The best cameras for beginners in 2021 include the affordable Nikon D3500, Canon M100, and Canon M50. Those with more to spend and an interest in 4K video should check out the Fuji X-T200 and Sony A6100.
Whichever camera you choose, each represents a substantial upgrade over your smartphone. Therefore, you can expect better image quality, nicer handling, and the creative flexibility of interchangeable lenses. Jump to Conclusion
The 5 Best Cameras for Beginners
- Nikon D3500
- Canon M200
- Canon M50
- Fujifilm X-T200
- Sony A6100
- What makes a great camera for beginners
The D3500 DSLR features a large, high-quality 24-megapixel sensor housed in a compact, lightweight, and comfortable-to-hold plastic body. As a DSLR, the Nikon D3500 features an optical viewfinder and compatibility with many of Nikon’s F-mount lenses. Read about the best lenses for Nikon D3500 and DX DSLRs.
The Nikon D3500’s APS-C sensor delivers excellent image quality and is on par with far more expensive cameras. Like all DLSRs, the D3500 features an optical viewfinder as well as an LCD rear screen.
If you are new to photography, you will find enjoy the D3500’s graphics-rich user guides. And as your skills grow, you’ll appreciate being able to drive the Nikon D3500’s via its physical buttons and dial. It also includes Bluetooth for wireless transmission of photos to your smart device.
And because optical viewfinders don’t consume power, the Nikon D3500 takes more than 1500 photos between charges.
Although the D3500 shoots up to 5.5 frames per second, its autofocus system struggles to keep up with fast action. And while the Nikon has reasonable 1080p video quality, its in-video autofocus is leagues behind the competition.
While there’s no doubt the Nikon D3500 is compact for a DSLR, it’s meaningfully larger than mirrorless rivals such as Canon’s M50. That said, the D3500 does feel good to hold and may suit those with larger hands.
And if you are only familiar with smartphone cameras, you may find trading a large touchscreen for an optical viewfinder a little strange.
Although the D3500 is no technical marvel, it is comfortable to use, has an amazing lens selection, and takes brilliant photos. For pure photography, the Nikon D3500 could be the only camera you ever need. And if you want to see what its sensor can do, pair it with the affordable, razor-sharp, background melting Nikon AF-S DX 35mm F1.8G.
The Canon M200 looks like a traditional point-and-shoot compact camera yet features a DSLR sized sensor, touch screen, and interchangeable lenses.
With its large sensor, the Canon M200 squeezes DSLR-grade image quality into a small, lightweight (300g) body. And thanks to its dual pixel autofocus system, the M200’s in-video autofocus runs rings around the similarly priced Nikon D3500.
The M200 uses Canon’s EF-M lens system. And while the lenses are few, there are some real gems. For instance, the tiny EF-M 22mm F2 turns the Canon M200 into a pocketable power-house. And the ultra-compact, ultra-wide 11-22mm is great for landscape photography and video.
As a consequence of its size, the Canon M200 lacks a viewfinder and is short on external controls. As a result, driving the Canon M200 requires you to spend more time in the menus slowing the photographic process. And whilst the Nikon D3500’s battery keeps going for more than 1500 shots, the M200’s will last more like 400.
Finally, although the M200 does 4K video, it’s somewhat flawed. As a result, the M200’s video is best left set to 1080p.
Overall, the Canon M200’s shortcomings are very much a consequence of its size and price. While it may not be covered in dials nor feature the latest video tech, it costs around $500 and puts DSLR-grade image quality into your jacket pocket. As a result, the M200 makes a great travel companion.
The Canon M50 is one of the best cameras for beginners looking for a bit of everything on a budget. In fact, it’s much like the Canon M200, except it has an electronic viewfinder, a fully-articulated screen, and better controls. In turn, the Canon M50 is larger, heavier, and more expensive than the cheaper M200.
With its comfortable grip, electronic viewfinder, and selection of buttons and dial, the Canon M50 is a nice camera to shoot with. And while you can use the articulated screen to assist selfies and creative composition, you still have the viewfinder when you need it.
The Canon M50 also has a solid reputation amongst bloggers. With its face-forwarding screen, solid autofocus performance, and a 3.5mm jack for your microphone, the M50 delivers relative to this price point.
You should consider the M50 a good 1080p camera that also shoots bad 4K. For instance, switching to 4K greatly reduces in-video autofocus performance whilst substantially narrowing your field of view resulting in a zoomed-in effect. As with the M200, the M50’s battery gassed out quickly and is rated for less than 300 shots between charges.
Overall, the Canon M50 is an entry-level camera on steroids and manages to do a lot well without specializing in anything in particular. Therefore, the M50 is a great all-rounder and a good place to begin your photography journey.
Shop for Fujifilm X-T200
With its large articulated touch screen, the Fuji X-T200 is one of the best cameras for beginners looking to make the transition from a smartphone to a mirrorless camera.
And thanks to the AF joystick, customizable dials, and electronic viewfinder, the X-T200 can also be used as a traditional camera.
Inside the attractive Fujifilm X-T200 is a large 24-megapixel sensor delivering fantastic image quality. And because this is a Fuji, the X-T200 comes loaded with film simulations that replicate the colour and contrast of classic Fujifilm films.
Furthermore, Fuji’s X-T200 is an effective video camera. With its nice 4K30p footage and fully articulated screen, the X-T200 is a good option for vlogging. And unusually for a camera in its class, the Fujifilm X-T200 also features microphone and headphone jacks.
Another advantage of buy this or any other Fujifilm X camera is its lens line up. Whether you shoot landscapes, sports, or portraits; Fuji has a lens for you.
Although the X-T200’s autofocus isn’t bad – it cannot touch the Sony A6100 for modern perks such as tracking and face/eye detection. As a result, Sony’s A6100 is a more reliable option for keeping up with fast action.
The X-T200 is a desirable camera offering both the Smartphone experience and the practicality of buttons and dials. With good video, excellent image quality, and appealing film simulation modes, the Fujifilm X-T200 is ideal for slower-paced photography.
Shop for Sony A6100
For the A6100, Sony managed to squeeze in a large 24-megapixel sensor, an electronic viewfinder, and one of the best auto-focus systems any amount of money can buy. Of all the best cameras for beginners, this is the best if you want to capture fast action.
Sony’s autofocus system is the benchmark for all others to follow. Not only will it automatically identify and track eyes/faces or any other object your choosing – it does so with ease and grace.
As with most cameras on this list, the Sony’s large 24-megapixel images delivers very nice images and 4K video. If you like vlogging and/or selfies, the rear screen flips over to face forward.
In many ways, the Sony A6100 feels very dated. For instance, the electronic viewfinder is one of the least pleasing on the market. And while the Sony menu system has always been bad, it has never been worse.
Although Sony’s A6100 is compact, it’s not all that nice in hand. The buttons are crowded and while there are two control dials, they must be operated one at a time using the same thumb.
Unlike Fujifilm, Sony has not given much attention to its lineup of APS-C lenses. In fact, many of the lenses are comparatively expensive, especially compared to Canon’s EF-M system. However, if you really want to, you can mount Sony’s heavier, more expensive full-frame lenses to the A6100.
Although the Sony A6100 may not be great to use, it is obscenely competent at taking photos. And it can be stuffed into a jacket pocket. However, if the shooting experience is as important to you as the photos, you may prefer the Fuji X-T200.
There are some fantastic cameras on the market and technologically speaking, it’s never been easier to take good photographs. In fact, any of these cameras will deliver outstanding image quality, so you should base your choice on other factors.
For instance, the optical viewfinder equipped Nikon D3500 offers the traditional DSLR experience and is the cheapest camera here. On the other hand, Canon’s M200 delivers the same image quality in a far lighter, more compact body. But unlike the larger D3500, the M200 doesn’t have much room for controls and lacks a viewfinder.
If you prefer a happy medium, Canon’s M50 is a bigger, viewfinder-equipped M200 with much better controls. Of course, it’s also larger and more expensive than both the Nikon D3500 or M200. However, the Canon M50 brings added value in the form of its fully articulating screen and vlogging-friendly video set up.
However, Canon M50 is rather poor at 4K, especially when compared with the Fujifilm X-T200. Not only is the X-T200 a great 4K video camera, but it’s also a very nice camera for photography. With its attractive build, customizable dials, and large smartphone-style touch interface, the X-T200 is a good fit for all kinds of photographers.
But if you want to capture fast action, Sony’s A6100 sets the standard for eye-detection autofocus and subject tracking. Not only does it keep up with your subject, but it’s also consistent, reliable, and easy to use. In fact, Sony’s autofocus is so good you can almost take its success for granted, leaving you free to concentrate on your subject and composition.
What makes the best cameras for beginners
1. Accessible yet sophisticated
The best cameras for beginners should be immediately accessible whilst offering room for you to grow as a photographer. Therefore, it should not be a cheap short-term purchase but a camera that gives you value for years to come.
2. Better than a Smartphone
An ideal beginner’s camera must be a substantial upgrade over your smartphone. This includes large sensor image quality, interchangeable lenses, and the properties that enable you to get great shots in challenging conditions. Read Camera vs Smartphone
3. Ideal for everyday photography
This list assumes you have yet to discover your favorite type of photography. Hence, I’ve skipped specialized cameras and focused on cameras that are rather good at everything.
4. Lens included
Every camera listed includes an affordable, yet versatile zoom lens.