What are the best cameras for beginner photographers?

photography student with cameraProbably the most common question I receive from potential students to my Introductory Photography course is, “What are the best cameras for beginner photographers?”

I usually start the conversation with two questions:

  • What’s your budget? and
  • What is your goal for photography?

These are important questions as they guide my recommendations. But before suggesting any particular cameras, a few things need to be considered.

Age Matters
With the rapid technological advancement in our world today, cameras become more capable every year. In particular, more recent cameras are much better at image quality in low light and speed and accuracy with autofocus. However, if you’re on a tighter budget, there are many great cameras that are several years old.

Mirrorless or DSLR?
The entire industry has moved to mirrorless cameras and most manufacturers no longer make DSLRs (digital single lens reflex). There are many advantages to mirrorless, such as smaller form factor, faster auto focus, exposure preview (meaning you can see exactly how bright or dark the picture will be before clicking the shutter), and improved capability with video. So, if you purchase a DSLR now, you’ll be going mirrorless eventually and then the lenses you have will not be optimal for your new camera (although they can work well with an adaptor). My recommendation for best cameras for beginner photographers is to purchase mirrorless.

Buying into a system
If your first camera is a Nikon, then before long you’ll probably buy accessories for it, such as lenses and flash. Once you’ve filled your camera bag, it’s expensive to change brands because you’ll need to replace what you have. So choose the brand carefully.

photography student one of the recommended Cameras for Beginner PhotographersDeal with People Who Know
If you purchase your equipment online or from a big box store, you may save a small amount but you’ll sacrifice knowledgeable expertise. Dealing with a local specialty store, you’ll not only benefit by their experience to help you with the many decisions but they are there to support you after the sale as well. I’ve had many students go back to the local store with a problem and leave with a smile on their face.

How does it feel?
A very important part of a camera decision is the ergonomics. You need to handle it and feel the weight of it in your hands. Do your fingers naturally fall on the important buttons? Just like purchasing clothing, it’s important to try it on and get the right fit. Related to this is the menu system. Some cameras have very complex menus making it a challenge to find the settings you want. Others are more intuitive.

Consider a starter camera
It’s tough to buy your first camera because you likely don’t know all the factors that become more important as you gain experience. I’ve had many people take my introductory course with a new camera and soon after buy the camera they really need but didn’t realize what they needed when they started out. So, if you can borrow or buy an inexpensive used one to start out with, you’ll quickly learn about the camera features that are most important to you. Then you’ll be ready to make an informed purchase.

A few other camera features to know about:

  • IBIS (in body image stabilization). This is a game changer as it allows you to handhold a camera when the light is low or you want a longer shutter speed. Not all cameras have this. 
  • Weather sealing. Entry level cameras may not have this. It’s important if you’ll be in wet/rainy environments. 
  • Video. While most cameras today include this, entry level cameras may not have the features you need, such as microphone ports or 4K video. 

So, what camera should you buy?
Here, with the help of Nicole, Manager at Kerrisdale Cameras, are recommendations for cameras for beginner photographers in 2024, in alphabetical order. Add some research by you and a visit to your local store to make sure they feel right in your hands, any of these cameras will get you on the right track.

 

photography class with camerasCanon
      - R50 or R10 for beginners
      - R7 for intermediate photographers
      - R8 to get into full frame
Fuji
      - XT30 or XS20 for beginners
      - XT5 or XH2 for more serious

Nikon

       – Z50 for beginner and beyond
      - Z5 for beginner and intermediate. Has a full frame
      - Z6 II for the more serious photographer
Sony
      - A6100/6400 for beginners
      - A6700 for intermediate
      - A7 IV for more serious
So, what do I use?

When I’m asked for a recommendation, I usually answer by saying that most cameras on the market today are excellent. It’s just a matter of what features from the list above match your preferences. For me, the choice is Nikon, which I’ve been using for about 20 years. Why? The images look great right out of the camera. The colours produced by Nikon sensors are accurate for skin tones and much more. Very importantly, Nikon cameras feel right in my hands. My Z6ii and Z7ii are comfortable to hold and the buttons are just where they should be. These cameras are not heavy. And, the menus are laid out in sensible ways that makes it easy to find the items I need. During my classes, when we teach about a certain feature that requires looking into the menu, Nikon users always seem to find it first. Other camera users end up searching on Google for help to find what they need. And they are reliable. I only have had to visit the repair shop when I do something dumb like drop the camera.