Best Cameras for Beginners: iPhone 14 Pro and More

Best Cameras for Beginners: iPhone 14 Pro and More

When starting out in photography, you are immediately blasted with dozens of potential cameras you can buy. Picking the right one can be one difficult task. When buying a camera, you are not only investing in a device, but rather in a system of lenses, accessories, and much more. This is why picking the first camera is often a very important choice. In this article, we will see which cameras are the best for beginners. The last one might surprise a few of you.

Canon EOS R50

Being part of the new era of Canon gear, it is only natural that I open this list with something that is modern and has the potential to be a companion for both video and photo work for years to come. While not offering the best image quality (the sensor is cropped, instead of full frame), it still delivers great 24.1-megapixel stills, which is plenty to print on a billboard if you need. It features the DIGIC 8 image processor, as well as a dual-pixel CMOS autofocus system, making focusing a breeze even in difficult conditions.

Another great thing that many photographers will like about the Canon EOS R50 is that it has a 3-inch Vari-Angle touchscreen LCD. It makes it super easy to shoot from various angles, including low angles and overhead shots. With ISO going up to 51,200, you can forget worrying about low-light performance, as this is more than enough. That said, I would not recommend shooting above ISO 12,800, even on a modern crop sensor. The grain shows up quite fast beyond this point and can be a distraction from the image itself.

Lastly, this camera has both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, making it more or less future-proof. You can easily transfer the images to your smartphone or computer. However, as with most cameras these days, it would be great to see better connectivity options and easier ways to share your work online. Perhaps integrating cellular connectivity and a feature such as AirDrop could be of benefit to many photographers who want to share more seamlessly.

Sony A6100

A well-reviewed unit, this camera has both great video and photo capabilities. If you are looking to do both on an equal level, go for this camera. Photography-wise, it has a 24.2-megapixel APS-C sensor, with a BIONZ X image processor and a 425-point phase detection autofocus system. So far, the reviewers have pointed out the accuracy and speed of this particular camera’s autofocus, which will again make capturing sharp and detailed images a breeze. Just like the EOS R50, it has a 3-inch screen that flips 180 degrees for vlog filming. It also has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth should you need to connect it. The video capabilities of this camera are some of the best in the beginner market. It can film 4K at 30 fps, and Full HD at 120 fps for the extra creamy slow motion.

Fujifilm X-T30

The Fujifilm X-T30 is yet another mirrorless camera that offers substantial image quality and features that make it an excellent choice for beginners. One of the things I like a lot about Fujifilm cameras is the presets that are built in. You can customize your images to look like a particular film stock, which removes the hassle of having to edit the color by hand. This is especially useful for those of us who are not yet familiar with editing software. Equipped with a 26.1-megapixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor and a powerful X-Processor 4 image processor, the X-T30 is comparable in image quality to other cameras on this list. The Fujifilm X-T30 also has an excellent autofocus system, with 425 autofocus points that cover almost the entire frame. The camera can shoot up to 8 frames per second, making it a decent choice for action photography. Personally, though, I would suggest getting something more substantial such as a used Canon 1D X for action photography, as that camera outperforms all of the ones on this list when it comes to pure speed.

Canon 5D Mark II

This is a budget-friendly full frame option for those of us who don’t have much to spend but still want to get excellent image quality for many years to come. While it is a fairly old camera, it is still highly popular among professionals and amateurs alike. It has a 9-point autofocus system, which delivers okay results. I would only recommend this camera to people who don’t need the fastest autofocus in the world, such as portrait, fashion, still life, landscape, or some event photographers. The great thing about this camera is its sensor, which delivers beautiful raw files, even by modern standards. I’ve done a number of articles on how excellent this camera truly is. I have been a long user of the 5D Mark II as well. I have shot everything from headshots to fashion to events on this magnificent camera and will happily use it for work now if I don’t have the budget for a better-performing piece of gear. 

iPhone 14 Pro

A lot of traditional photographers won’t like this choice, but in 2023, I think it is inevitable to mention a phone in such a list. While the obvious limitations are there, such as not being able to change the lens or use it as a dedicated camera, I still believe that an iPhone can be a fantastic choice to get into both photo and video. After all, with things such as computational photography, the capability to shoot 48-megapixel raw files, and a selection between wide angle, ultra-wide, and telephoto lenses, this is an obvious choice for someone who wants to spend less money and get both the latest iPhone and a great camera in one package. The mighty iPhone 14 Pro has the most intuitive interface of them all, while also featuring things such as Smart HDR and Night Mode, making shooting in any conditions a fairly easy task. It delivers impressive results, which are comparable to a dedicated camera. I am an avid iPhone shooter, and I switched to iPhone 14 Pro as my travel camera and casual photography camera.

Illya Ovchar's picture

Illya aims to tell stories with clothes and light. Illya's work can be seen in magazines such as Vogue, Marie Claire, and InStyle.

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Excellent article and great choice of cameras.

Seriously? I just wanted to write "extremely partisan and arbitrary." An old DSLR 5D Mk II but no mentioning of the Nikon Z50, what is basically an equivalent to EOS-R50. And : wast majority of people use Android phones (selection of makes and models and price speaks for itself). Nothing against a recommending a phone as a 1st photographic tool, but why iPhone?

One of the main issues with getting people into moving to an ILC camera, is the camera companies got greedy and killed the entry level market. It started with a refusal to fix simple issues with many entry level $400-500 DSLR cameras, with one of the worst offenders being Nikon.
For example, Nikon would reuse the same phase detect module on multiple likes of camera in the D3xxx and D5xxx, which would typically be hand-me-downs from the D7xxx line.

That is all pretty typical of entry level lines, but where things get really scummy is that they would refuse to release firmware fixes for issues that they fixed on the D7xxx cameras, such as the low color temperature back focus issue with the Multi-CAM 4800DX phase detect module where with larger aperture lenses that are not well corrected such as the AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G where at lower color temperatures (especially below 3000k), you will notice some amount of consistent back focusing. That issue was fixed with the D7xxx, but not with the D5xxx.

To make matters worse, many of the entry level DLSRs have looser tolerances and a less thorough QC process, thus it is more common to get focus calibration issues where you will have consistent front or back focus issues. This means that features like AF-fine tune are needed most in these cameras since they have far more variance than higher end models, but those features would be artificially restricted, where the code needed for it is still in the firmware, but all UI entries for it are removed.

When a beginner ends up buying one of those DLSRs and encounters consistent back or front focusing issues due to poor tolerances and QC, often they will not be fully aware what the issue is, and will blame the poor quality of their images on the camera just being too hard to use, and give up. Others who reach out for help and realize what the issue is, will then be sent to a new type of horror of dealing with poor customer service where if the camera is in warranty and they pay to mail it to Nikon, in many cases, they will not fix the issue because the camera is not far enough out of spec to warrant them recalibrating it, even though that it means that they simply can't use their basic 35mm f/1.8 G DX lens at f/1.8 because the face will always be noticeably soft unless they use live view which is extremely slow since Nikon intentionally has a 1000 millisecond delay set on the closed loop CDAF function.

The issue gets even worse if the user purchased a used camera or waited until it was out of warranty to move from the kit lens where the focus issues will be more noticeable, this time Nikon will charge $150 to service the camera, and thus if they decide that the camera is not enough out of spec to warrant calibration, then the user paid $150 for Nikon to tell them to go pound sand.

This pushes users to the very risky process of trying to get a copy of the Nikon service center software that isn't filled with malware, so that they can just correct the back or front focusing issue themself where each point is adjusted to match the focus of the contrast detect.

Now with that wall of text out of the way, with the newer mirrorless cameras, which are cheaper to make since they don't require an expensive separate phase detect module, pellicle mirror, pentaprism or pentamirror, and the mechanism to move the mirror out of the way. But as those pricey components were no longer needed, prices for entry level cameras effectively doubled, which made it so that people were very unlikely to even consider an ILC camera compared to using their smartphone camera. The issues with the DSLRs were largely fixed with the mirrorless, but they price gouged rather than using those inherent fixes as a second chance to bring in new users.

It is overall sacrificing long term growth and success for short term greed since it overall means a shrinking market as they lose customers through attrition, since they rarely ever bringing in new people.

While it seems someone might disagree but can't seem to articulate why they disagree, it doesn't change how clear it is that the beginner/ entry level ILC camera segment and market has effectively been destroyed. The leap needed between a basic smartphone camera, and an ILC camera, is so large that it is unlikely for people to make that leap. Sure there are modern mirrorless cameras that would be great for a beginner, the only issue is that the price segment is gone.

Having taught college-level digital photography to advanced high school students, I had many opportunities to discuss the needs and wants of young but relatively sophisticated photographers, most of whom had fairly restricted budgets. They needed multiple focal lengths, full manual controls, a viewfinder, the ability to shoot RAW, and a responsive and user-friendly interface. Another factor that I consider very helpful to the new enthusiast is portability. The more you shoot, the faster you learn, and a camera that gets left at home because it's inconvenient to carry is not a good learning tool.

Based on this experience, I have long recommended Panasonic's LX100. Sadly, that model has been discontinued, but used ones remain available. The LX10 lacks a viewfinder but is otherwise a good second candidate. So is Canon's (rather pricier) G5 X II, which offers a more portrait-friendly 24-120mm EFL zoom range.

Another benefit of an advanced compact is that it will remain useful as a casual-carry sidekick to a larger kit if/when the enthusiast later graduates to an ILC.

Great choice. I absolutely loved my LX100 and wish I'd kept it longer. My first few years of photography I jumped from brand to brand too much.