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 interchangeable lens camera for beginners. Your budget is under AUD$1000
My recommendation: Canon EOS M50. This is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera that’s compact in size and yet packs a lot of features and functions into a small body.
As an alternative, you can look at the Fujifilm X-T200, which is also a mirrorless body with a lot of built-in features.
These are great cameras to use when learning photography.
Just starting out / You’re not sure yet what you’ll like shooting / You have a budget of around AUD$1000-$1500
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 18-135mm kit lens. 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.
Other alternatives include the Sony Alpha A6400 (mirrorless interchangeable lens camera), which packs a heap of features into its compact size, and has an excellent autofocus system. This is one for enthusiasts who like shooting action, wildlife and moving subjects too!
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. If your budget extends further, look at the Nikon D500, which is the D7500 on steroids. It has two SD card slots and superior auto focus and continuous shooting mode.
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 Mark II, Canon EOS RP, Canon EOSR, Sony A7III or Nikon D780. A little higher up the budget scale and you’d be looking at the Nikon D850, Nikon Z6 II, Sony A7R III or Canon 5D 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.