If you want to get into photography, you will need a camera. While you can easily shell out over $1500 just for the camera, that may not be your best option. As a beginner, you will want to get comfortable before spending that kind of money.
We give you the best affordable beginner camera options here.
Starting a career, hobby, or just filling the time by taking photographs can be a rewarding experience. As with anything else, though, we all have to start somewhere. Even if photography is your passion, you may not be able to jump right in and purchase the highest quality, top-of-the-line model camera.
Do you even know what kind of camera works best for you? Maybe you are a DSLR type of picture taker, or you may end up preferring a mirrorless camera. You surely don’t want to cough up a couple of thousand dollars only to find out you like the other type better.
This guide will showcase the best affordable camera for beginners. Cameras that won’t break the bank while you are just getting started. You will need a camera and equipment that will suit your needs while pushing you to learn more and expand your craft. That’s exactly what we will do here, today.
HOW WE COME UP WITH OUR RATINGS
Our rating system is a star system that is based on a lot of different aspects of the camera world. Cost is going to be a major factor in our determination, as beginners generally need to save money wherever possible.
We look at the cameras offered at the economy and entry-level range and compare them side by side, apples to apples. We look at features, lens selection, reliability, functionality, viewports, batteries if they are a part of a kit and several other facets that many beginner photographers may not even think about.
Once we have taken our comparison notes on the specs of each camera, we turn them on and test them out. We take videos with them, indoor and outdoor shots, landscapes, and portraits and we test the zoom, and display quality (if they have a display). We even test the tactile response of the buttons, and touchscreen (again, if equipped) and we make a note of everything.
We then upload all of the photos and compare them side by side for brightness, contrast, clarity, and focus. Finally, we break the cameras down and rebuild them. (not completely, we tend to lose screws). We see how easy they are to transport, if the lenses need special treatment or if we can just toss it in our backpack and keep going down the trail.
After all, the information is gathered, and the testing is complete we give our results a star rating, based between one and five stars. The higher the rating, the better the camera. We also understand that these cameras won’t hold up well (usually) to the high-end professional-grade cameras, so the rating is on a sliding scale.
While our top pick here may be the 100th pick when every possible camera is considered, we don’t think about that, because you don’t think about that. We only offer the best of the best for your consideration.
If you are a budding photographer and are looking for ideas or inspiration about the rig you want to start off with, this is the list for you. Let’s take a look at what our hours of research uncovered. Hopefully, your first professional camera is on this list.
5 BEST AFFORDABLE CAMERAS FOR BEGINNERS
Without further ado, here is the list of our top 5 picks for the best affordable camera.
SONY ALPHA A5100 (ESSENTIAL KIT)
The Sony Alpha series has garnered a lot of attention in the world of photography. The cameras were first dismissed as cheap beginner cameras that wouldn’t hold up under real use. That was quickly dissolved, and the cameras have continued to evolve and gain a devout following.
Using the Sony E-Lens system, the a5100 can now be used with over 100 lenses and extras. The mirrorless camera is lightweight for easy portability and transportation. You won’t want to go anywhere without it.
The Essentials Kit put together by Sony comes with everything a budding photographer could need. Batteries and chargers, memory cards, a tripod, lenses, straps, a carrying bag, and even a copy of PaintShop Pro 9x.
The camera itself offers a high ISO range for great pictures in any lighting condition, autofocus with 179 focal points, full HD video and a 180-degree flip view screen for front-facing picture taking.
Our rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars
The Panasonic Lumix FZ80 is compact. While not as small as the G80, the FZ80 offers a 4k resolution, even in burst mode. Record in full HD and have the ability to take the camera with you virtually anywhere.
The small size allows you to toss the camera in your bag and go. You won’t have the use of extra lenses or other add-ons, but with the small design and powerful 60x zoom, optically stabilized lens you won’t need much else.
This camera is both cost-effective and easy to learn. You will have the basics down in no time, and you will enjoy learning. Once you have mastered the Lumix, you will be itching for more, though, and that alone is quite detrimental. Since you can’t upgrade, you will quickly find yourself looking for a newer model to tinker with and learn.
Our Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars.
CANON EOS REBEL T6
Canon enters the list with the EOS Rebel T6. The DSLR has been one of the top go-to cameras for beginners and intermediates alike. The easy-to-use camera system is capable of mounting dozens of different lenses and add-ons.
The camera offers an EFS wide angle, high definition 58mm lens, and an ISO range of 12800 for better quality pictures in low light situations. The one downside is that the camera only uses nine autofocus points so you will need to learn to be quite accurate with your shots.
The kit includes more than most beginners need, but everything is essential, from the remote control to the wifi enabled, NFC scene intelligent auto mode. After a few attempts, you will be taking professional-grade photos without much effort.
The Rebel T6 allows for video, filmed at 3FPS in ultra high definition, and has capabilities to extend the memory, flashes, and lenses. If you want to look professional while learning to be professional, the Rebel T6 is your camera.
Our rating: 4.7 of 5 stars
NIKON D3400 24.2MP DSLR
Nikon enters the fray with a 24.2mp monster. The D3400 is a DSLR beginner’s dream camera. Not only will it save money but the stills are incredible, and the autofocus virtually ensures a great shot every time. You can feel like a pro right out of the gate.
You will lose features like a tilting view screen, touch-sensitive buttons, and silent operation, the D3400 more than makes up for the shortcomings. Variable focal lenses can be added to the system at any time, and you will have the option to choose from over two dozen models.
The D3400 is by far the best camera Nikon has to offer, but the slimmed-down DLSR is a great tool to learn on while building your armory full of lenses and add-ons for a future Nikon camera body upgrade.
Our Rating: 4.7 of 5 stars
The Fujifilm X-A3 almost made a list just on its design alone. Retro-chic with modern touches makes this eye-catching camera look like a blast from the past. While you will almost want to find the leather case that unsnaps in the front like the Fujifilm cameras of the early eras, the X-A3 offers wireless communications.
Use this to link with third-party apps from your smartphone or tablet. You can turn your phone into a remote to snap pictures from anywhere.
Using the Fujinon lens system, you will have access to over a hundred lenses, flashes, remotes, accessories, and add-ons. By itself, though, the camera is still formidable right out of the box. Offering a 24.2MP autofocus lens and a high ISO rating for all light and direct light photographs, you can still record video and review all images on the wide-angle view screen.
You won’t have the bulk of a DSLR, and the small stature of the X-A3 makes it comfortable to carry anywhere at any time. If you like retro camera styles, take a look at the Fujifilm X-A3. With a turn dial, top post adjustments, and audible click-button shutter release, it is sure to please.
Our rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Knowing what to look for in a camera will go a long way to helping make that final decision. Besides your budget, there are three major things you need to consider before choosing your first camera.
While the budget will be a major deciding factor, ensuring you get the performance and features you need will far outweigh the initial cost.
WHAT TYPE OF CAMERA DO YOU PREFER?
Professional-grade cameras tend to come in three categories: DSLR, Mirrorless, and Compact.
You have to consider what you will be using the camera for. If you are looking for something you can turn on, snap a picture, and move on, a compact camera may be right for you. They don’t have a lot of lens options; most have a variable focal lens that isn’t removable.
The compact, all-inclusive design means you sacrifice upgrades in the future, but you gain portability, which means you may be more likely to carry it with you at all times.
If you want lightweight but still need lens options, then a mirrorless camera may be suited for your needs better than a DSLR. While the debate about which is better is far beyond the scope of this article (as well as one that will never be resolved) mirrorless cameras are easier to transport, take amazing photographs, and are beginning to include more and more lenses.
If you want all the options, then a DSLR might be what you are after. They are bulky, heavy and require packing and transportation usually in their luggage. You will, however, have the option of literally hundreds of lenses and add-ons. The picture quality is as good, or better than a mirrorless camera, though a DSLR may be more difficult to grab and go.
THINK ABOUT OTHER USES
Are you only taking pictures outside? Portraits? Still? Do you need video capabilities or do you like to take a lot of selfies? These are all things you need to consider and research if your desired camera can accommodate you.
If you like selfies, for example, you will need a camera with a pivoting view screen that you can flip around to face front. Video capabilities are important, but you need to also think about storage capacity. A video takes up more memory than stills. Make sure your camera can hold larger-capacity memory cards.
Newer technology, like wireless communications, Bluetooth, and near-field communications (NFC) will enable you to use smart devices, third-party apps, and cloud storage for your images, albums, and videos.
Find out exactly what you need, and what you can live without, and you will end up with the best affordable camera for you.
The final choice is always going to be your call. You will need a camera you want to use constantly, not one that sits in a bag at the foot of your bed being forgotten. It should meet all of your needs and still offer enough features and upgrades to push you to improve and want more.
Eventually, you will want to upgrade your camera, so having the ability to take your lenses with you is important. Find a suitable camera to start with (like one from this list) and then find out which higher-tired cameras use the same equipment.
Good luck, and happy snapping!