Camera Options under $1500 for a Beginner?

Hello OzBargainers,

I was looking to buy a camera (Body and Lens) for under $1500 for myself. I'm a beginner and have never used a dedicated camera before. I've been using my Galaxy S10's Pro Mode to learn the basics of photography (ISO, White Balance, Shutter Speeds) and was looking for a camera that will allow me to further learn photography and will also allow me to shoot 4K videos, which I realize a lot of new cameras have included in them. From what I've read and Correct me on this, I realized that a Camera Body will last me a good amount of time, and it's only the lens, which also happens to be the expensive part, that needs to be upgraded when the time comes.

I can push my budget to $1800 as I realize I would also have to invest in buying a good tripod, along with other accessories that you can recommend besides an sd card as I already have one.

Looking forward to reading your views and recommendations!


  • +3 votes

    Nowadays, I really like the Fuji series.

    If you wait for a sale, you can easily get an X-T30 or an X-T3 with the (great) kit lens for that much. I got an X-T3 with some cashbask for pretty much bang on $1,500 about 2 or 3 years ago I'd say?

    Because they're designed a bit like old film cameras, with the dials for ISO, shutter, aperture etc, you can quite easily learn the exposure triangle with manual settings right in front of you. But you have the full set of modern digi-wigi tools if you want to start doing that.

    I prefer the X-T3 because it does great video as well, and I prefer the weightier, bigger feel in my hands. But the best way to decide is to go into a store and ask to hold and try them out. The guys behind the desk are usually camera nerds and happy to show you around.

    Source: Studied photog in Uni, worked as a professional photojournalist for a while, worked in a photo studio in the US, owned and shot on the following film systems: Canon eos 33, Canon 1, Hasselblad Xpan, Hasselblad 500CM, Bronica ETRSi, Horseman 4x5 large format, large format with 6x17 back, various PhaseOne backs, a bunch of other antique 135 and 120 cameras. Digital; mostly Canon 5Dii, Fuji X100s, a bunch of other dinky cameras, and the X-T3. Messed around with heaps including many of the Sonys, Nikons and other Canons.

    X-T3 is pretty much up there amongst my all time favourites, the Xpan and the 5Dii. X-T4 is by all accounts better, but marginally so and in many ways mostly for video or other areas where photography won't benefit heaps.

    I would say, if you really like the hobby, it's worth paying a few hundred bucks for a film camera and darkroom course.

    My recommendation is stick with the kit lens first, a tripod if you have the money (either go really cheap, or get a decent one to start with), a memory card and maybe a spare battery if you can afford it. Oh and a strap you like. Don't get swamped with other accessories you don't need or won't use. I keep my kit to one lens now and just make sure to take my camera wherever I can.

    edit: X-T30 is a bit under $1,500 now -

    Go and try one in a store first!

    edit2: you have it backwards too, a good lens will last forever (if you don't break it!) - the technology in the body changes faster. But honestly if it takes good photos today, it'll take good photos in 10 years as well.


      I will look into the XT-3. Thank You so much for your advice!


        I concur with OpenHand. I love the fuji too. I bought the X-T3 last year used for $1350. I use it mostly for video and it takes excellent video (10-bit 4:2:0). The X-T30 is only 8-bit, which is quite significant it turns out (mostly for colour). I like the feel of it and the two SD card ports. I've just been using XC kit lenses (15-45mm and 50-230) which I bought for $200 each and I've struggled to justify purchasing the more expensive lenses because these are so good. The batteries do not last very long (feels like 20 minutes) so I bought a spare, but when shooting video I connect a PD powerbank to it via USB-C and it lasts all day. I also bought a third party battery grip but I haven't used it once (though if I was photographing more, or on a shoot, I probably would).


          I was looking into the XT-30 and i really like it and I'm increasingly leaning towards it. I even came across the upcoming Nikon Z fc that caught my attention due to its look and what it offers


            @Knocks1: I honestly think the new Nikon zfc is a poor option. Subjectively, it looks significantly worse than the Fujifilm cameras because of the unwieldy lens mount size that does not by any means compliment the smaller apsc sensor well. I've always thought the kit lens looked ridiculous on the smaller body. It also seems that Nikon's mirrorless apsc lens collection is quite restricted and buying new lenses would be a nightmare, you'd either need to wait or buy large and expensive full frame lenses.

            I think any of fujifilm's cameras are great buys, but as with any expensive camera gear, I'd recommend shopping around for some used gear; getting you a better camera at a much lower price.

            Have fun camera hunting and most importantly shooting.

            I bought and shoot a used x100t for a bargain and I love the thing.

  • +1 vote

    You could get a mirrorless m34 camera that shoots 4K video for much less than 1500, you'd have money leftover for some lenses and stuff too. I think most new cameras will shoo tin 4k these days, most cameras worth buying. Some will even shoot 4K at 60 frames per second.


      Which one would you recommend?


    Spend a little more and get yourself a Nikon D5600.

    Buy good glass as you improve your skills. Then upgrade to a FX model once you are ready!

    When you start with a SLR and buy good (full frame) glass, you will keep growing!


      Will check it out! Thanks!


        The D5600 is a DX (cropped) image sensor.
        So as you buying up your glass collection (lens), buy for a FX/Full frame camera. It will still work on the DX, but in future when you want to upgrade (if) you will then be ready to do so.

        I've still got the glass I use today from 25yrs ago when I bought my first SLR (35mm film).

  • +1 vote

    Seriously consider buying second hand. Camera repair shops or facebook marketplace are your best bets.

    Personally, I would spend more money on the lens. Buy it for life kinda thing. Companies upgrade camera bodies every few years or so, so there's not much point buying the cutting edge brand new right now since technology will advance and you'll be behind again in 3-4 years time. A great lens can be used for a lifetime :)


      I looked into it and would be open to it. With the lockdown (Vic resident), I really don't want to meet people and with repair shops closed, I'll wait it out. Any recommendations that I should be looking for?

  • +5 votes

    My advice will be to start really, really cheap, and then use the gear a lot, and then revisit your question later.

    My reason for this is that it's easy to get lost between comparisons between things like 'image quality', 'AF', 'low light performance', 'sharpness'. And it's even harder if you've never used a camera system and therefore have no context on what is better (hint: every ecosystem is fairly capable at the moment, you should decide based on what lenses you like/what focal lengths you like to use, how much these lenses would cost, and then move onto what body option).

    So for a beginner I would recommend buying a used body with kit lens and one fast prime and going from there. For example:
    - Olympus E-M10 Mark II + 14-42mm lens $350 used + 45mm f/1.8 $250 used.
    - Nikon D3500 + AF-P 18-55mm for $400 at the moment, should be able to find cheaper + Nikon 35mm f/1.8 for $250 used.

    These aren't the best prices possible but should give you an approximate benchmark, lower prices should be aimed for (this is OzB off course!) if you watch Gumtree/FB for a while. Each body has a dial + extra function buttons to adjust everything you've mentioned (you might have to use the screen in some cases), and the glass are all good performers. After using this combo for a while you will probably be able to answer your question more confidently. If you need some inspiration on why cheap and cheerful is more than enough to start with here you go:

    Side note: With that being said this is by no means the only way to do it. If you do know what you want then investing in a system now will off course be advantageous (no need to sell old gear again, you can start acquiring pieces of kit immediately). If that's the way you go, then I would really be thinking about what focal lengths you like to shoot in, what are the available lenses, prices (important!) and finally camera bodies. In this case I do think mirrorless' are the way to go as all of the major players (Canon/Nikon) have started to develop their mirrorless lines. Apart from considering lens options and how much you like the camera bodies, if you have a friend who can lend you some equipment (or even organise some time just to shoot with) you can dramatically speed up which system you'd like to invest in as you can find out what you like/what bodies are nice to hold/what nice lenses are out there.


      Totally agree with this comment.

      I got an EM10 Mk2 and three lenses for $1500 used five years ago as my intro into photography. It is the perfect starter camera because it is small and light and when paired with a decent prime lens it can take some amazing photos.

      I recommend looking on gumtree as there tend to be some good deals on there where people sell their entire kit so you can pick up some fun accessories for peanuts. But the most important thing to focus on is to get a body and a lens just start taking photos, worry about a tripod and other accessories when you can take a compelling photo without them.


      I agree with your point, with one interesting point to consider. I almost bought my first DSLR in 2010 (a very cheap Olympus or Pentax DSLR I believe), but I bought a superzoom with above average manual features instead. Objectively, this was a mistake, as for so many reasons the camera I bought was not at all comparable for an enthusiast.

      However, I am very happy that I did that, because instead of falling into the trap of buying heaps of platform specific lenses / flashes etc for what I believe at the time was an inferior system (certainly significantly worse value compared to buying used Canon gear), I saved up and bought into the mid range of Canon where I had a lot more options for lenses and accessories (especially used!).

      So I agree on the proviso that you don't fall into the trap of investing too much money into whatever cheap starter platform you buy into.

      I still always recommend Canon systems, purely because of the huge range of OEM lenses and accessories at reasonable prices second hand. I don't think they're better than Nikon, but finding nice Nikkor lenses at a reasonable price is near impossible, and sigmas and tamrons have never overly impressed me (ART series excepted).


      I was hesitant to go cheap because I thought that those cameras won't last a long time but given my current skill level, I believe this would be the route to go. Thank You so much for your insight!

  • +2 votes

    OP, you haven't mentioned what I think is the most important criteria to answering your question, which is what do you want to shoot?


      My bad! I was mostly looking at shooting some portraits, landscape photography and also doing some sports photography along with shooting 4k footage for social media. I manage social media for my workplace (sports based firm) and would need a system that allows me to step up my content.


        Yep okay. What type of sport will you be shooting? And the important question is, will it be indoor or outdoor?

        So it looks like you'll at least need a long/fast lens for sports photography (Tamron 70-180mm 2.8 is a cheaper alternative to the typical 70-200mm, but neither are cheap would be within your budget) and something wider for landscapes.

        Depending on what video footage you're shooting you might also want a gimbal if the camera will also be moving.


          It'll be outdoor (tennis)


            @Knocks1: Spots is an expensive type of photography due to fast zoom lenses. The advantage you have is that Tennis has good lighting, unlike indoor basketball etc, so you should be able to get away with a lens that isn't as fast as dust mentioned…although in sports a faster lens is better, just thankfully for the bank account, not essential in outdoor good light.

            m43 will be cheaper in the zoom lens front and again, you wont be held back by its poor low light performance (when compared to full frame) as you haven't indicated that low light is a requirement.

            In photography, the best camera is the one that you will use. I have a large full frame Nikon DSLR and an assortment of lenses that sit on a shelf, while my Fuji X100 slips in my jacket pocket and goes everywhere.

            Enjoy learning, it is great, and there will always be another lens on your wish list, regardless of system.


              @CatseyeHardcast: Thank You for your insight! I looked up the Fuji x100 and like the form factor and its something that I'm honestly looking for. Something that's highly portable and allows me to change lenses as I progress in this space. Are there any other cameras with a similar form factor as the X100 that you'd recommend? Something that's a bit cheaper?


                @Knocks1: Oh sorry. I wasn't recommending the Fuji x100 for you. It is a fixed lens, not good for sports photography. I was just using it as an example of finding a camera that works for you.

                If you want to go the fuji system I suggest their new X-S10

                Although you would still need to spend extra on sports glass, you would have a new tech, portable, interchangeable lens camera for under your budget.


                @Knocks1: Have a look at the Sony rx100 line or Sony zv-1


    4K video and sports photography good enough for commercial use completely changes things! I'm not big in the world of video, but I know it requires research as there are lots of traps with codecs, frame rate limitations, quality of autofocus etc.


    4K video throws a spanner into the decision. Otherwise, if you want to experiment, have a play around with everything, it's hard to beat a Canon DSLR, they're absolutely everywhere (2nd hand), if you have some eBay patience, cameras and a wealth of lenses can be had for way lower than any other interchangeable lenses from the counterparts of Nikon/Sony/etc, there's just no comparison. And when and if you do come the time to sell it, you don't lose much if anything either.

    I've been taking photos for 15yrs, gone through all the phases, best thing I can tell my younger self is get a camera and a lens and go and click away, early on I took a photo which, to this day, remains one of my most favourite photos ever, and the camera + lens combo that produced it would cost less than a tank of gas money today. No one in their right mind is pixel peeping when you're showing them the photo. Spend the money, or, youtube/whatever, on learning, go buy books or look up photographers that inspires you, that is the single thing that'll make you grow most, equipments, don't make a photographer.