Welcome to part I of this 3 part blog post series for beginner photographers! Being a photography educator for over 16 years has lots of advantages. I get to see new photographers become actual confident artists…I get to be a part of their artistic journey…I get to help them find their visual voice…and I get to figure out what items and gear work BEST for beginners! So it might not surprise you that this is the question I get asked the most: “What camera should I buy?“ Or sometimes, “is this a good camera for a beginner?” Parents ask me, my students ask me, people who attend the weddings I photograph ask me. It’s the question I answer the most often. So while I do have a separate blog post specifically on entry-level DSLR cameras (and this post will have those too) I think it’s time to talk about not just the best cameras for beginners, but the best gear for beginners too.
There is, arguably, better gear suited for when you are starting out, and since I have lots of experience with students using equipment I created this 3 part blog post. From cameras and lenses, to tripods and carrying bags, to entry level flashes and more. This post, part I, will go over the best cameras for beginners. Part II will talk about the best lenses for beginners. And part III will discuss the best camera accessories (including carrying bags and lighting equipment) for beginners. Be on the lookout for those in a few days.
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And if you are here because you are still trying to learn photography and what all those buttons on your camera can do, enroll in my completely free online mini course. I can help you to understand your camera and start getting better photos by the end of the week!
Best Cameras for Beginners
Alright, the first question becomes: mirrorless or DSLR. Ugh this is a hard question to answer. And so I am not going to tell you which one to buy, but I will give you some options. Last year I wrote a blog post on trending mirrorless cameras where I claimed I was not ready to buy one. And then I bought one. What?!?!
Well first, I didn’t actually get rid of my favorite DSLR (and I never will…I love her), but it felt like it was time to see what all the fuss was about so I sold my secondary DSLR body and upgraded to a mirrorless camera. Secondly, all the major camera producers are now putting their research, time, and money into the production of the mirrorless camera body. So it felt like it was necessary to make the switch. But below I will list out several fantastic mirrorless and DSLR cameras for beginners from the 3 major companies competing today: Nikon, Canon, and Sony.
Nikon D3500: This is my choice, because this is what I buy for my students to use and I have had some version of this camera in my classroom for the last 11 years (ever since we introduced digital in the classroom). This latest camera model has a 24 megapixel sensor, good low light capability, and even has some live shooting and video capabilities. These are great beginners cameras. The kit lens leaves a bit to be desired, but I will recommend my favorite beginner lens in the next blog post. The D5600 does almost the same things but has a swivel back viewfinder, touchscreen, and is better for vlogging.
Canon Rebel T7: The Canon Rebel line has long been a fantastic beginner camera. Same 24 MP count, good in low light, and the menu overall just might be a little more user-friendly than the Nikon equivalent. At the time of publication, this camera is cheaper than the Nikon and starts with a kit lens at under $500. That is a steal for what this camera can do! Another that is similar is the EOS SL3, which has a few more options much like the D5600 above.
Nikon Z50: If you prefer to start with a mirrorless (likely my recommendation if you have a slightly larger budget of a few hundred more dollars) then this is my choice for Nikon. This is a DX (digital crop sensor) camera just like the DSLR cameras I mention above. This one comes with a kit lens that will help get you started. The major advantage for buying mirrorless cameras over DSLR’s is that you can actually see the changes you are making in your photo through the EVF (electronic viewfinder). This makes it easier when you are learning photography. This kit sells for just under $900 with the kit lens.
Looking for a slightly more advanced camera? The Nikon Z5 is a full frame sensor and feels really similar to the Z50. If you want a camera that will bring you through intermediate level where your FX lenses work on your FX camera, then this one might be it. Under $1100 for the body.
Canon EOS R50: This mirrorless EOS takes the place of the Rebel line mentioned above. These continue their fame as fantastic beginners cameras. Also a 24 MP count, good in low light, and a great entry into the mirrorless camera lines. The mirrorless cameras are slightly more expensive, but if you are serious about continuing your photographic journey the mirrorless line might be the way you want to go. The R50 goes for just under $800 with a kit lens.
Looking for a slightly more advanced camera? The Canon EOS R8 is a full frame sensor and feels really similar. If you think you want something that will bring you through intermediate level, this one might be it.
Sony A7ii: Although I have never purchased the Sony Alpha line, my peers swear by it! This camera is a beautiful entry into the mirrorless camera lines and is full frame! If you do not have prior lenses in another company then this may be the camera you love! Almost nothing but great reviews from this camera. Megapixel count, size, and low-light capabilities rival that of the Canon and Nikon equivalents. Also, because this camera is being replaced by a newer version (the A7 IV just came out) it is selling for super low right now! This kit sells for just under $1000 with the kit lens.
So the first decision on which is the best camera for you is whether you want a mirrorless or DSLR camera. But also remember that the camera body is actually not half as important as the lens you are using: invest in glass, not camera bodies. Don’t forget that I will be outlining the best lenses for beginners in the next blog post. And all that equipment is even less important than what you do with that equipment and gear. You are the most important part of this equation. So find a camera that feels good, with a company that offers additional equipment that works well for you, and then invest in yourself. Take more classes, explore with the equipment you do have, and start creating gorgeous photography with whatever is in front of you!
The best camera Is Still The One That’s With You
In conclusion, choosing the best camera for beginners can be overwhelming, as there are many factors to consider. But by understanding the differences between DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, as well as important features like megapixels and lens compatibility, you can make an informed decision that fits your needs, budget, and lifestyle. All in all, it’s vital to do your research and compare the camera specs (and I definitely suggest you do) so check out Ken Rockwell or DPReview (not sponsored) and you can find much more in-depth specifications as well as comparison charts. With the right knowledge, you can identify the camera that will help you capture and share life’s special moments. “The best camera is the one that’s with you” as the famous saying goes. So don’t wait — start your journey into photography with the best beginner camera for you today!