The Best Cameras for Beginners

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Oftentimes, non-photographer friends will ask me what kind of camera they should get, and my first question always is, “What’s your budget?” The answer is about what you might expect, anywhere between $500 and $1,000 with a little wiggle room at the higher end. Given the wide swath of cameras, from impressive point-and-shoots to mirrorless and DSLRs, recommending a set of cameras to a beginner is often a mixed bag. With that in mind, here are our recommendations for beginners.

Point-and-Shoot

Fujifilm X30

The Phoblographer Fujifilm X30 review images product shots (3 of 10)ISO 2001-200 sec at f - 2.8

The X30 is customizable and flexible enough that it provides a good entry point for photographers looking to learn how aperture, ISO and shutter speed work together to create an image. It also has Fujifilm’s excellent colors, which’ll make for very fine images.

In our review, we state:

“Fujifilm’s X30 is a camera that packs quite a bit into quite the small camera body…The X30 is very simple and straightforward to use. Not only is it faster and more accurate, but the EVF really helps with seeing exactly what is in focus–which wasn’t very possible with the OVF of previous generations. The user can also rewire the controls to move the focusing point around with ease. Then, you can also control how big or small the focusing point is.”

Buy it now: Amazon

Sony RX10

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With an equivalent 24-200mm zoom lens at a constant f2.8 aperture, what more could you really ask for? It’s zoom range is what many photographers would have split across two lenses and a camera body. The RX10 packs it into one making it a great choice for beginners, particularly those considering photojournalism. It’s been since replaced by the Mk II, but the original is still great!

In our review, we state:

“The Sony RX10 is a surprising contender in the crowded marketplace for cameras. It’s a bridge camera for the consumer that wants the capabilities of a DSLR without the hassle of deciding which lens(es) to buy. Of course, its 1-inch sensor slots it below Sony’s APS-C and full-frame options, but it’s not a knock against the RX10’s abilities. It has the capacity to make beautiful images from 24mm at the widest end to 200mm at the longest end. The RX10 gets an additional boost from its built-in Wi-fi, which makes sharing via the Sony Play Memories app a breeze.”

Buy it now: Amazon

Sony RX100 Mk III

Kevin-Lee The Phoblographer Sony RX100 Mark III Product Images (9 of 9)

It stands to reason that Sony’s RX100 line of point-and-shoot cameras is one of the best in the business with how much it packs into such a small profile. For a beginner looking for a great all-around camera, this is one to consider. It also has been replaced by a successor, but we haven’t tested this one yet.

In our review, we state:

“Sony has seriously packed a lot into its diminutive premium point-and-shoot. It packs all the power of a compact system camera into an even smaller and unassuming package. Whether you’re a street shooter or in need of a travel camera, the RX100 Mark III won’t disappoint. At $800 it’s an expensive item to consider but for all the functionality—EVF, high-res LCD, popup flash, excellent image quality, and high ISO performance—this is a fully featured camera.”

Buy it now: Amazon

Panasonic LX100

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Using this camera was a wonderful surprise. Despite it’s small profile, it offers a great amount of control, which is a boon for street photographers and photojournalists.

In our review, we state:

“Despite its size for my mitts, the LX100 was a joy to use with superb image quality and manual controls that makes it a strong contender in the premium compact space. It’s retro aesthetic makes it a boon for street photographers because of how inconspicuous it, and its fast-AF guarantees you’ll get most of your shots. The fast Leica glass lends itself to the strength of the LX100’s images. Its sturdiness means it can survive bumps and dings along the way. The LX100’s also a great travel camera, and it’ll easily fit in your jacket pocket in the cold winter months.”

Buy it now: Amazon

Mirrorless

Fujifilm X-T10

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Fujifilm Xt10 review final product images (4 of 4)ISO 2001-180 sec at f - 2.0

It’s a slightly reduced version of the excellent X-T1, and it brings you most of that camera’s features for a cheaper price. It’s an ideal entry point to the X-series ecosystem, too.

In our review, we state:

“By far, this is the best APS-C sensor of any camera in a comparable realm and it shows with the image quality. Fujifilm took a great deal from its award-winning X-T1 and put it in a smaller package for a consumer that can’t reach for fruit as high. The result: a really kick ass camera.”

Buy it now: Amazon

Sony a5100

Kevin-Lee The Phoblographer Sony A5100 Product Images (5 of 9)

Despite the cheap feel of its plastic body, the a5100 borrows impressive elements from stronger cameras in Sony’s oeuvre, and manages to keep the cost down.

In our review, we state:

“Even without considering the Sony A5100 very affordable price, it’s an incredibly well performing camera wrapped into a tiny package. It’s even smaller than a compact Micro Four Thirds camera like the Olympus E-P5. Yet despite the camera’s diminutive size, the A5100 is one of Sony’s best cameras yet thanks to the APS-C sized sensor and autofocus system it has inherited from the Sony A6000.”

Buy it now: Amazon

Fujifilm X-A1

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The X-A2 is already on the market, but we’re taking a look back at the X-A1, arguably the simplest of Fujifilm’s X-series and perhaps its most approachable.

In our review, we state:

“With a 16.1 MP APS-C sensor, a sturdy body, and brilliant colors, the X-A1 will give you powerful results in a $600 package. With a wealth of glass available for it, the X-A1 is a smart choice for those in the market for their first interchangeable lens camera who find the bigger rigs a bit too daunting.”

Buy it now: Amazon

DSLR

Canon T4i

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While the T5i is on the market, it didn’t really add much to the T4i that makes it worth the higher price point. The T4i is an accessible, easy-to-use camera with great image quality.

In our review, we state:

“The Canon T4i is a wonderful entry level camera with loads and loads of lenses available to the system. The image quality is excellent, it is easy to use, and it has a rather decent video mode. The menus can be a bit complex, but overall there really is absolutely no real problem with this camera despite what seems to be modest upgrades from its predecessor.”

Buy it now: Amazon

Nikon D5200/5300

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The D5200 packs a lot of power into an affordable package. It’s a fine choice for those who aren’t sure about which genre they want to explore, but want a camera that can take on anything they decide to do.

In our review of the D5200, we state:

“Nikon has always produced some of the best DSLRs–but they’ve mostly been known and noted for on the higher end. This year though, we feel like they’ve taken the lower end as well. The D5200 exhibits exceptional autofocusing in most lighting conditions, decent coloring, great RAW files, fast shooting abilities, a timelapse mode, and it does it all at a damned good price.”

Buy it now: Amazon (D5300)