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 (February 2018).
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 D3400 with kit lens. 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. For those who can't live without sharing their photos online, the D3400 allows you to automatically download images to your smart device!
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'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 77D or 80D: A very robust "enthusiast level" camera which still fits nicely in your hands, the Canon 77D 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 (with 45 focus points) and takes 6 frames per second on continuous shooting mode, which makes it great for photographing sports and wildlife and has touch screen controls. If you prefer a bit more "guts" to your enthusiast level camera, look for the Canon 80D, which is a little bit more spec'ed up than the 77D -- it has weather sealing, so you don't need to worry about getting a bit of rain on it, shoots 7 frames per second and has a maximum shutter speed of 1/8000 (the 77D has a maximum shutter speed of 1/4000). The price point of the 80D can be a little bit higher than the 77D.
Note: Which should you get? The 77D is very similar to the 80D except that it's not weather sealed and it only shoots 6 frames per second on burst mode. But if budget is a concern and you want a higher end performance camera, then the 77D could be a contender.
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.
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 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 around $1000.
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 A7II and Nikon D610. A little higher up the budget scale and you'd be looking at the Nikon D750, Sony A7 Mark II or Canon 5D Mark III or Mark IV.
What about other brands like Olympus, Panasonic and Fuji?
Olympus, Panasonic and Fuji make terrific cameras with great imaging capabilities -- I use Fuji-X cameras myself along with my Nikon DSLR -- but, in my opinion, their more complex interface and customisable menus make them a little bit challenging for beginner photographers to use. If you find that having too many options can confuse you, the 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 Fuji, Olympus or Panasonic.