Everyone aspires to produce beautiful stills with just a single click of a camera button. However, photography doesn’t work that way. It is an art where you need to meet the right mixture of elements to render beautiful shots. With the right lighting, the rule of thirds, lines, shapes, texture, patterns, and color, you’ll be able to achieve this.
There are point-and-shoot camera models that can automatically create some adjustments to partially achieve those great shots. However, isn’t it a pure joy to get your hands on a camera that can go beyond that? Interchangeable lens cameras make that possible.
Whether a DSLR or mirrorless camera, you’ll enjoy the vast possibilities of photography as you explore and play on the features and functions of these cameras. They might look intimidating for novices, but there are actually some models that can be very intuitive and beginner-friendly. For instance, the Canon Rebel SL3 DSLR comes with a very handy Guided UI and Creative Assist mode which are meant for new users.
If you need more models like that, we rounded up the best choices available. Besides their ease of use, we also considered their features and other capabilities to assure you’ll get the best value out of any purchase. Together with some pieces of advice from a former NatGeo professional photographer, Evangeline Summers, we offer you the five best cameras for beginners this 2021!
1. Nikon D3500
Nikon F (DX)
Nikon D3500 might not have the unbeatable 32.5 MP APS-C sensor of Canon EOS 90D or the beauty of Dual Pixel CMOS AF, but it is equipped with the convenience you need for a beginner-friendly camera.
“It has this magnificent Guide Mode on the dial,” started Summers, “This feature is the reason we put this on the top of the list. Not only it will give you a virtual tutorial of the functions of the camera, but it will also allow you to adjust it depending on your need. With this, you have the option between the basic assistance or the tutorial for more advanced features of the camera.”
The guide is delivered using the rear LCD screen which makes things more convenient to users. The controls are very intuitive as well and it is stripped off of Nikon DSLR’s Custom Settings menu. The latter might sound a bit drastic and more of a disadvantage but these things are compensated with just the right set of great features to aid your photography needs.
“D3500 will give you 24.2 MP APS-C sensor which is very reliable to get crisp images with rich tones,” Summers added, “Also, its burst rate is still great at 5 FPS given that it is an entry-level cam that is reasonably priced! So, with this bad boy, you got the most affordable, most beginner-friendly DSLR ever!”
2. Canon EOS 250D / Rebel SL3 DSLR
Canon has done an exquisite job in the release of its Rebel SL3, which is known as EOS 250D in other places. It is the successor of the famous Rebel SL2 which was widely cherished by a lot of photography professionals back then. With this, Canon has made another great success by empowering the camera even more which gives us the Rebel SL3 that Summers find very interesting.
“Rebel SL3 will give you a plate full of interesting things you would love. First is the vari-angle screen where you can use the Live View option of the camera. The good thing about this is that Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF system is very efficient in recognizing, locking, and following the focus to the subject on the screen with just a single tap of your finger. It is very quick, effective, and easy to use.
“Also, its dynamic range is just right; just the right amount of details in dark and bright spots. It is really not something of a deal-breaker since it is comparatively almost the same as the performance of SL2. However, it has a great improvement in the noise control and level even at the highest ISO settings. So, it is still a winning deal.”
Furthermore, Summers said that despite the great performance of the camera, Canon gave it a few tweaks to make it more friendly among beginners.
“Besides giving the market a smaller size of DSLR,” Summers added, “you’ll also get other helpful functions that improve user experience. For instance, it introduces a Guided UI, a viewfinder with distinctive autofocus points, and a Creative Assist mode. All of them are targeting novice users. This makes it not just a compact camera, but so as a very beginner-friendly unit, as well!”
3. Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV
Micro Four Thirds
We all love E-M10 Mark III due to its 4K video capability, 5-axis image stabilization, and small body. But our craze over the said model just got crazier with the release of another masterpiece from Olympus: the E-M10 Mark IV.
“There is no doubt that the market welcomed E-M10 Mark III warmly,” started Summers, “but it also received some disapproving comments from some users mainly because of its 16MP sensor and problematic Continuous AF. This is the reason for the release of E-M10 Mark IV: to resolve the issues we used to experience from its predecessor.”
E-M10 Mark IV comes with a bigger sensor at 20 MP and a more flawless Continuous AF. Even its Eye Priority AF/Face Priority is now more capable of detecting and following the faces of the subject even in uncommon angles. Also, compared to the previous screen of E-M10 Mark III that simply tilts, E-M10 Mark IV now introduces a 180° tilting touchscreen LCD.
“The additions are pretty simple but if you are someone who has already experienced the E-M10 Mark III, you would love every detail of this newer model. It lets you do more and enjoy more. From the satisfying sensor size up to the improved AF and touchscreen, it seems like using Olympus camera just got easier and easier.”
4. Fujifilm X-T30 Mirrorless
Fujifilm X-T30 has adopted most of the features of the famous X-T3 and although the former is considered a lower version, it is still a great camera for beginners and a friendly model as a mirrorless unit.
“X-T30 relegated when it comes to the viewfinder resolution, wire connectivity features, and other sections,” Summers stated, “but it is relatively as competitive as X-T3 since it still possesses the big and most essential attributes and features you need in a well-performing camera.”
According to Summers, this is true as X-T30 comes with a stunning 26.1 MP back-illuminated X-Trans APS-C sensor, 8 FPS burst shooting (up to 20 FPS with electronic shutter), 4K DCI and UHD video recording up to 30 P, great AF, and more.
“All of these features come in a smaller body of X-T30 which allows better flexibility and maneuverability for users. Most of all, with the great Fujifilm ecosystem of lenses and accessories, the camera offers great possibilities. With this, it can serve as a great platform for novices to learn and prosper their talents,” Summers ended.
5. Sony A6000
Many people often believe that newer camera models are easier to use but Sony A6000 proves it wrong. It won’t offer you the Nikon D3500’s beautiful Guide Mode. No. Instead, it compensates when it comes to a great sensor and efficient autofocusing system.
“The thing you’ll love about Sony A6000 is that it comes with a 24.3 MP APS-C sensor that can work up to 11 FPS and an AF with 179-points. Mix these things and you’ll get an easier and smoother experience capturing photos with the right crisp and details,” Summers said.
The AF Sony A6000 is using is relatively older since the model itself has been around since April 2014. So, expect that its AF won’t equate to the performance of Sony's latest A6000-series AF system. However, given its compact size packed with a great lens, a viewfinder, a 180-degree tilting screen, its access to Sony’s wide range of interchangeable lenses, AND unbelievably affordable price, this is seriously one awesome unit worthy of your attention.
Best Cameras for Beginners - Buyer's Guide
The ease of use of the camera depends on how the camera is designed for users. Besides the physical features (how the buttons are placed, the flexibility of the rear LCD screen, availability of the viewfinder, how compact the body is, the texture of the body, etc.), it is also important to consider the software.
There are few camera models that offer some additional software features aimed at guiding beginners. For instance, the Nikon D3500 offers a Guide mode that educates the learners of the settings and functions of the camera. It can guide the learners from the very basic controls to more advanced settings of the unit.
Another is Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF system just like what various canon camera models are offering at certain resolutions. This is faster than the traditional contrast AF being used in many sensors in live view. With this, locking the subject on the screen is faster and easier.
That said, make sure to check if that the unit you’ll have specialized capabilities that will make your photography experience smoother, easier, and more educational.
The versatility of the camera will be determined by the type of unit you will choose. While point-and-shoot cameras are way much easier to use, their functions, settings, and features are very limited that your growth could also be very limited. This is the reason why we are recommending mirrorless and DSLR units over them. They offer a wide set of abilities and will allow you to grow in the field of photography. As your skills get better and better, you can do some upgrades and explore more complicated lenses that complement them. With this, it is great to consider how wide your option is if you want to change your lens. To do this, check for the lens mount detail of the camera and the number of lenses available for it.
Keep in mind that getting a camera would cost you a great sum of money. Nonetheless, this depends on the model you are about to choose. There are also some items that come as lower variants of bigger, famous models. They are stripped off of some features and functions but they can still be considered as great buys if you would see their price. Some examples are Fujifilm X-T30 and Canon EOS RP. However, the most important thing to do is to closely determine the features you just need. Apparently, it is not ideal to pay for the features you don’t intend to explore or use in the long run.
Best Cameras for Beginners - FAQs
Generally, you need to prepare at least $500 to $3000 just for a body camera. This depends on the camera model and types you are planning to purchase. Thankfully, there are lots of entry-level models being offered now by huge brands like Canon, Nikon, Fujifilm, Sony, Olympus, and more.
It is more advisable for beginners to use mirrorless models as they are more compact and offers simpler controls.
Yes, viewfinders can be very helpful to both beginner and expert camera users. They allow you to get a better view of the subject. Many users prefer camera models with a viewfinder as they are easier to use, especially when shooting in an environment that is extremely bright or sunny.
Automatic modes and semi-automatic modes are very beneficial for beginners as the adjustments would be automatically done for them. However, as the skill of an individual progresses, manual modes can be very helpful too as it allows better control over the outcome of the stills and videos.