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 (September 2019).
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 DSLR camera for beginners. Your budget is around AUD$500-$1000
My recommendation: Nikon D3500 with 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. It’s also relatively small in size (in comparison to other DSLRs), which makes it just a bit more portable. For those who can’t live without sharing their photos online, the D3500 allows you to automatically download images to your smart device!
If you’re looking at Canon, the latest entry level Canon DSLR is the Canon 200D, which is pretty good value for the price (though the Nikon D3500 is still cheaper – for example, you can get the Nikon D3500 with two kit lenses for the price of the Canon 200D with one kit lens). It’s the latest in Canon’s basic DSLRs and is worth a look.
Beginners / Just starting out / You’re not sure yet what you’ll like shooting / You have a budget of around AUD$1000-$1300
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 800D 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.
You are looking for a smaller, lighter, more portable camera for travel and trips
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. Mirrorless cameras are great for this kind of travel, mobility and photography.
My recommendation: the Fujifilm X-T100, which is available with a kit lens for under $800. It’s compact, fits easily into a small bag, is light enough to take around as your travel camera and has a simpler physical interface than the more advanced Fujifilm X cameras (see below). It’s also an interchangeable lens camera, so you can change lenses as you grow your lens collection to suit the kind of photography you want to do. And once you’ve grown into your X-T100 and are looking for more, you can upgrade to the X-T30 or the X-T3, which have more features and functions.
As an alternative to the Fuji is the Canon M50, 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 compact, light and very portable, and you can still buy and use a range of lenses with it. 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 around $700 – $800.
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 90D: A very robust “enthusiast level” camera which still fits nicely in your hands, the Canon 90D is the latest entry to the DSLR market. It has a more advanced autofocusing features and takes 10 frames per second on continuous shooting mode, which makes it great for photographing sports and wildlife and has touch screen controls. It’s also sealed against dust and drops, so a little moisture won’t hurt it (it’s not fully weather sealed, so don’t leave it out in the rain). The Canon 90D is around the $1800 mark with a kit lens.
Nikon D7500: Nikon’s D7500 “enthusiast level” DSLR packs as many features has the same solid advanced focusing features and 8 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. It also operates with a touch screen LCD.
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 or its latest release, the 6D Mark II, Sony A7III or Nikon D750. A little higher up the budget scale and you’d be looking at the Nikon D850, Sony A7R III or Canon 5D Mark III or Mark IV.
What about other brands like Olympus and Panasonic?
Olympus and Panasonic make terrific cameras with great imaging capabilities, but in my opinion, their more complex interface and customisable menus make them a little bit challenging for beginner photographers to use. They’re probably more suited to experienced photographers looking for a compact camera to use. If you find that having too many options can confuse you, then stick with the brands mentioned above. However, if you are tech-savvy and love having lots of options and customisable features on your camera, then you might like to look at Olympus or Panasonic.