Buying a camera as a beginner can be confusing and time-consuming. There are countless brands and models to choose from not to mention all the different specifications to decide between.
In this article, I am going to break down what you should consider before buying a camera and also give you my recommendations for the best cameras for beginners in 2020.
What To Consider When Buying a Camera as a Beginner?
Before you start looking for a camera it is important that you consider a few things. Gettings these details in order before-hand will save you lots of time and narrow down your selection of cameras. Below are the things you should consider before you begin looking for your camera.
Before making any purchase, it is good to know what your budget is.
DSLR’s and mirrorless cameras can range from $400 to $3,000. As a result, it is essential to know what you want from your camera and what you will be using it for.
If you are new to photography and just testing the waters, I recommend you purchase a camera under $600. You don’t want to invest in a $3,000 camera only to have it collecting dust on some shelf in your house.
If you are certain that you want to invest in a high-quality camera but are still just learning, investing in a mid-range camera is your best bet.
A mid-range camera will typically cost your around $800 to $1,500 and you will be able to get a high quality introductory full-frame camera.
Mirrorless or DLSR
There are two major classes or digital cameras on the market today: DSLR and Mirrorless cameras.
DSLR cameras are the traditional cameras that use mirrors to display an image on the viewfinder.
The other is the newer, mirrorless camera. As the name suggests, mirrorless cameras do not use mirrors but rather an electronic viewfinder that transmits the image on the sensor to the viewfinder.
Mirrorless cameras are typically lighter, more compact, and more expensive than DLSRs. Although, DSLRs typically have better battery life and a wider selection of cameras at different price points.
The brand you purchase your first camera with is important because it will determine what lenses and accessories you begin to purchase.
Lenses and accessories are expensive. By purchasing from a well-respected brand with quality beginner and professional cameras, you can upgrade in the future and still use your original lenses and accessories.
Some of the most well known and common brands on the market are Canon, Nikon, and Sony. In particular, Canon and Nikon offer a wide selection of cameras with different features and at different prices.
Full-Frame or Crop Frame
One of the first decisions you need to make is whether you want a full-frame or crop-frame camera.
The main difference between crop and full-frame cameras is the field of view. The field of view on a crop frame camera is “cropped,” and as a result, there is a crop factor. This means that you will be able to capture less of your scene with a crop frame.
Also, using a crop-frame, your lenses will experience a crop factor. Meaning that the focal length on your lens is not the actual focal length you will experience. Rather, your lenses will be enhanced by the crop-factor of your sensor.
For example, a Nikon APS-C has a crop-factor of 1.5x. This means that a 50mm lens on a Nikon crop-frame camera has an effective focal length of 75mm.
As a result, to get the appearance of a 50mm lens of a crop-frame camera, you will need around a 30mm lens.
Body, Kit Lens, or Bundle
When buying a new camera, there are typically three purchasing options: body only, body plus a kit lens, and a full camera bundle.
Camera accessory bundles are the most enticing offers to most beginner photographers. They typically boast a long list of accessories such as filters, tripods, cameras bags, extra batteries, memory cards, cleaning equipment, and a kit lens.
I highly recommend you avoid purchasing a bundle like this. These types of bundles are not worth the additional price. The gear included is often cheap and unnecessary. In most cases, these accessories will most likely break, or you’ll need to purchase a piece of better quality equipment.
I recommend you purchase either the body of the camera only or the body plus a kit lens.
I only recommend you purchase a kit lens if you know what type of lens you will need, and it is included in a bundle. For example, if you are a landscape photographer and the camera you are buying comes with a 14-24mm wide-angle lens. In this case, it is a good idea to purchase a kit lens.
In most cases, only buying your camera body alone and buying specific lenses to fit your needs is your best bet. This way, you don’t waste money on unnecessary lenses you will not use or low-quality lenses that are not useful to your photography.
Best Value DSLR for Beginners: Nikon D3500
The Nikon D3500 is a great option for beginners looking to buy a camera on a budget.
The Nikon D3500 is under $400, yet it is packed with great features.
It is a crop-frame camera that comes with a 24.2-megapixel sensor. This camera delivers excellent image quality for the price.
The Nikon D3500 is also very light and compact weighing only 0.8 pounds.
One of my favorite things about the Nikon D3500 is the battery life. You can shoot approximately 1550 before having to recharge your camera. This should last several full days of shooting.
This camera was specially designed for smooth handling and ease of use. Any beginner would feel comfortable with this camera in their hands, and they wouldn’t have to worry about an overwhelming amount of buttons or dials.
If you are completely new to photography, this camera introduced Guide Mode. Guide mode will walk you through the process of taking a photo by answering a few questions on your LCD screen.
If you are just getting started with photography and want a camera that is easy to use, produces high-quality images, and doesn’t break the bank, the Nikon D3500 is the best option.
- Excellent design for simplicity and comfort.
- Superb image quality for the price.
- Easy to use with minimal buttons and guide mode.
- Great battery life.
- The fixed rear LCD screen can be limiting.
- It lacks 4K video capabilities.
- Autofocus is slow and needs improvement with only 11 detection points.
Best Value DSLR For Beginners (Runner Up): Canon SL 3
The Cannon is another camera that produces extremely high-quality images at a low price.
This is a great option for beginners who are looking to shoot 4K video without going over their budget.
Even if you are not looking to shoot in 4K the Canon SL3 produces excellent images with a 24.1-megapixel sensor.
Also, unlike the D3500, the Canon comes equipped with a fully articulated touchscreen LCD screen.
The touchscreen works for changing settings, working in your menu settings, and even in live-view. This makes this camera very easy to use because there is a little transition from using a smartphone or any other touchscreen device.
If you are not looking to shoot in 4K, then I highly recommend going with the previous Canon SL2. The Canon SL2 comes with nearly the same features as the SLR, except it does not have a 4K video.
- Easy to use and handle.
- Works with all Canon mount lenses.
- Super compact and lightweight (under 1 pound).
- Customizable timelapse capture.
- Excellent battery life.
- On the expensive side.
- No image stabilization.
- SL2 only has 1080p video.
Best Mirrorless Camera For Beginners: Sony A6100
Sony burst onto the scene with their signature mirrorless camera. Their A6 series offers excellent features, at an excellent price for beginners.
The Sony A6100 is a great option for beginners looking to get a few more features and forgo some of the simplicity of the Nikon D3500.
The Sony produces great image quality with a 24.2-megapixel sensor and an ISO range of 100 to 32,000.
It will cost you just under $600, but it comes fully equipped with 4K video, 25 point auto-focus, and a frame rate of 11 fps.
The Sony A6100 is a bit heavier than the Nikon D3500, coming in at 1.2 pounds, but it is more compact.
The compact design makes it easy to access every button. It is easy to use and fits very nicely in the hands.
If you are a beginner photographer looking to shoot in 4K or if you want a better autofocus system, then the Sony A6100 is a great choice.
- 4k Video
- Moving LCD Screen
- Touch Screen
- Great autofocus with 25 detection points.
- Compact design that has a great feel.
- Short battery life, only 420 shots.
- No weather sealing.
- Not as easy to use as Nikon D3500.
Best Full Frame DSLR: Nikon D750
If you are a beginner but you are set on purchasing a full-frame DSLR, then the Nikon D750 is a great choice.
Although it is on the pricer side, the features you get are worth it.
It comes with a 24.3-megapixel sensor and a 51-point multi-CAM autofocus system.
If you are interested in shooting sports or action photography, it can shoot 6.5 fps.
The Nikon D750 has a good battery life at 1250 shots, two memory card slots, in addition to being weather sealed.
One of the greatest features for beginners of the Nikon D750 is the simple and easy to use button design. The configuration is user friendly, and although more advanced than some of the other cameras on this list, it is manageable.
Unfortunately, the Nikon D750 does not shoot at 4K, but it can shoot at 60 fps in 1080p.
Overall, if you are looking for a full-frame DSLR, the Nikon D750 produces great still images and HD video.
- Great Image quality.
- Excellent low light performance even at EV-4
- Fully variable LCD screen.
- Great Dynamic range in low light conditions.
- High ISO range.
- Compact and easy to use design.
- Great Battery Life
- AF is slow at night
- Continuous shooting only 6.5 fps
- Missing AF button
- Most plastic front mount
- No tocuh-screen LCD
Best Full Frame DSLR (Runner-Up): Nikon D610
If the D750 is a bit overwhelming in terms of price and features, then the Nikon D610 is a great alternative. It will cost about half the price of the Nikon D750 at just under $900 but you nearly all of the same features except a few key differences.
The first major difference between the D610 and the D750 is the image processor. The Nikon D750 has a slightly better processor than the D610. Fortunately, this does not affect image quality and only has a small impact on the speed of the camera when in burst mode.
Another key difference is the Nikon D610 has an ISO range of 25,600 whereas the D750 has a max ISO of 51,200.
Overall the Nikon D610 is a great budget option for those seeking a full-frame camera with great image quality.
Best Full-Frame Mirrorless Camera For Beginners: Canon EOS RP
For beginners looking for a full-frame mirrorless camera, look no further.
The Canon EOS RP is a great full-frame mirrorless camera that provides excellent value and image quality.
It is one of the smallest and lightest full-frame cameras, on top of being the one of the least expensive.
It comes with a 26.2-megapixel sensor that can shoot up to 5 frames per second. It is also equipped with a dual-pixel autofocus system and a new pupil detection autofocus when shooting people.
It also comes with a 3 inch fully variable touchscreen. This makes the transition to using a camera smoothly.
Compared to most Full-Frame cameras, the buttons and dials are limited and easy to use. You can easily spend 10 minutes and know where everything is located on this camera.
Another great feature of this camera is the 4K video. Although, it is important to note that in 4K, it no longer used dual-pixel autofocus, and it does experience a crop factor.
When shooting in any other resolution such as 1080p, you will be able to use these features.
- High-Quality Images
- Small and Compact
- Dual Pixel and Pupil Detection Autofocus
- 1080p full-frame video
- 4K video not full frame and lacks dual-pixel autofocus.
- Battery life needs improvement.
- Slow shutter bursts speed for a full-frame camera.