The Best Cameras for Beginners in 2024

Looking to get started in photography but feel overwhelmed at the huge number of different camera models on the market? The daunting feeling can be an obstacle as you try to dive headfirst into the art form, but you have come to the right place: we have selected the best cameras for beginners looking to dip their toes in photography without breaking the bank or getting in over their heads.

Updated: 5/7/2024 by Matt Williams

With this list of beginner cameras, we hope to identify the best options to set your budding shutterbug’s visual journey off on the right foot. The ideal camera for a starter — whether a young child, teenager, or adult — is one that can kindle enthusiasm without draining mental resources.

Simplicity in form and function are paramount concerns, obviously, but affordability and durability are just as crucial when placing a camera in the hands of a first-timer. With our help, hopefully, this year marks not just a banner year for your own progress, but the point at which a few new lifelong photographers are made.

At a Glance

Best Beginner DSLR Cameras

The DSLR has several advantages for people starting out in photography: they’re generally cheaper than mirrorless counterparts, especially at the low-end, and there is an extremely large stable of lenses both new and used. This means the overall cost of entry is much lower, especially if you purchase gear on the used market. There is also an argument that an optical viewfinder provides a more “traditional” photographic experience — whether that matters or not is up to you.

There are plenty of downsides as well: most DSLRs do not have in-body image stabilization, which helps counteract the instability of handheld shooting, and the two big DSLR producers, Canon and Nikon, are slowly dwindling down the production of both bodies and lenses. The flip side, of course, is that prices for legacy DSLR mount lenses and bodies will continue to drop, and most lenses are easily adaptable to new mirrorless mounts, should you decide to upgrade down that path at some point.

Canon EOS Rebel T7 with EF-S 18-55/3.5-5.6 IS II Lens

The Canon Rebel series has been a fixture for first-timers for years, and with every iteration, it continues to demonstrate why. With the Canon Rebel T7, owners were finally granted a 24-megapixel sensor (up from 18MP on previous models). The build quality is about what you would expect for the price, but out-of-the-box image quality is high for a camera in its class. Controls are adequate without being overwhelming, combining great one-click options with a deeper bench of advanced settings.

The lack of a touchscreen is unfortunate, and for many smartphone users probably unthinkable, but the 3-inch LCD is bright and crisp. More appeal lies in the Bluetooth capability, making wireless transmission of images simple. This may seem like a relatively minor or expected feature, but these days many folks want to make sure they can share their photography as quickly as possible, and unfortunately, this is one area that most manufacturers have lagged quite far behind. So, it is worth noting Canon’s Camera Connect app is simpler and more feature-rich than many of those on offer by competitors.

The Canon EOS Rebel T7 is undeniably among the most basic of basic DSLRs, but as an introduction to photography, and the Canon ecosystem more broadly, it holds considerable value. With its intuitive usability, charting a clear path from simple beginner controls to more advanced settings, it is the definition of a great camera to grow into.

Throw the Canon EF-S 24/2.8 lens, which is barely larger than a body cap, on the camera for a compact setup with a very versatile 38mm (full-frame equivalent) field of view.

Nikon D7500

A nikon d7500 dslr camera with a prominent zoom lens, lens cap off, shown from the front view, displaying control dials and buttons clearly.

Positioned as a mid-range DSLR, the Nikon D7500 borrows many features from the higher-end D500 while remaining a step above the now-discontinued D3xxx and D5xxx lines. Crafted with durable and lightweight carbon fiber, the Nikon D7500 features extensive weather sealing to protect against dust and moisture ingress, making it a reliable companion for outdoor and travel photography.

At the heart of the D7500 is a 20.9-megapixel DX-format CMOS sensor, which is the same sensor found in the more expensive D500, as well as all of Nikon’s current APS-C mirrorless cameras. This sensor, in conjunction with Nikon’s EXPEED 5 image processing engine, provides excellent image quality, high ISO performance, and fast processing speeds. The 51-point Multi-CAM 3500FX II autofocus system, which has trickled down from the D500, is accurate, adept, and swift, especially when using Nikon’s world-class 3D Tracking.

The D7500’s pentaprism viewfinder offers 100% frame coverage and 0.94x magnification. For those who prefer live-view shooting, the D7500 is equipped with a 3.2-inch 922k-dot tilting touchscreen LCD — quite uncommon to find on higher-end DSLRs — which is versatile for shooting from high and low angles.

Nikon has long been lauded for its impeccable metering and autoexposure ever since it introduced matrix metering with the Nikon FA in the late 1970s. The D7500 uses an Intelligence Scene Recognition System with 3D Matrix Metering III, equipped with a 180,000-pixel RGB sensor that analyzes every aspect of the scene.

SnapBridge connectivity is built-in, using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Wi-Fi to allow seamless communication between the camera and a smartphone, which can allow users to do everything from transferring images to remotely triggering the shutter. A built-in pop-up flash is also included, and the EN-EL15a battery is CIPA-rated at 950 shots per charge.

Finally, the D7500 is capable of recording 4K UHD video at up to 3o fps (and Full HD at up to 60 fps). Unfortunately, the 4K does not use the entire sensor, instead drawing from a center area that yields a 1.5x crop factor, making the crop factor greater than Micro Four Thirds when compared to full-frame.

Pair it with the excellent Nikkor DX AF-S 35/1.8 lens and you have a very affordable “nifty fifty” set up. The excellent Nikkor DX AF-P 10-20/3.5-5.6 also offers an affordable gateway, with high image quality, to wide-angle photography.

Pentax KF

A close-up of a wet black pentax dslr camera with a zoom lens. the camera is speckled with water droplets, emphasizing its waterproof feature.

If there is one thing entry-level Pentax cameras are known for, it is their willingness to provide premium features that other companies would withhold for the higher-end models. The Pentax KF certainly kept this trend alive, making it a surprisingly robust option for a beginner, with excellent image quality to boot.

The camera is smaller than the Rebel T7, but slightly heavier — a clue to the relative sturdiness of its construction, something for which Pentax is highly regarded. The K-70’s build is impressive within its class, boasting internal weather-sealing and a large glass pentaprism with a high 0.95x magnification (versus 0.80x for the Rebel T7 and 0.85x for the D3500). Design care extends to the rear 3.0” display, which is hinged and movable, providing considerably better usability.

Perhaps best of all the built-in features is Pentax’s “Shake Reduction (SR)” system or “IBIS” in general terms. Pentax is the only current DSLR manufacturer to have ever implemented IBIS, from its highest-end K-1 flagship cameras to lower-end bodies like the K-70. What’s more is that the SR system can be used for pixel shift shooting to create extremely high-resolution, high-quality images — no other camera below $1,000 offers such a feature.

The KF is actually a minor update to the now-discontinued K70. The biggest physical difference is the LCD, which received a resolution bump from 921k-dots to 1.04m-dots. It’s also 3 grams lighter. On the inside, Ricoh has added three new custom modes: Bleach Bypass, Satobi, and Cross Processing. The special-edition custom image modes — Kyushu and Katen — that were previously added to the K-3 Mark III, K-1, and K-1 Mark II are now included as well, though they only function with a limited number of select lenses.

One final benefit of getting into a Pentax starter is you will also be getting into the best catalog of dedicated APS-C DSLR lenses out there. There are many outstanding lenses within the Pentax line-up that simply have no equivalent on Canon or Nikon systems: the DA 15/4 AL Limited, DA 21/3.2 AL Limited, DA 35/2.8 Macro Limited, DA 40/2.8 Limited, DA 70/2.4 Limited, and the DA 20-40/2.8-4 Limited, to name a few standouts. Spurring interest in the glass in front of the camera is a joy all on its own.

As a bonus: unlike Canon and Nikon, Pentax remains committed to the DSLR form factor, so provided the company can survive, there will always be new cameras and lenses available.

Best Beginner Mirrorless Cameras

Mirrorless cameras provide a plethora of advantages over DSLRs for both amateurs and professionals, but it’s the “what you see is what you get” perk of electronic viewfinders that may be the most beneficial to those just hitting the photography pavement.

Being able to see how changing shutter speed or ISO affects their exposure, what exposure compensation does, or how stopping a lens down produces more depth of field all before you take even a single photo is a massive advantage.

Sony ZV-1 or ZV-1 II

A fujifilm x-t30 camera with a silver top, black body, and mounted fujinon lens, sitting on a white background. the camera is viewed from the front-left angle.

One of the newer models on the list, the Fujifilm X-T30 II improves on its former incarnation and offers an option that will give folks a retro-style they love with the fresh features they need.

First things first, this camera just flat-out looks cool. Don’t dismiss this as mere aesthetics, however. The same retro vibes you’ll get when looking at it also indicate some classic learning opportunities. While we agree touch screen controls can be a big plus, especially for younger users, there really is nothing quite like manual external exposure controls, and that’s what you find on top of the X-T30 II.

While the controls could be considered retro for retro sake, the ability to directly see and access shutter speed and aperture dials do lean directly into the fundamentals of proper exposure — which is certainly one of the first things a new photographer must master — in a very visual and easy-to-understand way. It’s one thing to set the camera to “A” and turn some thumb wheels to adjust numbers in a digital display, but it’s another to have those on tactile, marked dials.

Inside, you have nothing to worry about. The camera boasts a beefy 26.1-megapixel BSI APS-C sensor — currently the best APS-C sensor on the market — with a very effective phase-detect autofocus system that covers nearly the entire frame. Additionally, the camera can capture beautiful 4K video. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Fujifilm’s beautiful film simulations, which can be applied to JPEGs (and video) in-camera, or to RAW files in post-processing. Provia, Velvia, Classic Chrome, and Eterna have proven to be fan favorites for color, while Acros is widely regarded as one of the best black and white simulations.

There are downsides. The quick access menu screen, brought up by a Q button, sits awkwardly in the exact spot your right hand wants to be when gripping the camera, leading to accidental and unfortunate bumps. Perhaps the biggest disappointment, is the removal of the four-way directional pad, as Fujifilm has unfortunately done on many of its recent cameras — but for those accustomed to touch screens, I doubt this will be an issue.

Regardless, what you get here in terms of power and image quality is just impressive, making it a starter with real longevity — not only a good first camera but an enjoyable, useful secondary camera once you have moved on to something at a little higher level. Whether you buy this camera, or a higher-end X-T3, X-T4, or X-Pro3, all have the same sensors and produce the same image quality.

Last but not least, Fujifilm has the most complete line of APS-C lenses available for any mirrorless system.

 Nikon Z50 or Nikon Z fc or Nikon Z30

Nikon Z50 with Nikkor 16-50/3.5-6.3 VR

There is no beating around the bush: these are some of my favorite cameras on this list and ones I have personally recommended to not just beginners but anyone who wants an easy-to-use camera on the go that won’t break the bank. The Nikon Z50 and the Nikon Z fc — two cameras with different outward designs but virtually identical features and specs — do what they need to do, and they do it very well.

While the Nikon Z50 sports a modern traditional mirrorless design, with a standard PASM dial, the Z fc goes all-in on the “retro” aesthetic — and it does so very successfully. Shutter speed and ISO are readily at your fingertips on physical dials, and the aperture can be controlled either via a command dial or programmed to a ring on the lens. As with the Fujifilm X-T30 II, these physical dials can be an excellent way for beginners to master the “exposure triangle.” While the lenses lack dedicated aperture rings, the Z fc does include an ISO dial, which is lacking on the X-T30 II. It also includes a nice little F-Stop “window” to show your current aperture setting — so, all three exposure settings are still readily visible.

Nikon Z fc top plate with Nikkor 16-50/3.5-6.3 VR

The savings — in both price and weight — from the higher-end Z6 and Z7 bodies come from the reduced sensor size (APS-C or ‘DX’). It’s the same 20MP sensor found in Nikon’s D500 and D7500 DSLRs. The image quality here is outstanding and among the best of any on this list.

Another key feature making these the ideal run-and-gunner is the cameras’ sizes. They are jacket-pocket small and the Nikkor 16-50/3.5-6.3 VR kit lens is a true pancake — the quality this squatty bit of glass gives will astonish and it’s a pleasure to operate thanks to its proper mechanical zoom as opposed to the power or electronic zoom of many other small kit lenses. Trade-offs always exist, and unfortunately, the Z50 provides no in-body image stabilization — a definite downside for a camera this slight in stature, but not a deal-breaker by any stretch, especially because so far, all the Nikon Z DX lenses do include VR. The Nikkor Z DX 18-140/3.5-6.3 VR is another compact and stellar lens that mates nicely with either of these bodies and will give any photographer just about all the range they really need — like the 16-50 it can often be found paired with a body in a kit.

The flip-out screen of the Nikon Z fc may be especially appealing to the selfie/vlogger crowd, or those photographers who simply prefer it to tilt-only screens. Both provide touch capability, however.A nikon mirrorless camera with a large lens, featuring prominently positioned control dials and labeled buttons, against a white background.

The Nikon Z30 is a versatile and compact mirrorless camera that’s specifically designed to cater to the needs of content creators, especially those focused on vlogging and streaming. It is equipped with the same 20.9-megapixel DX sensor found in the Z50 and Z fc, allowing for 4K up to 30 fps or Full HD up to 120 fps. Continuous recording is possible for up to 2 hours and 15 minutes, and live streaming can be done at up to 4K 30p or Full HD 60p. For longer continuous recording, the camera can be powered via the USB-C port.

Distinctively user-friendly, the Z30 boasts an intuitive interface and a fully articulating touchscreen LCD, which is perfect for selfies and vlogs. This also allows creators to easily frame their shots when in front of the camera, enhancing the usability for video recordings and live streaming. Although the camera does not include a viewfinder, the large, bright screen compensates by providing clear visibility under various lighting conditions.

A red tally lamp on the front and controls that allow the user to easily change exposure and focus when the screen is facing forward are very nice touches for this camera’s intended audience. A top stereo mic and a 3.5mm port for using an external mic are also included.

The bottom line is this: The Nikon Z50/Z fc/Z30 produces some of the best possible images with the lowest possible profile and the simplest possible controls of any cameras on this list. A beginner could want nothing more.

Panasonic Lumix GX85 with 12-32/3.5-5.6 ASPH and 40-150/4-5.6 ASPH

For those who want to start off with something very compact, the Panasonic Lumix GX85 packs a lot of power into its downright minuscule body. It isn’t just small, though. It’s speedy, with the ability to start up, focus, and fire in under a second. Autofocus, a key feature for newbies, is also quick, ranging from a tenth of a second in ideal settings to a bit slower in dimmer conditions, depending on the lens being used — a consequence of any contrast-detection autofocus system.

One undeniable appeal of the GX85 is its ability to shoot excellent 4K UHD video. Panasonic is known for taking considerable pride in its video capability, and that quality presents itself even in cameras where the feature is secondary.

The images produced by the GX85 are of great quality, made all the easier to capture thanks to Panasonic’s excellent Dual I.S. — a feature that synchronizes the camera’s in-body sensor stabilization (IBIS) with the lens’s optical stabilization. Note that Dual I.S. is only functional with Panasonic lenses, but Olympus (or another brand) lenses will still function perfectly in concert with the GX85’s IBIS.

The GX85 boasts a 16MP Four Thirds sensor inside a Micro Four Thirds mount, which allows access to possibly the most extensive library of lenses for any mirrorless mount. For newbies used to initiating focus by tapping the screen of their iPhone, they will feel right at home working with the GX85 and its 1.044m-dot tilt touchscreen LCD.

While construction is acceptable, there is no weather-sealing. This is a minor quibble, however, when you consider the strengths of this camera and the Micro Four Thirds system overall. If you are looking for something small, fast, and simple, you could do much worse than the GX85 for your first shooter. Once you consider that the GX85 is bundled with the superb and downright tiny Panasonic 12-32/3.5-5.6 ASPH, plus the Panasonic 40-150/4-5.6 ASPH, you have nothing short of a fantastic price-to-performance ratio. Furthermore, it is not uncommon to find the kit marked down from its $797.99 MSRP to $599.99 or even $499.99.

When my sister asked for a camera for her birthday for her dessert business, this is one I immediately went for. As far as interchangeable lens cameras go, you don’t get more compact (or cheaper) than Micro Four Thirds, and the unbeatable IBIS of the cameras allows for a smoother transition from those who are used to the computational abilities of smartphone imagery.

Best Beginner Compact/Fixed-Lens Cameras

From my perspective, one of the easiest ways to get a beginner into photography is to give them a tool that they’re most comfortable with so they can begin to master the fundamentals. That’s where compacts come in — as close to the size of smartphones as you’ll get from a dedicated camera and often pocketable.

Compacts come with all the advantages of mirrorless cameras (they are, after all, mirrorless as well), but you do, of course, lose the ability to change lenses, but the fundamentals of photography are all still there. The closer-to-smartphone size may be especially appealing to younger audiences, as well.

Sony ZV-1 or ZV-1 II

A sony camera mounted on a tripod, with its flip screen displaying a photo of three young adults smiling and posing together.

Combining features from Sony’s renowned RX100 series with enhancements that support video recording and content creation, the Sony ZV-1 is a compact digital camera specifically designed with vloggers and content creators in mind.

The design of the ZV-1 is tailored for handheld video capture. It features a lightweight and compact body that is easy to carry and maneuver, making it ideal for shooting on the go. A Zeiss-branded 24-70mm (FF-equivalent) f/1.8-2.8 lens makes for a great general-purpose camera. One of the standout design features is the side-flipping 3.0-inch touchscreen LCD, which is perfect for framing shots while facing the camera, and it simplifies operation, especially for solo content creators.

At its core, the ZV-1 is equipped with a 20.1-megapixel Type-1 Exmor RS stacked CMOS sensor — the same sensor used in the RX100 models. Sony’s BIONZ X image processor powers the camera’s excellent Real Time Tracking and Real Time Eye AF. Three hundred and fifteen phase-detection autofocus points combined with 425 contrast detection points make for extraordinarily fast and accurate autofocus. Thanks to the stacked sensor and powerful processor, the camera is capable of an incredible 24 fps with continuous autofocus and autoexposure, and zero blackout.

Video capabilities are a major highlight of the ZV-1. It supports 4K video recording and offers features like Active Mode image stabilization, S-Log2 and S-Log3, HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma), a front tally light, a large REC button on the top panel, and a built-in multidirectional three-capsule mic with a dedicated windscreen. Another innovative feature is the Product Showcase Setting, which optimizes settings for product reviews with smooth, quick focus shifts between the subject’s face and the object in front of the camera.

Other notable features include a Bokeh Switch, which enables easy switching between a Background Defocus — which switches to the camera’s maximum aperture setting and engages the built-in ND filter if needed. Soft Skin Effect can be engaged to smooth wrinkles or blemishes on a subject’s face, and Face-Priority AE suppresses sudden changes in exposure if a subject moves from, for example, direct sunlight into shade or if the subject turns away from the camera.

There is also the Sony ZV-1 II, which is not a successor to the ZV-1 like the name might suggest, but rather a sibling model. Instead of the ZV-1’s 24-70mm (FF-equivalent) f/1.8-2.8 lens, the ZV-1 II features a wider 18-50mm (equivalent) f/1.8-4 lens. It is otherwise the same, with one caveat: the ZV-1’s optical image stabilization has been left behind, and when using Active Steady Shot (which stabilizes footage via cropping the video), the lens isn’t much wider than the ZV-1.

Panasonic Lumix ZS100

A panasonic lumix digital camera with an extended zoom lens and red detailing on a gray body, featuring leica lens technology.

Encased in a robust, sleek body, the Panasonic Lumix ZS100, known as the TZ100 in some markets, ZS100 lies a Type-1 20.1-megapixel CMOS sensor, considerably larger than those found in most other compacts of this size, price, and zoom ratio. The ZS100 features a Leica DC Vario-Elmarit lens equivalent to 25-250mm in 35mm terms — a full 10x zoom range. This versatile zoom, combined with a fast maximum aperture of f/2.8 at the wide end, though it slows to f/5.9 at the telephoto end. To help compensate this, the lens contains a 5-axis “Hybrid OIS system,” which also includes a mode that automatically levels the image “regardless of tilt” when shooting video.

The sensor is mated with Panasonic’s Venus Engine processor and the company’s DFD (Depth from Defocus) autofocus technology. DFD is essentially a superior variant of basic contrast detection — it actually performs extremely well with stills, but video is where it suffers, as you will often notice “pulsating” in the footage as the camera tries to lock on. Aside from that, autofocus is swift and precise, even in challenging lighting situations. Its Face and Eye detect modes work surprisingly well with continuous autofocus, and the rear LCD is touch-sensitive, allowing the user to move the focus point using the touchscreen without taking their eye away from the viewfinder.

Speaking of the viewfinder, it is one of the camera’s weakest points. On paper, a 1.17 million dot EVF doesn’t sound bad, but it’s actually a field sequential display, meaning at any given time, you’re only seeing 1/3 as many dots. It is also quite small with very low magnification.

Connectivity is a strong point for the ZS100, with built-in Wi-Fi allowing for seamless image sharing and remote camera control via smartphone or tablet. And there are plenty of unique features: Light Composition, which can be used when photographing fireworks or nighttime scenes; Wide Panorama, which creates panoramic images in camera; and 4K Live Cropping, allowing you to adjust the frame while recording without moving the camera. In-camera raw processing is also possible, and there are no less than 22 Creative Control modes, such as Relaxing Tone, Glistening Water, Romantic Sunset Glow, Appetizing Food, Silky Skin, Glittering Illuminations, and Sweet Child’s Face.

All in all, the Panasonic Lumix ZS100 offers a compelling mix of imaging power, optical versatility, and compactness, making it a prime candidate for anyone looking for a camera that can rise to the occasion in many situations and easily fits into their pocket.

Ricoh GR III or Ricoh GR IIIx

Those new to photography are also likely accustomed to using their smartphones for photography. This means they’re already learned to work within the boundaries of one (sometimes more, but primarily one) focal length. This discipline can be ported over to their photographic education, and it’s one that is often suggested by many to teach newcomers or to spur creativity: shoot with a single focal length for a period of time.

There are two great options, essentially identical in haptics and form factor, that offer exactly that. They differ only due to the focal lengths: the Ricoh GR III is equipped with a 28mm (FF-equivalent) lens (quite similar to a smartphone’s main lens) and the Ricoh GR IIIx boasts a longer, more “normal” focal length of 40mm (FF-equivalent).

The Ricoh GR line is one-a-kind. There simply isn’t anything else on the market like it. Compact cameras come in two forms: small enough to actually be “pocketable” (fit in a jeans pocket, for example) or large enough that you need a bag or purse of some kind — maybe a jacket or coat pocket in a best-case scenario. In terms of the former, the only cameras on the market that fit the bill are a 1.0-inch type or smaller (such as the Canon G5X series). Only the Ricoh GR series combines truly pocket-ability with a large APS-C sensor.

The GR III/IIIx also boasts the famous “snap focus” mode — push the shutter button down quickly, past the half-stop for autofocus, and the camera will default to a pre-set distance and snap the photo. You can set this distance in the menu from six options: 1m, 1.5m, 2m, 2.5m, 5m, and infinity. This feature is paired with a brilliant digital depth-of-field scale that will show how much will be in focus at your set aperture and snap focus distance. On the GR III, setting it to 2m and f/8 will show everything from about 1m to infinity in focus — perfect for most street and general photography. The GR IIIx will not show quite as much in focus, since its longer focal length necessarily means shallower depth of field for a given f-stop.

Best of all, the GR’s 18.3mm f/2.8 lens (28mm FF-equivalent) is one of the best lenses ever made, both in a compact or otherwise. And much to my amazement when I received my camera, the 26.1mm f/2.8 (40mm FF-equivalent) lens in the GR IIIx is even better, with less distortion and sharper corners wide-open.

For me, the GR series is probably the textbook example of perfect camera ergonomics. Almost everything can be manipulated, adjusted, or operated with your right hand while gripping the camera, and all the controls seem to be placed exactly where they should be. Image quality from the 24MP APS-C sensor is, naturally, fantastic.

It’s easily one of my favorite camera series of all time.

There you have it: our picks for the best digital cameras you can currently buy if you’re just starting out as a beginning photographer. Please note that the Sony ZV-E10 would normally be on this list, but Sony has suspended production of the camera for the foreseeable future.

Hopefully this guide helps you decide on your first camera and allows you to hit the ground running in actually doing photography and learning more about it.