Best Camera for Beginner Photographers
Buying your first camera can be tough, expensive and time consuming. I can tell you I have personally wasted a lot of money on cameras early on that probably weren’t the best choice. I’ve also wasted a lot of money switching camera brands along the way. I started with Nikon, switched to Canon and now I am team Sony which has been a lot of buying and selling. I also had bad advice early on so hopefully this blog post will give you some good ideas to think about when looking at what camera you want to buy first.
Things to Consider When Buying Your First Camera
Price: This is probably your biggest driver when getting your first camera. Camera equipment is expensive and if you want to get into photography you will need something that’s a step up from a simple point and shoot. The biggest thing you will want/need is a camera that allows you to manipulate all of the settings such as shutter speed, aperture and ISO. So no matter what your budget is, at least get that function so you can start learning how to control the different parts of a photograph.
Quality: Quality and price do tend to go hand in hand, however, sometimes you will be paying for a band name rather than a good quality camera. A Leica camera is an awesome camera but will start at around $1000 and offer generally the same features that you could get for the Sony RX100 pictured above. You will want a camera that offers good quality but you won’t want something that is top of the line. I do recommend getting a camera that you could continue to grow with.
Brand: I’d strongly recommend figuring out what brand you want to go with now and doing your best to stick with it as you grow as a photographer. Typically what happens is you will buy a camera body which can vary greatly in price. Then you will purchase lenses to go on that camera body. Pretty soon you will have a camera body with a handful of lenses. The issue here is that camera lenses are not interchangeable with different camera brand bodies. Each company has their own proprietary lens mount which makes lenses only mountable to one camera brand body. So let’s say you buy a Canon 7D Mark II as your first body and get a whole bunch of Canon lenses and then decide you want to go to a Sony, you will have to sell all of your lenses and Canon body and then buy a new Sony and all new Sony mount lenses. This is obviously pricey.
One mistake I’ve made is I always bought the camera that my buddy recommended rather than what was the best item on the market. The bottom line…. Do your research. I personally recommend Sony. I think their mirrorless systems are the best on the market. I’ve had Canon, Nikon and now Sony and I believe they offer a product that is superior. But, that’s just me.
Ability to grow: Your last consideration should be… can you grow into your camera? If you buy a little point and shoot you will most likely grow out of in pretty quickly and then have to spend more money again in the near future. I recommend finding a camera that can accept interchangeable lenses rather than one with a built in lens. Also find a brand that has a various levels of cameras from entry to expert so you can grow with them.
So what Camera should you buy?
That’s a great question. I am sure I don’t hold the answer but here are some recommendations. I will go from cheap to expensive. Again, I am team Sony over here so that’s what I recommend. That doesn’t mean that the other brands don’t offer good options… I just like Sony, if I didn’t say that enough already.
Least Expensive Beginner Camera
The Sony RX 100 is a great starter camera because you actually get a pretty decent quality camera for around $370. The camera comes in a manual mode so you can learn how to adjust the settings. In addition the camera weighs in at just half a pound and is around 4 x 2.5” so it’s really easy to throw in your pocket if you’re traveling around. The 20.2 mega pixel CMOS sensor will ensure that any photos you capture are high resolution and could be blown up and framed if desired.
In addition the camera has an ISO setting of 125-6400 which allows you to do some low light shots, although the camera isn’t going to perform to well at higher ISOs, that is typically reserved for the higher end cameras. One of the best features is the Zeiss 1.8, 28-100mm zoom lens. That gives you a pretty wide range aperture range so you could practice using your depth of field. Finally the 28-100mm zoom isn’t amazing but it does give you a fairly decent range to work with.
Some of the cons with this camera is that you will outgrow it quickly, the lenses are not interchangeable and you will have poor low light shots. This is very much a beginner camera and wont be something you’d stick with for very long. However, it’s a great one to try if you want look into becoming a photographer without breaking the bank.
Mid Range Beginner Camera
The Sony a6500 is an APS-C camera meaning its sensor is slightly smaller than a full frame camera. The sensor is big enough to get some incredible shots and this is actually my go-to travel camera/back up camera. The photo quality is good enough that if you captured a great photo that you wanted to blow up as a print you could make it pretty much as large as you like.
I originally purchased the Sony a6500 after I was looking for a camera that offered great quality shots but was also light and portable. My goal was to use this as a travel camera. After using it for a month I was so impressed that I sold all of my Canon gear and made the switch to Sony. The crazy thing here is that I owned the Canon 5d MkIV, one of their flagship full-frame top of the line cameras. This means that Sony’s mid-line camera impressed me so much it convinced me to ditch my top of the line Canon…
I would suggest the a6500 one as a great option because you can swap out lenses as you start to build you lens collection and the lenses you buy for the a6500 could also be used on a full frame camera if you decided to go that route later on. In addition, the camera comes with a lot of the nice bells and whistles such as wi-fi, add-on apps and the ability to attach external batteries or a flash.
Finally, the a6500 performs much like a high end camera with a 24.2 mega pixel sensor, 425 auto focus points (meaning it auto focuses really well), 11 frames per second continuous shooting (meaning it can take a lot of photos really fast for sports or wildlife photography), and a 4k video (meaning it takes really nice video).
For a body you would pay around $1100 and a lens can run you anywhere from $300 on up. I currently run the camera with a Zeiss 16-70mm f/4 lens which is an excellent combination.
If you want a more detailed review of this a6500 I did a full write-up here.
Best High End Beginner Camera
With the Sony A7III I use the term “beginner” very loosely. In fact, this camera is absolutely incredible and is used by professional photographers around the world. The A7III is a full frame camera that came out after the A7RIII (the camera that I use as my go-to). In some arenas the A7III actually out performs some of the A7RIII’s capabilities and does it for around $800 less. If you want the bottom line on this camera I would say it’s an absolutely phenomenal camera for a somewhat affordable price. The A7III body will run you around $2,000 and lenses are around $300 on up. However, if you’re going to splurge for this one, I’d recommend getting a good lens to match so you don’t lose all the great quality that you get from the camera.
I’d recommend getting this camera if you’ve decided you’re ready to be a professional photographer. If you buy this camera you won’t need to upgrade for a long time and if you do upgrade this is a great camera to use as a backup/secondary camera.
What makes the A7III so great? Well for starters it features a full-frame 24.2 MP sensor that has some of the best low light capabilities on the market. The AF features a 623 point phase detection with 93% coverage. Now if you are just getting into photography I know that might not mean anything but to break it down nice and simple… it means it does a great job of focusing on the object you’re trying to capture.
One other thing I should point out is the A7III comes with 4k video capabilities… So if you’re looking to also get into videography this camera would again be an excellent choice.
So what makes this camera a beginner camera? Well again, it’s not really a beginner camera but it’s more of a beginner-ish price. Your only set back on this camera would be the 24.2 megapixel sensor. For reference, the A7RIII features a 42 megapixel sensor. However, this difference can also set you back. Fewer megapixels can lead to better low light qualities. In addition a 42MP sensor can drastically slow down your editing time if you don’t have a super fast computer. However, a larger sensor will capture more information which can be beneficial in post editing. There are plenty of times that I have imported a photo into LightRoom and thought it wasn’t going to edit. However, because the A7RIII has such an incredible sensor it captures a ton of information that can be edited.
In the end, the 24.2 megapixel sensor will still produce some amazing photos and you probably wouldn’t notice much of a difference until you started to blow the photos up for super large prints. To be honest, I wish the A7III was available when I purchased the A7RIII because I would have saved myself a lot of money and I’d have one amazing camera to work with.
The Take Away
Ok so I have been crapping on about all of these cameras for awhile now but here’s my abbreviated recommendation. The camera you purchase should be scaleable in the sense that you should be able to grow with it. Photography equipment is very much in the arena of “buy once, cry once”. Most often people purchase a budget camera, with budget lenses and then outgrow their camera quickly and then want to upgrade. If I could recommend one thing to a beginner it would be to buy the Sony a6500 and a 50mm lens and use that until you get the hang of photography. The reason is that we as humans tend to see the world at around 50mm so you will photograph what you see (ok so for anyone reading this who’s a photography nerd, yes I know the APS-C turns a 50mm into more of a 75mm focal length, but you get the idea). In addition a 50mm prime lens combined with the a6500 with produce some incredibly crisp shots. By shooting a 50mm fixed length you will be forced to capture the shots you want by getting creative, rather than just zooming and zooming out. I personally believe that a good photographer uses additional lenses to simply enhance their photography skills rather than act as a crutch. The bottom line, if you can capture great photos with that combination you will absolutely crush it when you start upgrading your lenses and camera body in the future.