Chances are that if you landed on this page, then you're probably a photography enthusiast or a #photographylover.
No doubt the art of making images and creating content is also one of the world's most popular hobbies! In this article, I'll be reviewing the best Sony cameras for beginners!
My name is Ali G and I am a professional photographer based in Hong Kong. I have been running photography and social media workshops for many years. Over this time, I have helped many students to master their first camera, and I must say that Sony cameras have been increasing more and more in popularity!
Personally, I believe that the Sony Alpha a6100 can be classified as the best overall sony camera for beginners. It is a high value for money option loaded with lots of nice features, very fast autofocus, and it can also record 4K video.
I will also discuss and review other high-quality options suitable for different needs so you can easily find the one matching your preference the most.
Ready to rock the photography and vlogging world together? Just keep reading!
- Sony Alpha a6100 (Best overall)
- Sony Alpha a7R II (Runner Up)
- Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX80 (Best for compact travel photography)
- Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX400V (Best point and shoot)
- Sony ZV-1 (Best for Vlogging)
Top 5 Sony Cameras for Beginners
Here are my top 5 picks of sony cameras for beginners and their detailed reviews.
- Key features: a high-resolution sensor for detailed captures, 4K video capabilities, superb continuous shooting speed, advanced autofocusing system
- 24.2-MP APS-C sensor captures a lot of detail in your images
- 4K video recording gives you excellent crisp detailed footages
- The 4D focus system is the best among entry-level mirrorless systems
- 11 fps continuous shooting speed means you got the best in terms of continuous shooting
- Best for: Overall
Sony does best in the mirrorless market. They have been the undisputed leader of the mirrorless segment for several years now. Thanks to their early start and their cutting-edge technology, they focused on developing high-quality cameras.
Between the a6100 and the a6000, I put my money on the a6100. In fact, I have also recommended Sony Alpha as one of the most user-friendly mirrorless cameras for beginners.
Although there are better and higher-priced cameras in the same series, I feel that the a6100 sums up what the best beginner mirrorless camera should be. It gives the best value for your money.
The a6100 is powered by a 24.2-MP APS-C Exmor CMOS sensor and paired with a BIONZ X image processor. Please note the cameras that we have listed thus far are all small sensor-powered and have no more than 1/2.3-inch sensor size.
This is the first camera on the list that has an APS-C sensor. Side by side the a6100 offers better light gathering capabilities, better noise handling, and better dynamic range at high ISOs.
Plus, you get a 4K video shooting option!
The a6100 offers 4K video at 30p and Full HD at 120p. If you want to shoot slow-motion videos, the a6100 is a great camera you can try out.
The other major features of the camera include an 11-fps continuous shooting speed for stills. This is the sort of camera you can use for shooting fast action, sports, and wildlife (especially birds). For that, you should pair this camera with a fast lens so you can get the most out of it.
Sony has an entire range of fast Tele lenses for the E-mount camera system (the a6100 uses the E-mount) such as the Sony Alpha 16-55mm f2.8. Plus, there are great third-party lenses too including the Tamron 17-28mm f2.8!
A word should be mentioned about the a6100’s autofocus. The a6100 has what Sony calls the 4D focusing system. It is a system that comprises 425-on chip phase-detection AF points plus another 425 contrast-detection AF points.
The AF tracking system is excellent. It can detect a human eye accurately and keep focusing on it.
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- Key features: Highest resolution among all the cameras on this list, superb low light performance, 4K video capabilities, excellent autofocusing
- The 42-MP full-frame BSI sensor captures an amazing amount of detail
- The camera can capture 4K/UHD videos with a lot of detail
- 399-point phase-detection AF points fill almost all of the frame, subject tracking and focus lock is a breeze
- Best for: Runner Up for overall performance
The difference between the Sony Alpha a7 II and the Sony Alpha a7R II is just a few hundred dollars. We chose the more expensive of the two cameras because the Sony Alpha a7R II offers better resolution and better video capabilities than the Sony Alpha a7R II.
The Sony Alpha a7R II is a fully loaded camera. If you are looking for a full-frame mirrorless, this is one of the best cameras to start your photography adventures. I have recommended this as one of the great Sony camera for portrait.
The 42-megapixel CMOS full-frame sensor will give a huge amount of resolution to play around with and use. You can crop tight and still be able to produce very high-resolution images with this camera.
This has an excellent BSI sensor and thanks to that architecture, the low light capabilities of this camera are great. Dynamic range is high as well.
Paired with the sensor is the BIONZ X image processor. The base ISO range of the camera is 100 to 25600. However, I do not recommend pushing the camera that far unless you have no choice. At ISO levels of 1600-3200, there’s no compromise in quality. If you need anything beyond that, then you’re probably not a beginner and should consider an upgrade to a better mirrorless system.
Autofocusing of the camera is powered by a 399-point phase-detection AF system and 25 contrast-detection points.
There are two things that I would like to see an improvement in this camera. The first one is the 5-fps continuous shooting speed. It is on the lower side and practically makes the camera unsuitable for shooting sports or fast action and wildlife. The other is the lack of Wi-Fi. Again, not a huge deal, but it would be nice to have these.
Sony’s mirrorless systems come with in-body image stabilization (IBIS) system. The 5-axis SteadyShot image stabilization ensures that the camera can compensate for any movement of your hands while shooting.
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- Key features: Decent resolution, improved low light performance, excellent optical zoom range, good for shooting full-HD video
- The 18.2- MP back-side illuminated (BSI) Exmor R CMOS sensor captures a decent amount of detail
- The 30x optical zoom can capture birds, wildlife, and other subjects at great distances
- Captures great full HD videos
- Best for: Compact Travel Camera
The DSC-HX80 is a compact camera from the Sony stable. It is powered by a 1/2.3-inch Exmor R BSI CMOS sensor. Exmor R stands as a back-illuminated sensor design that does not use the stacked architecture.
Back-side illuminated sensors are capable of capturing an additional amount of light because the wiring is pushed to the back of the chip. Even though this sensor does not feature a stacked design, it is still more capable of handling low light situations when compared to other compact cameras.
The camera features a 5-axis image stabilization system that Sony is known for. This ensures stable recording of stills and videos when shooting hand-held.
The main USP(Unique Selling Point) of the camera is the 30x optical zoom. In 35mm format, it is the equivalent of 24mm to 720mm. This is one lens that does it all. Great for portraits, wide-angle shots, and it can even capture a tight composition of a bird perched on a tree at 100 yards.
That said, what I’m not too fond of with this camera is the maximum aperture. It only opens up to f/3.5 and then drops down to f/6.4 in the tele-end. Of course, one would expect this from such an entry-level camera.
Compact cameras like the DSC-HX80 are used for their ease of operation and very little learning curve, so considering these factors, I think this camera does a great job. It shoots sharp stills in good light. The base ISO range of the camera is 80 to 3200, though I would recommend not to push the ISO beyond 800.
The DSC-HX80 comes with a decent continuous shooting speed of 10 fps. However, the buffer fills out at about 10 frames when shooting in full resolution, but again, this is expected as a beginner’s camera.
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- Key features: Fantastic optical zoom, superb continuous shooting speed
- The 20.4-MP sensor captures a lot of detail in your photos
- 50x optical zoom gives you super telephoto reach for zooming in tight at distant subjects
- The 10 fps continuous shooting speed will never allow you to miss a moment
- Best for: Point & shoot
There is only one compact hybrid camera in the Sony line-up that is still relevant and it is the DSC-HX400V. This is a compact hybrid or also known as a bridge camera. As explained above, it is so-called because it looks like a DSLR but is a compact camera.
Under the hood, the DSC-HX400V is powered by a 1/2.3-inch Exmor R sensor that produces 20.4 MP resolution. The sensor is paired with a BIONZ X image processor.
However, the most striking feature of the camera is the 50x optical zoom of its built-in lens. In 35mm format, it is equivalent to 24mm to 1200mm. That is an incredible zoom range considering that the lens is attached to a compact body! If you had to buy that much focal length for a regular DSLR camera, you would have to spend upwards of several thousand dollars.
At its widest focal length, the lens offers an aperture of f/2.8. At its longest end, it offers an aperture of f/6.3.
The base ISO of the camera is 80 to 3200, which is more than enough for beginner photographers. I do feel the effective ISO at which the camera will perform well and produce usable images is ISO 800.
Just like the DSC-HX80 above, the DSC-HX400V also shoots at a continuous shooting rate of 10 fps. And just like the other camera, the buffer fills out after 10 frames. Therefore, you have to pause between the bursts so that the camera has time to write the images onto the memory card and clear the buffer.
I feel the biggest selling point and attraction of the DSC-HX400V is the convenience of being able to point and click. Users of bridge (hybrid) cameras are not interested in manual shooting, nor do they wish to get a deeper understanding of how exposure works.
For these users, the DSC-HX400V comes with a bunch of pre-set shooting options. You can choose from beach, fireworks, food, handheld night, landscape, and other shooting modes to easily make well-exposed and sharp photos.
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- Key features: Back-side illuminated sensor, built-in wide-zoom lens, 4K/UHD video capabilities, advanced video features for experienced users
- The built-in lens has a 35mm format equivalent focal length of 24-70mm giving you the necessary coverage for vlogging
- Maximum aperture of f/1.8 in the built-in lens can be used for shallow depth of field
- UHD/4K video capabilities mean you can capture high-quality videos with lots of detail
- Best for: Vlogging
The Sony ZV-1 is a personal favorite when it comes to shooting videos with a compact camera. There are only a few cameras that are especially designed for vlogging and the Sony ZV-1 is one of them.
If you are a budding vlogger you don’t have to look beyond the ZV-1. It has everything that you need and you have room to grow into it. This is also my most recommended camera for travel vlogging.
This purpose-built camera for vlogging is powered by a 20.1-MP 1-inch Exmor RS stacked CMOS sensor. Stacked RS sensors are superb in their low light capabilities and the ZV-1 offers an excellent low light dynamic range.
The built-in lens offers a 35mm format equivalent focal length of 24-70mm. Ideally, for vlogging purposes that is the best focal length. Add to that the maximum aperture range is between f/1.8 and f/2.8. With wide apertures like these, you can achieve a shallow depth of field in your videos or as mainstream content creators call it, 'a blurry background'.
The camera also features an Active SteadyShot image stabilization feature, which is great when you're on the move!
One of the main features required by vloggers is the ability of the camera’s LCD screen to flip out and face forward and the ZV-1 is a great camera in that regard. The 3-inch screen flips out to the front and offers a resolution of 921.6k-dots.
In terms of video shooting, you get 4K/UHD videos at 30/24 fps. There is a built-in 3-capsule microphone built-in with a windscreen as well, plus you can also mount an external microphone for better audio quality.
Autofocusing performance of the ZV-1 is impressive. The camera offers both real-time Eye AF and real-time Tracking for faster focus lock and better focus retention.
Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth ensure that any image that you click automatically gets displayed on your connected device. You can even use your connected device to work as a remote control for your ZV-1.
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Photography Tips for Beginners
I have written several articles for beginners so you can master this amazing art quicker, check on the related topics for some pro tips:
- Food Photography Tips for Beginner
- Mobile Photography Tips
- Newborn Photography Tips
- Wedding Photography Tips - How to Communicate with Photographer
I have recommended the very best Sony cameras for beginners in the current market and the best overall pick is the Sony Alpha a6100.
It is a fast all-rounder camera that is capable to capture 4K videos, comes with high resolution and a great autofocusing function.
Think about what sort of photos and content you love to make and simply select the corresponding camera, all the recommended cameras can grow with you.
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A big thanks to Phottix for the professional lighting equipment provided to Ali G Studios.
All photos are © Ali Ghorbani and Ali G Studios
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