (with Fuji’s F-Log color profile), both with incredibly fast autofocus. Low light performance is very good, letting you take clean shots in challenging light conditions. And like the X100F point and shoot, the X-T30 also offers Fuji Film Simulations to recreate the looks of a variety of classic film stocks.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV

Quick Specs:

  • ISO Range: 200 to 25600 (Extended: 100 to 25600)
  • FPS: 8.7
  • Live View, 3″ Tilting Touchscreen LCD 180 degrees
  • 5-Axis Sensor-Shift Image Stabilization
  • Weight: 11.82 oz

For a while, Micro Four Thirds (MFT) cameras were huge thanks to shockingly good performance from a tiny package. Their popularity has diminished as SLR style mirrorless cameras have become increasingly popular, but there are a few manufacturers continuing to develop the format.

Olympus’s OM-D E-M10 Mark IV is a stellar MFT option. You get 20MP images and very good low light performance, particularly for such a small sensor (though larger sensor formats will almost always beat it out). It has a very good IBIS system and 4.5 fps burst shooting. For video, you get 4K and a flip-down touchscreen that lets you view it from in front of the camera.

One of the strengths of the Micro Four Thirds system is a wide range of lenses and accessories that are compatible with any MFT camera, regardless of the manufacturer.

Panasonic GX85

Quick Specs:

  • ISO Range: 200 to 25600 (Extended: 100 to 25600)
  • FPS: Up to 30
  • 3.0″ 1.04m-Dot Tilting Touchscreen LCD
  • 5-Axis Image Stabilization, Dual I.S.
  • Weight: 0.84 lb

Along with Olympus, Panasonic is one of the manufacturers still pushing forward with Micro Four Thirds cameras. The GX85 (also called the GX80 in countries outside of North America) is another great option using the format.

With the GX85 you get 16MP stills and 4K video. It offers an intelligent Dual IS system that combines 5-axis sensor IS with lens based IS for more effective stabilization. The 49 point autofocus is quite good, and the lack of an anti-aliasing filter allows you to capture sharper images.

Canon EOS M50

Quick Specs:

  • ISO Range: 100 to 25600 (Extended: 100 to 51200)
  • FPS: Up to 10
  • 3.0″ 1.04m-Dot Vari-Angle Touchscreen
  • Combination 5-Axis Image Stabilization
  • Weight: 4.59 oz

Canon’s EOS M50 is a great little mirrorless APS-C sensor camera (24MP) that gives great performance at a great price. It uses a unique EF-M mount, but supports adapters to use both EF and EF-S lenses, giving you the option to start using lenses common to higher end Canon DSLRs.

Perhaps one of the strongest points of this camera is the integration of Canon’s Dual Pixel Autofocus (DPAF) system with Eye Detection mode, one of the most well regarded AF systems available, for both still images and video up to 1080p resolution. You can also shoot 4K footage, but you do lose DPAF at that resolution. You also get a fully articulating touchscreen LCD, an enormously convenient feature.

While the M50 doesn’t offer IBIS, you can combine lens based IS with a digital IS system for decent stabilization.

DSLR and Mirrorless Cameras

If you want to have the most options and power in a camera, a DSLR or SLR style mirrorless is likely going to be the camera format of choice. These cameras offer the most powerful autofocus systems, often have larger sensors for better low light performance (and to help create better background blurs), and have lens options for just about any situation you might need.

Of course, once you get into this category, cameras have more features, and much higher price points. That said, camera manufacturers offer a wide range of cameras in this class, ranging from entry level to the most advanced professional cameras being made.

Below we look at a few great entry level options that are designed to be easily accessible for beginners while also offering great capabilities. And by going with an entry level model within a larger ecosystem, you get the opportunity to start building a lens collection that can carry over if you choose to upgrade to a higher level camera within that ecosystem.

Nikon Z50

Quick Specs:

  • ISO Range: 100-51200 (Extended Mode: 100-204800)
  • FPS: Up to 11
  • Live View, 3.2″ Tilting Touchscreen LCD
  • Digital stabilization (video only)
  • Weight: 0.87 lbs

It’s no secret that SLR style mirrorless cameras are officially an entrenched part of every major camera maker’s lineup. For Nikon, the Z50 fills the role of entry level option.

Nikon is well known for having exceptional low light performance, and this camera is no exception. The Z50 has a 21MP APS-C sensor, which (particularly when put into a mirrorless form factor) allows it to be smaller and lighter than many similar cameras. You also get an incredibly powerful autofocus for the price point and 11 FPS burst shooting, making it capable of handling fast action such as when photographing sports or wildlife.

While video has been a weak point for Nikon in the past, the Z50 dramatically increases the video capability from earlier Nikon DSLRs with a very effective video autofocus system and the ability to shoot 4K up to 30 FPS.

Canon EOS RP

canon eos rp

Quick Specs:

  • ISO Range: 100-40000 (Extended Mode: 50-102400)
  • FPS: Up to 5
  • Live View, 3″ Fully Articulating Touchscreen LCD
  • 12-pin electronic contact system for stabilization
  • Weight: 1.07 lbs

Going head to head with the Z50 is Canon’s entry level option, the Canon EOS RP. Unlike the Z50, the RP offers a 26MP full frame sensor. Many photographers prefer full frame sensors because it allows you to achieve a narrower depth of field and blur backgrounds more easily. They also tend to have better low light performance, though real world comparisons between the RP and Z50 are very comparable when shooting in low light.

The RP takes full advantage of Canon’s DPAF system and offers a fully articulating touchscreen. The new R mount lenses are gaining a lot of enthusiastic attention, but they tend to be quite pricey. Fortunately, Canon offers a few fantastic adapters to use EF mount lenses, giving you access to a wide range of lens options.

Canon Rebel T8i

Quick Specs:

  • ISO Range: 100-25600 (Extended Mode: 100-51200)
  • FPS: Up to 7.5
  • 3″ Articulating Touchscreen LCD
  • Built-In Image Stabilization (Movie Electronic IS)
  • Weight: 1.17 lbs

Canon’s Rebel lineup, including the most recent model, the Canon Rebel T8i, has been among the most popular beginner DSLRs for years. While none of these are as flashy as Canon’s high-end cameras, they are very well designed to be easily learned by beginners and are offered at extremely attractive price points.

One particularly nice factor is that they often benefit from technology trickling down from higher end models. The T8i, for example, benefits from the inclusion of a new conventional autofocus system introduced on the enthusiast level 80D.

The T8i offers a 24.2MP APS-C sensor with 7 FPS burst shooting. You don’t get IBIS, but there is an electronic (digital) IS when shooting video, which you can do in 4K. Like other Rebel models, the T8i is not only compatible with EF-S lenses (which are generally smaller and less expensive) but also all EF lenses, allowing you to use some fantastic lenses on this camera.

Nikon D7500

Nikon D7500

Quick Specs:

  • ISO Range: 100-51200
  • FPS: Up to 8
  • Live View, 3.2″ Rear Tilting Touchscreen LCD
  • Weight: 1.41 lbs

The Nikon D7500 (launched in 2017) improves upon its predecessor, the D5600 and while it’s starting to get a little bit older, it has become an amazing bargain thanks to price drops. Originally positioned as more of a mid-range option, the D5700 utilizes a 20.9MP APS-C sensor that offers fantastic low light performance for the price.

Like the Canon EF mount discussed above, this camera has a Nikon F mount, the same as Nikon’s top tier DSLRs, giving you the ability to use some of the best lenses available to Nikon with this camera.

For a DSLR, the D5700 boasts a compact package making it a great option if portability is important. With great autofocus, fantastic image quality (likely better than any other camera in its price point), and great battery life, it’s hard to beat this camera at this price. And unlike the D5600, the D5700 offers video for hybrid shooters. It lets you record rich and detailed 4K UHD in MP4 or MOV format. You can also shoot to an external recording device and to an in-camera SD card.

While these are all great options for entry level cameras, another possible approach is to consider an older model of DSLR camera. With some searching you can even find old professional grade cameras such as the original Canon 5d or the Nikon d700 for only a few hundred dollars. These will obviously be missing a lot of technological improvements that have been developed since their releases, but they’re still fantastic cameras that were used heavily by professional photographers for many years.

The camera market is huge, and there is an overwhelming number of options across a range of price points. It can be hard to know where to start looking for the best cameras for beginners. Fortunately, there are a number of cameras with features that will satisfy anyone looking for a beginner’s camera. If you are looking to move up from a cell phone into a dedicated camera, any one from this list will be a great option for you.

The best way to find the perfect camera for you is to get one in your hands and try it out. If you’re not ready to commit to a specific camera, rent one with BorrowLenses and get a real world feel for it.

*All quoted pricing is as of this writing and subject to change.

Tags: , , , Last modified: October 13, 2020
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