Are you ready to break into the world of photography?
In today’s world, sometimes it can feel like all you need to call yourself a photographer is a smart phone. However, once you break into the world of true professional photography, it won’t take you long to understand that there is so much more you can accomplish with a camera in your hands that a smartphone would never be capable of! At least, not for the foreseeable future!
There is so much that can be done in the world of photography, whether it’s taking your Instagram feed to the next level, to capturing life’s beautiful moments as a professional photographer doing services for the public. Of course, before you get to that level, the first step is to choose your trusty, good beginner camera, especially if all you have handled before is a smart phone!
Once you’ve decided you’re ready to invest in a real camera, the fun begins. There are tons of choices out there to select from, and whether you’re in the market for a high-end point and shoot model, or a DSLR with an interchangeable lens, the options can sometimes feel endless and overwhelming. As a result, finding the best camera for photography beginners can be challenging.
Today, we are sharing everything you need to know about choosing the best professional camera for a beginner.
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If you’re looking to upgrade your abilities as a photographer without getting something too over-the-top and complicated – or emptying your bank account – then you’re in the right place! With our top picks for the best DSLR for beginners, you’ll be able to do just that!
Why a DSLR?
When it comes to finding the right camera for beginners looking to begin developing their photography skills, we highly recommend going with a DSLR – which is why this type of camera is what we are exclusively focusing on in this guide.
Let’s start by briefly going over that a DSLR is.
This acronym stands for digital single lens reflex. As you might imagine, these models have their roots in SLR cameras. This refers to models with single lens reflex, hold the digital.
- How DSLR Cameras Work
SLRs were the dominant camera during the 35mm film period. DSLR cameras operate in much the same way as these film-era counterparts, using a mirror to reflect the light from the lens into the optical viewfinder. The result is that the photographer can see straight through the lens and frame the photo according to how they want it.
By clicking down on the camera’s shutter button, the mirror will flip out all the way, the shutter will open, and the sensor (which is where the film used to be stored) will be exposed to the light of the environment. From there, the shutter closes and the mirror reflexes, returning it to its initial position.
- Other Options
While we are clearly in favor of the DSLR, it’s not the only option on the market. The alternative to today’s DSLR is the mirrorless camera.
As their name suggests, these models are able to get the job done without the use of a mirror. The sensor is constantly exposed to light through the lens, allowing the photographer to frame their images using the LCD screen or by navigating an electronic viewfinder.
At the end of the day, there is no inherent benefit or advantage in terms of image quality between a DSLR and mirrorless camera. Mirrorless models tend to be more compact while DSLRs boast a longer battery life – and many photographers find that there is no true substitute for the real, optical viewfinder they offer.
While both mirrorless and DSLRs boast a wide range of options and features, DSLRs tend to come with more of these benefits at the entry level price point.
There are also some really admirable point and shoot models on the market today, but most of them can’t compare to the doors unlocked with a DSLR camera. The interchangeable lenses with a DSLR allow for a much wider range of possibility, the larger sensor allows for superior image quality, the autofocus of DSLR cameras is unparalleled, and – finally – DSLRs allow you all the room for growth that you will need.
This is a guide for beginners to find the best camera to help you get started, but you likely do not want to be a beginner for long. While a basic kit for a DSLR will be enough to get you started as a “beginner,” the room for more learning, lenses, and accessories is nearly endless. Once you pinpoint the best camera to get you started, you likely will not need to upgrade your camera for quite some time (save for buying new lenses and accessories, that is).
Understanding Camera Terminology
When you embark on the search for the right camera for you to get started with, you are going to be comparing a lot of different specs and features. In order to be able to adequately understand this and make an informed decision, it’s important to be able to understand what all of this terminology means during your research.
Here are a couple of camera terms that you are likely to encounter and some helpful explanations of what they need. This should give you the working knowledge you need as a beginner to be able to wade through information about cameras and decide which one is best for you.
While there is a lot of camera jargon out there you’ll encounter and it can sometimes get overwhelming, knowing what these terms mean is key to understanding what you’re getting out of a digital camera.
- DSLR: While we went into this a bit more in depth above, here is a simplified explanation. A Digital Single Lens Reflect camera uses a mirror to reflect light through the lens and up into the optical viewfinder. The mirror, from there, moves itself out of the way while the shutter button is in use. This allows light to pass through your camera’s shutter and then land on the sensor.
- Mirrorless: As the name suggests, a mirrorless camera functions without the use of a mirror. It does this by allowing light from the lens to travel directly to the sensor. Photos can be framed through an electronic viewfinder or an LCD screen. For this reason, mirrorless cameras tend to be smaller than DSLRs.
- EVF: This acronym is short for electronic view finder, like those you would find in a mirrorless camera model. This differs from an optical viewfinder in that the image that you’re seeing is an electronic rendering of what the camera is looking at being projected onto a tiny screen, rather than the “real” feel you get from an optical viewfinder.
- Sensor: The sensor is a digital equivalent to film. A camera’s sensor is covered in pixels that are all light-sensitive. Each sensor only picks up on the colors of red, blue, and green light – and combines this data to result in a full-color image.
- Megapixel (MP): This term refers to one million pixels. It is a measurement used to denote the resolution a sensor possesses. For example, a 24MP sensor would measure 24 million pixels.
- Mechanical Shutter: This is a type of shutter in which a physical curtain closes and opens in front of the sensor, exposing it to light as the settings of the camera dictate.
- Electronic Shutter: Many camera models also employ the use of optional electronic shutter options. These either bypass or are used in combination with mechanical shutters. These shutters are silent and are often able to operate much faster than their mechanical counterparts, with the drawback that they can sometimes introduce an element of distortion to the resulting image.
- Shutter Speed: This refers to the amount of time that the camera shutter remains open, exposing the sensor to light. The shutter speed setting can range from anywhere between 1/8,000 of a second to as slow as 30 seconds. This longer the shutter remains open, the more light will be allowed to reach the sensor. This can, however, lead to blurred images. Faster shutter speeds freeze the action taking place, but don’t let in as much light.
- Lens: The lens is the eye of your camera. Lenses are made out of several varying glass elements that focus the light of an area onto your camera’s sensor. A wide-angle lens will feature a larger field of view, making them great options for group photos, landscape, shots, and the like. On the other hand, a telephoto lens will offer a narrower field of view, making them ideal for single-subject pictures, such as portraits and wildlife shots.
- Aperture: This is the diaphragm of a lens that is able to open or close to decrease and increase the amount of light a lens lets in to best suit the setting a picture is being taken in. Wider aperture settings create a shallow depth of field, allowing for a subject to remain in focus while the background becomes blurred. This is a technique often used in portrait photography, and one you might have seen on your iPhone’s “portrait mode.” Smaller aperture, however, keeps more of the distance in the shot in focus – something that is often used in landscape shots.
- F-number: This is something you’ll see on the lens of both fixed-lens models and camera with interchangeable lenses. The f-number has to do with the size of a lens’s aperture. However, a smaller number means the lens has a larger Lenses are identified by the maximum aperture value they’re capable of, so a 50mm f/1.4 means that the lens is able to open up to a maximum of f/1.4, but not that this is the only aperture setting it will have. When lens shopping, keeping the f-number in mind if a useful way to compare which lens will be able to let in a larger amount of light and result in a shallower depth of field.
- IS: This stands for image stabilization. While different manufacturers might brand this spec in different ways, such as OIS (short for optical image stabilization) or OSS (which stands for optical steady shot), or even VR (for vibration reduction), these all essentially refer to the same thing. Different manufacturers will put stabilization either on the lens, in the sensor, or both.
- FPS: This stands for frames per second and refers to the number of images a camera can capture sequentially in a single second, or the number of frames of video it can record each second.
- 4K UHD: This is 4K Ultra High Definition, and this type of video boasts a frame size of 3,840 x 2,160 pixels, which roughly translates to 4,000 lines of resolution (which h is where the 4K in the name comes from). This is 4 times the pixel count you will get from Full HD 1080p.
- Full HD 1080p: This refers to Full High Definition, and this type of video has a frame size of 1920 x 1080 pixels. The p in the name refers to progressive scanning, in contract to interlaced scanning, which is not something you find as commonly in modern cameras.
And there you have it – some of the most common terminology you will encounter in researching various different types of cameras. With these things in mind, you’ll be able to compare the specs, capabilities, and features of various models, allowing you to make an informed decision based on your needs.
Keep this list close by while researching different models so you can refer back to it as needed whenever there is a term you don’t understand. Deciding on a camera is a big choice, but knowing what these terms mean will allow you to make an informed purchase!
How We Select Our Favorite Cameras
In the modern landscape of photography today, nearly any camera you can get your hands on is capable of taking some stunning shots. While there will be differences in image quality from one model to the next, these differences are often small or even miniscule. When choosing the best DSLR for a beginning photographer, we instead choose to place our focus on features, ease of use, price, and room for growth.
The cameras that we’ve chosen in this guide have earned their place on this list, not just because they are good and well-built products, but also because they each offered a unique aspect to the table. In other words, each of them stood out from the crowd in some way. Any of the cameras that made this list would provide a significant upgrade from a smartphone, and even a point and shoot model, for that matter.
At the end of the day, you can’t go wrong with any of these DSLRs that have earned a place on our list. However, a certain model might provide certain advantages for your specific purposes, the type of photography you want to do, and more.
If you decided you’re ready to buy your first DSLR, here is a list of our favorites and a few alternatives for you to consider!
Our Top Pick: Canon EOS Rebel T7i
Fast performance, ease of use, excellent autofocus
The Rebel T7i pairs excellent performance with the easy-to-learn menu system, making it the perfect choice for an aspiring photographer.
The Ideal User
The Canon EOS Rebel T7i is a great camera for just about every photographer, but we recommend it especially to parents, students, beginners, or anyone else in search of an easy-to-use camera capable of taking some truly stunning images.
This camera will run you around $750 if you’re looking for the body alone, and $900 if you want to get it with the 18-55mm lens to get you started. If you’re patient and scope out the sales, you might be able to save as much as $100 on the price tag.
Check the current price here.
What We Love About It
The T7i is on the higher end as far as entry level cameras go, but it’s still one of the best choices in terms of a DSLR for a beginner at a great value, while offering a lot room for growth.
It comes with a redesigned guided menu that assists even novice users in learning how the various camera settings work quickly and easily. Paired with the easy-to-use touch-based interface and plenty of images on the screen to help users understand the purpose of various settings, it is easy to discern how to use the camera for various different things.
Once you have familiarized yourself with the Rebel T7i, it doesn’t take long to recognize what a powerful camera is housed under its hood. The 45-point autofocus system is as accurate as it is fast, even when photographing subjects fast in motion. It’s also able to shoot at up to six frames per second, so if you’re looking to get into sports photography for your kids, or capture a cute shot of your pup who never seems to sit still, then this camera is up to the task. You’ll have no problem keeping up with them!
Additionally, the 24-megapixel APS-C sensor takes great pictures in a wide range of lighting conditions, and it offers more resolution than you’re likely ever to need.
Another great selling point of the T7i is its video capabilities. It’s a strong camera in terms of capturing some stunning, quality footage, courtesy of Canons Dual Pixel Autofocus technology, or DPAF for short.
Many DSLRs find their downfall when it comes to autofocus performance in video mode, showing slow results. However, DPAF allows this model to focus both smoothly and without delay, helping you to keep your videos looking crisp and professional. The Rebel T7i doesn’t have 4K, so it won’t have the capabilities of your 4K television, but the 1080/60p footage it boasts is more than sufficient for most home movies.
As with every other camera on this list, here is one word of caution: The Rebel T7i is capable of so much more than its kit lens allows it to do. While the lens the camera comes with is sufficient to get you started, you’ll definitely want to upgrade to a better lens down the road.
- Wi-Fi Capability
- Incredible image quality
- Fast autofocus technology
- Intuitive touch-screen interface
- 24-megapixel sensor
- Unparalleled video capabilities
- 45-point autofocus system
- Kit lens is lacking
For the Instagram Influencers: Nikon D3400
Beautiful shots, effortless sharing wirelessly, affordable
The Ideal User
The Nikon D3400 is ideal for casual photographers, those who want to be able to share their images right away, social media influencers, and other aspiring photographers.
This camera is a very affordable option at a great value, running $500 with the 18-55mm lens, and with sales you can sometimes snag one for as little as $400.
Click here to check the current price.
What We Love About It
Are you one of those social media influencers with Instagram followers somewhere in the range of thousands? If this sounds like you, then the Nikon D3400 is our top recommendation for those Instagram lovers out there!
The D3400 is at the entry point of the DSLR lineup by Nikon, but it comes equipped with a 24-megapiel sensor that’s one of the best the industry has to offer, while also being one of the most affordable.
This on its own makes it an ideal DSLR for those just getting started, but this model goes a step further with the SnapBridge technology Nikon boasts. This uses Bluetooth Low Energy to maintain an always-on connection with the user’s smartphone. This Bluetooth function allows you to use an iOS or Android device to be able to trigger the camera remotely and automatically back up your low-resolution files from the camera. If you ever need a full-resolution transfer, the camera also comes with built-in Wi-Fi capability, so you’ll be able to transfer those directly to your smartphone as well!
This feature is available in all other newer Nikon DX (APS-C) DSLRs, including the new D5600 – which is Nikon’s response to Canon’s Rebel T7i. We’ve chosen the Nikon D3400 here, though, because it utilizes the same sensor while still saving you a couple hundred dollars.
It does, however, have some limitations. This includes its 11-point autofocus system as 12-bit RAW files, compared with the 14-bit files you’ll get with higher-end models. However, these won’t detract from the quality of the camera for the purposes of most beginners.
If you’re looking for the simplicity you’ll find with the SnapBridge, paired with better performance, then you might want to consider the upgraded version of this model, the Nikon D5600.
However, the rest of the specs of the D3400 are decent – especially for a camera in this price range. It features 1080/60p video, a burst rate of as many as 5 frames per second, and more. This may not be a camera for you if you’re looking for a lot of room to grow, but if you’re just looking for something basic, something to break into photography with, or something to keep those great Instagram pictures coming, then you can’t go wrong!
- Great value for an affordable price
- Always-on Bluetooth capability
- Built-in Wi-Fi for full resolution transfers
- 24-megapixel sensor
- Excellent video capability
- Not a lot of room for growth
- Only an 11-point autofocus system
- 12-bit RAW files aren’t as much as the 14-bit other models offer
The Traveler’s Camera: Canon EOS Rebel SL2
Compact size that doesn’t sacrifice the excellent optical viewfinder
The Ideal User
This camera is a great option for vacationers and beginners, or anyone just looking for the smallest possible DSLR.
You can get yourself the Canon EOS Rebel SL2 for around $550 for the body alone, or around $700 for the body paired with the 18-55mm lens. Sales occasionally can bring the price down by around $100.
Find the current price here.
What We Love About It
Despite it being advertised as a compact DSLR, the Rebel SL2 isn’t lacking in terms of features. With an articulating monitor that includes a selfie mode to get those essential vacation shots, paired with the same 24MP sensor used in the Canon T7i, you can’t go wrong. It also has continuous shooting up to 5 FPS and utilizes the Dual Pixel Autofocus for video shooting and live view.
This model acts a lot like a mini T7i, but its biggest shortcoming is that it only has a 9-point autofocus system, compared to the 45 points of the T7i.
- Easy for travel
- 24MP sensor
- Dual Pixel Autofocus
- Selfie mode
- Continuous shooting up to 5 FPS
- Only a 9-point autofocus system
The Adventurer’s Go-To: Ricoh Pentax K-70
The Ricoh Pentax K-70 is the only DSLR of this level to incorporate a weather-resistant body into its design
The Ideal User
This DSLR is ideal for campers, hikers, and landscape photographers
This camera will run you around $600 if you want the body alone, and $650 if you want to get the 18-55mm kit lens as part of the package.
Click here to view the current price.
What We Love About It
While Ricoh isn’t a name you hear often in the camera world, this company makes great cameras for an excellent value. It simply doesn’t come with the same brand recognition you get from Canon or Nikon, but the photo quality is there all the same.
Right now, one thing that Pentax is unparalleled in is weather-sealing. This camera model is the only DSLR under $1000 to come with moisture and dust resistance, sealed in 100 different points. This makes it an excellent choice for outdoor adventures where you may encounter inclement weather.
The durability of this model isn’t all you get from it, either. It is built around a 24-megapixel sensor that, much like the Nikon D3400, lacks any anti-aliasing filter, resulting in an improved sharpness. With an impressing 6 FPS speed at continuous shooting, it’s on par with the Rebel T7i in that category!
This model also employs a useful sensor-shift internal stabilization system, which is helpful not only in steadying handheld shots, but also allows for the Pixel Shift Resolution mode it offers. What this feature does is captures four frames, and shifts the sensor by the width of a single pixel each time, recording full color information at each pixel location. The result? Improved sharpness for fantastic landscape images, especially when combined with the use of tripod.
The K-70 falls short in autofocus performance, with just 9 focus points. In addition, it’s just over 1.5 pounds, which is almost half a pound heavier than other models we have reviewed in this guide.
- Weather sealed
- 24MP sensor
- 6 FPS continuous shooting
- Sensor-shift internal stabilization
- Pixel shirt resolution mode
- Only 9 focus points
- Heavier than most models
- Doesn’t have the brand recognition of Canon or Nikon
There you have it – everything you need to find the best camera for beginners.
In this guide, we’ve covered our top picks for the best DSLR camera for beginners. Just remember in your search for the right one for you that finding the best cameras for beginners has a lot to do with what the aspiring photographer is looking to do with their newfound equipment. By keeping in mind what you hope to accomplish with your photography, our tips ahead should help you to pinpoint a good starter camera for you.
From having the know-how on commonly used camera terms, to knowing the best DSLR picks for different settings and types of photography, you should now be well-equipped to choose the best starting DSLR for your purposes!
Hopefully this guide helps you to decide on the purchase that is best for your needs. Start about what kind of photography you want to accomplish with your new camera. From there, find the model that’s right for you. Then, all that’s left is to capture those stunning images and enjoy all the doors of possibility opened by your new DSLR!