Best DSLR Cameras for Beginners

These digital SLR and compact interchangeable-lens cameras each have something for the first-time photographer. All are reasonably priced and offer easy-to-learn controls (or help modes that teach beginners the basics).

Cameras for Everybody

If you're looking for a DSLR that isn't extremely expensive, and doesn't have a billion confusing features that you'll probably never use, check out these great cameras that have been reviewed by our expert staff and deemed ideal for beginning DSLR users.

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Canon EOS Rebel T3i

The Canon EOS Rebel T3i, with an 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS optional kit lens, is a complete picture-taking and moviemaking machine.


- Wireless flash transmitter for multiple flashes

- Outstanding image quality, even at ISO 1600

- Full HD recording options with external mic jack


- Auto White Balance struggles in indoor lighting

- Lack of a single-button movie recording


Pentax K-x

The K-x is a beginner-friendly SLR featuring most of the latest must-haves (and a very good choice for anyone wanting to shoot video), but the lack of a rechargeable battery is a pain.


- ISO range expandable to iso 12800

- 1280-by-720 HD video


- No rechargeable battery

- No HDMI-out


Sony Alpha NEX-5

Sony's first interchangeable-lens compact camera, the NEX-5 offers image and video quality on a par with a DSLR and has unique modes that go beyond anything else in its class. The only thing missing is a built-in flash.


- Accepts both SD/SDHC and Memory Stick cards

- Compact design with DSLR capabilities


- No built-in flash

- Proprietary accessory mount and new lens mount


Nikon D3100

The D3100 is an entry-level DSLR on the higher end of that category's price range. However, it has a great set of features for beginning photographers, and decent image quality.


- Autofocus in movie and live view modes

- Intuitive controls and guide menu for beginners


- Autofocus makes noise in movie mode

- No exposure bracketing


Olympus Pen E-PL2

The Olympus E-PL2 is a compact, versatile camera that will please travelers or anyone who wants to take great pictures without lugging around pounds of gear.


- In-body image stabilization

- Manual exposure and art filters in movie controls


- Complex menu system

- No built-in external mic jack


Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1

With a compact frame, a pop-up flash, interchangeable lenses, HD video-shooting capabilities, and simple-but-versatile controls, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 is an excellent alternative to an entry-level DSLR.


- Great learning tool and/or DSLR replacement

- Compact size for an interchangeable-lens camera


- Not as many lens options as a full DSLR

- No optical viewfinder


Sony Alpha DSLR-A580

If you want video capability, the A580 has it--but as with all SLRs, you should be aware of the limitations before you commit to this camera for its video functions. The Alpha A580 is, first and foremost, a great still camera.


- Excellent image quality

- Very fast burst rate


- No Program Shift feature

- Many shooting features only support JPEG files