As a photographer, I get asked often by friends, family and clients about what camera they should buy. I always feel like it's such a loaded question because it really depends on many factors. How involved do you want to be? Do you just want to point and click or are you actually going to read the manual and learn all the technical aspects of using a camera. Are you wanting to have control and make technical decisions or are you an Auto kind of person? Oh, and then there's an even bigger question, what is your budget?
Another question I get asked often is how many mega pixels do I need? Most cameras today have at least 10MP and some are even in the 20's now. I had a photography professor once tell me anything over about 12 is essentially over kill for most consumers. You won't be printing images on bill boards. After that 12MP range, your quality is coming from your glass (Lens). That's one reason why pro lenses are so expensive. Again, for the everyday consumer, you don't need a crazy number of mega pixels.
So I'd like to put down some recommendations for the everyday consumer that hopefully helps you get started when you are considering a camera purchase. This can help whether you are wanting a camera for a trip or for your child's soccer games. If you consider yourself an amateur or wanting to invest in pro grade gear, please e-mail me because it's a whole separate discussion. :-)
People also frequently ask me about brands. Personally I am a Canon girl, however I have worked a lot with Nikon equipment as well and was happy with them also. I usually stay within these two brands when I'm recommending because I've personally used their products for years.
Let's start on the simple end and work our way up (this will also be least expensive to most expensive).
The Point and Shoot. How do you know if this is the right choice for you?
If you like the ease of something compact (like your trusty iPhone) that you can keep in your pocket or purse, this could be your winner. Why add this camera to your phone camera you may ask? If you take an obsessive amount of photos and never have enough room on your phone having a point and shoot with extra cards solves all your problems. Also, the print quality will be better. These can be great for family vacations or trips to the park with your kids. They don't take up a lot of space and are light and won't add to what you already lug around daily.
Technology has come so far in the last 15 years for digital cameras. You don't really need to know anything about photography to take decent images with a point and shoot. You can put it in Auto and in certain lighting situations it will be smarter than you.
What are the downsides? If you are really wanting to learn about photography and how to really use a camera, this isn't where to start. It won't have a lot of manual controls where you can learns the technical aspects of photography well.
I wouldn't recommend this route if you are wanting to photograph your kids playing sports and capture the action from afar. This isn't what I'd recommend for sports.
Here's a point and shoot I'd recommend (again there are many on the market that are great, this is simply and example):
Nikon COOLPIX S7000, Price: $276.95
Product highlights: 16MP Nikkor f/3.4-6.5 20x Optical Zoom lens, Full HD 1080p Video at 30fps, Wi-Fi and NFC Technology, ISO 6400 and 9.2 fps Continuous Shooting, 18 scene modes, Target Finding AF
Interesting features: has Wi-FI and NFC connectivity pair with Nikon snap bridge, allowing you to easily send images from the S7000 to your compatible smart device, and from there share on your social media sites.
Ok, let's step up our game a bit and talk about some DSLRs.
Along with having great Auto features, these also have all the manual controls and lens options. And, you actually get to look through the camera!! When purchasing these you will have the ability to buy just the body of the camera and add what lens/lenses you prefer. There are package kits available also.
These are great if you have a bit more interest in photography and take more time making your images while at the zoo or on vacation. You have the ability to learn the techniques with these cameras.
They will take up more space and need their own bag but you will have more options available to you with choices of wide angle and better quality zoom lenses.
If you enjoy photography but aren't ready or sure if you want to upgrade to pro-grade equipment, I'd recommend starting here.
DSLRs are great to take on that big Alaskan cruise or to your child's soccer game or recital. I do recommend reading your manual front to back, it will be a great introduction to your new purchase!
Here are two great choices:
Nikon D3200 DSLR Camera with a 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR Lens
Product Highlights: 24.2 MP DX-Format CMOS Sensor, EXPEED 3 image Processor, Full HD 1080p Video Recording at 30 fps. ISO 6400-12800. Continuous shooting up to 4 fps.
The D3200 does have a built in pop-up flash with Auto flash and manual pop-up with button release.
Interesting Features: Wi-Fi connectivity with optional WU-1a wireless mobile adapter that lets you transfer images to your smartphone. Can also utilize your phone for remote capture!
Canon EOS Rebel T5i DSLR camera with 18-55 mm AND 75-300 lens Kit
Product Highlights: 18 MP APS-CMOS Sensor, DIGIC 5 Image Processor, Full HD 1080p Video with Continuous AF, 5fps continuous shooting, ISO 100-12800, Built in flash and hot shoe for external flash connection.
Interesting Features: 3.0 Vari-angle Touchscreen Monitor, the touchscreen control makes menus simple and even offers touch autofocus.
Ok, say you are ready to get your feet wet in pro level equipment. You can expect better, full frame sensors and high quality and fast glass. This is where the price levels really start to jump up. So the camera I will recommend will be on the lower end of the scale. I could talk all day about the specs on pro grade equipment but I won't bore you. If you would like to talk shop, give me a shout and we'll do lunch.
So how do you know you're ready to invest in pro level gear? Maybe you are a photography student and are pursuing your degree. This is when I first invested in my first 'big girl' camera. Maybe you have been slowly working on your portfolio for a couple of years now and are ready to fully commit. Or, maybe you just have plenty of money laying around with nothing else to do with it. ;-) In any case, no matter how much money you pour into great equipment, your images will only be as good as your technique. A great camera doesn't equal great images. You STILL have to know the craft and technique.
Here is a recommendation to get you started on the beginning level of pro grade gear:
Body: Canon EOS 6D
Product Highlights: 20.2 MP Full Frame CMOS Sensor, DIGIC 5+ Image Processor, 3,0 1.04m-Dot Clear View LCD Monitor, Full HD 1080p Video Recording at 30fps, Native ISO 25600, Extended to ISO 102400, 4.5 fps shooting at Full Resolution, Built in Wi-Fi and GPS Connectivity, iFCL 63-Zone Dual Layer Metering Sensor, No on camera flash
Built-in Wi-Fi and GPS technologies enable highly functional connectivity with other devices, including the ability to instantly share imagery from your camera and geotag your photographs.
Exposure settings can be controlled remotely from your smartphone when using Canon's proprietary iOS and Android app, Canon EOS Remote, allowing you to make exposures and modify camera settings from a distance.
Lens: Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 II USM Lens
Product Highlights: EF Mount L-Series Lens, Aperture range: f/2.8-22, UD, Super UD and Aspherical Elements, Ultrasonic Focus Motor, Manual Focus Override, Highly resistant to Dust and Water
Flash: Canon Speedlite 320EX
Product Highlights: Compatible with Canon E-TTL/E-TTL II, Guide Number 105;at ISO 100 and 50mm, Coverage: 24mm and 50mm (Full Frame), LED Video Light with 75 lux Output, Tilts 90 degrees right and 180 degrees left, Wireless Slave TTL Functionality, Recycle Time: 0.1-2.3 seconds, Runs on 4 AA Batteries
There's one other fun option I'd like to talk about, the GoPro! If you love getting creative and playing with video, time lapses and interesting view points, you might consider this option. It certainly is a great addition to your bag. The possibilities with this small but powerful camera are endless and fun! I recently attached it to my kayak on an excursion in Alaska because I was alone and was able to capture some wonderful photos from the day. I plan on taking it on my SCUBA trip in June as well. Definitely a great option for the creative soul out there!
GoPro HERO4 Black
Product Highlights: Supports 4K30, 2.7K60, and 1080p Video, Capture 12MP Photos at 30 fps, Ultra Wide Angle Glass Lens + SuperView, Camera Housing Waterproof to 131', Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Connectivity, Video and Photo Time-Lapse, Protune Mode for Video and Photo, One-Button Operation with QuikCapture, Auto Low Light and Night Photo Modes, Flat and Curved Adhesive Mounts Included
So, in conclusion there are many great options out there on the market. When you are ready to purchase, decide on your budget and how involved you'd like to be. You can then start browsing online for what you think might be a good fit for your personally. My personal favorite place to shop is B&H, it's where I make all my camera and video purchases, they have it all! http://www.bhphotovideo.com
I hope this helps point you in the right direction (pun intended)! Happy Shooting!!