Best Digital Cameras for Beginner Photography Enthusiast in 2019

If you are about to take up photography as one of your hobby, the following is our recommendation of the Best Digital Cameras for Beginners.

6 Best Cameras for Beginners

  • Best Overall: Canon EOS 80D
  • Best Full Frame DSLR: Nikon D850
  • Best Crop Sensor DSLR: Canon EOS Rebel SL3
  • Best Compact Digital: Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS200
  • Best Mirrorless: Sony A7R III
  • Best Budget: Fujifilm X-T100

Best Overall: Canon EOS 80D

canon eos 80d
  • Camera Type: DSLR
  • Sensor Size: APS-C
  • Sensor Resolution: 24.2 MP
  • Lens Mount: Canon EF/EF-S
  • Image Stabilization: No
  • Video Resolution: 1920 x 1080
  • Weight: 1.61 lbs.

This is a camera with the innovative technology, adaptability and flexibility that you can grow into. Imaging is excellent, even without a full frame sensor, and when you want to rely on autofocusing, it offers ever setting possible and 45 focus points. Battery life is better than average (960 shots) in DSLRs.

You have over 300 80D compatible lens choices, so you can find whatever focal length and aperture combination you want, and probably at any price point. Reviewers report it produces fine quality videos with adequate choices for frames-per-second rates. The fully articulated LCD touchscreen allows you to change settings on the fly and maneuver your viewing when mounted on a tripod.

This camera body is weather-resistant, making it great for outdoor use in almost any kind of condition. Users note that the size and heft of this body might make small hands uncomfortable. With a solid ISO range and good low light performance, it helps the beginner ease into the serious photog’s role quickly.

Best Full Frame DSLR: Nikon D850

nikon d850
  • Camera Type: DSLR
  • Sensor Size: Full Frame
  • Sensor Resolution: 45.7 MP
  • Lens Mount: Nikon F
  • Image Stabilization: No
  • Video Resolution: 4K
  • Weight: 2.24 lbs.

Considered a semi-pro offering, the big features on this Nikon offset the heavier weight for handheld work. Users love the very long battery life at 1840 shots. The high-resolution articulating LCD screen gives you settings-on-the-fly adjustment with easy tracking for videos.

The 153 focus points and subject tracking keep your framing focused where you want it as you move. The native ISO range of 100-51200 can be expanded electronically to 50-1640000 (not a typo) for extreme low light situations. For video work, it has both mic and headphone external ports.

This is not a cheap camera body for a beginner, and you’ll still need to add D850 lenses, which are also not cheap. This is a serious enthusiast’s choice, so make sure you’re committed. It takes some handling to corral all that sensor power, but with practice and education, it can be a camera a beginner grows into for years to come.

Best Crop Sensor DSLR: Canon EOS Rebel SL3

canon eos rebel sl3
  • Camera Type: DSLR
  • Sensor Size: APS-C
  • Sensor Resolution: 24.1 MP
  • Lens Mount: Canon EF/EF-S
  • Image Stabilization: No
  • Video Resolution: 4K
  • Weight: .99 lbs.

Canon markets this camera as an entry-level model, due in large part to its limited (9) focus points in the autofocusing system. In all other features, though, it is a mid- to upper-grade offering. Over 300 native Canon EOS lenses and a solid ISO range of 100-25600 put it on par with gear serious enthusiasts use for life.

Other features that make it attractive are the 4K video res, the light weight, and the long battery life (1070 shots). The fully articulating LCD touchscreen allows you to tilt it for better viewing on a tripod. Settings can be changed there too.

This camera is very new (April 2019) and so far, reviewers have praised it. Simple operations and minimalist control knobs and buttons help the beginner avoid confusion. The only caution we’d offer would be those focus points, but other than that, it looks like Canon has another winner in the Rebel line.

Best Compact Digital: Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS200

panasonic lumix dc zs200
  • Camera Type: Compact digital
  • Sensor Size: 1”
  • Sensor Resolution: 20.1 MP
  • Lens Mount: Fixed
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Video Resolution: 4K
  • Weight: .75 lbs.

Yes, this is an even smaller sensor size, roughly a sixth of what you’d find on a full frame camera. The beginner can appreciate the fully functioning ability to shoot manually as well as having all the standard auto functions. This comes with a big benefit, the ability to drop the camera with its retractable lens in your pocket.

The fixed lens has an impressive 15x zoom, from a 24mm wide angle to a 360mm super tele range, though pictures are not as clear at the extremes. Aperture values go from f/3.3 to f/6.4, so the lens is considered ‘slow’ letting in light. Reviewers note the lens quality isn’t super sharp but better than what you’d find in a smartphone.

Users like the video capabilities. It does not have a flash hot shoe, so you’ll be relying on the built-in flash for supplemental lighting. If you want something that is lightweight and small but big on possibilities as your skills grow, this is a terrific starter camera.

Best Mirrorless: Sony A7R III

sony a7r iii
  • Camera Type: Mirrorless
  • Sensor Size: Full Frame
  • Sensor Resolution: 42.4 MP
  • Lens Mount: Sony E
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Video Resolution: 4K
  • Weight: 1.45 lbs.

As the latest entry in a long line of pro mirrorless cameras, this Sony has a nearly limitless selection of A7R lenses. Over a hundred native options plus third-party offerings as well as cross-use of other major brands means you have limitless choices. Its native ISO range (100-32000) extends beyond what you find in many DSLRs on the market today.

Other features include a tilting LCD touchscreen to make adjusting settings a breeze. The electronic viewfinder is high-resolution and covers 100% of your image. Despite that reliance on electronics, it has a long battery life for a mirrorless, 650 shots.

Some users note that this Sony feels too small in their hands, and that the buttons are too small for their comfort. Outdoor enthusiasts love that it is weather-sealed and note that the silent shooting makes for films. This camera hits the ‘best of’ designations on many lists today, and it will help any beginner feel like a pro in no time.Click to See Price

Best Budget: Fujifilm X-T100

fujifilm x t100
  • Camera Type: APS-C
  • Sensor Size: Full Frame
  • Sensor Resolution: 24.2 MP
  • Lens Mount: Fujfilm X
  • Image Stabilization: No
  • Video Resolution: 4K
  • Weight: .99 lbs.

The Fujifilm X lens mount has 49 native Fuji lenses. Nikon F lenses will also work, but only in manual mode (no autofocusing available). For your child just starting with photography, or for any beginner, that’s a lot of choices and fits with learning how photography works.

The tilting touchscreen gives you both an electronic viewfinder and a screen display for your framing. The shape and design make it easy to slip this body in your pocket for use in just about any setting. It is mirrorless, making it great for street photography and photojournalism use.

Users note the features and functions on this camera make it a good introductory body as well as a favored backup portable down the road. Reviewers say it is capable and user-friendly with intuitive controls, especially for those starting out. As a budget under $500 option, it offers a lot of value for the price point.

The Complete Cameras for Beginners Buyer’s Guide

  • Considerations for the Beginner Photography Enthusiast
  • FAQs about the Best Cameras for Beginners
  • Criteria for Selecting a Beginner’s Camera

If you’re getting into photography as a serious hobby, you want a camera that meets your needs now even if you don’t yet understand how to use all settings, and something that will grow with your skills in the future.

Flexibility to add lenses and deepen your capabilities are also pluses, but you want to start with tools you can use today. A kit from a big box store is great for getting started, but often they don’t offer the latest models or the most current technology.

For our money, we consider it best to begin with the latest and greatest of each camera line, so you capture everything the camera can do and then some into the foreseeable future.

For example, a big box kit can be a model behind what’s now available, and it might lack things like connectivity to transfer images, 4K video resolution, and compatibility with an effective list of lenses. Confused? Don’t be, because we’ll tell you what you want to know.

Start with Image Uses

It’s best to begin with how you plan to use your images. Are they something fun to put on social media feeds or share with friends and family? You can go simple to begin with, keep your budget relatively low, and learn with the manual settings as you take a photography class or two. (You were planning to take a course, right?)

If you want to try your hand at selling stock photography in the virtual world or use your images to illustrate the blog through which you hope to make money, you’ll want a higher grade machine (DSLR) and better interchangeable lenses, plus training and education in how they work. We cover the basic terms here with basic explanations. This is no substitute for learning how things work – and your audiences will thank you for the upgrade in skills.

When you aren’t sure how you will use the images and you just want a feel for more than a cell phone shot before you commit or invest, you want something compact, digital, and easy to learn on. Check out compact digitals, also known as point-and-shoots. If you’re heading for a photojournalism career, you’ll probably find a mirrorless model to be the best fit.

Camera Types

Here’s a quick primer on the types of cameras and what they do.

Cameras for BeginnersBest ForCamera Type
Canon EOS 80DBest OverallDSLR
Nikon D850Best Full FrameDSLR
Canon EOS Rebel SL3Best Crop SensorDSLR
Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS200Best Compact DigitalCompact digital
Sony A7R IIIBest MirrorlessMirrorless
Fujifilm X-T100Best BudgetMirrorless
  • DSLR 

DSLR means digital single-lens reflex camera. SLR refers to the kind of door that opens to let the light coming in the lens to the sensor and has been the standard for photography for a very long time. They make a noise when the mirror that reflects the image lifts and closes, the ‘click’ we’ve come to associate with all picture-taking.

  • Mirrorless 

mirrorless sensor camera has no mirror inside, so there isn’t a click unless there’s a setting to create an artificial one. For a long time, these were thought of as art cameras without a large following, but in the last couple of years, manufacturers are answering customers’ calls for more of them across the board.

If I were to bet, I’d say the future will see an eventual flop of popularity with mirrorless taking the lead over DSLR because they’re lighter in weight, quiet, and expanding in available lenses.

  • Compact digital or point-and-shoot

I know of people who never realize these cameras also have a manual mode. If you want better photo quality but don’t want the hassle of changing automatic settings at all, unless you feel so inspired, this is the type for you. They also shoot great video.

Camera Functions

A camera is made to transform the light coming in through the lens into an image on either film or digital sensors. The way this happens, the settings and adjustments are the features of the holy trinity of understanding photography – aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. As you might imagine, based on this trinity of settings, you could alter one and have a completely different effect on your resulting image.

  • Aperture

Aperture is the width of the lens tube expressed as a relative fraction known as f-stop. When you see a f-stop of f/2, this really means 1/2, while f/4 is a quarter, so smaller than a half. The higher the f-stop number, the smaller the opening, and the less light it will allow through. Aperture is a value of the camera lens, but not the body.

  • Shutter speed

Shutter speed is how long the shutter is open to allow the light through to the sensor, with the shorter times allowing less light and best for bright conditions. If your subject is standing still, it won’t matter if you are shooting at 1/10th of a second or 1/1000th, because the subject is stationary. If you’re shooting a fast guy on a bike, though, you can create some nice artistic blur with a slow (open for a long time) shutter. Shutter speed is a function of your camera body.

  • ISO

ISO represents how sensitive the sensor in the camera is to light. The sweet spot appears to be 200 to 1600, with the lower number being less sensitive and the higher better for darker conditions, but ISO ratings on cameras are much wider than this. If you shoot a lot of images indoors in lower light, you want a camera that can shoot in higher ISO ranges. ISO is a function of your camera body.

Camera Body Components

Light comes in the lens and hits the sensor, but how does it only do it when you press the shutter and not all the time? That’s where camera type comes in, because they each function differently in how that door (or window to the world) opens.

Understanding why some pictures end up blurry and others are clear is a function of focusing, which can be manual or automatic, plus adjustments to the holy trinity.

Cameras for BeginnersSensor SizeSensor ResolutionLens MountImage Stabilization
Canon EOS 80DAPS-C24.2 MPCanon EF/EF-SNo
Nikon D850Full frame45.7 MPNikon FNo
Canon EOS Rebel SL3APS-C24.1 MPCanon EF/EF-SNo
Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS2001”20.1 MPFixedYes
Sony A7R IIIFull frame42.4 MPSony EYes
Fujifilm X-T100APS-C24.2 MPFujifilm XNo
  • Sensor resolution

Think of a sensor as a screen with a bunch of little dots, each one capable of recording light. The more dots you have, the sharper the image. Those dots are called megapixels (mega as in million and pixels or electronic dots, or MP) and the more you have, the more details you grab.

The offset for digital photography is the more detail, the larger the digital file will be, taking up more memory on your camera’s card. The sweet spot balancing detail and file size is about 20-24 MP for those of us planning to print our images, post them to social media, or display them in our blogs on a standard tablet or computer screen. Big screen TVs want a higher number, and 51 MP is the largest we get right now.

  • Sensor size

Not all sensors are created equal – in size that is, as in side-to-side, top-to-bottom measurements. The way they are compared is as they relate to what was used in 35mm film, or an overall lengthwise distance of 35 millimeters. That is known as a full frame sensor, and they are found in high-end (more expensive) DSLR and mirrorless cameras.

Crop sensor (APS-C and APS-S) is cropped to a smaller size. It captures a smaller image as a result (and changes the effective focal length of your lens, too – visit one of our lenses articles to understand more about that). Crop sensor cameras are the type you most likely find in big box store kits.

Smaller yet than this, there are Four Thirds and 1” sensors, the kind you would likely find in a point-and-shoot, and even smaller ones you can find in your smartphone. Sensor size plays into many other image effects such as depth of field and noise, plus it makes your lenses behave not as they are named but in an adjusted fashion. (See why that class is making more and more sense?)

  • Focusing

Today’s digital cameras have a variety of autofocusing settings, which is all you need to know now. That’s because to really learn photography, you’ll want to turn off those automatic settings and try your hand at focusing manually. When you do this, you’ll understand why many other factors help you produce a great image – or not – and when you return to the convenience of automatic, your images will be better because you understand focusing.

There are other aspects to the camera body, like the viewfinder and whether it has an LCD screen, articulation of said screen, touchscreens, self-timers, and flashes. The one we think you might like best is video resolution, with the best around today in standard cameras being 4K. That turns out videos of a quality that will be clear on a TV – if you have the sensor resolution to match it.

When you’re starting out in photography, you will have a lot of questions. We took the top ones we often hear and offer answers. Again, take a class to learn even more.

Cameras for BeginnersBest ForCamera TypeVideo ResolutionWeight
Canon EOS 80DBest OverallDSLR1920 x 10801.61 lbs.
Nikon D850Best Full FrameDSLR4K2.24 lbs.
Canon EOS Rebel SL3Best Crop SensorDSLR4K.99 lbs.
Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS200Best Compact DigitalCompact digital4K.75 lbs.
Sony A7R IIIBest MirrorlessMirrorless4K1.45 lbs.
Fujifilm X-T100Best BudgetMirrorless4K.99 lbs.

How much money should I spend for my first camera?

How serious are you about photography? My recommendation is always to select a camera you think you can shoot now – and then buy the one a couple of steps more advanced. In this way, you find something you can grow into as your skills and enthusiasm develop.

That’s not possible for everyone’s budget, in which case you should think about what you want to do with the images and select from there. Manufacturers usually package kits with the most popular lens ranges plus tools and accessories you may not yet know what to do with.

If your understanding and specific goals are a bit more advanced, consider buying the body separate from the lenses so you select the best matches for your imagining needs.

How many lenses do I need?

Once you get started, the lens question is answered the same way fly-fishing enthusiasts answer the one about rods and reels or classic car renovators respond about projects – just one more. While lenses are outside the scope of this article, you need assurance now when you buy a body that you have choices – and those are the lens mount type and number of lenses available. We list that in our comparisons.

What camera is best for travel photography?

Any camera can be good for travel photos. The real answer is the one you’re willing (or feel safe) to carry. I’ve traveled with a compact digital when I didn’t want to lug a DSLR and three lenses all over Europe and carried a DSLR plus lenses in Central America because I wanted the flexibility of getting extreme wildlife close-ups. Remember that cameras should be in your carry-on luggage, so weight and space can be factors.

Always pack spare (and charged) batteries, no matter what the battery life. If you shoot lots of close-ups or exposures at the fringes of settings where jittery hands might ruin the shot’s clarity, you’ll want a tripod. The good news is that unique travel images are all around us, even when we’re not far from home, and the camera in your hand is the best one to capture those.

What camera is best for blogging/vlogging?

More and more cameras today are moving to 4K video resolution. If camera vlogging is your thing, you don’t want to skimp on this. Likewise, you want something with easy connectivity to transfer files to your social media or other platform.

Do I REALLY need to take a class to learn this stuff?

If we haven’t yet proven that to you in this article, know this – YES! Find an online course, watch videos about what camera functions and settings mean, or sign up for a hands-on class at the community college. You wouldn’t drive a car without knowing how the accelerator and brake pedal work, would you?

The bigger portion of learning is practice. Take lots of photos, and if you’re shooting digital, you have the benefit of deleting anything that didn’t work and add space back to your image storage. Follow professional photogs on social media and pay attention to the settings they’re using for images (as well as composition, use of light, and storytelling) to up your game.

Criteria for Selecting a Beginner’s Camera

One might think the best camera for a beginner is the simplest, or the one with the most automatic functions. Yes, those make it easy, but that isn’t helping a beginner learn photography. The label ‘beginner’ implies someone who would like to advance their skills.

Our selection criteria narrow the beginner’s camera list down from overwhelming to a manageable few with a choice or more in each major camera category. While something with a fixed lens isn’t completely comparable to a camera body with interchangeable lenses available, the major functions are the same. Our goal is to provide you with a selection you can grow into down the road.

Cameras for BeginnersCamera TypeSensor SizeSensor Reso
lution
Lens MountImage Stabili
zation
Video Reso
lution
Weight
Canon EOS 80DDSLRAPS-C24.2 MPCanon EF/EF-SNo1920 x 10801.61 lbs.
Nikon D850DSLRFull frame45.7 MPNikon FNo4K2.24 lbs.
Canon EOS Rebel SL3DSLRAPS-C24.1 MPCanon EF/EF-SNo4K.99 lbs.
Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS200Compact digital1”20.1 MPFixedYes4K.75 lbs.
Sony A7R IIIMirrorlessFull frame42.4 MPSony EYes4K1.45 lbs.
Fujifilm X-T100MirrorlessAPS-C24.2 MPFujifilm XNo4K.99 lbs.

Camera Type

We wrote full explanations of camera types earlier in this article. Complexity in operating the camera moves from DSLR and mirrorless to the less intense compact digital. Size/weight moves from DSLR to mirrorless to compact digital.

Sensor Size

We wrote about sensor size with more detail under camera body components. Remember that you can take great shots with any sensor size, so there is no single ‘best’ choice.

Sensor Resolution

Sensor resolution was explained earlier. Awards are won by photogs with cameras of all kinds of sensors, so there is no single best choice.

Lens Mount

If you plan to add lenses down the road, you want to make sure there are enough choices available on the market and the price point matches what you plan to spend building your photography gear bag. We note the lens mount in the criteria and the number of native or otherwise available lenses in the comments. For fixed mount, we give you the lens specifics in the comments.

Image Stabilization

Image stabilization helps you avoid effects from shaking hands when you shoot with longer exposures (low light situations) or with longer focal length lenses (zoomed all the way out). Tripods help, and so does image stabilization (IS) in the camera body (or in available lenses).

Video Resolution

If you plan to use your video clips on a big screen format, you want the maximum resolution, 4K. The equivalent of 2K (1920 x 1080) is adequate for casual or small screen applications, but you might limit yourself down the road as the technology of viewing screens continues to advance.

Weight

It’s always good to know how much weight you’ll be carrying in your hand or in your bag. Our weights are provided for body alone, so add that must-have interchangeable lens in, too.

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