Congratulations fellow photographer! If you’re here, you love taking photos and you’re ready to take your skills to the next level by purchasing a great new digital camera.

Say goodbye to the days of relying on your smartphone to capture life’s best moments and say hello to some serious creative storytelling. You are about to embark on a journey that will inspire more than just great photos. Using a DSLR (or mirrorless) camera to capture your images will inspire you to literally see your life through a whole new lens. That’s our mission here at Live Wonderful – to help you bring your best stories to life! 

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Danielle Werner. As a professional storyteller, I’m the optimistic, outgoing gal always smiling behind the camera.  I’m mildly obsessed with adventure and love to shoot, teach, and explore anywhere my camera will take me. I’ve used a lot of different cameras over the past 15 years of exploring many niches in the photography industry. From portraits and high fashion in the studio, to brand photography and real estate, to travel, landscapes and night photography, I love it all!

Inspired by the hundreds (maybe even thousands) of photography students I’ve taught over the years, this guide isn’t just a list of great new DSLR cameras. It’s an insightful look at what makes these cameras great, the quality we can expect at each level, and the features available on all digital cameras on the market today. Think of this article as a photography road map. Use this information to guide you through the seemingly daunting world of digital photography so that you don’t get lost, feel insecure, or go in the wrong direction.

I get asked all the time, “What’s the best camera to get?”

The simple truth is, it depends, and it really doesn’t matter. As you read through our list of the best beginner and budget-friendly digital cameras, keep in mind every camera on this list is amazing! They all do more incredible things than any camera ever did less than a few years ago. Just to give you an idea of how incredible all DSLR cameras are today, here’s a standard list of some features you can find on most DSLR cameras in 2020.

All DSLR and Mirrorless Cameras Have These Features

  • Interchangeable Lenses Available
  • 20+ Megapixels
  • RAW Image Processing
  • 9-100+ Auto Focal Points
  • ISO Max of 6400 (or more!)
  • High Shooting of 5+ Frames Per Second
  • Hot-Shoe for Connecting External Flash
  • Bluetooth Syncing Directly to Phone/Tablet
  • Manual Exposure Settings (plus Auto Scene Settings)

Some even come standard with…

  • Tilting or Flipping LCD Screen
  • Touch LCD Screen
  • Wi-Fi Syncing Directly to Computer
  • Guide Modes To Help Learn
  • 4K Video Resolution

Do any of these features stand out to you more than the rest? Add that to your motivation factor and the list below will serve you well. If you love sports and wildlife photography. More focal points are important. If you travel and want to be able to shoot on the fly, size and weight will matter greatly. If you are on a budget, then knowing it will help you navigate through this wide range of great beginner DSLR cameras.

The Best Budget-Friendly Beginner DSLR Cameras In 2020

Are you on a budget but still have too many options to choose from? These DSLR cameras are the best budget-friendly DSLR cameras that won’t break the bank. The best part, you can always advance your skills by added lenses and gear to your camera bag. Plus there is always the option to upgrade your camera body later as you see fit.

  1. Nikon d3500 ($400)

  2. Canon SL3 ($600)

  3. Nikon d5600 ($700)

  4. Canon T7i ($800)

I’ve started this detailed list with the VERY BEST beginner DSLR camera for those on a budget. Awarded best Entry-Level DSLR camera by many industry critics, this camera packs a powerful punch by the best makers on the planet.  This is the camera that I see most in my Beginner’s DSLR Photography Class. And not just with newbies. Many hobbyists, business owners, entrepreneurs, and marketers love that the Nikon d3500 has everything they need to create great brand imagery for their business while at a price point they can afford when just starting out. This camera is the best place to start for anyone just starting out in the photography world of interchangeable lenses.

Key Features

  • Most Awarded Entry-Level DSLR

  • 24.2 Megapixels

  • 11 Focal Points

  • ISO 25,600

  • 5 frames per second

  • Full HD 1080p Video

  • Battery life 1200 shots

  • 3” LCD Screen

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Canon has created the biggest lineup of entry-level DSLR cameras. This one is the smallest one on the market today! Therefore, these great cameras end up being an easy choice for beginner photographers. Though I am a Nikon shooter, I have nothing against Canon. I actually started my career with a canon and mastered my skills for 6 years before switching to Nikon. Canon designed this camera to bridge the gap between point-and-shoot cameras and the professional DSLRs. That’s where the size comes in. If you are intimidated by the size and weight of the DSLR cameras, this may be the right choice for you.

PRO TIP: Though many love the compact size for ease of portability, this tiny camera might be too small for some hands. Considering that the camera itself is only slightly larger than a human hand, you’ll want to make sure you feel comfortable holding this tiny camera and maneuvering your fingers around all the buttons on the back while you hold it.

Key Features

  • Smallest DSLR Camera

  • 24 Megapixels

  • 9 Focal Points

  • ISO 25,600

  • 5 frames per second

  • 4K Video

  • Battery life 1600 shots

  • 3″ Full Articulating LCD Touch Screen

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Willing to spend just a little more? Then you’ll immediately see why the d5600 is worth it. No, you might not get quite as long of battery life as the d3500, and you are adding a tiny bit more weight because it’s a stronger, bigger camera. But, we promise, every other main feature, makes this jump in budget totally worth it. Aside from the all the same features as the d3500, the d5600 has the additional upgraded image quality and so much more packed into a stronger, more durable body with a deeper grip while handling your camera on the go. My favorite upgrade is the 39 focal points and AE (Auto Exposure) Bracketing. The Nikon d5600 is great for those who want more creative control over how you capture your images. It’s great if you are just starting to shoot video too because of it’s fully articulating LCD touch screen.

Key Features

  • Upgraded Image Quality from d3500

  • 24.2 Megapixels

  • 39 Focal Points

  • ISO 25,600

  • 5 frames per second

  • Full HD 1080p Video

  • Battery life 970 shots

  • 3.2” Articulating LCD Touch Screen

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Canon’s Rebel lineup was stuck in time for a few years, but that has changed thanks to the new lineup of Rebel T7 and T7i. The two DSLRs have the same 24-megapixel image sensor, providing a boost to image quality over past Rebels. As with all Canon Rebels, these DSLR cameras pack great performance in an easy to manage menu system to help you enjoy the beginning stages of photography. I will note that if you love the Canon models most, though the T7i has the best features offered in the Rebel models, it does not have the 4K Video resolution like the SL3 mentioned above. The other thing to note is that Canon is announcing the T8i later on in the year so it will probably have 4K and a host of other upgraded features too. Keep this in mind if you’re not quite ready to buy.

Key Features

  • The Best Canon Rebel (T8i Release in 2020)

  • 24 Megapixels

  • 45 Focal Points

  • ISO 25,600

  • 7 frames per second

  • Full HD 1080p Video

  • Battery life 600 shots

  • 3” Articulating LCD Touch Screen

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Now I know there are tons of great DSLR cameras on the market today. But after teaching thousands of students and seeing so many different cameras come into our classes, these are definitely the best ones available for beginners today. If you have a higher budget, but still want to stick to an entry-level camera, know that you can always “upgrade” your skills and gear by adding on different lenses. The lens is what makes the story really come to life. You can also check out our list of the best mid-range DSLR and mirrorless cameras on the market today.