best nikon dslr camera for beginners

If you’ve decided that you want to take your photography seriously and are looking for an upgrade from your smartphone or compact camera then the most obvious next step is a DSLR camera. The choice available to the amateur photographer is enormous though, with dozens of models spread across multiple different brands and all with their own positives and negatives. For a beginner, it can be tough to even know where to start looking, but that’s why we’re here! We’ve compiled a list of the very best nikon dslr camera for beginners, and best cheap camera for photography covering all budgets. 

Best Nikon Dslr Camera For Beginners

Nikon D3400 with 18-55mm lens

Nikon D3400 w/ AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR (Black)

Nikon D3400 w/ AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR (Black)

  • Snap Bridge Bluetooth Connectivity
  • 24.2mp dx format CMOS sensor

Check Price on Amazon

I started off with a Nikon D3100 back in the day and it was excellent. Nikon have continued that trend with their 3xxx series, with the D3400 being one of the newer models. Design-wise it has changed little, and the learning modes on offer make it a fantastic beginner DSLR camera.

As far as image quality goes it’s hard to argue with their 24.2MP sensor, and versatile autofocus system. The D3400 has added in bluetooth capability as well, although some might be put off by the fact it doesn’t have a touchscreen. This does make it a very affordable camera though, and the release of the D3500 drove the price down even further.

Overall it’s hard to find many flaws with the D3400. The 18-55mm lens it comes with is surprisingly good quality as well, even if the build quality does feel a little plasticky.

Nikon D5300 with 18-55mm lens

Nikon D5300 DSLR Camera with AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm...

Nikon D5300 DSLR Camera with AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm…

  • 24.2-megapixel DX-format CMOS image sensor
  • 39-point high-density autofocus system with 9 cross-type sensors

Heading into the pricier realms of beginner cameras afford us a little more luxury in terms of the features available to us. The Nikon D5300 continues to use their excellent 24.2MP sensor with EXPEED 4 processor, and also boasts a maximum ISO sensitivity of 25,600. Perfect for those who find themselves shooting in low light often.

It also introduces some fun new creative effects, but the biggest addition is the articulating LCD screen and integrated GPS along with WiFi.

The articulating LCD screen a massive help in certain situations, such as when shooting very low to the ground or for the selfie-takers among you. If connectivity is important to you the WiFi and GPS are large benefits as well, and Nikon’s upgraded battery lasts up to 600 shots.

The Nikon D5300 sits squarely in the mid-range price point at the moment, and if you want to spent the extra for the creature comforts I’d recommend it.

Nikon D5600 with 18-55mm lens


D5600 DX-Format Digital SLR w/AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm...

D5600 DX-Format Digital SLR w/AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm…

  • AF P DX 18 55mm f/3.5 5.6G VR Lens
  • SnapBridge Bluetooth and Wi Fi with NFC

We’re heading into the pricier realms of beginner DSLR cameras now, and with that comes a little more luxury in terms of the features on offer.

The Nikon 5600 definitely gives the beginner photographer more room to grow into before needing an upgrade. Straight out of the box you can feel the improvement – excellent build quality, increased size and more ergonomic button placement.

When it gets to the technical stuff it continues to deliver. The 24.2MP sensor is the same as the D5300, with the D5600 also boasting a maximum ISO sensitivity of 25,600, an improved 39-point autofocus system, and a battery that can last for over 800 shots.

A vari-angle touchscreen LCD increases the luxury, and in-camera features such as WiFi, timelapse capabilities and auto exposure bracketing allow for more experimentation.

Despite all these improvements, Nikon still only included 1080p video recording rather than the standard 4k offered by most manufacturers these days.

Overall, if you’re not constrained by a limited budget, the Nikon D5600 is definitely up there with the best beginner DSLR cameras. However, it does fall down when it comes to videography.

Nikon D500

Nikon D500 DX-Format Digital SLR (Body Only), Base

Nikon D500 DX-Format Digital SLR (Body Only), Base

  • 20.9MP DX Format CMOS Sensor.Viewfinder:Eye level pentaprism single lens reflex viewfinder
  • Expeed 5 image processor; monitor size: 3.2 inches diagonal

This is right at the top of Nikon’s APS-C DSLR range, and it’s arguable whether it can even be considered a beginner DSLR camera. That being said, if you have the money to spend on the D500 it could last you for many years.

The Nikon D500 is arguably the best APS-C camera ever released. It’s 20.9MP sensor looks modest, but it delivers incredible high ISO results and the improved processor means you can shoot at 10fps for up to 200 frames. This is an absolute gem for sports or action photographers!

Not only that, but it comes with a host of other features such as 4k UHD video recording, a tilting LCD screen, built in WiFi and NFC, in camera timelapse capabilities, a native maximum ISO of 51,200 and a borderline ridiculous 153-point autofocus system.

How to Buy a Digital Camera

1. Determine what you need

A mistake I see some digital camera buyers making is that they get sucked into buying cameras that are beyond what they really need. Some questions to ask yourself before you go shopping:

  • What do you need the camera for?
  • What type of photography will you be doing? (portraits, landscapes, macro, sports)
  • What conditions will you be largely photographing in? (indoors, outdoors, low light, bright light)
  • Will you largely stay in auto mode or do you want to learn the art of photography?
  • What experience level do you have with cameras?
  • What type of features are you looking for? (long zoom, image stabilization, large LCD display etc)
  • How important is size and portability to you?
  • What is your budget?

Ask yourself these questions before you go to buy a camera and you’ll be in a much better position to make a decision when you see what’s on offer. You’ll probably find the sales person asks you this question anyway – so to have thought about it before hand will help them help you get the right digital camera.

2. Megapixels are NOT everything

One of the features that you’ll see used to sell digital cameras is how many megapixels a digital camera has.

When I first got into digital photography, a few years back, the megapixel rating of cameras was actually quite important as most cameras were at the lower end of today’s modern day range and even a 1 megapixel increase was significant.

These days, with most new cameras coming out with at least 5 megapixels, it isn’t so crucial. In fact at the upper end of the range it can actually be a disadvantage to have images that are so large that they take up enormous amounts of space on memory cards and computers.

One of the main questions to ask when it comes to megapixels is ‘Will you be printing shots’? If so – how large will you be going with them? If you’re only printing images at a normal size then anything over 4 or so megapixels will be fine. If you’re going to start blowing your images up you might want to pay the extra money for something at the upper end of what’s on offer today.

3. Keep in mind the ‘extras’


Keep in mind as you look at cameras that the price quoted may not be the final outlay that you need to make as there are a variety of other extras that you might want (or need) to fork out for including:

  • Camera Case
  • Memory Cards
  • Spare Batteries/Recharger
  • Lenses (if you are getting a DSLR)
  • Filters (and other lens attachments)
  • Tripods/Monopods
  • External Flashes
  • Reflectors

Some retailers will bundle such extras with cameras or will at least give a discount when buying more than one item at once. Keep in mind though that what they offer in bundles might not meet you needs. For example it’s common to get a 16 or 32 megabyte memory card with cameras – however these days you’ll probably want something at least of 500 megabytes (if not a gigabyte or two).

4. Do you already own any potentially compatible gear?

Talking of extra gear – one way to save yourself some cash is if you have accessories from previous digital cameras that are compatible with your new one.

For example memory cards, batteries, lenses (remember that many film camera lenses are actually compatible with digital SLRs from the same manufacturers), flashes, filters etc.

5. DSLR or Point and Shoot?

Dslr-Point-And-ShootWhile digital SLRs are getting more affordable they are not for everyone. Keep in mind that they are usually bigger, heavier, harder to keep clean (if you’re changing lenses) and can be more complicated to operate than point and shoot. Of course there are some upsides also.

If you’re trying to make a decision between a point and shoot and DSLR you might want to read my previous posts titled Should you buy a DSLR or a Point and Shoot Digital Camera? and it’s companion piece How to Choose a DSLR.

6. Optical Zooms are King

Not all ‘zooms’ are created equal.

When you’re looking at different models of digital cameras you’ll often hear their zooms talked about in two ways. Firstly there’s the ‘optical zoom’ and then there’s the ‘digital zoom’.

I would highly recommend that you only take into consideration the ‘optical zoom’ when making a decision about which camera to buy. Digital zooms simply enlarge the pixels in your shot which does make your subject look bigger, but it also makes it look more pixelated and your picture ‘noisier’ (like when you go up close to your TV).

If you’re looking for a zoom lens make sure it’s an optical zoom (most modern cameras have them of at least 3x in length – ie they’ll make your subject three times as big – with an increasing array of ‘super zooms’ coming onto the market at up to 12x Optical Zoom).

7. Read reviews

Before buying a digital camera take the time to do a little research. Don’t JUST rely upon the advice of the helpful sales person (who may or may not know anything about cameras and who may or may not have sales incentives for the camera they are recommending).

Read some reviews in digital camera magazines or online to help you narrow down the field. There are some great websites around that give expert and user reviews on virtually every camera on the market – use this wonderful and free resource.

A little self promotion here – one such site is my Digital Photography Blog which is a site that collates the reviews of many sites from around the web. To use it best enter the camera’s model name that you’re looking for a review on in the search feature in the top right side bar. It’ll give you a link to a central page that has information on the camera as well as links to any reviews published online on that camera from around the web.

8. Hands On Experience

Photo by erinmariepage

Once you’ve narrowed down your search to a handful of cameras head into your local digital camera shop and ask to see and play with them. There’s nothing like having the camera in your hands to work out whether it suits your needs.

When I shop for a camera I generally use the web to find reviews, then I head into a street in my city with 4 camera shops side by side and I go from shop to shop asking for recommendations and seeing the cameras live in the flash. In doing this I generally find the same camera or two are recommended in most shops and I get to see them demonstrated by different people (this gives a more well rounded demo). I also get to play with it and get a feel for which one I could see myself using.

9. Negotiate

After you’ve selected the right digital camera for you it’s time to find the best price.

Once again, I generally start online (on a site like our store) and do some searches to find the most competitive prices on the models I’m interested in. With these in hand I’m in a good position to be able to negotiate in person with local stores and/or with online stores. I generally find that retail stores will negotiate on price and will often throw in freebies. Online stores are more difficult – most bigger ones don’t give you the ability to negotiate but smaller ones often will if you email them.

Don’t forget to ask for free or discounted bonuses including camera cases, memory cards, extra batteries, filters, free prints, cases etc. I even know of a couple of stores that offer camera lessons that you can ask to be included. Some stores will also consider giving you a trade in on older gear.

I generally do negotiating from home on the phone and only go into a store to pick up the camera after a price is agreed upon.


There you have it, seven of the best beginner DSLR cameras for any photographer looking to enter the market.

Leave a Comment