I am the photographer (or I would like to be).
January 13, 2016 8:12 AM   Subscribe

Best entry level camera for an amateur photographer?

I am quite fond of taking photographs and I am told I have a pretty good eye for someone who does it just for funsies. My husband would like to encourage my interest in photography by purchasing me a camera for this hobby. (I am also planning on joining a local photography club.)

Let me state: I do NOT want a digital camera.

I want a starter pro camera with lenses (is that even right??) that I can trade up to better once I get comfortable with pursuing this passion. I am not looking to make money off doing this, I just want to take really really nice photos that don't require my iPhone.

What would you recommend? What are some things I should know about taking up this hobby? Also, I am in Canada, the exchange is utter crap right now, so I'd prefer to order anything online via a Canadian website.
posted by Kitteh to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (37 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
May I ask why you don't want digital? Because, film is dead. Except for specialty stuff (large format, etc), new film cameras just aren't being made. Its hard to buy film or get it developed. It had a good run, but now it's over.

That said, Canon or Nikon SLR remain good choices (and you can take the lenses with you when you realize I was right and you move to digital).
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 8:21 AM on January 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Let me state: I do NOT want a digital camera.

Why?

Aside from the reduced availability of film processing services, with digital you have the ability to take nearly unlimited pictures at no per-unit cost. As a student, you're going to want to take as many pictures as you can, in order to explore the variables. With digital, this is no extra cost. With film, you're going to think about the dollars involved with every shot.

This will affect your creativity.
posted by yesster at 8:23 AM on January 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


What are some things I should know about taking up this hobby?

That even the "pro" cameras with interchangeable lenses (known as SLR, or Single Lens Reflex) these days are digital. You might be able to find used (or maybe super expensive) film cameras but probably not.

By "digital", do you mean point and shoot / all-in-one cameras?

Generally all cameras these days are digital. You have your phone cameras, your point-and-shoot, and your higher-end SLRs (and the lighter / smaller version they have now, I forget what they're called) but they're all digital. "Digital" just refers to the image being stored in memory, rather than on film. The quality is mostly about the lens.

Apologies if you truly mean you in no way want a digital camera, but I think you're going to have a tough (and expensive) time if you pursue film from the start.

I am very happy with my Canon T3i, which is their low-end Digital SLR (dSLR). It's a couple years old now so the model name has probably changed. The best advice I was given to start out was to buy a lowish end body and invest in good lenses.
posted by bondcliff at 8:24 AM on January 13, 2016


To be clear: you want to shoot film? Also, what is your budget?

There are countless great quality film cameras on the used market through eBay and probably even your local second-hand stores, or camera specialty stores. The obvious answer for 35mm film is just about anything from Nikon or Canon. Tons of available lenses on the used market as well.

You can also look into medium-format film cameras that use a larger film stock, but which you may find harder to have developed unless you want to go mail-order. For medium format, Hasselblad and Mamiya are the probably your best best.

Sorry I can't be more specific based on your question. Perhaps if you give us more details you can get better answers.
posted by The Deej at 8:24 AM on January 13, 2016


By "digital", do you mean point and shoot / all-in-one cameras?

Yes, that is what I meant. Sorry. Our budget runs up to about $900.

Having never used anything other than an iPhone or even all-in-one digital camera (and even then, I haven't used one of those in about six years because my phone already does this now).
posted by Kitteh at 8:26 AM on January 13, 2016


Nikon FE or FM3a and a nice prime, I'd start with a 35 or 50. I actually disagree with those saying that film is not a great place to start, it teaches you how to do everything manually and you get better at composition because you can't really waste any of your shots.

I haven't shot film in awhile because colour processing has gotten so expensive or I got lazy about doing my own black and whites when I shot with B&W film. Just something to keep in mind.
posted by raw sugar at 8:28 AM on January 13, 2016


A Nikon FM2 SLR with a 50mm lens is a good camera to learn about photography.
posted by carter at 8:29 AM on January 13, 2016


I agree with the above that you may not want a film camera at this point, it is past the point of "fun thing for a hobby" and on to "this has become a real pain in the ass so you should know what you're doing BEFORE you get into it".

That said, if you want to experiment with 35MM film, I'd recommend buying an M42 era Pentax camera like the K1000 as they are plentiful, cheap, and the M42 lenses are plentiful, cheap, durable and can be used with adapters on almost any camera (in manual mode). The modern Pentax DSLRs even have special settings for handling them.

On preview: Oops, looks like you might not want film after all. In that case, I'd recommend just finding a good deal on a Canon or Nikon package with one of their entry level bodies and a lens or two. I'd actually just recommend getting whatever seems like a good value as modern dSLR bodies are pretty much all tremendous, excellent pieces of hardware.

I use Pentax, but I'm a weirdo and I have a lot of old glass. Their bodies are excellent value for dollar but I'm not sure I would recommend them unreservedly as the future of the brand is still a bit unclear.
posted by selfnoise at 8:30 AM on January 13, 2016


I've been pretty happy with my mirrorless Sony Nex-6 with a 35mm prime lens. They don't make that model now but the Sony a6000 is the next generation of that class and it's pretty well thought of. Don't get the kit zoom (16mm - 60mm) lens that comes with some packages as it's pretty crap.
posted by octothorpe at 8:37 AM on January 13, 2016


How to Buy a Digital Camera.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 8:40 AM on January 13, 2016


WARNING: No question results in more potential confusion and conflicting info than "which camera" questions. There are just so many variables and preferences. But on the plus side: all current digital cameras of any quality produce excellent images, so don't worry about that.

I'll make one SLR recommendation, because Nikon is offering a good deal on this bundle right now: Nikon D3300 with 18-55 and 55-200 lenses. Spending more money on a different camera might get your different features, but won't get you any better photos. At least not in any way that would matter for 99% of all photographers.

If you want a smaller camera, look into the "mirrorless" cameras. The Sony a6000 is a great choice. Be aware that few mirrorless cameras have an "eye level finder" (a peephole you hold up to your eye to shoot) whereas all SLRs do. This is important to some people, and not others. I like having it because it means I can keep the screen off (saves battery and doesn't disturb others in dark settings) and it allows me to hold the camera in a naturally more stable position when shooting.
posted by The Deej at 8:44 AM on January 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


You should consider a Pentax Spotmatic! They're plentiful and cheap. One with the 1/1000 shutter speed and an f/1.4 Super Takumar lens is a lovely setup for under $100. I'd use another $300 or so buying a scanner that accepts negatives and the equipment/chemistry to develop your film at home.

(I mostly shoot with a Rollei 35SE because it's so tiny and nice, but a compact camera is pretty limiting)

Feel free to memail me if you want to chat more about it.

PS everyone who can't understand why OP would like to go analog: film for fine art purposes is far from dead, and there's no need to condescend to OP.
posted by hollyholly at 8:50 AM on January 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


I went with the Sony a6000 as my first "serious" camera and I don't regret the decision one bit. I chose mirrorless because I wanted something less bulky for lugging around on my travels. I didn't get the kit zoom and instead opted for the 35mmf1.8 prime lens as my starter lens--I love it and keep on my camera 90% of the time. The only time I get a bit wistful is when I see the lens my friends have that I could have borrowed if I had gone with a Canon.
posted by sprezzy at 8:50 AM on January 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


PS everyone who can't understand why OP would like to go analog: film for fine art purposes is far from dead, and there's no need to condescend to OP.

It's perfectly fine if OP would like to go analog, but OP later specified that they meant all-in-one/point and shoot cameras when they said "digital".
posted by sprezzy at 8:52 AM on January 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


The Sony mirrorless cameras do have viewfinders but they're not optical and are actually just little tiny video screens. I use the viewfinder more than the big viewscreen because it helps me concentrate more on framing and composition.

I've been taking classes for professional photography (although I don't intend to actually make a living doing that) and I've been able to use my Sony mirrorless in class and produce the same level of images that the other students create with DSLRs.
posted by octothorpe at 8:52 AM on January 13, 2016


I'd agree that a film camera isn't the greatest or most economical option these days. Film is expensive, especially now. (Data point: I worked in a photo lab for five years and could get all my film processed for cheap and it was still too expensive for me.)

If you're insistent on using film, get a secondhand Nikon or Canon film SLR. That way if you decide to go digital, you can use the lenses from the film camera on the digital one. Nikon is better for this; they haven't changed their lens mount in decades, so old lenses are still physically compatible, although automatic features might not work with them. Canon changed to the EF mount in 1987, so older SLRs won't have compatible lenses.

Aside from the lack of instant gratification, shot capacity, and operating cost, there isn't much practical difference between a decent automatic film SLR and a modern digital SLR.

As for digital SLRs: They're all pretty damn good these days. Again, stick to Nikon or Canon; I personally use Nikon because they're somewhat more user-friendly, although Canon is more popular with pros.
posted by neckro23 at 8:58 AM on January 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


You are not going to find a "pro" camera, with a lens, for $900. You can get something like a Canon EOS Rebel T5 for about $400. It is a perfectly respectable entry level SLR, which is what you want, I think. It comes with a so-so zoom lens. Spend the rest of your budget on a decent (again, nowhere near pro) prime lens. I love the Canon 50mm 1.4, which will also cost $400. And you still have $100 for a couple of books.
posted by thinman at 9:12 AM on January 13, 2016


If you can increase your budget a bit...

The Fuji X-E2 with kit lens, which you can buy online for $1249 CAD.
I own this camera and love it.
posted by axismundi at 9:22 AM on January 13, 2016


I recommend Pentax DSLRs - high quality for less money, user friendly, weather-resistant and their lens mounts are back-compatible all the way back into the early 1970s. The K-50 is $350 with lens. The more advanced K-3 is $800.
posted by tommyD at 9:31 AM on January 13, 2016


Do you have friends with good lenses that will let you borrow them? If so, buy something compatible with what they have. Dollar for dollar, most modern DSLRs and mirrorless cameras are going to be about the same. And just about everything on the market now is good enough for learning. You might also check with the photography club you intend to join to see if they have any models they teach on or recommend for their new members. If you still have a camera shop near you, you might also go there and see what feels good in your hand (but be a good person and buy from the shop that provides you with that service rather than mail ordering it cheaper online afterwards if you do).

If you go with Nikon, I'd recommend starting with the second lowest tier of bodies (the D5x00 series, not the D3x00 series) because they have autofocus motors in the body that will means that any current production lens will work on it. They also have separate controls for the shutter speed and aperture, which I view as important for learning to shoot in manual mode. The D5200 or better is my specific recommendation.

If you want a dark horse as an inexpensive way to start out cheap, the Olympus D510 and D520 can be had for next to nothing on eBay at this point, and are still quite respectable. They are getting old at this point and might have reliability problems, and don't offer an upgrade path.

You should also budget for a copy of the desktop version of Adobe Lightroom, as it is fairly essential for getting the best out of photos. I have not used a free product that comes close to what I can do with Lightroom, though I've not used whatever the new Apple built in photo editor is called.
posted by Candleman at 9:33 AM on January 13, 2016


You're already buried in answers, so it probably won't hurt to add one more to the pile. I think what you most need at this point is a camera with "manual" controls, i.e. one that gives you control over exposure time, aperture, and focus, all on a camera that has a lens and sensor that together can perform well in low light and when shooting moving subjects. SLR with interchangeable lenses is nice in some ways, but it means a bulkier package that is less convenient to cart around. There are other high-quality options.
posted by jon1270 at 9:35 AM on January 13, 2016


I'll make one SLR recommendation, because Nikon is offering a good deal on this bundle right now: Nikon D3300 with 18-55 and 55-200 lenses. Spending more money on a different camera might get your different features, but won't get you any better photos. At least not in any way that would matter for 99% of all photographers.

I agree with this recommendation but since you have a $900 budget, I'd recommend adding this fixed lens for indoor photography.
posted by capricorn at 9:36 AM on January 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Let's back up a bit.

To learn basic photography, you'll learn about aperture, shutter speed, focal length, ISO, etc., and how those can be manipulated to create the image you want. Meanwhile, the real differences between camera in your price range are few and minimal.

Now, all those things can be done on digital cameras, except, of course, for point and shoot. However, many former film users find the interface of most digital camera -- the stuff you need to push/flip/check to operate them -- is annoyingly complex and awkward. For many, then, the appeal of film *cameras* is not so much that they use film, but that they traditionally had a few knobs on the camera body for making these adjustments, and that was all. Once you got used to them, you could change them without removing the viewfinder from your eye.

Some digital cameras today attempt to emulate that design. Fujifilm is one, and there are others. I'd argue that the less time you spend fussing with complex camera interfaces, the easier it will be to learn photography (which is not at all the same thing as learning to use the camera).

Entry-level new cameras, with interchangeable lenses, are available in your price range. If you have access to decent camera stores, visit a few and see how different cameras feel in your hands and if the knobs and buttons make sense and seem easy to use.

Finally, the world is full of all kinds of opinions about cameras and photography, Whatever you like and whatever you do, someone will tell you it's rubbish and you're doing it wrong.

Film, by the way, is not totally dead. Film brands are vanishing, though, as are places that can reliably develop and print film. And it is increasingly expensive. If you shoot for personal pleasure and prepare and distribute images on the web, digital is easily the way to go. To get a film image on the web, it needs to be scanned and digitized, which means buying the right scanner and learning how to use it.
posted by justcorbly at 9:44 AM on January 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Okay, Kitteh clearly does not want an actual film camera - Kitteh has not expressed a desire to deal with chemicals (If you don't want to deal with darkroom chemicals, you don't want a film camera in this day and age). Rather, Kitteh is expressing the desire for lots of manual controls, larger image sensors, better handling and output quality. If trying to get the FEEL of a film camera, then a DSLR.

Now that that's been cleared up, there are many fine recommendations on this thread. Generally speaking, almost everything in a decent price point produced by Nikon, Canon, Sony, Pentax, Olympus, Panasonic will probably satisfy.

How to choose? The best answer is to go to a store. It's a pain, but ergonomics really, really matter. Each company does things slightly differently, and it's the best way to determine what works for you. Go to a camera store, and try everything at a price point you're considering, on full manual mode, to see how difficult it is to select your three primary exposure controls (Aperture, shutter speed, ISO). If you can't go to a store...either rent a camera - rentals are reasonably cheap online - or buy it online and return it within your grace period.

Lenses really matter. The camera body often matters a bit less than the lens you're using on it. Don't but a DSLR or mirrorless interchangeable lens camera if you're never planning on changing lenses - it's extra weight and expense and there are actually now quite a few fixed-lens cameras that will give you better bang for buck. If you buy an interchangeable lens system, make sure you're comfortable with it because that locks you in to a set of native lenses. Part of why I'm suggesting you try them before you buy them; DSLR lenses are larger and heavier than mirror less lenses, but you may like the ergonomics better. The best thing to do is identify what exactly you want (is small size/weight important to you? Is long battery life important to you? Low-light performance? Are you shooting mostly landscapes? People?) and then buy accordingly.

On today's crowded, performance-rich camera market, $900 is more than enough to get something that will enable you to produce fabulous large prints. You're spoiled for choice, which is good but also confusing. One piece of wisdom is that it REALLY helps to enjoy using the camera you buy - otherwise, it will sit and gather dust somewhere, which is what happens to a lot of people who buy DSLRs.

As some have suggested, it may make more sense to forgo a kit lens (your standard 18-55/16-50/55-200 lens bundled with camera) and buy a fixed length prime lens instead. I will say that you are likely to learn better technique with a fixed length prime lens than you would with a zoom lens. But the gear you buy will always matter less than the amount of effort you're willing to put in to learn the craft.

As far as my personal experiences are concerned, I've seen and used a ton of Nikon gear, have experience with the Sony mirror less system, my brother uses Pentax gear, and I have friends shooting Canon and Panasonic. You'll be able to take a fine image with any of this; people are correct that Pentax tends to offer stronger value per dollar; the advantage to Nikon and Canon is their ridiculously large collections of lenses. But that's only relevant if you're planning on buying a large collection. Again, if you're trying to buy just one lens and use only that, it really changes the buying strategy.

The Wirecutter has a variety of camera articles you may find useful; they're generally right about most things, though I don't agree with them about everything. Regarding pricing, it's usually possible to get a better deal than you'll see offered, though that can involve searching and sometimes, a bit of risk.

Candleman, you are incorrect. The D5x00 series does not autofocus AF-D lenses. The AF screw drive motor is reserved for the D7x00 series and up (or D90, D80 if you're talking older models), cameras that have a thumb wheel and a finger wheel.

If you wanted to hear about specific model recommendations, or can clarify your needs a little better, feel free to me mail me or post more. The more specific information given, the better you can be guided. There's a ton of information on the internet and much of it will be confusing or misleading to a novice.
posted by Strudel at 9:57 AM on January 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


I agree with this recommendation but since you have a $900 budget, I'd recommend adding this fixed lens for indoor photography.

100% Agree. The 35mm prime lens is great. I use mine all the time.
posted by The Deej at 9:58 AM on January 13, 2016


Candleman, you are incorrect. The D5x00 series does not autofocus AF-D lenses.

Derp, I could have sworn that they added it to them. In that case, the refurbed D7100s are relatively inexpensive (in the US, don't know about Canada) option that does have them.
posted by Candleman at 10:23 AM on January 13, 2016


I know you said you didn't want point-and-shoot, but I'm going to suggest one anyway. I'm hardly the first to suggest this camera - the Sony RX100 III (or II). Experienced professional photographers get rapturous talking about this camera. It's not just one of the best point and shoot cameras ever made, plenty of people think it takes better pictures than SLR cameras. Plus, it's tiny.

Anyway, you say you don't want point-and-shoot.

I agree with everyone else that you need to go to a big store and try stuff. DSLR cameras are big and the lenses are big. Mirrorless cameras (micro 4/3 being a prominent example) are smaller, with smaller lenses. Not point-and-shoot small, but small.

The good news is that it's pretty tough to screw up. Most of the cameras in this price range are really good, and most of the cameras have huge lens selections (and, to repeat what someone else said, if you aren't going to have a couple of different lenses then there's little point in getting a camera that lets you change lenses). I would also recommend not getting the kit lens, or at least researching it to make sure it's what you want. Many cameras ship with completely crappy lenses which have no virtue other than being cheap. There are plenty of sources for lens information, but a lot of them are geared at the more serious photographer with more money. Wirecutter, mentioned above, has some lens choices that might make sense for normal people.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:45 AM on January 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


With camera systems, the lenses matter more than the camera body. So what you want to do is buy a cheap camera and expensive lenses, and in a few years you upgrade to a new camera body.

This is a starter level camera with an excellent lens and a few accessories.

Buy this stuff ($879): I recommend buying used hardware from a reputable place that sells camera gear and gives you a warranty like KEH.com.
posted by gregr at 10:51 AM on January 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


On today's crowded, performance-rich camera market, $900 is more than enough to get something that will enable you to produce fabulous large prints. You're spoiled for choice, which is good but also confusing. One piece of wisdom is that it REALLY helps to enjoy using the camera you buy - otherwise, it will sit and gather dust somewhere, which is what happens to a lot of people who buy DSLRs.

As some have suggested, it may make more sense to forgo a kit lens (your standard 18-55/16-50/55-200 lens bundled with camera) and buy a fixed length prime lens instead. I will say that you are likely to learn better technique with a fixed length prime lens than you would with a zoom lens. But the gear you buy will always matter less than the amount of effort you're willing to put in to learn the craft.


QFT.

Strudel's advice is great. I decided to become a serious photography hobbyist around two years ago.

I am pleased as punch with my Nikon D3300 (their entry-level DLSR) and a 35mm f1.8 prime lens (i.e., no zoom, so I have to "zoom with my feet").

My two cents is forgo the kit lens and go for a good prime lens - in fact, mine is the one capricorn linked to above.

As others say, the DSLR market is an embarrassment of riches in terms of features at all sorts of price points. It'll come down to what feels good in your hands and the control layout making intuitive sense to you.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:53 AM on January 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Here in Canada, Henry's and Vistek are two reputable dealers you can order online from.

Local to you, (i.e., pick up and try before you buy) this looks like it would be an option for you:

The recommendation from deej is priced there at $528CDN with the kit lens.

Not pushing this make and model, necessarily, but it's what I own and what I've been happy with (minus the kit lens and using the 35mm prime lens mentioned above).
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:03 AM on January 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Aden Camera are also reputable and Canadian. They have about as decent prices as it's possible to have here.
posted by scruss at 11:30 AM on January 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm going contrarian. Adobe Lightroom first and a cheap camera plus join the club. Then handle (shoot?) as many body/lens combinations as you politely can. The ergonomics of cameras can really effect your shooting style.

Then shoot lots, in manual mode. Shoot several shots of the same subject at different Apertures and ISOs and ruthlessly discard any that don't make the cut.

I envy you, it used to cost a fortune to shoot 36 shots a day. You are going to have so much fun.
posted by ridgerunner at 12:56 PM on January 13, 2016


OP, I'm a little more advanced down this road than you are, and I picked up used Nikon D3200 with a couple of lenses and a pack off craigslist for $400 or so. I'm very happy with the setup, especially after I picked up the 35mm/1.8 lens linked above, which is the one that lives on my camera now for 80% of my shots. As others have said, there are a ton of choices out there, but most of them are good choices, so it's hard to go wrong at the price point you're looking at.
posted by craven_morhead at 2:07 PM on January 13, 2016


Having broken my Canon EF 50mm ƒ/1.4 (recommended by gregr above) twice I can't recommend it. If you're going with Canon, get the cheaper ƒ/1.8 (AKA "the thrifty fifty"). That said: I wouldn't recommend a 50mm lens as an only lens on a crop sensor camera (and I had just that setup for a couple years). 50mm lenses were always recommended for film cameras and they generally have lovely optics, but that focal length is an awkward not-quite-portrait length that isn't very useful indoors (since you can't back up enough to get more than two people in a photo) and isn't super-awesome when traveling either. I eventually picked up the Canon EF 28mm ƒ/1.8 (when I had to send my 50 in for repair) and liked it a whole lot more as an all-purpose lens on my crop sensor camera. Note that the 28 is known for being soft in the corners, and thus not very highly recommended for full frame cameras, but on a crop sensor camera you're just shooting within the higher quality part of the image circle anyway. For that purpose it's an excellent lens.

THAT SAID, I really like Olympus cameras and the OM-D E-M10 II is highly recommended for this purpose. Olympus' configuration menus are rightly maligned, but once you get the cameras set up the controls are really intuitive. Get that and the EZ 14-42mm and you're off to the races. (Really, I'd recommend stepping up to a body with the 2X2 switch for the dials like the E-M5 II, but that would bust your budget).

But really, any of the cameras listed on that Imaging Resource year-end page (plus the Sony a6000 mentioned a couple times above) could suit you, and you will do better by putting your hands on all of them than just getting advice on the internet.
posted by fedward at 3:36 PM on January 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Strudel's advice is so spot on, I couldn't recommend it harder.

How to choose? The best answer is to go to a store.

You will notice that everyone tends to recommend the camera they have. This is because most people don't have much experience with different brands and there is a strong cognitive bias to justify prior purchases. The reality is that virtually any entry to mid level DSLR or mirrorless camera will be great for you, and they all have minor pros and cons. E.G Pentax = more bang for buck; Nikon = good focusing, ISO and their flash system really is the best I've used; Canon = broadest range of lenses both brand and third party and accessories; oly/pana = size and focus speed, etc etc

Don't underestimate ergonomics, and which menus you find easiest to navigate (For example, I find Olympus menus a little confusing, but that's just me, you might love them). Get to a store and see what you like. There is absolutely no need, at all, to go over $900. In fact, if you buy an older model, you should be able to get body and kit lens, plus a cheap fast prime (I recommend this), for that much money (be aware there aren't a tonne of lenses for sony systems, and they tend to be on the pricier end, for now at least).

Consider pushing your budget to include a few months of Light Room via Creative Cloud (or another post processing program; I use DXO and On1); post processing will make a huge difference to your photos and how you think about them, and it doesn't have to be hard).

Best of luck!
posted by smoke at 3:37 PM on January 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


(For example, I find Olympus menus a little confusing, but that's just me, you might love them)

No, I think even otherwise happy Olympus users (like me) think the menus are terrible. The good news is you generally don't have to dive into them much after you get the buttons and knobs set up to your liking (and turn on the Super Control Panel). I wouldn't recommend Olympus to the exclusion of all others, but I'll say the menus, while terrible, don't make the cameras hard to use.

And if we're disclosing biases: at various times I've used a Pentax film SLR, an Olympus film P&S, a Nikon digital P&S, a Canon digital P&S, a Canon digital SLR, and now an Olympus OM-D E-M1. I think I still own all of them. I don't like Sony's ergonomics and bad experiences with Nikon's service turned me off, but I know plenty of happy Nikon SLR owners. And Fujifilm is probably the main brand that has me wondering how the other half lives, but Olympus was a closer fit for my needs, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by fedward at 3:59 PM on January 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Just to make things even more complicated: I have several cameras: a DSLR (Nikon D7200) with several prime and zoom lenses, a Leica (branded) D-LUX 3 point-and-shoot, a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3 water- and shock-resistant outdoor camera, my iPhone 6s, and a Fujifilm X100T (which has a 23mm f/2 prime lens that is equivalent to 35 mm on a 35mm film camera). That's not counting the two or three older digital cameras sitting in my recycle drawer.

When I went to Hawaii for vacation over the holidays, and on my summer trip to Iceland, I took my phone and two cameras: the weatherproof Panasonic and the Fuji X100T. I left the DSLR at home. It takes great pictures, but it's bulky and heavy. The X100T takes great landscape and candid family photos, and it's great for low-light shooting. It's unobtrusive and even with the mechanical shutter, it's nearly silent when you take a picture (I turn off the synthesized shutter sound immediately on all my cameras). The optical viewfinder means it has a pretty good battery life if you don't preview your images, and it helps with composition too. Its manual controls are easily accessible and intuitive. And I find there's a creative advantage to a fixed focal length lens; 35mm (equivalent) is ideal for conveying what the eye actually sees, and the 16-megapixel sensor means that you can crop images significantly while still getting a printable photo. In many ways it's the digital successor to the film Leica cameras.

The other camera has a decent zoom and was great for whale watching, beach photos, and other places I didn't want to get water or sand in my camera.

The X100T is over your budget, but you might find a reused or refurbished one, or the previous model, the X100S, which is almost as good.

I love my DSLR when I want to go out and spend a few hours taking pictures, though I'm often using it with a 24mm or 35mm prime lens, or a 100mm macro for bugs. But when I want to have an excellent, unobtrusive camera, I reach for the Fuji.
posted by brianogilvie at 5:12 PM on January 13, 2016


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