I run a popular monthly Beginners DSLR Photography Workshop here in Aberdeen, and I am frequently asked about which camera is a good one to invest in for a hobby or amateur photographer. (Click HERE for more information about the workshop). So if you are ready to move on from your phone camera then I’ve compiled my top 4 camera choices for you. 

This list is primarily for people looking to get a bit more from their camera, someone who would like to ‘Get Off Auto’ and to take control of the final result of their images. I set £1,000 as the top limit when I did my research – you’ll see the majority of cameras fall well below this and one goes over. You can get a LOT for under £1,000. I also inlcuded one ‘WOW’ factor camera that is on my dream list! All the cameras are either DSLRs or mirrorless – ie they have interchangeable lenses and let you be as creative as you like by taking full control of the camera. (If you’re not sure what the difference is between DSLRs and mirrorless, then there’s a very clear and straightforward article here https://www.techradar.com/uk/news/mirrorless-vs-dslr-cameras

This is in no way meant to be a comprehensive review of each camera, just a pointer to get you started in what can be an overwhelming market.

  1. Fujifilm X-T30

Current Price on Amazon: £869 including 15-45mm lens / £849 body only

Some key specs: Sensor: 21.6MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS 4 23.5 x 15.6 mm

Video: 4K

AF points: 2.16 million phase AF pixels, 100% coverage

LCD: 3” tilting touchscreen

 Max burst: 30fps (electronic shutter 1.25x crop), 8fps

Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth

This little mirrorless camera gives you a lot for the price, taking in some of the technological advances of Fujifilm’s X-T3 but in a smaller and, importantly, more affordable body. What really stands out in this camera is its superb autofocus, actually using a more advanced system than the X-T3. It comes with Fujifilm’s latest sensor which has improved light gathering capabilities and image quality. And of course, not forgetting the 4K video …. 

Definitely one of the best cameras if you are travelling or thinking of street photography because of its size and capabilities.

2. Nikon D3500

Current price on Amazon: £294 including 18-55mm lens (without VR, image stabilisation); £314 including 18-55mm lens with VR

Some key specs: Sensor: 24.2MP APS-C CMOS

Video: Full HD 1080p

AF points: 11-point AF

Screen: 3” fixed display

Burst shooting: 5fps

Connectivity: Bluetooth

This is the lowest priced camera on my recommendations and to me, it is a fantastic starting point for a first DSLR. If videography is your thing, then look elsewhere. But if you want a first DSLR camera that is easy to use, has excellent image quality, and has a fantastic choice of lenses as you grow, then this new Nikon is a great place to begin. Compared to the Fujifilm X-T30, the 11 point autofocus might sound somewhat lacking, but it is more than adequate unless you are thinking of getting into sports or wildlife photography. Some other plusses are that it has great battery life, taking up to 1,500 shots per charge, it has an optical viewfinder (unlike mirrorless cameras which either use the screen or an electrical viewfinder) and yet is still relatively small to carry around and won’t break the bank. 

3. Canon EOS 200D 

Current price on Amazon: £509 including 18-55mm lens; £427 without lens

Some key specs: Sensor: 24.2MP APS-C CMOS

Video: Full HD 1080p

AF points: 9-point AF

Screen: 3” vary-angle touch screen

Burst shooting: 5fps

Connectivity: WiFi and NFC

A lot of what I said for the Nikon D3500 can be repeated here. For a bit more money than the Nikon D3500, this is another hard-to-beat entry-level DSLR. It has a few additional touches not found in the Nikon, such as WiFi and a great flip-out touch screen, but once again offers excellent image quality. Although video recording is not in 4K, it does boast Canon’s Dual Pixel AF system, resulting in quick autofocus both in videos and live view. One feature attractive to new owners of a Canon DSLR is its new Guided Interface, designed as an aid to newcomers, and offering some basic shooting advice depending on what mode is selected.

4. Sony Alpha A7III 

Current price on Ebay (a lot cheaper than everywhere else): £1378 body only

Some key specs: Sensor: 24.2MP full-frame BSI CMOS sensor, 35.6 x 23.8 mm

Video: 4K (uncropped)

AF points: 693-point phase detection AF; 425-point contrast detection AF

LCD: 3” tilting touchscreen

Max burst: 10fps

Connectivity: WiFi, NFC, Bluetooth

I’ve included this amazing Sony mirrorless camera, expensive as it is, because it really is a phenomenal camera that, for its price, nothing else can touch. It’s a camera that will appeal to keen enthusiasts as well as professionals with its full-frame sensor and its borrowing many of the features from Sony’s top of the range Alpha A7R III and Alpha A9. It comes extremely well recommended with many in-depth reviews, which I suggest you check out of this is the kind of next camera you are after.

Canon, Nikon and Sony are the top camera manufacturers and if you go with one of these you will not be disappointed. If these cameras are a little bit out of your budget then I would recommend looking for one of them second hand. I personally would not use Ebay for a second-hand purchase, but would use one of the well known second-hand camera sites like MPB.com and Wex Photographic. I have used both of these sites succesfully for both selling and buying cameras and lenses. 

Once you have your camera  now you need to learn a little bit more about how it works to make sure you are using it to its full potential. Come and join me on my one day relaxed Photography Workshops tailored for beginners and by the end of the day, you will not want to use the Auto function on your camera again! More information can be found HERE.

I’ll be back soon with some top lens choices to go with your fabulous camera!