No mat­ter what any­one says, the design of the cam­era is an impor­tant selec­tion cri­te­ri­on. Pho­to: thislifeoftravel.com

How to choose a cam­era for a begin­ner? Take the Fuji­film X‑T30 II! Sounds too sub­jec­tive and unrea­soned? Then let’s take a clos­er look.

Whole mul­ti-vol­ume trea­tis­es can be writ­ten on the top­ic of choos­ing the first cam­era. We will not be engaged in exca­va­tion of tech­ni­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics and look­ing at details invis­i­ble to the eye. Instead, let’s break down the most impor­tant things so that you have a struc­ture that will help you make the right choice on your own.

Cam­era types
Video vs Pho­to
Oth­er impor­tant fea­tures


Like it or not, but it is your bud­get that will deter­mine the choice of the first cam­era. Here every­thing is almost the same as with any oth­er tools (and a cam­era is pri­mar­i­ly a tool, not a lux­u­ry item) — the more expen­sive and bet­ter the tool, the more oppor­tu­ni­ties it opens up for a pro­fes­sion­al and the high­er the “ceil­ing” of growth for a begin­ner . That is, a high “ceil­ing” means that your cre­ative ideas are not lim­it­ed to the tech­ni­cal capa­bil­i­ties of the cam­eras.

But there are always “work­hors­es” who do their job well and do not require huge bud­gets. For begin­ners, it is they who are good — the price tag on them is not raised, and only a mature pro­fes­sion­al can reach the “ceil­ing” of growth. Most often, “work­hors­es” are hit mod­els of past gen­er­a­tions, the prices of which have decreased over time, but they have not yet man­aged to become tech­ni­cal­ly and moral­ly obso­lete. A good exam­ple is the Sony A7 Mark II among full-frame cam­eras or the Fuji­film X‑T30 among crop cam­eras (we will talk about the mean­ing of these words a lit­tle lat­er).

By the way, do not cross out the used cam­eras option, but be sure to check them very care­ful­ly before buy­ing. Inter­est­ing things some­times appear in our Com­mis­sion.

And be sure to leave some mon­ey for the lens and acces­sories, for exam­ple, a bag — put at least 15–20% of the cost of the cam­era itself on this.

Camera types

Most DSLRs have a com­fort­able grip — you are unlike­ly to drop such a cam­era from your hands at the most inop­por­tune moment. Pho­to: techradar.com

They say the best cam­era is the one you already have, and it’s true. But still, you are prob­a­bly not read­ing this arti­cle to say: “Okay, I don’t need a new cam­era, I’ll con­tin­ue shoot­ing with a smart­phone,” right? There­fore, let’s see what actu­al types of cam­eras exist.

We will dis­card both the dis­ap­pear­ing vari­eties like bridge cam­eras that remain gath­er­ing dust on the back shelves of pho­to stores, and devices that are not at all suit­able for pho­tog­ra­phers like action cam­eras. As a result, we get:

  • com­pact sin­gle-lens cam­eras (soap dish­es);
  • reflex cam­eras;
  • mir­ror­less cam­eras;

Com­pact cam­eras (soap dish­es) are very con­ve­nient and easy to use, but not suit­able for those who want to some­how devel­op in pho­tog­ra­phy. These are point-and-shoot cam­eras for those who rarely take pic­tures, most­ly on trips and trav­el, and do not want to think about the set­tings and post-pro­cess­ing of pic­tures.

To be hon­est, giv­en the evo­lu­tion of mobile pho­tog­ra­phy, com­pact cam­eras no longer seem like a good idea even for such sim­ple requests. Although there are real mas­ter­pieces among soap dish­es — uni­ver­sal work­hors­es that can cope with almost any task (some­times no worse than pro­fes­sion­al mod­els), for exam­ple, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 VII.

For a novice pho­tog­ra­ph­er, cam­eras with inter­change­able lens­es are bet­ter suit­ed, because they push the very “ceil­ing” of pro­fes­sion­al growth far up. Do not con­sid­er cam­eras with a fixed fixed lens, such as the Fuji­film X100V. With it, you will nev­er be able to zoom, and if you want to zoom in, you have to phys­i­cal­ly get clos­er to the sub­ject. Although among pro­fes­sion­als you can find the opin­ion that the best zoom is the pho­tog­ra­pher’s legs.

So we move on to the two remain­ing types of cam­eras — SLR and mir­ror­less. Mir­ror­less cam­eras are a new­er tech­nol­o­gy in pho­tog­ra­phy, but there are still quite a few decent DSLRs on the mar­ket that are suit­able for begin­ners (for exam­ple, the Nikon D3500).

With­out going into the tech­ni­cal details of the dif­fer­ences between these types of cam­eras, it’s bet­ter to imme­di­ate­ly con­sid­er the advan­tages of each type — and on this basis you can decide for your­self what suits you best.

Advan­tages of SLR cam­eras:

  • on aver­age, they are cheap­er than mir­ror­less ones;
  • even inex­pen­sive DSLRs have a decent viewfind­er. Through the viewfind­er, you will most often frame your shot. The bet­ter it trans­mits the pic­ture and the wider its review, the bet­ter.
  • they hold the bat­tery bet­ter (for exam­ple, nine hun­dred frames on a sin­gle charge ver­sus three hun­dred for devices of the same price cat­e­go­ry);
  • there are usu­al­ly many lens­es avail­able for them for any pur­pose — both expen­sive and cheap.

Ben­e­fits of mir­ror­less cam­eras:

  • they are small­er and lighter than DSLRs;
  • in new mod­els, a more effi­cient aut­o­fo­cus sys­tem (faster and more tena­cious);
  • most often they are supe­ri­or to SLR cam­eras in video shoot­ing capa­bil­i­ties (image qual­i­ty, res­o­lu­tion, spe­cial tools for sub­se­quent col­or cor­rec­tion, etc.);
  • man­u­fac­tur­ers “put” it on mir­ror­less tech­nolo­gies, which means that they are the future. Sony has­n’t made DSLRs for a long time. Canon will no longer make flag­ship DSLRs and SLR lens­es. And recent­ly, Nikon announced the ces­sa­tion of pro­duc­tion of DSLRs. There­fore, the dif­fer­ences in the avail­abil­i­ty of lens­es for SLR and mir­ror­less sys­tems are like­ly to be lev­eled out over time.

Let’s take a clos­er look at the main dif­fer­ences.


viewfind­er in reflex cam­eras optic (through a sys­tem of mir­rors, prisms and lens­es, the light enters direct­ly into the viewfind­er — the pho­tog­ra­ph­er sees the same as the cam­era lens), that is, you always see the scene as it is. The pic­ture is shown with­out the set­tings (that is, it does not show which ISO, shut­ter speed, etc. you have set) that the cam­era uses.

In addi­tion, the opti­cal viewfind­er does not affect bat­tery life. It works even if the cam­era is turned off.

Mir­ror­less cam­eras use elec­tron­ic the viewfind­er is a small screen. It imme­di­ate­ly shows the frame as the cam­era will record it when you press the shut­ter but­ton. The elec­tron­ic viewfind­er takes into account all set­tings (still the same shut­ter speed, ISO, etc.) and fil­ters (for exam­ple, var­i­ous “film sim­u­la­tions” in Fuji­film cam­eras).

How­ev­er, a good elec­tron­ic viewfind­er is rare on entry-lev­el mir­ror­less cam­eras. They may not have a viewfind­er at all (you can only see the frame through the rear dis­play), or it will have a low res­o­lu­tion (poor qual­i­ty pic­ture).

Per­son­al­ly, on my own behalf, I would advise choos­ing a mir­ror­less cam­era — this will be a reserve for the future. Of course, for the same mon­ey you can buy a high­er lev­el DSLR (espe­cial­ly in the sec­ondary mar­ket), but this way you become attached to a more out­dat­ed sys­tem.


Anoth­er impor­tant dif­fer­ence between cam­eras is their for­mat. For­mat is the phys­i­cal size of the “heart” of the cam­era, its matrix. A larg­er sen­sor cap­tures more details. With it, it is eas­i­er to take a high-qual­i­ty pho­to in poor light­ing.

The most com­mon for­mats for SLR and mir­ror­less cam­eras with inter­change­able lens­es are:

  • full frame;
  • APS‑C (crop);
  • Micro 4:3.
Basic matrix for­mats. The medi­um for­mat is too exot­ic and expen­sive for begin­ners, so let’s look at the oth­er three. Image: Photostore.Expert

Which cam­era for­mat is bet­ter for a begin­ner?

full frame This is an excel­lent foun­da­tion for the future and great oppor­tu­ni­ties for the present. The pic­ture comes out:

  • with a lot of details;
  • more oppor­tu­ni­ties for wide-angle shots (fits more into the frame — rel­e­vant if you are going to shoot a lot of land­scapes);
  • bet­ter qual­i­ty pho­tos in low light due to the fact that the matrix is ​​larg­er and cap­tures more light.

At the same time, full-frame cam­eras are more expen­sive (although more bud­get options are appear­ing today, but they are still sig­nif­i­cant­ly more expen­sive than crop mod­els) and larg­er in size.

Crop APS‑C cam­eras — a more com­mon option among begin­ners, main­ly due to the low­er price of the cam­eras them­selves (“car­cass­es”) and lens­es (“glass­es”) for them. At the same time, their dis­ad­van­tages com­pared to full frame — weak­er detail, nar­row­er frame and noise in low light — are not too notice­able for most novice pho­tog­ra­phers. Plus, the com­pact­ness of crop cam­eras makes them a more ver­sa­tile choice for trav­el and every­day shoot­ing.

For­mat mod­els Micro 4:3 (they are being devel­oped by Olym­pus and Pana­son­ic) are even more com­pact and cheap­er. They lose in detail and shoot­ing in low light, not only full frame, but also APS‑C.

Here again I advise you to focus on the bud­get — if you plan to devel­op in pho­tog­ra­phy and can afford full frame (their cost starts at an aver­age of $ 1,500), then this is a great option. If full-frame cam­eras look expen­sive, don’t be dis­cour­aged — the dis­ad­van­tages APS‑C Mod­els ($500-$1500) are off­set by their price and com­pact­ness, and most pho­tog­ra­phers won’t notice them at all.

And if you decide to try the Micro 4:3 ($500‑1300), read our guide to the best for­mat cam­eras.


The cam­era body, or “car­cass” in pho­to­graph­ic slang, is only half the bat­tle. The sec­ond half is “glass”, a lens. And the qual­i­ty of the pic­ture and even the gen­res of pho­tog­ra­phy avail­able to you will direct­ly depend on the qual­i­ty of the optics.

When you select a cam­era, you auto­mat­i­cal­ly select all sys­tem (that is, the total­i­ty of lens­es avail­able for a giv­en cam­era), because lens­es from oth­er sys­tems sim­ply will not fit it. Each man­u­fac­tur­er has its own bay­o­net (and some­times sev­er­al) — a form of mount through which the lens is attached to the body.

You can read more about this in our guide to choos­ing a lens for a begin­ner.

There­fore, you always need to keep in mind the cost and avail­abil­i­ty of optics for your cam­era. And in this regard, SLR cam­eras, espe­cial­ly from such mastodons as Canon and Nikon, are espe­cial­ly good — a lot of lens­es have been made for them for every taste and at any price.

But, say, for full-frame mir­ror­less cam­eras from the same com­pa­nies, the sit­u­a­tion is more com­pli­cat­ed — there are lens­es for them, but they are more expen­sive. These sys­tems have been devel­oped rel­a­tive­ly recent­ly (since 2018), there are not very many third-par­ty lens­es for them, which also nar­rows the choice. That is why, when choos­ing a new cam­era, we must not for­get that you will still have to pay for the lens.

In fair­ness, it should be not­ed that you can’t make a crit­i­cal mis­take here with all your desire — any man­u­fac­tur­er has a set of lens­es for any for­mat, so you won’t be left with­out “glass­es” at all. The ques­tion is the price.

Video vs Photo

The abil­i­ty to rotate the screen to the “self­ie” posi­tion is an impor­tant fea­ture of the cam­era for vlog­ging. Pho­to: newsshooter.com

Every year the video for­mat is becom­ing more pop­u­lar, and the qual­i­ty and capa­bil­i­ties of video record­ing are an increas­ing­ly impor­tant require­ment for any cam­era. Most mir­ror­less cam­eras, even entry-lev­el ones, do a good job of record­ing video, which can­not be said about DSLRs in the same price cat­e­go­ry.

Mir­ror­less cam­eras offer video­g­ra­phers:

  • high­er pic­ture qual­i­ty;
  • the best res­o­lu­tion;
  • spe­cial tools for sub­se­quent col­or cor­rec­tion.

There­fore, if you are going to peri­od­i­cal­ly shoot videos, it is bet­ter to take a mir­ror­less cam­era. You can choose mod­els by the pres­ence of shoot­ing in 4K at 30 frames per sec­ond — if there is such an option, then the cam­era can already do some­thing.

But if video is even more impor­tant for you than pho­tog­ra­phy, this is, of course, a sep­a­rate con­ver­sa­tion. Here you need to take into account a num­ber of fac­tors, includ­ing the pres­ence of a rotary screen, sta­bi­liza­tion, pro­files for sub­se­quent col­or cor­rec­tion, and so on. Quick tip — Fuji­film X‑S10: every­thing you need to shoot high-qual­i­ty video in a com­pact pack­age for sane mon­ey.

Read also:

Fuji­film X‑S10 review: ver­sa­tile com­pact mir­ror­less with a com­fort­able grip

Other important features

- aut­o­fo­cus — the new­er the cam­era, the steep­er the aut­o­fo­cus. The steep­er the aut­o­fo­cus, the eas­i­er it is to shoot. New mod­els from Sony, Canon, Nikon and Fuji­film fea­ture a very grip­py and accu­rate aut­o­fo­cus sys­tem. The old­er the cam­era, the more often it will miss.

- Sta­bi­liza­tion — impor­tant for video shoot­ing and for shoot­ing in poor light­ing (in the evening and at night) hand­held. A very use­ful fea­ture, but you will have to pay extra for it both in mon­ey and (usu­al­ly) in the size of the cam­era.

- Bad weath­er pro­tec­tion — you are going to often shoot on trips and in gen­er­al in the open air, then a pro­tect­ed case can save your cam­era from mois­ture and dust. Cam­eras with hous­ing pro­tec­tion are more expen­sive.

- Ease of use — it’s all about the taste and size of your hands. We advise you to per­son­al­ly hold the cam­era and take a few test shots before buy­ing: come to the store or rent the mod­el you are inter­est­ed in.

- Size/weight — these fac­tors will depend on the type (DSLR / mir­ror­less) and for­mat (full frame / crop, etc.) of your cam­era. If com­pact­ness and light­ness are a pri­or­i­ty, then the most ver­sa­tile option for you is crop mir­ror­less.


Crop mir­ror­less is my advice to a begin­ner. Pho­to cred­it: fujifilm‑x.com

So, when choos­ing a cam­era, you need to decide:

- with her type: SLR cam­eras are cheap­er and larg­er, mir­ror­less cam­eras are more expen­sive and more com­pact.

- for­mat: full frame is cool­er, but more expen­sive, crop cam­eras are a rea­son­able com­pro­mise.

- under­stand how impor­tant it is to you video film­ing.

At this point, you should already have sev­er­al options.

Then look at the lens­es avail­able for those cam­eras and see if they fit your bud­get. You will need one ver­sa­tile lens to start with (like a handy zoom lens), but in the future you will prob­a­bly want to pur­chase more spe­cial­ized optics, so this fac­tor should not be over­looked from the very begin­ning.

Adjust your choice based on oth­er impor­tant fac­tors — aut­o­fo­cus and sta­bi­liza­tion sys­tems.

In any case, I rec­om­mend to start with rent­ing the cho­sen mod­el and try to shoot it for a day or two to see how it suits you.

Why did I rec­om­mend the Fuji­film X‑T30 II at the very begin­ning? First, by today’s stan­dards, the mod­el is inex­pen­sive. The cam­era has a high “ceil­ing” of growth, not only for a begin­ner, but also for an advanced pho­tog­ra­ph­er. This is a com­pact crop mir­ror­less cam­era with a great pic­ture and good video capa­bil­i­ties. A huge num­ber of cool inex­pen­sive lens­es have been cre­at­ed for the Fuji­film X sys­tem, and even the “whale” (the one sold in the kit) 18–55mm f / 2.8–4.0 is very good. And Fuji­film X‑T30 II looks very styl­ish!