How to Choose an Entry Level Digital Camera

Are you overwhelmed by the options for an entry level digital camera?

Is all of the technical jargon difficult to understand?

I’ve summarized what you need to know in order to make an informed purchase on a new camera!


  1. Do you want DSLR or Mirrorless?
  2. What brand do you like best?
  3. What features are important?
  4. What price point are you comfortable with?

The camera is just a tool. You are the one who creates beautiful images when you learn out to use the camera in manual mode! Learn more about Get Clickin: An Introductory Photography Course to take your photography to the next level regardless of what camera you are using.


1. DSLR or Mirrorless?

DSLR stands for Digital Single-Lens Reflex. It is a digital camera that captures through one lens. DSLRs are a system of mirrors and prisms. Light enters through the lens, bounces off of the mirror system and appears in the viewfinder. When you take a picture the mirror prism flips up and the light enters through the lens and hits the camera sensor.

Mirrorless systems have no mirrors. A mirrorless system splits the light into focusing and capturing. What you see in the viewfinder is an electric depiction of the scene in front of you.



What this means

DSLR

  • Larger lens selection and at lower cost because DSLRs have been around a lot longer
  • Longer battery life
  • Some prefer the optical viewfinder

Mirrorless

  • Smaller and lighter camera
  • Technology is continuing to improve
  • Electronic viewfinder means what you see it the image you’ll get

DSLRs used to have better image quality, but today it is pretty equal.

2. What brand?

DSLR

How do you pick from Canon vs. Nikon? It’s a personal preference. I’ve had two canon cameras and can speak from personal experience that they have been great!. Nikon, I do not have experience, but know plenty of photographers who love Nikon. But in reality, there is very little difference between the two brands as far as how they perform.

I recommend going to a store and picking up both brands. Play with the controls and see what feels right for you.

There are other brands too, but I would recommend sticking with Canon or Nikon for the range of lenses available.

Mirrorless

There are a lot of mirrorless brands to chose from. I encourage you to explore what features and factors are important to you.

Sony, Olympus, Fujifilm, Panasonic, Canon all have great options depending on what you are looking for.

3. What features?

In general, the higher the price the more features that are included. I’ve outlined below some great starter cameras. If you are interested in starting a photography business a used higher end camera (not outlined below) is another great option while still be conscious of cost.

Here are what some of the features being compared mean.

  • Image quality: or camera resolution is defined by a number of pixels across the width and height of an image.
  • Video Quality (4k, Full High Definition): Is the quality of the resolution for recording video. 4k is quadrupled the resolution (takes up more memory space). Most TVs don’t play 4k quality yet, but is the direction they are headed.
  • Bluetooth, Wifi, NFC: Are all ways to connect your camera to other devices.
    • Bluetooth: Allows you to connect to other bluetooth enabled devices.
    • Wifi: Allows you to transfer images to your computer or website from anywhere as long as there is internet connection or connect to your phone.
    • NFC (Near Field Communication): Convenient way for your camera to connect to your phone based on the two being in close proximity to each other. It can allow you to remotely take a picture or transfer your images.
  • Autofocus Points: are what the camera uses to focus on a subject. They may light up when the shutter is pushed down halfway.
  • Touchscreen: a way to control camera settings
  • Articulating Screen: The camera LCD screen can be repositioned using a hinge or pivot.
  • ISO Sensitivity: is a measure of the camera’s ability to capture light. ISO value indicates the image sensor’s specific sensitivity to light

My thoughts

Here is what I think about each of these features:

  • Image Quality: 10 MP is high enough image quality to print large prints. Higher resolution images will allow you to crop images more without sacrificing quality.
  • Video Quality: If you plan to create videos (now or in the future) then yes to 4k! It will give you a lot more creative control in post processing. If you don’t have video plans, I wouldn’t worry too much about the video quality.
  • Bluetooth, Wifi, NFC: Are all ways to transfer images without having to connect your camera through a usb cord or taking out your SD card. This can help you ensure you back up your images and have them saved somewhere other than the SD card. It will simplify getting your photos to your phone and social media. You can connect to your camera through an app (great for getting in the frame.
    • Wifi: will allow for faster transfers
    • Bluetooth: is convenient if you aren’t connected to wifi
    • NFC: will require your devices to be closer together
  • Autofocus Points: In manual mode, you can control what point you set your focus at. The more focus points the camera offers, the greater control you have.
  • Touchscreen: Nifty feature that will allow you to tap what you want to focus on. Not necessarily a feature you have to have.
  • Articulating Screen: Can come in handy for difficult angle shots.
  • ISO Sensitivity: The higher the ISO sensitivity, the better quality your images will be in low light (there will be less grain).

4. What price point?

In general, the more features the higher the cost. If you are looking for ways to save I would consider an older model of some of the cameras outlined above. They will still perform great at taking pictures, there’ll just be less bells and whistles. You can also look into buying a used camera.

I recommend avoiding bundles with a lot of extra items and kit lenses. Instead, I would consider investing in a prime lens.

Are you planning on becoming a professional photographer? I would consider skipping the entry level crop sensor cameras and invest a little more to get a full frame camera. Full frames have a larger sensor size this impacts the field of view and focal length. Full frames also have a broader dynamic range and preform better in low light.

Pick Your Camera

DSLR

Note: The links below are affiliate links. If you buy one of the products using the links, I will receive a small commission. There is no additional charge to you.

Nikon D3400
Great starter camera at an affordable price.

Canon EOS Rebel T6 / 1300D
Very similar to Nikon counterpart. Lower resolution, but still fantastic image quality.

 

Nikon D5300
Added features include articulating LCD screen and wifi.

Canon EOS Rebel T6i / 750D
Very similar to Nikon counterpart. Added features include articulating touchscreen.

 

Nikon D5600
Includes articulating touchscreen. Nikon Snapbridge (app) allows for easy transfer of photos between camera and phone. Other advanced features such as timelapse function.

Canon EOS Rebel T7i / 800D
Very similar to Nikon counterpart. Improved ISO sensitivity and autofocus system.

 

Nikon D500
Expensive side of beginner cameras. Delivers great high ISO results, has an improved processor, and has 4k video.

Mirrorless

Canon EOS M100
Canon is newer to the mirrorless market and therefore not the leaders. This also means there is a smaller lens selection. It offers great image quality.


Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II
It has a smaller sensor which means lower image quality, but also makes it smaller and lighter. It is a great option if you are a beginner looking for something small to carry all day.

Fujifilm X-A5
Fuji has great sensors/image quality comparable to Nikon and Canon. The camera has great styling. The autofocus is not as great as Sony and there are limitations with 4k video.

PANASONIC LUMIX GX85
It has similar sensor to the Olympus one. It offers full 4k video recording. It has a unique post-focus mode. The design and control settings are as good as other options.

Sony Alpha a6500
Sony is a leader in mirrorless cameras since releasing Alpa A6000. A6500 is the most recent model. Excellent autofocus system and image quality that is on par with DSLRs. Great capabilities, but more expensive.

I’m here to help!

If you have questions about what camera is the best fit for you, feel free to comment below or send me an email at hello@rachaellaurin.com. I do not consider myself to be an expert on the technology, but may be able to provide some insight based on my experience!