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The 3 Best Cameras for Beginners in 2021

If you want to graduate from your smartphone camera, try these models
Photo of best cameras for beginners

If you’re a beginner photographer who has enjoyed capturing images with a smartphone but now wants to move up to a better camera, we have some photo gear advice for you. What you should seriously consider buying is a dedicated camera that uses interchangeable lenses.

Whether it’s a tried-and-true digital SLR or a modern mirrorless camera, beginner photographers will see dramatic improvement in their picture-taking skills by moving up to an interchangeable lens camera. Along with boasting bigger image sensors that capture more light than smartphones, a DSLR or a mirrorless camera lets you uses a variety of sharp lenses in a range of focal lengths, giving you versatility and crisper shots.

But which camera should a beginner photographer buy? Of course, it all depends on need and price. In this buying guide, we pick the top three interchangeable lens cameras for beginners in our Good, Better, Best format.

We’ve included one DSLR and two mirrorless cameras in a range of prices. So, whether you want something sleek but affordable or higher quality and more expensive, we’ve got the interchangeable lens camera you’re looking for. You may never go back to shooting with your smartphone again!

Editor’s Note: Good, Better, Best is a product guide series on Digital Photo where we suggest three buying options for our favorite photo gear. A product qualifies as “Good,” if it’s affordable yet still offers decent quality for the price. “Better” means it’s a solid medium-tier choice that we think will appeal to most photographers both on features and price. “Best” are top-tier photography products that offer the pinnacle in quality but also the highest price. See our Good Better Best guides to the top camera backpacks here, the top superzoom cameras here, the top budget flashes here, and the top ring lights here.

GOOD: Nikon D3500

Photo of Nikon D3500 shooting


The first camera we recommend to anyone considering moving up from their smartphone is the Nikon D3500. Though it’s been available for a few years now, the Nikon D3500 is still one of the best compact DSLRs for beginners and the price has dipped to under $600 with an 18-55mm kit lens. While DSLRs are gradually being replaced by mirrorless cameras, the D3500 is as good as any budget interchangeable lens camera out there, and its small but comfortable form factor make it the perfect travelling companion. Weighing just under 13 ounces (camera body only), and with dimensions of 4.6 x 3.9 x 2.8 inches, the 24.2MP Nikon D3500 uses a DX-format (APS-C) size image sensor that dwarfs what you’d find in a smartphone. Other features that trump smartphone cameras include the D3500’s 11-point autofocus system and EXPEED image processor that helps the camera capture sharp images in low light at ISO 100-25600. You can fire off photos at a brisk five frames per second, which is good for shooting action including some sports. The Nikon D3500 can also capture full 1080p HD movies at 60fps. And because the D3500 has no optical low-pass filter on its image sensor, images and video will be sharp with tons of detail. Beginners will like Nikon D3500’s helpful guide mode, which shows you easy ways to achieve eye-catching looks such as a shallow depth of field to make your subject stand out in portraits.

Check the price of the Nikon D3500 at B&H and at Amazon

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