If you are going to study photography at the GSCE or A-Level level in school, if you are going to take it further into college, or if you are going to take any other courses that feature photography modules, such as an art foundation or journalism course, then you will want one of the best cameras for students rather than your smartphone.
Digital single-lens reflex cameras (DSLRs) and mirrorless cameras with interchangeable lenses are perfect examples of the kinds of instruments that may assist you in learning fundamental photography concepts and taking your photography to the next level.
In this buyer’s guide, we are going to deconstruct some crucial factors that you should consider when purchasing a camera, and then we are going to showcase the best mirrorless and DSLR cameras for students across a range of price points and manufacturers.
What factors should photography students be looking for in mirrorless/DSLR cameras?
When it comes to writing for students, we will naturally begin with money. The good news is that you do not need the most costly camera or the most recent model; rather, you need one that is suited to the tasks you will be working on. There is an abundance of fantastic value beginner-level cameras available on the market today. These cameras can assist your learning process and creative vision, satisfy the minimum standards of your school or institution and ultimately produce photographs of high quality.
By purchasing a used DSLR camera and lens, in particular, you can save money that you can put toward purchasing additional lenses, which is something that we recommend doing rather than purchasing a more expensive camera, and you can also make sure that you have enough money left over to purchase things like removable media to store your photographs.
Finding a camera that you are inspired to use each day, one that can grow with you as your talents progress, and even one that is a part of a current system that the brand is still investing in are all important aspects of finding value in a camera. Value is not merely about getting a good bargain (cost).
For instance, the market for DSLR cameras is mostly unmoving, and the majority of DSLRs have been phased out. Instead, mirrorless cameras are where future technology will be headed; therefore, if you want to be a part of the most recent and advanced systems, mirrorless is probably the finest choice you can make.
2. The right system
It is definitely worth one’s time to visit a camera shop in order to familiarize oneself with a variety of camera brands and types, along with their varying shapes, sizes, and control layouts. Which one has a pleasant feel in your hand, makes you laugh or grin, or piques your curiosity the most?
Examine the viewfinder, which is the best option for good vision in strong light and is available on some but not all mirrorless cameras. Again, not all cameras come equipped with flip-out screens, which are designed to replicate the experience of taking a selfie with a mobile device. Find out what you’re dealing with before you fork over your money.
When it comes to photography, if all you’ve ever used is your smartphone, you’re missing out on all the fun that can be had with a DSLR or mirrorless camera. A dedicated camera does more than just help you concentrate on photography by taking you away from distractions such as YouTube, WhatsApp, and the daily Wordle. It also gives you more manual control in addition to the automatic mode, which makes it much simpler to experiment with photography principles such as shutter speed and aperture.
In contrast, the camera settings on a smartphone are typically pre-selected for the user, meaning there is less opportunity for education in this area.
3. Sensor size
Increasing the size of the camera’s sensor is one of the simplest steps you can do to improve the overall quality of your photographs beyond what is possible with a smartphone. The larger the sensor, the simpler it is to enhance the resolution (size) of your pictures, the better control you can have over depth of field (where lenses and subject distance are the same), and the ‘cleaner’ your images can be when there is little available light.
Computational photography on smartphones provides workarounds to overcome the limitations imposed by the size of the sensor, but these workarounds have their own limitations. Real cameras, such as DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, feature sensors that are significantly larger than those found in smartphones.
Full-frame, APS-C, and Micro Four Thirds are the three most common sensor sizes used in modern cameras. There are solutions that are suitable for beginners for all different sizes of sensors, even though larger sensors are typically more expensive.
4. Lens choice
It is tempting to stick with the one lens that comes as part of the kit with your camera; however, DSLR and mirrorless cameras are part of a system, and purchasing an additional lens is one of the best ways to support your development in photography. Although it is tempting to stick with the one lens that comes as part of the kit with your camera, it is important to remember that these cameras are part of a system
While some mirrorless systems, such as micro-four thirds for Panasonic and Olympus cameras, have hundreds of lenses available, others, such as APS-C size mirrorless systems from Nikon and Canon, are still in their developmental stages. However, users of well-known Canon and Nikon DSLRs have a wide variety of options to choose from.
When photography becomes one of your primary interests, having the “correct” lens will become increasingly important. Photographers who focus on landscapes typically use wide-angle lenses, while those who take portraits choose lenses with a wide aperture (f/2.8 or even lower like f/1.4), and photographers who focus on wildlife and activity may want to use a telephoto or macro lens to get closer to their subjects.
Best Cameras for Photography Students
1. Nikon D3500
Best entry-level DSLR under $500:
entry-level DSLR camera, and it is positioned below the D5600 in the company’s lineup. And to the D3500’s credit, it offers the majority of the same technological features at a far more affordable price point (plus, you’ll save an additional $100 by purchasing a used model).
You will receive Nikon’s DX-format sensor that has a resolution of 24 megapixels and does not have a low-pass filter. With this sensor, you will be able to generate sharp prints that are larger than A3 size. It is also a camera that fits nicely in the palm of your hand, has an industry-leading battery life, and comes equipped with an extremely helpful guide mode for when you are still learning the ropes.
When compared to the D5600, this camera has a more basic 11-point autofocus system. Additionally, the LCD screen is fixed rather than flip-out, which may take some getting used to for selfie shooters. However, the optical viewfinder is good for clear viewing in bright light, and the D3500 is otherwise an excellent entry point into the world of photography.
Adding another lens to your budget, such as the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G, is an investment that will pay off.
2. Pentax K-70
Best rugged DSLR for beginners:
This is a relatively hefty camera that is tough enough to withstand the rough and tumble, and it provides excellent value. Photographers can take use of a resolution of 24 megapixels along with excellent performance in low light and a maximum ISO of 102,400. Built-in flash, sensor-shift stabilization that enables excellent handheld filming, and a snappy continuous shooting rate of 6 frames per second are all included.
Handling is where the K-70 really excels, with its sturdy construction, brilliant viewfinder, flip-out screen (which, unfortunately, does not have touch sensitivity), and excellent grip.
Despite the fact that Pentax’s lens lineup is not as extensive as those offered by DSLR industry heavyweights Nikon and Canon, there are a large number of high-quality alternatives available from Pentax, and we have no qualms recommending a Pentax DSLR to photographers.
3. Canon EOS 90D
Best enthusiast-level DSLR:
The Canon EOS 90D has the uncompromising build quality and comfy form factor of a DSLR body, but it also has the kind of live-view performance for a video that we anticipate from mirrorless cameras. In other words, it seems like a camera that embraces both the DSLR and mirrorless worlds.
The battery life is really good, the optical viewfinder is quite big and brilliant, and the touchscreen can be flipped out of the way for front viewing. Also, let’s not forget that the Canon EF lens mount offers a diverse selection of lenses that can be used for a variety of creative projects. If you want a digital single-lens reflex camera that can take your photography to the next level, the EOS 90D may be your best option.
4. Nikon D750
Best full-frame DSLR for students:
We have taken into consideration the most recent models of entry-level full-frame DSLR cameras, which is a LONG way back in time, and we might have included the Canon EOS 6D II, which has its own set of benefits; nonetheless, the Nikon D750 provides greater value for the money.
By upgrading to a full-frame sensor with the Nikon D750, photographers can take advantage of more control over the depth of field, exceptional image quality even in low light, and a generously expanded optical viewfinder that provides a superb experience when shooting in broad daylight.
Due to the fact that it has been discontinued, the dust- and water-resistant D750 may be purchased in pristine condition for approximately 700 GBP. Add to that a strong prime lens, and you’ve got yourself a formidable combination.
5. Sony A6000
Best mirrorless camera under $500:
And the fact that the Sony a6000 is still available to purchase brand new despite several updates, such as the A6100 and higher-level models such as the A6400, which costs twice as much, demonstrates that it is still a compelling camera today, as it enjoys the same APS-C Sony E-mount as its replacements and a range of high-quality lenses.
Because Sony has always been an innovator in technology, the a6000 still has a respectable 24MP resolution, the ability to shoot continuously at 11 frames per second, and a highly effective autofocus system, despite its age. The LCD screen tilts, and there is an electronic viewfinder (EVF) tucked away in one of the corners of this compact and lightweight design. However, it does not have the same metal build quality as the A6400.
The focusing and video capabilities of later models, in particular, have been much enhanced, but the A6000 still makes sense for individuals on a tight budget who are primarily interested in photography.
6. Fujifilm X-S10
Best Fujifilm camera for students:
A powerful performer, it captures stunning still images with a resolution of 26.1 megapixels, especially with the help of certain exceptional X-mount lenses; it also has a highly competitive 4K video performance and in-body stabilization, allowing you to forego the use of a tripod.
The Fujifilm X-S10 looks the part, as do most Fujifilm cameras, and in this case, it also includes a handgrip that is larger than normal, which we really like. On the other hand, you do not get separate vintage dials for manual exposure.
If the performance of the autofocus is crucial to you, there are better alternatives; but, if you are a student, you will have a hard time getting more for your money.
7. Panasonic Lumix GX9
Best compact mirrorless camera for students:
Due to the fact that mirrorless cameras first appeared in this sensor format with Olympus and later Panasonic more than ten years ago, the lens selection is enormous and can accommodate a wide range of photographic styles.
You get a remarkable lot of technology packed into a tiny chassis with the GX9 itself; 4K video with 4K photo modes to extract stills from a movie, 9FPS, a 3in tilt-touchscreen, a 2.76-m dot tilt EVF, and 5-axis in-body stabilization just some of the features you get with the GX9.
The controls around the camera are underutilized, and it may not be possible to accommodate individuals who are eager to learn the fundamentals of photography; nonetheless, the price of the four-year-old GX9 has fallen down, and it provides a fantastic value.
8. Olympus OM-D E-M10 IV
Best smartphone upgrade for students:
camera for photography can be scary, but Olympus makes that transition as simple and straightforward as it possibly can be with the E-M10 IV. It features a touchscreen that can be used for taking selfies, an intuitive button layout, Bluetooth connectivity, an app that is simple to use for loading photographs, and remote control of the camera.
Importantly, there is an improvement in the image quality, especially considering the abundance of high-quality and reasonably priced Micro Four Thirds lenses, as well as the industry-leading image stabilization that enables sharp handheld images even in low light.
There are better options available for individuals who are interested in getting into video than the camera, as it does not have a mic input; but, for photographers, the E-M10 IV delivers, and it does so at a reasonable price.
9. Nikon Z fc
Most stylish mirrorless camera for students:
The appearance of each camera, and the subsequent shooting experience, is what sets them apart from one another. The Nikon FM2 is a film SLR that was introduced thirty years ago, and our selection for a great contemporary day rendition on it is the Nikon Z fc. But don’t be fooled by its vintage appearance; the Z fc is actually a modern camera. It has a sensor with 20.9 megapixels, 11 frames per second, autofocus that tracks continuously, can record 4K video without cropping, and has a flip-out touchscreen.
The Z fc is also a fantastic investment because you won’t be able to find a camera with dials for shutter speed, ISO, and exposure correction anywhere else at this price point. It has the look and feels of vintage technology, and it is useful for teaching kids the fundamentals of exposure.
Where exactly is the catch? However, the Z fc is not protected against the elements, and there are just three native APS-C lenses available. Full-frame lenses are compatible with the Z fc, although wide-angle photographers typically only have access to the lens that comes with the camera.
10. Sony a7 II
Best full-frame mirrorless camera for under $1000:
Even though it may not offer the same video-friendly capabilities as it once had due to its age, we can still suggest the Sony a7 II to student photographers even after all these years have passed, particularly because it can be purchased brand new for only $900.
It’s true that even in this day and age, having stills with 24 megapixels, an electronic viewfinder with 2.4 million dots, and an autofocus system with 117 points and 5 frames per second is nothing to scoff at. In addition, Sony’s full-frame mirrorless cameras have access to a diverse range of lenses, including a multitude of third-party solutions that are available at very competitive prices. Students looking to enter a highly popular system that is kept current with the most cutting-edge technology will find that the a7 II is an excellent choice.
11. Canon EOS R10
Highest performing mirrorless camera under $1000:
A fast and accurate artificial intelligence-based subject detection AF system that was borrowed from the flagship EOS R3 and 23 frames per second is not much to scoff at for $1,000. This camera can recognize a wide variety of subjects, including individuals, animals, and cars. Its image quality and overall handling are also impressive features of this device.
The news is not all positive, however. The EOS R10 comes with a rather limited selection of lenses, has a buffer that isn’t particularly large, and has a viewfinder that is on the smaller side. This camera system is still in its nascent stage. Exciting times are ahead, but only if Canon is able to produce lenses that can maximize the capabilities of the EOS R10 camera.
12. Leica M11
Blow the student loan:
* What do you think of the Leica M-11? The Leica M-11 is a rangefinder rather than a mirrorless or DSLR camera, and the body alone will set you back over seven thousand pounds; however, the lenses aren’t exactly inexpensive either.
This Apple-certified accessory offers the greatest resolution available for any full-frame Leica camera, along with sensitivity ranging from ISO 64 to 5000. This 61-megapixel sensor not only provides amazing image quality but also unlocks the potential for cropping, allowing you to get more out of your photographs.
The shooting experience with a rangefinder is quite different than that of mirrorless and DSLR cameras; in particular, the manual focus procedure, which you will either adore or despise, depends entirely on your personal preference. One for “purists” in photography, the M11 will sell for a price that is rather close to its suggested retail price (RRP) if you decide that the experience was not to your liking or if you need to recuperate the money you spent on it.