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Best Student Digital Camera
Best student camera: top gear for school and college photography courses
By Hannah Rooke published January 12, 2022
(Image credit: Getty Images)
Some schools or colleges will tell you what camera to buy so that it’s easy to teach students on the same system and will often have a range of lenses they can lend out. Chances are if you’re looking for a camera to use on a university course, you will have more freedom in what to buy. If you’re just starting out at school or college, a basic APS-C camera body will be a sensible, affordable option but if you’re starting a course at university you might want to think about something that will last the full three or four years.
We’ve included a range of cameras to suit any budget starting from the best beginner DSLR’S to mirrorless systems that even professionals use. Most students won’t need a camera costing thousands of pounds but will still need a ‘proper camera’ to pick up the basics and help complete assignments.
The cameras included are a great way of learning the basics of photography, especially if you have never done it much before. Most of them will also shoot video which is especially handy if you’re studying a multimedia subject. If you’re studying a filmmaking course, check out our guide on the best camera for film students or the best cameras for 4K video which include cameras with more advanced video features.
With DSLR sales decreasing and mirrorless cameras on the rise, it might be worth opting for the latter so that you future-proof your purchase. Mirrorless cameras on the whole are smaller, lighter and possibly less daunting for beginners as they show exposure and such in camera. They can however be more expensive and as they haven’t been around for so long, don’t have as many lens options although that is quickly changing. The advantage of buying a DSLR is that there are more lenses available cheaper in the second-hand market which is a great way of expanding your kit on a budget.
Some students will also want to try out film and darkroom photography as part of their course – so may additionally want to check out our guides to the best film cameras and darkroom equipment around right now (most of which have to be bought secondhand).
With all of the above in mind, here we’re examining what we reckon are the best student cameras…
The best student cameras in 2021…
1. Nikon D3500
One of the best entry-level cameras you can buy which makes it ideal for students
Type: DSLRSensor: APS-C CMOS Megapixels: 24.78MPScreen: 3-inch LCD, fixed, 921K-dot resolution Viewfinder: Optical TTLLens mount: Nikon F, DX format Autofocus: 11 phase detection focus points with one cross-type sensor Maximum stills burst speed: 5fpsVideo resolution: Full HD 1920×1080 at up to 59.94fpsUser level: Beginner TODAY’S BEST DEALSVIEW AT AMAZON View at Amazon View at Amazon See all prices (5 found)
REASONS TO BUY
+Affordable and approachable+Responsive auto focus+Lots of compatible lenses
REASONS TO AVOID
-Fixed rear screen-No 4K video option
Described by us as one of the best, most affordable and moreover lightest DSLRs you can buy, in offering an impressive 1550 shot battery life, a 24MP APS-C sensor, Full HD video, built-in mono microphone and fixed 3-inch LCD on the backplate, Nikon’s D3500 very much ticks the right boxes for student photographers seeking to embrace a system that additionally has the support of a multitude of lenses and accessories. Yes, we don’t get 4K video here or Wi-Fi connectivity, unfortunately, but we can capture Full HD video to just shy of 50fps. Other pluses include a decent grip and redesigned button layout at the rear, which makes the Nikon D3500 easy to handle and avoids accidental button presses. Overall the camera’s performance is responsive and its images are well exposed, vibrant and sharp. As with the Canon EF lens system, Nikon F-mount lenses are widely available at sensible prices. No wonder we concluded this was the best budget DSLR for beginners when we first tested it. Advertisement
• Read more: Nikon D3500 review | Nikon D3500 vs D3400(Image credit: Canon)
2. Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D
A budget camera with 4K video recording
Type: DSLRSensor: APS-C CMOS Megapixels: 24.1MPScreen: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,040,000K dots Viewfinder: Optical TTLLens mount: Canon EF-S Autofocus: 9-point phase detection Maximum stills burst speed: 5fpsVideo resolution: 4K UHD at up to 24 fps User level: Beginner TODAY’S BEST DEALS VIEW AT AMAON
REASONS TO BUY
+Compact and lightweight for a DSLR+Variable angle touch screen LCD+Great system of lenses and accessories
REASONS TO AVOID
-Still bigger than mirrorless rivals
We rate the Canon EOS Rebel SL3 (known as the EOS 250D in Europe) as one of the best beginner-targeted interchangeable lens cameras ever. A boast for sure, but a quick look at its up-to-the-minute spec – including latest Digic 8 processor, Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, flip out and twist LCD screen and 4K video capture for the first time at this price – provides a quick indication of why; and that’s without even mentioning access to the most comprehensive lens line-up in the business, providing first time users with plenty of growing space. Also impressing us here is battery life in delivering a sizable 1,070 images at full charge. Good handling, operation, decent image quality and responsive touch screen add up to make this one a very capable all-rounder. Canon lenses and accessories for the EOS system are easy to find, and affordable, making this a great system for any student of photography (Image credit: Sony A7 III)
3. Sony A7 III
A full-frame mirrorless camera that offers excellent video and in-body stabilization
Type: Mirrorless Sensor: Full-frame CMOS Megapixels: 24.3MPScreen: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,228,800 dots Viewfinder: 0.5in-type, electronic EVF, 2.4m dots Lens mount: Sony EAutofocus: 693 -point phase detection Maximum stills burst speed: 10fpsVideo resolution: 4K at 30fpsUser level: Enthusiast TODAY’S BEST DEALS
REASONS TO BUY
+In-body image stabilization+Eye AF+4K video at 30fps
REASONS TO AVOID
-Poor quality viewfinder
Although this has now been superseded by the Sony A7 IV, for the price and features, you’re definitely getting a lot for your money. Since it was launched in 2018, it’s been a popular choice among professional photographers and now that the price has dropped, it’s also a great option for anyone looking to study photography. With a 24.2 MP full-frame sensor, it’s capable of producing high-quality images and performs really well in low light thanks to its 14 stops of dynamic range. If you’re likely to need a camera that also shoots professional-looking video, the A7 III can shoot in 4K UHD at up to 24/30fps or in Full HD up to 120fps which is ideal for shooting slow-motion. It has Bluetooth and wifi connectivity which is perfect for transferring images on the go, it also has a tilting screen and lots of customizable buttons so you can set it up just how you need it. The only downside is the menu system will take some getting used to, especially if you’ve come from Nikon or Canon but don’t let that put you off, after a few hours of studying you’ll start to know where everything is.
Read more: Sony A7 III review(Image credit: Nikon)
4. Nikon D850
Best professional DSLR for advanced students
Type: DSLR Sensor: Full frame (FX format) CMOS Megapixels: 45.7MPScreen: 3.2-inch tilting touch screen LCD, 2,359K-dot resolution Viewfinder: Optical TTL Lens mount: Nikon F, FX format Autofocus: 153 point phase detection focus points with 99 cross-type Maximum stills burst speed: 9fpsVideo resolution: 4K UHD including 4K time lapse User level: Professional TODAY’S BEST DEALS
REASONS TO BUY
+Very impressive detail+4K full-frame video capture+Professional build
REASONS TO AVOID
-Need to invest in swift memory cards to cope with its data demands
This is still quite possibly one of the best DSLRs ever made, despite it being four years old now. The advantage of its age is that is has dropped massively in price and wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for a student looking for a camera that will take them well beyond the course. It certainly isn’t a beginner’s DSLR but if you can get to grips with this you’ll reap the rewards with your imagery. It has a super responsive autofocus system, it can shoot 4K video and has a continuous burst mode up to 9fps. It’s an extremely versatile bit of kit suited to anything from commercial fashion, to landscapes or wildlife photography. It is perhaps a little on the large size for street photography but if you’re not bothered about weight or being particularly discrete, it could be used for that too! The large battery means it can take up to 1,840 shots on a single charge which is more than double what most mirrorless cameras can do. It combines speed and high resolution making the Nikon D850 a jaw dropping-ly good camera. If you’re still not convinced, check out our D850 review. (Image credit: Fujifilm)
5. Fujifilm X-S10
A budget friendly X-series camera with in-body stabilization
Type: MirrorlessSensor: APS-C CMOSMegapixels: 26.1MPScreen: 3-inch, vari-angle touch screen, 1.04M dot resolutionViewfinder: 2360k dotsLens mount: Fujifilm X mountAutofocus: 117 selectable AF pointsMaximum stills burst speed: 8fpsVideo resolution: 4K at up to 30fpsUser level: Beginner – intermediateToday’s best Fujifilm X-S10 deals
US$1,599VIEWWe check over 250 million products every day for the best prices
REASONS TO BUY
+Great image quality+Large high resolution LCD+Great for vlogging
REASONS TO AVOID
-No eye level viewfinder-No body integral anti shake
Unlike the more top-end X series cameras, the Fujifilm X-S10 doesn’t include as many external exposure control dials but considering its weight and build quality, we can let that slide. The Fujifilm X-S10 is the ultimate all-rounder with IBIS (in-body stabilization), a fully-articulated screen and excellent handling. Some Fujifilm users may be disappointed to find out the shutter speed button has been replaced with a mode dial but this camera has so many other appealing qualities it shouldn’t matter too much. The Fujifilm X-S10 might just be the best APS-C camera on the market right now in terms of performance, build quality, and price point which is why we think it’s a great option for students. There are also plenty of official Fujifilm lenses and third-party lenses to choose from so no matter what style of photography you want to shoot you’ll have lots of options. (Image credit: Canon)
6. Canon EOS Rebel T100 / EOS 4000D
The cheapest sensible student camera around
Type: DSLR Sensor: APS-C CMOS Megapixels: 24.1MPScreen: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,040,000K dots Viewfinder: Optical TTL Lens mount: Canon EF-S Auto focus: 9-point phase detection Maximum stills burst speed: 5fpsVideo resolution: 4K UHD at up to 24 fps User level: Beginner TODAY’S BEST DEALS View at Amazon
REASONS TO BUY
+Easy to use+Keenly priced+Lots of compatible lenses and accesssories
REASONS TO AVOID
-‘Just’ 3fps burst shooting-Plastic-feel finish and lens mount
A 18MP starter DSLR boasting Wi-Fi connectivity and Full HD video capture, the Canon EOS Rebel T100 (aka EOS 4000D) may not offer the very latest tech for its budget price – its 9-point AF system and small 2.7-inch LCD are fairly dated, for example – but it’s a decent place for those at High School to begin learning the photographic ropes (and a sensible choice for those studying GCSE and ‘A’ level photography in the UK) . If you can overlook the plastic-y feel then the button layout is logical and easy for the first time user to navigate.
The AF system is fine for general shooting with fairly static subjects, but can struggle in more challenging scenarios. However the 63 zone dual layer metering sensor linked to all AF points fares better and a 500 shot battery life is fair, if unremarkable. While not the best in class, the Canon’s JPEG files deliver pleasing colors and a range if Picture Styles is offered to enable fledgling users to get creative from the off. A cautious choice for parents who don’t want to blow their children’s inheritance.
7. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
Now five years old, the Canon 5D IV still stands its ground even among professionals
Type: DSLR Sensor: Full-frame Megapixels: 30.4MPLens mount: Canon EFLCD: 3.2in touchscreen, 1.62million dots Viewfinder: Optical Maximum continuous shooting speed: 7fpsMax video resolution: 4KUser level: Professional TODAY’S BEST DEALS View at Amazon
View at Amazon See all prices (11 found)
REASONS TO BUY
+Professional spec DSLR+Responsive touchscreen+Impressive live-view AF
REASONS TO AVOID
-4K video crop-Middle of the road resolution
The EOS 5D series is one of the most popular professional cameras of the modern era – and the current Mark IV model is a great choice for the advanced student, look for a pro-spec full-frame camerea. On paper, the EOS 5D Mark IV looks a distinct second best to rival cameras with higher resolutions, faster frame rates and better 4K video features – the EOS 5D Mark IV applies a heavy 4K video crop that makes ‘wide’ shots more difficult. Nevertheless, the 5D Mark IV has proved itself a very effective, durable and versatile camera for countless professional photographers, and its Dual Pixel AF technology gives it a peppy autofocus performance in live view and video modes. This camera was launched way back in 2016, so it is quite possible to find attractively priced second versions.
US$699VIEWSee all prices
Canon EOS 250D
US$699VIEWSee all prices
Sony Alpha A7 III
US$1,998VIEWSee all prices
US$2,996.95VIEWSee all prices
Canon EOS 4000D with 18-55mm lens
US$491.99 VIEW See all prices
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
4 Best Cameras For College Students (Affordable)
The reason why a camera for a college student should be inexpensive is twofold.
1. First, students are prone to changing their minds and switching creative hobbies every couple of months. That’s why you don’t want to spend a fortune on something that you won’t use regularly.
2. The second reason is that students tend to travel around a lot. If you decide to buy a pricey camera, it’s going to be a disaster if it gets lost accidentally or if it’s stolen
1. Canon M50
Fast and Accurate Auto-focus
Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Vlogging Camera Kit$595.00
Capture and stream stunning photos and videos with this baby! With vari-angle touchscreen LCD for reviewing your work. Buy Now
Canon M50 is a fantastic and inexpensive mirrorless camera perfect for an entry-level photographer. This is the camera I bought after spending hours and hours on research, and I’m delighted with my experience.
First, it shows you that a great camera doesn’t have to cost over $1,000. Second, it’s versatile because you can use it both to take amazing pictures and videos in a 4K quality.
This item is fantastic, especially if you’re interested in recording video because it has all the features you need to get you started. It has a mic input so you can record sound easily by plugging in a lavalier mic.
Next, you can flip the LED screen and see your face when recording, which is super helpful. There is also a hot shoe where you can place an LED lamp to add luminosity to the scene.
2. Panasonic Lumix G7
6 Items Bundle
Panasonic LUMIX G7 Digital Camera with Microphone Accessories$649.99
Accessories that come with the camera are a Koah on-camera microphone, padded backpack, spider tripod, memory card, and replacement battery.
Here’s another excellent camera that won’t break the bank. It will provide you with a smooth experience and high-quality images.
This is the main competitor of Canon M50 and there is a raging debate online about which camera is better (I’m tilting slightly towards an M50).
But this Panasonic is also a great choice because you can get it for a fraction of the price you would pay for a high-end camera. It’s an excellent choice for a college student who’s starting in the photography world and doesn’t need professional gear yet.
Another thing that makes this the right choice is that for the price, you will get a whole kit. It consists of the camera (of course), a backpack, a 32 GB memory card, a small tripod, and a Rode microphone you can put on top if you want to record a video.
That’s great because for much less than a grand you already have full-package photography equipment so you won’t have to spend much more on extras.
The camera has a 16 MP sensor that operates like the larger sensors you can find in traditional DSLR cameras. It also has a great autofocus feature, allowing you to take amazing pictures without tinkering with the features too much.
Again, it’s a 4K camera that allows you to capture images in ultra-high resolution. That’s a feature that won’t become outdated for at least a couple of years.
The camera is also quite small, so it’s easy to take it with you on the road without attracting too much attention. Overall, it’s a versatile piece of equipment that will be perfect for both a budding photographer and a videographer.
3. Sony A6400
Multiple Movie-Making Functions
Sony Alpha a6400 Mirrorless Digital Camera$1,364.81
Customizable for taking still photos, making movies, or vlogging. Great for school projects, Instagram posts, blog entries, and more.
This is another great camera, this time a little bit more on the expensive side. (Although in the photography world the word “expensive” is relative and that’s still considered a mid-range camera).
It’s an item you would want to get if you already had a semi-pro camera before and now you want to take your craft to the next level.
This is a tool of choice for many videographers as it offers crisp 4k video quality. The camera is a bit bulkier than the first two items on this list. But it’s still quite easy to handle, and it’s not heavy so you can use it for a long time if needed. The grip is a bit larger, so you feel like you have pro equipment in your hands.
It also has a cool autofocus feature called A9 Tracking Touch Screen Focus Pull. Basically, you tap on the LED screen to let the camera know where you want to focus to be (but at a much higher level than on your phone). This works both for photography and video.
The camera has a single slot for the battery and the SD memory card. Unfortunately, the battery doesn’t last for too long, so you’ll need one or two replacements if you’re out to shoot for the whole day. But for the general use, it should last at least for a couple of hours so no worries there.
It also has a flip screen that allows you to see yourself while filming. But it comes out on top of the camera, so if you’re also using a mic or an LED light on top, this is going to obscure your view.
In cameras, like Canon M50 and Lumix G7, the flip screen comes out on the side, which is much better in my opinion.
All in all, it’s a neat mid-range camera that becomes better and better with each new iteration.
4. Canon EOS Rebel SL2
Wi-fi Enabled DSLR
Canon EOS Rebel SL2 DSLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm STM Lens$590.00
Create stunning photographs like a real pro! Dual pixel, with built-in Wifi-, Bluetooth, and NFC technology.
Here’s another fantastic product from Canon, which is quite affordable. It’s one of the top choices for students, and it’s great to have it as your first “real camera.”
It has all the bells and whistles you would expect from a mid-range camera. It will allow you to experiment with many different creative features, especially if you’re into videography.
It has a 24.2-megapixel sensor with an amazingly accurate dual-pixel autofocus. That’s one of the top features to look for because it will allow you to take fantastic images without drilling into the advanced features.
And believe me, this camera is so feature-rich that it will take you at least a couple of weeks to master the available options. That’s a good thing because then you can take these skills and apply them in different scenarios, especially if you want to upgrade to a more expensive model in the future.
This camera is one of the favorites of many famous YouTubers as it also has a 3 inch LCD flip screen, a built-in Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as an external microphone input.
These features make it a perfect choice if you’re into video and interviews. The touch screen is super responsive, and you can flip it around any way you want, which adds to the awesomeness of this camera.
This item is also really light (it weighs less than 1 pound) and not bulky at all, so you can pack it in your backpack and take it on the road. That’s perfect if the student on the receiving end is into travel and adventure.