Camera options with baby on the way
February 27, 2014 3:07 PM   Subscribe

I'm thinking about upgrading my camera from a 10-year-old point-and-shoot to take photos of an imminent new baby (and eventual child-on-the-go), but the options are crazy-making. Camcorder, point-and-shoot, or interchangeable lenses? Video, pocketability, or picture quality? What did you find was the best option? I already have an iPhone 5s that I will use for quick snaps.

To begin: I currently have an iPhone 5S that has a great portable camera and I expect it will fill the grab-a-camera-now role that my old point-and-shoot used to fill. So I'm looking for something that will be complementary, without expecting I will use it for everything. I am familiar with photography and the reason I haven't bought a more powerful camera before now is primarily because of budget (i.e. I had none). This seems like the perfect time to get a grown-up camera that will cover me for the next 5 years or so. It's probably relevant to add that my cameraphone will get upgraded a couple times over the life of this purchase.

For baby pictures, I am assuming indoor, low-light performance will be my most important criterion. Correct me if this assumption is wrong. Here is what I am considering:

Camcorder. I have never owned a camcorder of any variety before, and to be honest I can't imagine ever sitting around wanting to watch home videos. I hate the idea of interacting with future children through a lens. Whereas with a still camera I can take some shots and put it away, with a camcorder I feel like the inclination is going to be to keep shooting to not miss anything. Editing seems like it would be a chore. Is this in any way a must-have? That being said, I am considering something like the Panasonic X920 ($730) which has good low-light performance. Is the camcorder form-factor a must for taking smooth videos? Would I be satisfied with still photos from a camera like this?

Point-and-shoot. It seems like this should be enough of a jump in quality over the iPhone to make it worthwhile. I am considering the Sony RX100 MII ($700), which should deliver performance on par with entry-level dSLRs.

Interchangeable lenses. I like the idea of a small full-frame camera like the Sony a7, but I think my budget rules that out. Size considerations rule out anything more substantial — I'll never take photos with a camera I don't want to carry. I don't have any money in legacy glass so I can choose anything. My options here are the FujiFilm X-E2 with f/1.4 prime ($1350) or the Sony a6000 (replaces the NEX-7) with Sony's f/1.8 prime ($1100). Is it ridiculous to get an interchangeable lens system with the expectation of just using a prime, or will I appreciate the ability to add lens options in the future?

So what did you find most to be the most useful camera attribute for baby photos: video, size, or picture quality? Is there anything else I should be considering? My max budget is $1500 and I'm willing to buy refurbished.
posted by stopgap to Technology (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Something compact enough to fit in your pocket, because you are going to have enough crap to carry around without having to lug a camera bag as well.
Also depending on how willing you are to be fastidious keeping it out of little one's reach, water resistant and shock resistant might be a plus.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:36 PM on February 27, 2014

what i would actually do is go check out the used DSLR sales on b&h's website. this will give you a LOT better low light options, and will probably last you a good long while. my nikon kit came with an 18-135 lens and i bought what a lot of people call a nifty 50 lens, and you'd be surprised how much those two lenses can cover.

for video, just use your 5s. it works great, and friends of mine who have a baby love it - mostly because it's the option that's going to be with you (in your pocket) when your kid is doing something you want to capture.
posted by koroshiya at 3:37 PM on February 27, 2014

also, i know you said you're looking for light - but if you get a fairly decent sized card, and go out with a full battery, neither of the lenses i've specified are that heavy, so i usually just take my camera with no bag, and it's not really all that heavy. get a decent strap (i have a crumpler, which was most comfortable to me), and you might not even notice it that much (i have a nikon D80, and it still works great for my purposes.). when i'm not shooting, i crossbody the strap and my camera sits just fine underish my arm.
posted by koroshiya at 3:43 PM on February 27, 2014

I have used a combination: iPhone 5S for snapshots and casual slice-of-life video (reading w dad, bathing dolls). I have a digital SLR that I use for portraits, holidays, beautiful days -- generally at home, or planned for -- I don't carry it with me regularly. I use a camcorder occasionally, set up on a tripod, to capture long scenes without calling anyone's attention: birthdays, Christmas morning. I never use point-and-shoot because its slowness frustrates me, and I can never keep it charged AND in my bag, whereas my iphone is always ready.
posted by xo at 3:44 PM on February 27, 2014

99.9% of my baby photos are on my 5S because by the time I go and get the nice camera, baby is done doing whatever cute thing she was doing when I decided to take a picture or shoot a video. The other 0.1% (which is basically just her monthly photos) are on this guy (that's about five years old, I'm sure there are newer versions). It's not an SLR (no interchangeable lenses) but allows you to shoot using manual settings, it just doesn't save RAW images, they are jpegs. It has really good HD video capabilities, too.
posted by echo0720 at 7:12 PM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am not a camera person but here's my experience with my baby. I use my phone the most as it's always near by. I have a point and shoot that I keep on a tripod and I mostly use that to take videos. Once the baby became mobile he started reaching for the camera. I let him play with it because it's on its last legs anyway. I shoot a lot of videos, more than I can deal with at the moment. I figure eventually I will have time to edit and upload but at least for now everything's captured. It got much harder to get good still shots after six months. At almost 12 months my baby is usually in motion so video works better. Quality isn't so much an issue for me as I usually make the files small to upload or email. I did have a photographer friend take really amazing pictures of him around four months and will probably schedule another session soon. Those good quality pics became our Christmas card and will be made into a photo book eventually. I don't think you need a dedicated camcorder, but it is nice to take video with your phone at least every couple of weeks because they change so quickly.
posted by betsybetsy at 7:19 PM on February 27, 2014

If you're thinking of the Sony RX100, you should also try out the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7.
posted by spbmp at 8:02 PM on February 27, 2014

If you are really thinking you would always use a prime lens, check out the Fujifilm x100s. Like you, I was familiar with photography but hadn't had a "proper" camera in 5-6 years. I got an x100s this year, and love it. It's small enough to bring along mostly everywhere, and the photo quality matches pretty much any camera I've ever seen. I tried the Fujifilm x-e1 (the x-e2's predecessor) and think the x100s beats it in pretty much every category.
posted by mjcon at 9:04 PM on February 27, 2014

I have a DSLR with a few lenses, but I have to admit it's gathering dust these days. Mainly because my iPhone 5s has such a great camera, and because it's so damn convenient, I end up taking most of my pictures with it. Of course, you just have a fixed, wide-angle lens, but the zoom is actually really impressive (of course, you know all this.) And that slo-mo is great!

Also, when the kid comes you'll soon find you wish you had an extra pair of arms, and getting the camera out to take pics can't happen nearly as spontaneously as you'd like, especially when you're out of the house. So get a DSLR for shooting around the house, when you don't have to lug camera bags and such everywhere, and when out just use the iPhone.
posted by zardoz at 11:32 PM on February 27, 2014

I take lots of pictures of friends' kids with my Canon S90 (even though I also have an EOS-5D with a bunch of lenses, and a couple of other SLRs). SLRs are great for landscapes, and for adults, but small kids move too quickly to allow me to change lenses and compose. The S90 is small enough that I always have it with me, and it's quick enough and does reasonably well in indoor light (I never use the onboard flash). I liked the S90 so much I also got an S95.

You can go to and look at example images from all the cameras mentioned in this thread.
posted by phliar at 11:51 AM on February 28, 2014

I came across this by searching for the a6000. That camera looks intriguing due mainly to its small size. Some perspective - I have a nice big full frame DSLR and it takes magnificent photos and when I am out to just take photos I do not mind its bulk and weight. When I am out for something else and want to take a camera I often do not care to lug around the DSLR. I have a pocketable P&S, a nice one. That really seems limiting in photo quality compared to the DSLR. With sufficient light etc. it takes magnificent pictures as well as does my iPhone camera. I am at that stage of life where my camera budget has expanded a little bit (and photography is kind of my passion) so I also have the Fujifilm X100 (the original, not the s). This is perhaps my favorite camera. It takes magnificent pictures, almost as magnificent as the DSLR. It is pretty small, small enough to easily fit into a coat pocket, and I thus take it with me almost everywhere, sometimes to the chagrin of family and friends. It has a great lens, it has a great sensor, it has fantastic controls if you are a photographer and it has a built in neutral density filter, it is dead silent and it sees in the dark very well, but not as well as the full frame DSLR. It does not have too many fancy other things, its focusing is a bit finicky and it has only a fixed focal length. When I take pictures almost none of my shots are out of focus but when I hand the camera to someone else not familiar with it they often focus on the background instead of the subject. Focus is not really a big issue for me, but don't count on tracking moving subjects. The fixed focal length lens is a plus and a minus. Using it exclusively for extended periods of time has made me a better photographer especially in composition. I think through my shots more. Sometimes I would like to be able to have a larger focal length for portraits etc. Where the full frame really excels is in creating a narrow depth of field for portraits thereby isolating your subject. The APS-C sensor can do this as pretty well too if your focal length is long enough and or your aperture wide enough. The X100 at f2 isn't bad.

You want to take pictures of baby. In the first year just about anything will do as they don't move much so you can put them into the right situation to take a great photo with just about anything including your phone. I have some great photos of my first son with just an old Olympus clamshell P&S. A portrait lens is still really nice though. Fuji is coming out with a 56mm f1.2 lens that looks to be pretty awesome and should make for nice portraits. It will cost as much as a camera body though. Fuji's lens lineup beats Sony's by quite a wide margin. The kit zoom lens is fantastic as is the 35mm f1.4. Sony doesn't provide the wide apertures or high image quality in most of their lenses. It does look however like they are getting some nice glass for the full frame compacts if compactness trumps aperture for you. Fuji also just released the X-T1 which everyone is pretty excited about. I am kind of committed to the DSLR for the short term at least so I don't think I will invest in this. It is slightly larger but with great capability, such as great focusing, and you can use all that wonderful Fuji glass. If I were without the DSLR and the glass I would be tempted. Sony presents a dilemma though as they showed that full frame can be made compact and others are sure to follow. Do I invest in a number of APS-C sensor lenses now or wait for a full frame compact? That is where the Sony A6000 slips in for me. It is cheaper than the Fuji, smaller and popular enough that if I want to sell later I probably won't lose much on the glass and hopefully no more than half on the body. I don't know if any of my rambling thought are of any help to you, as it is clear that I am undecided. I will probably just stay with the X100 for now. I take it on vacation rather than the DSLR and have gotten some great shots. The photos from a trip to Quebec last summer just amazed me. 35mm equivalent is pretty decent for travel photography. If I were in your shoes I would probably go with the Fuji X-E2 or X-T1. Good prices can also be had on used X-E1s. A used X100 is only about$600. One thing to consider, when you travel with baby you never travel light. There is going to be plenty of room in the diaper bag for just about any camera you care to purchase. After baby grows out of the diaper bag and if you have an expensive kit the diaper bag with some padded inserts makes a decent stealth photo bag which is not as likely to get stolen.

One more point, skip the camcorder idea. They are dead. The modern camera does just about anything a camcorder does and will suffice for any casual video use. Save the camcorder for making cinema like productions.
posted by caddis at 3:43 PM on March 3, 2014

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