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What is a good beginner camera?

What is a good beginner camera?

Canon EOS Rebel T1i (500D) photo by Tim Graf

Whether you’re looking at taking the next step from your point-and-shoot – or would like a step-up from your phone’s camera, then it might be time to consider a DSLR.

As well as an enormous range of lenses and the low-light benefits of an optical viewfinder, a DSLR is going to cost just a fraction the price of a mirrorless camera – making them an ideal starting point for beginners.

We’ll take a quick glance through some of the best beginner DSLRs on the market right now…

Canon EOS Rebel T6

Image from Canon

In terms of value, you won’t find many starter-level DSLRs that offer quite so much as the Rebel T6. At a glance, there isn’t an enormous change in specification versus the newer T7 – in fact, it’s only really the 18MP sensor (compared to 24.1PM for the T7) that gives it away.

If you want to make sure you maximize your budget, finding a Canon EOS Rebel T6 is a great idea – and you won’t be compromising on image quality if you do. Focusing can be a little slow with the T6 – so if you’re likely to be shooting sports or other similar moving images, it might not be ideal – but otherwise, an all-round excellent budget camera.

For:

  • Very competitive pricing
  • Excellent image quality

Against:

  • Lack of touchscreen can slow things down a little
  • Live focusing can be frustratingly slow at times

Nikon D3400

Image from Nikon

Nikon’s D3400 is the follow up to the hugely successful D3300 – and it’s packed with additional features if you’re looking for a little more than the D3300 offers.

The 24.2-megapixel APS-C sensor is the same as the D3300 – but the D3400 gives an enormously extended battery life (often nearly double!)

For beginners, Nikon’s ‘Guide Mode’ will help to remove some of the frustration you might experience when composing your shots. Instead of offering just a traditional ‘auto’ mode, the D3400 will actually take you through the relevant settings – based on judgements made by the camera.

If you’re keen to get your shots uploaded as quickly as possible, the D3400 has an ‘always-on’ Bluetooth connection to your phone through Nikon’s patented SnapBridge. SnapBridge lets you transfer images as you take them – ready for on-the-fly Instagram uploads.

For:

  • Incredible battery performance
  • Great auto-focus

Against:

  • Lack of touchscreen can slow you down a little
  • No external mic port

Nikon D3300

Image from Nikon

You might be surprised to see the D3300 on this list – especially since its replacement has just got such a glowing review.

In actual fact, the D3300 still stands up against the alternatives here – with outstanding image quality and the great ‘guide mode’ we talked about with the D3400.

You don’t get the adjustable LCD or Bluetooth connection that comes with the D3400 – but if those things aren’t important to you, and you can find one at a good price, the D3300 is a great beginner DSLR.

For:

  • Same design and build quality as the D3400
  • Guide mode is perfect for beginners

Against:

  • Fixed LCD screen
  • No Bluetooth connectivity

Related articles about Nikon

  1. Top Portrait Lenses for Nikon DSLRs

  2. Nikon Launches Z 7 and Z 6 Full-Frame Mirrorless Cameras

  3. 7 Solid Lenses for the Nikon D750

Canon EOS Rebel T7i

Image from Canon

It comes in at the top end of what we’d consider most beginner’s budgets to be – but if you can justify a body-only price of around $600-700, then you’re going to be in for a treat with the T7i.

Canon have redesigned the guided menu on the T7i – so even novice users will be navigating and composing excellent shots quickly. The responsive touchscreen keeps everything simple and intuitive to use too.

Buying body-only is a fairly good option to go for with the Rebel T7i, not just to keep the price down – but also because the kit lens somewhat limits what this outstanding camera is capable of.

Shooting in low light is no problem for the Rebel T7i – and the 6 frames per second shooting rate means you’ll have no problem getting incredible shots of moving objects too.

For:

  • Very fast performance
  • Excellent autofocus – even in video

Against:

  • Top of the beginner price range
  • Kit lens is slightly limiting

Nikon D5600

nikon d5600

Image from Nikon

Nikon’s D5600 goes toe-to-toe with the Canon EOS Rebel T7i at the upper levels of the beginner market. There’s no real nod toward budget with the D5600 – and that slightly higher price (when compared to the 3000 series bodies) means you’ll unlock a few more creative features.

The D5600 boasts the largest articulated touchscreen on this list at 3.2-inches – and although the live view focusing could be a little sharper, the autofocus is truly excellent. AF offers 39-points of focus – putting it in line with much more costly cameras.

As with all Nikon camera bodies, ergonomics are excellent – and the intuitive layout of controls and menu system makes the D5600 easy to work with, even if you’re just starting out.

For:

  • Exceptional auto-focus system
  • Great touchscreen and intuitive controls

Against:

  • Slow live view focus
  • Sometimes patchy Bluetooth connection

Pentax K-70

Image from Ricoh Pentax

You can be forgiven for thinking Canon and Nikon are the only options when you’re looking for a beginner DSLR. In reality, they’re not – and the Pentax K-70 offers an interesting alternative – especially if you’re an all-action photographer.

The K-70 is the only beginner level camera that’s heavily weather sealed – so if you’re going to be shooting in dusty, wet or other slightly electronics-hostile environments – it’s well worth a look.

Like the Canon EOS Rebel T7i, the K-70’s got a 24-megapixel sensor and that increased 6 frames per second shooting speed – so outdoors action is easily captured. That said, the rough-and-tough exterior does come at the expense of weight – it’s the heaviest camera on this list.

For:

  • Weather sealing is a bonus if you’re in the elements
  • 24MP and 6FPS keeps up with the best on this list

Against:

  • Around 50% heavier than Nikon and Canon alternatives
  • Autofocus isn’t quite as good as the alternatives

More Beginner DSLRs:

What is your favorite beginner DSLR?

Leave a comment below to share your favorite beginner DSLRs. If you’ve used the cameras above, share your experience with the community!

Read next: The Best Laptops for Freelancers


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