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You don’t have to be a professional photographer to want to want to take better quality, well-lit, blur-free photos. Smartphone photography is certainly a convenient way to snap a quick pic on the go, but you’re only limited to certain settings, and they falter when it comes to grainy zoom and fixed shutter speeds.
Want to ditch the Camera app and really boost your photography game? The best beginner digital cameras are not only incredibly versatile, their advanced features and interchangeable lenses allow for easy upgrade swaps once you’re no longer a beginner too.
Don’t settle for cheaper, bulky cameras with no features just because you’re still learning—once you get the basic controls, commands, and settings down, a quality camera will be worth the investment to shoot consistently clear and crisp photos (and video recordings too) long after your skills start picking up.
Whether you’re looking to pick up a new photo hobby, or just want better pictures for Instagram than what you can shoot on your phone, here are our top beginner camera picks for when you’re just starting out.
What Are the Best Digital Cameras For Beginners?
There’s an almost overwhelming amount of choices out there, but we recommend going with DSLRs, mirrorless, or point and shoots. Here’s what else to keep in mind when shopping for a starter digital camera.
Lenses: Some digital cameras will let you switch out lenses, like most DSLRs, so you can get the best picture possible based on your lighting and angle (although standard is 18-35 mm). Others only have a fixed lens which can’t be changed, though they still offer a higher photo and zoom quality than most smartphone cameras.
Ease-of-Use: This will ultimately depend on your goals for what you want to achieve with the camera. But things like Auto-Zoom, built-in flash, touch screen capabilities, and an outward display make all the difference when you’re learning, since you’ll probably still want some automatic settings at first.
Photo and Video Quality: Note how many megapixels your sensor has (though a good lens is just as important for image quality). You may be tempted to spring for 20mp (megapixels) or higher, but even a 15mp sensor is just fine for beginners. If you care more about video, get a camera that can record full HD (1080P) video, or shoot in 4K.
Modes: Just like your smartphone camera probably has settings like “night mode” and “portrait mode”, so too should your digital camera. While you’re adjusting to a wide arrange of adjustments, things like HDR, portrait, night mode, and different resolutions for videography on the touch screen can be helpful tools for creating high-quality images without fiddling around too much.
Mirrorless vs. DSLR: With a mirrorless camera, the light passes right through the lens, so what you see on the viewfinder or the LCD screen is what you get. DSLRs often feature more interchangeable lenses, though both are pretty even in terms of photo accuracy.
1. Panasonic Lumix G85 Mirrorless 4K Digital Camera
This mirrorless camera is a true hybrid, with interchangeable lenses like a DSLR, but with half the bulk. Panasonic Lumix G85 is the perfect transitional camera, with enough features to start shooting light and fast, without too much manual clutter.
The dual image stabilization is a fantastic feature, especially if you’re interested in videography. You can get crystal clear 4K video with a handheld shot, even in the darkest settings.
You’ll be able to shoot in 16mp with a low-pass filter at 30fps, and the photo details are pretty true to life. You can also adjust the focus after you shoot with a handy Post Focus mode, if you’re indecisive.
Reviews say that all the options and settings can feel a little intimidating for newbies, while being bit too limiting for pros. But once you get a hand of the creative controls, anyone can shoot sharp sharp photos and videos with this top choice.
2. Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digital Camera
Sony’s Alpha a6000 is super quick on the draw, and can shoot up to 11 photos per second, all in clear 24.2mp detail. It also has one of the fastest autofocus functions we’ve ever seen, so tracking moving objects (like pets, or sports teams) is no problem.
It’s a mirrorless DSLR camera, but it’s fairly compact and easy-to-use, with two quick-access dials that let you change settings on the fly. Despite its small size, you’ll have everything you need to shoot like a pro, with seven customizable buttons that can be assigned up to 474 functions.
But the best way to learn is to experiment with all the settings available, and the variety is unparalleled here. One bonus for beginners is the electronic viewfinder, which lets you display the various camera settings before you take the picture.
Sharing your photos has also never been easier, with WiFi connectivity to the PlayMemories app. You can transfer files fast, and even control the camera’s shutter from your phone.
3. Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II Digital Camera
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, Canon’s PowerShot G9 X Mark II is one of the best point-and-shoot cameras for photographers just getting started.
It has a fast capture (up to 8.2 fps), so you can take advantage of any moment for a great photo. The camera has manual photo settings too, but for newbies, the eight built-in presets, which include effects and photo styles, but the 20.1mp sensor alone works as a solid baseline of high-quality photos to experiment off of.
What we like: it’s Bluetooth-enabled, so you can send your photos over to the Camera Connect App for easy storage. Features like autofocus, time-lapse, and a 3X optical zoom gives you enough to play with that you won’t feel too restricted, though you may grow out of them fast.
One of the benefits to its ultra slim build is that the camera is lightweight, so you can throw it in a bag and take it anywhere with you. Even with a fixed lens, the PowerShot G9 X Mark II is a good choice if you’re looking for a starter camera with just a few quality controls you want to master.
4. Nikon D3500 DSLR Camera
Nikon has been a trusted brand by photographers for decades, and it only makes sense that this D3500 would be the gold standard of digital cameras, a reliable yet infinitely customizable choice for those new to the world of photography.
As easy to use as a point and shoot camera for a DSLR of its kind, it has a crisp 24.3mp sensor, which is 15 times larger than your average smartphone camera.
It syncs to Bluetooth, where you can use Nikon’s SnapBridge app to transfer files, or edit them right in the app. But you should always get an extra SD card to store you photos and videos on, anyways.
We recommend the 18-55mm and a 70-300mm hard kit lenses, which is great for portraits, landscapes, videos and other wide shots. The camera also features 11 different autofocus points across the frame, so you can keep your subject in focus at all times.
This is a camera that knows it’s beginner friendly, and the LCD screen offers a handy “Guide Mode” which gives you on-screen tips on how to get the best shot possible. When you get a hand of the basics, the camera will graduate with you—the specialty effects and exposure modes will give you total control when you know exactly what you want.