Thinking of getting a camera?
Note: This is what you’d call a “living article” in that its content will be regularly updated as new cameras become available. The following recommendations are made at time of writing (October 2016).
I’m often asked by those looking to get into photography about the most suitable camera for them. We are very lucky in that there is a huge range of cameras from which to choose, with a multitude of brands and models available. At the end of the day though, the best camera is the one that best suits the kind of photography you do and won’t break your bank balance.
So, here are my recommendations if you’re starting out in digital photography and are thinking of investing in a good camera:
Cheapest, bang-for-your-buck camera for beginners. Your budget is around AUD$500-$1000
My recommendation: Nikon D3300 with kit lens. This camera has just been superseded by the Nikon D3400 (which has some great bluetooth capabilities, but is essentially the same as the D3300), and should be available at a great price with either one or two kit lenses. It has a fairly easy interface and is primed for a beginner – easy to use and a lot of what you see is what you get.Its also relatively small in size (in comparison to other DSLRs), which makes it just a bit more portable.
Beginners / Just starting out / You’re not sure yet what you’ll like shooting / You have a budget of around AUD$1000-$1200
You will want a camera that has an easy, accessible interface so that you can start to make some creative decisions in your shooting once you move out of shooting in “Automatic” mode. Let’s face it, “Automatic” will only get you so far and after a while, you will be hankering to take greater control of your camera.
My recommendation: Canon EOS 750D either with the kit lenses or a single wide angle zoom (eg. 18-200mm). This camera provides an easy Quick Menu which lets you access and change a lot of functions and settings. There are also buttons for settings that you most often change, for easy access. It’s fairly compact for a DSLR and presents terrific image quality. It also has a touch screen LCD for photographers who are used to navigating menus and options via touch. The 750D is also priced just right for the entry-level market.
Note: The Canon 760D is a slightly more expensive variation of the Canon 750D aimed at bridging the gap between the beginner and enthusiast market. It’s exactly the same as the 750D except that it has a top LCD screen and a rear scroll wheel, which are usually found in enthusiast and professional level cameras.
Tip: If you’re not after the most up-to-date model of Canon’s entry level camera or your budget is a little lower, consider the Canon 700D, which was released in 2013 and is still available. You should be able to get the 700D and a lens for around the AUD$800 mark at time of writing.
You’re just starting out but want a camera that will grow with your photography and last you a few years. Also, you like photographing sports and maybe a bit of wildlife.
If you can see yourself pursuing photography in the long term and are looking for a camera that will last you quite a few years and that has an interface that allows more intuitive use (ie. using buttons and dials instead of menus), then have a look at these recommendations:
Canon EOS 80D (or Canon 70D – the previous version): A very robust “enthusiast level” camera which still fits nicely in your hands, the Canon 70D features a great, easy-to-use interface that lets you (once you have learned it) change your settings and functions quickly and easily. It has a more advanced autofocusing features and takes 6 frames per second on continuous shooting mode, which makes it great for photographing sports and wildlife and has touch screen controls. Note: The 80D supersedes the 70D; you may still be able to pick up the 70D at a great price second hand.
Nikon D7200 / Nikon D7100: Nikon’s D7200 “enthusiast level” DSLR packs as many features as its Canon 70D cousin and has the same solid advanced focusing features and 6 frames per second image capture on continuous shooting, which make it great for sports and wildlife photography. The camera body has an intuitive interface that lets you change modes and functions at a press of a button or turn of a wheel. Note: The D7200 recently superseded the D7100, which should be available at a great price because of this. The differences between the D7100 and the D7200 would be quite marginal and only affect certain specialist aspects of photography.
The Canon 70D and Nikon D7100 sound good. BUT you travel a lot and would like a smaller camera
If you travel, then having a smaller camera can be great as it means you won’t have to lug it around while you’re exploring and it takes less space in your carry on luggage. My recommendation: the Sony A6000 — it’s my choice for travel camera. The A6300 is the more recent version of the A6000, with an upgraded sensor (better image quality in low light) and some new features, but it does cost a bit more.
The Sony A6000 / A6300 is an interchangeable lens camera, like the DSLRs above, but it’s a mirrorless camera (what they call a Compact System Camera or CSC) which means it’s smaller but has all the brilliant features and image quality of a DSLR. It’s interface is very accessible and it also features a quick menu so you can make changes to your settings quickly and easily. Best of all, if you are into shooting action, its advanced autofocusing options and ability to capture 15 frames in one second (!) will delight you.
Pricing wise, it’s very affordable — you can get a great set up that’s ready to go (camera with a couple of kit lenses) for under AUD$1000 for the A6000 and around $1500 for the A6300.
What about full frame cameras? You’ve heard that they are terrific and create the best photos, but can be more expensive.
Many photographers think that full frame cameras are the duck’s nuts and, in some respects, they’d be right. Full frame cameras have larger imaging sensors than the cameras mentioned above, and create better low light images (less noise/grain in the images). With the right lenses, they also create images which show shallower depths of field (the creamy, out-of-focus background). If you find yourself shooting a lot of portraiture and in low light situations, then getting a full frame camera may be the go. But: they are not cheap, with prices starting at around AUD$1500 for the body only. Lenses for full frame cameras can also cost quite a bit more.
Recommendations: Pretty much any full-frame camera is great. If you’re looking for something in the more affordable end of the spectrum, check out the Canon 6D, Sony A7 and Nikon D610. A little higher up the budget scale and you’d be looking at the Nikon D750, Sony A7s or Canon 5D Mark III.