Which camera should you buy?

In this video you’ll get tips for buying a digital camera that’s perfect for you.

So, you’re looking for a digital camera!

This blog post is for eager beginner and intermediate photographers. People like you, who take pictures for the joy of it. You’re not doing this professionally, but you’ve got a good eye, someone or something to photograph, you want more features than your old camera or your cell phone camera has, and you’ve got a desire to learn how get better quality photos than you have in the past.

1. What do you need the camera for?

2. What is your Budget?

After you determine what you need your camera for, then you will have to figure out how much you want to spend. You can go as low as $100 for a basic point and shoot, or higher than $10,000 for a full system camera and lenses.

There’s a big range. But realistically, you’re not going to start your photography hobby by dropping $10K. Most of you reading this are probably looking more in the range of $150 to $1000.

3. Convenience vs. size and weight of the camera

If your camera is to much of a hassle to use, you won’t use it much – and your return on investment will be low.

  • A simple camera for having with you all the time will be the one you use. Maybe it’s your iPhone?
  • If you do a lot of traveling to faraway places, you may not want to have a big heavy camera system along.
  • But if you travel so you can capture great photos, then you’ll want your best gear with you and the weight won’t matter — until it does.

4. And finally, what will you do with the photos?

  • Keep them for personal and family use
  • Make prints at the photo lab
  • Social media sharing
  • Use them for your job or business – presentations, website, brochures

Camera price ranges, common features, and what those cameras are good for

$50 to $150

In this range you’ll find basic point and shoot, or compact camera. My mom has a little Canon Powershot. It will fit in your purse or coat pocket. It was on sale for $110 about 5 years ago.

This compact camera has very few controls or settings. And it works quite well in fully automatic mode in daylight. It has a wide angle zoom lens and it’s perfect for outdoor shots of people and scenery. The lens is surprisingly sharp for such a low priced camera. It has a macro lens feature, and a built in flash.

Using this camera indoors is okay if you’ve got window light or lots of room lighting available. If you use the flash, photos of people are not super flattering because the flash is so tiny.

It takes AA batteries, which is very convenient when travelling as they are available just about everywhere.

If you are in the higher end of this price range of compacts, you will get more features like WiFi connection to your mobile device, better zoom lens, and high quality video. These cameras have high mega pixels, in the range of 16-22MP, but they have very small sensors. So in low light you’ll likely get a lot of noise artifacts.

These cameras will definitely be better than your cell phone camera, and nearly as convenient to use. Plus, you get a bigger sensor, a better lens and more zoom range than your phone camera.

These cameras best for:

  • Outdoor landscapes
  • Outdoor people photos, and videos
  • Indoors with lots of window light
which camera

Sony Cyber-shot

Examples in this category:

$150 to $400

In this price range you’ll find the high-end compact cameras that are still small in stature but big on quality. They have better features like longer zoom ranges (30x zoom), bigger and better quality sensors, adjustable camera settings (f/stop, shutter speed, WB, ISO), Wifi, better lenses, higher resolution LCDs, pop up flashes, more automatic shooting modes (action, portraits, scenery, indoors, night) image stabilization, Full HD video, HDMI connection, microphone, and sometimes include a viewfinder or flip up LCD screens.

These cameras are best for:

  • Pretty much everything from portraits to landscapes
  • Traveling, because of their large zoom range
  • Better in low light because of image stabilization
  • Video recording (but no external audio jack)

Lumix ZS50

Examples in this category

$400 to $750

Some of the compact cameras will spill into this price range, but mostly you’re getting into the smaller interchangeable lens cameras mirrorless (Micro 4:3), dSLR cameras, and the bridge cameras.

The interchangeable lens cameras are typically sold with a wide angle zoom consumer grade kit lens somewhere about 24-70mm (in 35mm equivalent).

The bridge cameras usually have a greater zoom range much like the higher end compacts, but in a bigger body and bigger sensor package.

Most of the cameras in this range have a flip around screen. Some have audio input jacks if you’re making videos for YouTube. These cameras often have a pop-up flash. They will not likely fit into your pocket. Most of them shoot raw quality files.

These cameras are best for:

  • Pretty much everything from portraits to landscapes
  • Traveling, because of their large zoom range
  • Lower light photography, but not great for indoor sports
  • Shooting outdoor sports like soccer where you want rapid fire shutter but you can’t be too close to your subject
  • Video recording
which camera

Lumix G85

Examples in this category:

  • Canon SX-60 bridge camera with 60x zoom ~$429
  • Lumix FZ300 bridge camera with 25-600mm zoom lens ~$447 (similar to what I showed in the video)
  • Lumix G7 mirrorless kit with interchangeable 14-42mm lens ~$497
  • Lumix GX85 mirrorless with 12-32mm lens ~$597 (similar to what I showed in the video)
  • Canon Rebel T6i dSLR kit with 18-55mm lens ~$599

$750 to $1000

If you’ve got a bigger budget you can get a bridge camera with a 1” sensor or a dSLR kit, or mirrorless interchangeable lens camera (MILC) with more than one lens.

Cameras in this price range are fast approaching professional quality, but may be limited by their lens quality. If you know how to use them properly, they will serve you well.

Like higher-end pro cameras, everything is adjustable and customizable – which is not everyone’s cup of tea. If you want to “point and shoot” you probably won’t need a camera in this price range. They all shoot raw files, but remember if you want to shoot raw files, you will need to have a computer to support those raw files and editing software to go with it. It’s a bigger commitment.

If you’re starting with YouTube videos, these cameras have high quality video recording and most come with a standard audio input jack for external microphones. They all have WiFi connectivity and you can get better quality lenses, as your needs arise.

These cameras capture better photos in low light with less noise at higher ISO. Some even have weather sealed bodies for taking on those epic outdoor treks and holidays.

which camera

Fuji X-T20

Examples in this price category

  • Sony a6300 mirrorless kit with 16-50mm lens ~$848
  • Lumix G85 mirrorless kit with 12-60mm lens ~$897
  • Fuji X-T20 mirrorless kit with 16-50mm lens ~$899
  • Nikon D5600 dSLR kit with 18-140mm lens ~$749 (recent price drop)
  • Lumix FZ2500 bridge camera with built-in 24-480mm zoom lens ~$997

Try before you buy

Do some online research to narrow your choices – keeping in mind your needs and your budget. Sometimes you just have to feel the camera in your hands to help you make you final choice.

Go to your local camera shop at a time of day when it’s not too busy. Ask to see and try out a few cameras on your list. Bring, or purchase a memory card there. Take a few photos, and check out the results. You can look at the files at home as well.

Test the zoom range and shoot outside in daylight as well as indoors. Shoot at different ISO settings and get the sales person to help with any questions you have. The sales staff may have better or similar suggestions for you.

Sometimes you can get better deals by shopping in person than you can online, especially during holiday shopping seasons like Christmas, Boxing Day. Plus, when new camera models come out the old version suddenly drops in price by 1/4 or 1/3.

When shopping in person, ask for a discount! Even 5% off is enough to purchase a new memory card with that camera. Just don’t get drawn into going over your budget too much, with the accessory add-ons – unless you really need them and you can get a great price.

Which camera should you buy?

Buying a new camera is daunting, especially if you’re a beginner. It’s probably easier to buy a car than a camera.

It’s better to buy a camera that you’ll use a lot, than to buy one that sits on the shelf for years. So remember that when looking at all the features and settings of the cameras. If your new camera is too complicated you might be scared of it or have to take a course to figure out how to use it.

And if you’re like me, you want the convenience of a take-anywhere-pocket-camera with the quality of something bigger. That’s why I use my Lumix GM5 mirrorless the most. Same size sensor as my larger Lumix cameras. It’s fully adjustable but works great in point and shoot mode – iA – intelligent auto.

I can also hand this camera to anyone and I know they’ll shoot great quality video or photos of me at the skatepark, even if it’s on fully automatic mode. It’s got a very sharp kit lens, the 12-32mm, and it shoots in high speed burst mode, so I don’t miss any of my action shots.

The closest camera to this that’s currently available, is the Lumix GX85. Same size and same great features, but with a flip up screen and 4K Photo/Video.

Well that about covers it, at least from my perspective. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments.


NOTE: Links to cameras are from amazon.com. I will receive a commission if you purchase using my link, but it won’t cost you any extra. I use the commissions to provide free content to you.