This guide to the best Nikon camera for beginners is essential reading if you’re just starting out with photography.
My first entry-level Nikon DSLR camera was a D40, and I’ve had several more Nikons since then.
A beginner Nikon camera needs to have certain features to make it easy to learn and use.
In this article, I’ll explain everything in simple terms and show why a mirrorless camera may be better for you than a DSLR.
Fortunately, there are plenty of digital cameras for beginners that are affordable, and there’s always the opportunity to buy second-hand too.
(The best Nikon camera doesn’t always need to cost an arm and a leg, after all!)
Let’s take a look at my recommendations.
Table of Contents
What is the Best Nikon Camera for Beginners in 2023?
|Nikon Z50||Check AMAZON Price → Check B&H Price →|
|Nikon Z30||Check AMAZON Price → Check B&H Price →|
|Nikon D3500||Check AMAZON Price →|
|Nikon D5600||Check AMAZON Price →|
|Nikon Z5||Check AMAZON Price → Check B&H Price →|
|Nikon P950||Check AMAZON Price → Check B&H Price →|
Nikon Z50 | Best Value Nikon Camera for Beginners
- Autofocus could be faster
- Lacks in-body image stabilization
The Nikon Z50 is a great addition to the mirrorless camera mid-range category that combines a range of handy features for beginners at an attractive price point.
With its compact size and easy-to-use controls, it’s a strong choice for everyday photography, sporting comfortable ergonomics and a fun shooting experience.
An APS-C camera sensor drives the Z50 in tandem with its Expeed 6 processor, with a clear electronic viewfinder and a 3.2-inch LCD screen to view the action through.
Its maximum burst speed of 11 frames per second makes the Nikon Z50 ideal for beginners who are interested in action photography, such as sports or wildlife.
This is complemented by solid performance for autofocus, including eye-tracking autofocus that quickly and accurately locks onto subjects.
Image quality is impressive, with rich and vibrant colours and fine detail in low light conditions, as well as sharp and vivid footage when shooting in 4K video.
While it’s easy to use for beginners, there are lots of customization options in the Z50 to expand your skills as you gain experience over time.
Cheaper than similar cameras from Canon and Sony, the Z50 is one of several great Nikon cameras for beginners looking to invest in a mirrorless model.
Nikon Z30 | Best Nikon Mirrorless Camera for Beginners
- Compact ergonomic design
- Fast autofocus performance
- Impressive 4K video for vlogging
- Easy-to-use menu system
- Fun to handle
- Strong WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity
- Great value for money
- Limited range of lenses
- No headphone jack
- Lacks sensor stabilization
The Nikon Z30 is another strong contender for one of the best Nikon cameras for beginners and is widely used for online content creation and vlogging.
Delivering excellent picture quality at a moderate price point, it’s incredibly easy to use for novices who have no previous experience with photography and want a shallow learning curve.
With its light and compact design and ergonomic controls, the Nikon Z30 is perfect for travel photography and casual day-to-day use when out and about.
The flip-out touchscreen gives a sharp and clear image, while the 20.9-megapixel image sensor gives great results for both photos and videos.
If you’re considering vlogging as well as photography, the Nikon Z30 excels with its 4K recording capabilities without any crop, along with 120 FPS at 1080p.
Indeed, while the Nikon Z50 is more focused on photography, the Z30 should be a top consideration if videography is something you’re thinking of experimenting with.
Like the Z50, the Z30 is an APS-C camera that has been designed with beginners in mind, offering great handling and a better max video resolution.
If you’re a beginner photographer looking for a solid camera that will suit a range of shooting styles, the Nikon Z30 is a fantastic mirrorless camera for beginners.
Nikon D3500 | Smallest Nikon DSLR for Beginners
- Impressive image quality
- User-friendly controls
- Fast and responsive autofocus
- Compact for a DSLR
- 1,550-shot battery life
- Guide Mode for beginners
- Excellent value for money
- No WiFi connectivity
- No 4K video
If you’re put off by the price of Nikon’s mirrorless camera range but don’t want a bulky DSLR, the Nikon D3500 is a worthy compromise that won’t break the bank.
This entry-level DSLR is a capable and affordable camera that lends itself to casual and family photography while still offering advanced features to develop new skills.
Originally released back in 2018, the Nikon D3500 may be more basic than the aforementioned mirrorless models but still produces pleasing results with its 24MP sensor.
Autofocus performance is responsive, and there’s the option for 5 FPS continuous shooting to capture the action with the bundled AF-P 18-55mm kit lens.
The battery life for the Nikon D3500 is also impressive, lasting for over 1,500 shots on a single charge and giving you the option of a full day’s shooting without worrying about power.
While the raw files from the D3500 are 12-bit, compared to the 14-bit files offered by Nikon’s more advanced models, they still offer plenty of range in tone and colour.
One downside to the Nikon D3500 is the absence of a 4K video mode, but if you’re focused primarily on photography, the significantly lower price makes this easy to overlook.
The Nikon D3500 DSLR camera is a beginner-friendly camera that can be found cheap on the second-hand market, offering great handling and a shallow learning curve.
Nikon D5600 | Best Nikon DSLR for Beginners
- Great image quality
- Impressive low-light performance
- Fast autofocus
- Versatile tilting touchscreen interface
- Small body size
- Great Live View performance
- No 4K video
- SnapBridge can be temperamental
Another solid option beginner photographers can consider checking out from Nikon’s extensive DSLR range is the D5600, originally released back in 2016.
While the absence of 4K video footage shows its age, the F5600 delivers pleasing results where it counts the most, capable of taking crisp and sharp photographs.
This is enhanced thanks to the camera’s decent autofocus system, although be aware that continuous autofocus isn’t available when shooting in video mode.
It’s easy to use, with a tilting touchscreen to help you get more adventurous shots and an uncomplicated menu that won’t overwhelm beginners.
The right-hand grip adds a degree of comfort and sturdiness and makes shooting for long periods of time a pleasure rather than a chore.
Indeed, the Nikon D5600 is another good example of a DSLR camera that eschews the bulkiness of some models, lending it to travel photography and long day trips.
With its compact design and impressive specifications at its price point, the Nikon D5600 is among the best digital cameras for beginners.
Nikon Z5 | Cheapest Nikon full-frame camera for beginners
- Sharp and detailed image quality
- Robust build and design
- Great high-resolution electronic viewfinder
- 5-axis autofocus system
- Tilting rear screen
- Two memory card slots
- Continuous shooting limit of 4.5 frames per second
- 4K video is cropped
From one of Nikon’s best entry-level DSLR cameras to the Nikon Z5, a wonderful full-frame camera that’s also ideal for photography newbies to learn the ropes.
While paying for a full-frame camera certainly isn’t essential for beginners, if you’re hoping to become a pro down the line, you’ll want a camera that offers the appropriate scope.
With the Nikon Z5, you’ll get exactly that; this is a reliable camera with a logical control layout capable of producing professional-looking images and impressive video footage.
As you’d expect from a higher-priced camera, the body construction of the Nikon Z5 is incredibly robust, with full weather sealing delivering protection in harsh conditions.
The control layout is also intuitive enough for beginners to grasp without feeling overwhelmed, complemented with a beautifully clear electronic viewfinder to help compose shots.
Since this is a mirrorless camera, there’s also 5-axis autofocus built into the camera, combined with accurate eye tracking of both humans and animals.
The only notable downsides to the Nikon Z5 is the presence of cropping when shooting in 4K video and an underwhelming burst speed rate of 4.5 frames per second.
These reservations aside, the relative affordability of this great camera from Nikon and its overall strong performance makes it one of the best Nikon cameras for beginners.
Nikon P950 | Best Nikon Bridge Camera for Beginners
- 83x zoom lens offers an outstanding range
- An intuitive set of manual controls
- 4K video and raw imaging
- Microphone and headphone inputs
- Capable image stabilization
- WiFi and Bluetooth
- Articulating screen
- A little cumbersome
- No touchscreen functionality
Bridge cameras are a good way to transition from simplistic point-and-shoot cameras into models that offer more versatility and potential customization.
The Nikon P950 is a fantastic example of a beginner camera that can be used to hone a range of photography skills that can be transferred to mirrorless and DSLR models.
The first thing that stands out when using the P950 is the included zoom lens, capable of an outstanding 83x zoom and making it the equivalent of a 24-2000mm telephoto lens.
While this may be overkill for general hobbyist photography, if you’re a beginner interested in the wildlife and sporting niche, this will give you plenty of scope.
It’s a compromise that’s inherent in bridge cameras, which lack the ability to use interchangeable lenses, instead opting for a good all-around lens inherent in the design.
It also delivers effective image stabilization – essential with such a zoom reach – capturing rich and detailed images through the 16MP CMOS camera sensor.
Adding to its appeal as a great beginner Nikon camera for wildlife photography is the 7 FPS continuous shooting to help capture birds in flight and other fast-moving animals.
It’s also a quality bridge camera for shooting video, with 4K video recording and an external microphone port lending it additional appeal for travel videography and vlogging.
While the Nikon P950 is on the heavy side compared to its closest rivals, it’s not too cumbersome that prolonged use becomes uncomfortable.
If you’re new to photography and looking to upgrade your phone camera, the Nikon P950 is one of the best Nikon cameras in its class and a great introduction to the hobby.
What Features Should Nikon Cameras for Beginners Offer?
When selecting the best Nikon camera for beginners, there are several key features to look out for and factors to consider:
- Ease of Use: The best camera for a beginner should have a user-friendly interface that’s easy to navigate. Look for a camera with an intuitive menu system and clear instruction manual.
- Auto Modes: A camera with various auto modes is beneficial for beginners. These modes automatically adjust settings such as shutter speed, aperture, and ISO according to the scene, allowing beginners to focus on composition while still getting good results.
- Guide Mode: Nikon cameras often come with a Guide Mode, which offers step-by-step assistance for shooting in various situations. It’s an interactive learning tool that helps beginners understand photography basics.
- Size and Weight: A compact and lightweight camera can be more comfortable for beginners, as they may not be used to carrying around heavy equipment.
- Image Quality: Look for a camera that produces high-quality images. This typically means a camera with a higher megapixel count and a good-quality sensor. However, remember that image quality also greatly depends on the lens you use and your photography skills.
- Interchangeable Lenses: A camera that allows for interchangeable lenses will give beginners room to grow as they learn and want to try out different types of photography.
- In-Built Image Stabilization: This feature compensates for camera shake, helping beginners to get sharper images, particularly in low-light situations or when using longer focal lengths.
- Price: Last but certainly not least, the camera should fit within your budget. There are many excellent entry-level Nikon cameras that won’t break the bank.
Should You Get a Nikon Mirrorless or DSLR Camera?
When deciding which beginner camera to go for, one of the main decisions is whether to invest in a Nikon mirrorless camera or opt for a DSLR camera.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both formats, with price and the additional cost of choosing a mirrorless camera being one of the key considerations.
With DSLR being phased out, there are more options for picking up an affordable camera body, particularly if you’re willing to check out the second-hand market.
Beginner DSLR cameras also have a broader selection of lenses available, having been around for many years and establishing a strong range of accessories.
Many DSLR users prefer the optical viewfinder they deliver, as well as the extended battery life when compared to their mirrorless counterparts.
They also deliver excellent image quality, often comparable to mirrorless cameras, particularly on the higher-end Nikon camera models.
With that said DSLR cameras tend to be bulkier than mirrorless models on account of their mechanism and lack the 5-axis in-body stabilization found in new mirrorless models.
Mirrorless cameras are lighter and more compact, capable of shooting at fast speeds and typically faring better for low-light performance.
While mirrorless electronic viewfinders once lagged behind their DSLR counterparts, they have considerably improved in recent years.
Should you wish to try your hand at videography, mirrorless cameras deliver superior video performance and are recommended as beginner cameras for content creation.
Downsides worth considering include a poorer battery life of some models compared with DSLRs and a limited selection of interchangeable lenses.
Ultimately, you’ll get potentially great results from either format, although the industry dominance of mirrorless gives it the edge in terms of future-proofing.
On the other hand, DSLR’s long history makes it a great alternative for budget-conscious beginner photographers to build a collection of gear without breaking the bank.
Advice for Buying a Second-Hand Nikon Camera
The best Nikon cameras don’t have to cost a fortune, with the manufacturer offering an extensive back catalog of exceptional models which are ideal for beginners.
Picking up a used camera is a great way to save plenty of money and free up your budget for additional accessories and lenses.
Before you do this, there are a few things to be aware of that will help you to make the best decision and get the best bang for your buck.
There are several good resources for second-hand cameras you can check out to compare prices and make sure the camera you’re considering is in good working order.
eBay and KEH Camera are two popular online resources where used cameras are widely sold, with buyer protection and item quality ratings showing their condition.
When deciding which camera to go for, you should consider your photography niche as well as your budget and choose a camera that will fulfil your expectations.
If you’re going for an all-around camera, you’ll want one compatible with a strong selection of lenses you can add to your kit bag over time.
Once you’ve decided which advanced features you’ll need, read through reviews and check out the cameras that have won accolades in the press.
Check through trustworthy sources like KEH Camera and look into the condition of each listing, checking for any defects and the current shutter count.
Make sure the battery contacts, sensor, and memory card slots are free of dirt, and ensure the camera doesn’t have any dead pixels.
If the camera is being sold with a kit lens or other accessories, verify the condition and performance of these items and if they’ve received any damage.
Choosing a great lens is crucial for optimal results, so consider looking at different sellers for lenses and buying them separately from the camera body.
Lastly, if you’re able to get a warranty for the camera, reputable sellers will offer your some protection even when the manufacturer’s warranty has expired.
This will give you additional peace of mind as you begin your photography journey, with sellers typically offering at least one year’s warranty.