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NOT a stupid question: What are good cameras for photography?

(Image credit: Alis Volat)

"What are good cameras for photography?" It's a question I get asked all the time, in various shapes and forms. 

It may sound like a strange one, to the ear of a seasoned photographer, but bear in mind that most people have never used an actual camera before – with smartphones producing such great photos, the public at large has never had to concern themselves with the question of what are good cameras for photography. 

Now consider the vast and overwhelming array of cameras that are out there – point-and-shoots, mirrorless cameras, DSLRs, 360 cameras, action cams, drones, instant cameras and so on – and you can see how confusing and chaotic it must be for a newcomer to find the camera that's right for them.

To answer the question of what are good cameras for photography, we first have to establish what kind of photography you're interested in. It's no good somebody recommending a Polaroid film camera if you want to take photos underwater! Our guide to the best cameras for photography (opens in new tab) has some great recommendations, but in general terms…

What are good cameras for photography?

Simple and affordable
If you just want something user-friendly, quick and cheap, have a look at the best point and shoot cameras (opens in new tab). These don't cost a lot, they come with zoom lenses and they have simple controls that almost anyone can master. Personally I own the Olympus Tough TG-6 (opens in new tab), but the Sony RX100 VII (opens in new tab) is hard to beat.

Instant film / Polaroids
What about an instant camera? Even the best instant cameras (opens in new tab) aren't very expensive and, with few buttons to confuse things, they are super simple, and a whole lot of fun. They can also be the best cameras for kids, as they are cheap to buy and easy to handle. My favorites are the Polaroid Now+ (opens in new tab) and Polaroid Go (opens in new tab).

Just beginning
If you're just getting started in photography but keen to learn, check out the best cameras for beginners (opens in new tab) – they're simple enough for a novice to pick up and use, but powerful enough to grow with you as you try out more advanced techniques. I'd recommend something like the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV (opens in new tab), or even the insanely versatile Nikon P1000 (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: James Artaius)

Party pictures
Everyone has a phone these days, but events like unplugged weddings are becoming ever more popular – along with social gatherings where instant photographs can be shot and shared. I love using the Instax Mini 11 (opens in new tab) for these kinds of things, or even one of the best disposable cameras (opens in new tab) for the full throwback feel.

Travel and content creation
Are you into travel photography and vlogging? Some of the best cameras for travel (opens in new tab) are mirrorless, but have you considered an action camera (below) or even one of the best cameras for vlogging (opens in new tab) – the ones that content creators turn to for all-in-one shooting on the go? I take the Olympus PEN E-P7 (opens in new tab) or Canon EOS M50 Mark II (opens in new tab) in my travel bag.

All action
Action cameras are a great way to get started. The best GoPro cameras (opens in new tab) ignited the whole adventure photography genre, but there are some very exciting new technologies that include 360 imaging and pocket-sized gimbal cameras for super-smooth action sequences. The best 360 cameras (opens in new tab) can capture VR video and stills with no more than the press of a button to give you a totally new perspective. 

Sky high
Speaking of perspective, why not try out one of the best camera drones (opens in new tab)? With automated take off and landing, automated flight controls and programmed flights, most are really simple, even for novices.

Read more: 

Best DSLRs
(opens in new tab)
Best mirrorless cameras
(opens in new tab)
Best film cameras
(opens in new tab)
Best Canon cameras
(opens in new tab)
Best Nikon cameras
(opens in new tab)
Best Sony cameras
(opens in new tab)
Best Fujifilm cameras
(opens in new tab)
Best Olympus cameras (OM System)
(opens in new tab)
Best Panasonic cameras (opens in new tab)

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The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a magazine and web journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients as diverse as Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photographic and lighting tutorials, as well as industry analysis, news and rumors for publications such as Digital Camera Magazine (opens in new tab)PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine (opens in new tab)N-Photo: The Nikon Magazine (opens in new tab)Digital Photographer (opens in new tab) and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and demonstrations at The Photography Show (opens in new tab). An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.