what camera to buy

As a professional photographer and teacher of photography for several years now, I often get asked what is the best camera to buy.  Asking what camera you should purchase is a little like asking what shoes you should buy.  Are you at a beach in Miami or hiking in the mountains in Colorado?  Each camera has advantages and disadvantages that may or may not be best suited to your use.  But hopefully this post might help you narrow your choices a bit.  This does contain some affiliate links but please know that if I wouldn’t recommend these items to my best friend or my mom, I would never recommend them to you either.

The first thing I want to say is that you may not need a new camera at all.  It’s very possible you would be better off purchasing a new lens, external flash, or simply taking a photography class like the one I offer here.  I’ve seen many people get frustrated with the level of photos they are currently capturing but don’t realize that they haven’t maxed out the potential on their own camera yet.  I am always a big proponent of saving money when possible and this can be a big one.  Sometimes a $200 lens will get you further than a $2000 camera body.  Cameras and their accessories are pricey as we well know…so hopefully, I can help you get the best bang for your buck.  I will be writing a follow up article on lenses and external flashes so stay tuned if you need help with those items as well.

The Good (Point and Shoot Cameras)

Point and shoot cameras are made to do just that–point at your subject and shoot.  They are not as fancy as other types but they certainly get the job done.  The biggest downside to a point and shoot camera is the lack of control they offer.  Once you learn the camera you typically can’t add a lens or flash to improve upon the camera as you can with other types.  That said, they are compact, handy, and all some people prefer so I can’t leave them out.

One of the best point and shoot cameras is the Sony DSC-RX100/B 20.2 MP Exmor CMOS Sensor Digital Camera with 3.6x Zoom.  It is rather pricey for this type of camera but the image quality is fantastic.  There are some bells and whistles that other cameras might have that the Sony DSC-RX100 doesn’t have such as Wi-Fi but for those who want a camera that’s easy to use and produces amazing photos, this may be the best choice for you.  Pros: Easy, Amazing Image Quality Cons: Pricey for a Point and Shoot

Another point and shoot that may be the camera for you, especially if you need to photograph subjects at a distance, is the Panasonic DMC-ZS40S Digital Camera with 3.0-Inch LCD.  Hobbyists who want to capture wildlife, sporting events, or anything a little further away will love the amazing 30X zoom that this camera offers.  However, keep in mind that this camera works best when there is plenty of light to work with.  For instance, it’s great for zooming in on your daughter at her soccer game but not phenomenal at capturing her in a fairly dark dance studio.  Pros: Huge Zoom Capabilities, Great Price Cons: Works Best with Lots of Light.  (There are better options for low light situations.)

The final point and shoot for you to consider is the Canon PowerShot G16 Digital Camera w/ 12.1 MP 1/1.7 Inch Sensor & Wi-Fi Enabled.  This PowerShot does not have the zoom capabilities of the Panasonic above but it is pretty good in low light situations.  The body is not as compact as some others but it makes up for its larger size with its functionality.  You can learn to control many aspects of the camera to get the best images possible.  The aperture opens to a surprising 1.8 (helping produce that pretty background blur people are often looking to create, although a good SLR will beat any point and shoot for that purpose.) Pros: Good all Around Camera Cons: Larger Body

The Better (Entry Level DSLR Cameras)

An DSLR or Digital Single-Lens Reflex Camera allows you to view exactly what your lens views.  With a point and shoot, the viewfinder is slightly above the lens and results in a slightly different scene.  More importantly to most people, a DSLR allows you to change lenses (having different lenses for different functions such as low light or zooming).  And perhaps most helpful to parents is the ability to take photos quickly before your little one moves since DSLR’s don’t struggle with the same lag time as their point and shoot cousins.

Since you need a body and at least once lens to get started, I am including cameras that come with one lens or more.  These are referred to as “kit lenses” since they are bundled together with the camera body in a kit.  The kit lenses are not the best lenses on the market and if you know a bit about them, you may be better off purchasing the lens separately from the body to get the best quality for your money.  However, the kits lenses are a good place to start.

The Nikon D3200 24.2 MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera is a wonderful entry level DSLR that takes high quality images at a great price.  This kit includes two lenses that give you a good range of wide angle and zoom all for under $400.  It’s difficult to find this quality for much less but the low price is a trade off for some missing features of other DSLRs on the market.  Pros: Great Price, Great Quality Cons: Missing Some (Unessential) Functions

Another option to consider is the Canon EOS Rebel T6i Digital SLR Camera (also called the Canon 750D) especially if you already have a Canon lens or two.  The price is higher that the Nikon above and the quality may not be quite as good but it is user friendly and has more features.  Pros: User Friendly, Best if Already Canon User Cons: Older Sensor with Image Quality a Little Below the Competition

The Best (High End DSLRs)

If you are looking for an almost pro/pro level DSLR here are two to consider.  Please keep in mind that these cameras will only get you as far as your camera knowledge.  They are great tools but only work to their potential in the hands of a competent user.  If you are just starting to learn, my advice would be to check out the entry level cameras above and practice until you’ve mastered them.

Neither of the following include a kit lens but there are countless lens options to choose from and it’s wisest to choose the best lens for your particular subject.

My next camera purchase will likely be a Nikon D750 FX-format Camera.  They are great in low light situations, offer quality images, and include video as well.  Add a couple good Nikon lenses, and you could photograph anything from a low lit dance recital to a fast paced track event.  Pros: Great in Low Light, Video Cons: Phone App Lacking

Last, but certainly not least, is the Canon EOS 5D Mark III 22.3 MP Full Frame Camera.  The camera has high reviews for it’s design, features, and performance.  The main drawback seems to be the quality at low ISO settings. Pros: A Great Camera for Any Situation, Design & Features Cons: Lower Quality Images (specifically when shooting JPGs at low ISO settings)

(You could also consider picking up the older model Canon EOS 5D Mark II Full Frame DSLR Camera to save some money and still get great quality since not that much was changed from the Mark II to the Mark III.)

This is in no way an exhaustive list but I hope it’s enough to get you started.  Leave a comment below if you have any questions or other cameras you love.