camera buying guide

This article was a long time coming. I’ve gotten so many inquiries about what camera equipment I use when I am photographing portraits or traveling the world to capture landscapes and culture. It’s time I share it all with you.

Now, I don’t consider myself a total expert when it comes to the world of camera equipment. Honestly, I am far from it. This industry is vastly diverse and immense. They are always introducing new technology in the photography industry every single day. So I am merely an always evolving student, as I am in all fields of life.

I’ve written an awesome article over at DigitalPhotographySchool.com about camera equipment and traveling. Check it out here. It’s got some neat gadgets to add to your camera bag.

This article, however, is about the everyday consumer who might or might not be that interested in photography. Whether you are just curious about shooting or seriously interested in becoming the next NatGeo photographer, this article is worth a read.

What Camera is Best for You?

There are so many options available, I can totally understand how daunting it can be to choose. I am always doing research, learning about the newest additions to the photography industry and I still feel overwhelmed sometimes!  Now it’s holiday season and there’s typically one thought on everyone’s mind:  Holiday Shopping!

This is the time of year when everyone thinks about the latest and greatest technology available. It’s when everyone is open and willing to invest in something great for themselves and their families. The number one question I get asked this time of year is,

“What kind of camera should I put on my Christmas List?”

I usually answer a question with a question.  If you are asking yourself what kind of camera to buy, ask yourself these questions first:

“What do I want to do with my new camera?”

“How much am I willing to invest?”

Whether it’s for you or you want to buy a great camera for a loved one, I’ve put together a list of my top choice cameras ranging in style and price. This list has something for everyone, for the hobbyists with a smaller budget all the way to the prosumers who are ready to take their photography to the next level.

In order from least expensive to most valuable, here you will find your answer to the popular question, “What camera should I buy?”

The Best Cameras to Buy in 2015

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  1. Nikon D3200 DSLR (Price Range $250-$500) – A great beginner’s camera with all the bells and whistles. If you are just starting out and want to be a Nikon fan, go with this one. It’s small yet durable and the price is just right.
  2. Canon EOS Rebel SL1 DSLR (Price Range $350-$500) – This little bad boy is such a treat to have on this list!  I actually LOVE this camera. Canon has such simple menu options and with the SL1 you have a touch screen always available, making it even easier to manouvor around all those buttons.  It’s tiny too, fits right in your purse, ladies!
  3. Nikon D5300 DSLR (Price Range $600-$800) – Ready for something with more umph?!  The mid-level Nikon cameras are probably the most popular cameras on the market today. A beginner can have a blast, and a professional can be a pro without a pro’s budget. Investing a little more, will take you a long way. This camera is totally worth the price.
  4. Canon EOS Rebel T6i DSLR (Price Range $700-$900) – Canon’s mid-level DSLR is still lightweight but feels solid.  Step it up and take your photography to the next level. If you already know Canon, upgrade to this model for a more professional experience.
  5. Nikon D750 DSLR (Price Range $1400-$2000) – The first of the professional level Nikon DLSR line, this beast will take you places. With a full-frame sensor and Full HD video, you will never want to stop shooting!  See and do more by investing in what Nikon calls “The Full Frame of Freedom”.
  6. Canon EOS 6D (Price Range $1800-$2500) – I may be bias here, but if I were you, I’d get this camera. I LOVE Canon. For many reasons. But this baby is what I call the real thing. Going pro? Start here. For thousands less than the highest end Canon model (The Canon 5D Mark II), you still get about 95% of the quality and range of options.  Even if you aren’t going pro, I have seen numerous hobbyist photographers invest in this camera and never look back.  No matter what your level, you will feel right at home (for a long time) with this beautiful full-framed and extraordinarily light weight DLSR camera.

When in doubt, go with Canon or Nikon always. I have nothing against the other brands, I just know from experience that these two companies have ruled this market for many decades and they will always stay at the top of their game. Nikon will have the better glass (lens options) but Canon has a beautiful and easy to understand menu system for beginners.

They both offer many mid-range cameras that I have not listed here. So feel free to ask questions when you are shopping. Either way, you can’t go wrong with a Nikon or Canon. Pick your budget range and start your shopping at B & H Photo and Video (the best online store for camera equipment – with the best customer service)

Or head over to Amazon for the best prices that include awesome discounts for bundles (additional lens and accessories with your camera)!

Now, with all that new technology steadily racing into the hands of consumers, I’ve got to introduce you to an entirely new option in the field of digital cameras. Don’t mind me if you’ve already heard of it. But get ready for an entirely new kind of camera.

Remember when you started buying CDs instead of cassette tapes?  Do you remember how hesitant you were at first? And now we’re all rolling our eyes at CDs. That’s exactly what is happening right now in the photography industry. A new form of delivering you an amazing experience is going to change the way you think of photography and cameras forever.

It’s Called a Mirrorless Camera.Sony Mirrorless Camera

Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras all have a viewfinder that you look through that allows you to see exactly what is in your view. These cameras use actual mirrors to reflect the scene back to you through the viewfinder. That’s what we’ve been using in this professional industry for over 20 years.

And then the mirrorless cameras are invented. The difference with a mirrorless camera is that it’s all computerized. When you look through the viewfinder on a mirrorless camera (or when you look at the LCD screen because some don’t have viewfinders), you are seeing a computer generated version of the scene. There are no mirrors. And here’s the kicker… You are seeing the scene, not exactly as your eye sees it in real life, but how the camera sees it. As you change your settings on a mirrorless camera, the screen will show you exactly what you will get when you click the shutter!

Is your image dark in the viewfinder? Then your image will be dark. Change your settings to the exact exposure you want and you will know that you will get the right shot every time!

These cameras are fantastic. Many professional photographers are slowly but steadily moving in this direction with all their equipment. The mirrorless cameras are small, compact but full of life. They can produce high-quality images without the need for huge, heavy equipment.

Offering a growing range of interchangeable lenses, consider investing in a mirrorless camera to stay ahead of the game and start learning what’s about to become an industry standard.

Now here is where I should go on a nerdy, techie rant about all the ins and outs of these new cameras. But I will save you from that. And myself. Just know this, eventually, we will all being using these cameras. So why not start now and be ahead of the game?

With only a little bit of experience playing with these cameras, I can tell you my research and practice have given me enough knowledge to advise you to choose one of these three mirrorless cameras when you are shopping for the best gift to put under the tree!

Sony has taken over the start of this new market. When in doubt, go with Sony if you want a mirrorless digital camera.

  1. Sony Alpha A5100 (Price Range $400-$700) – With all the punch of a DLSR in a small compact camera, this Sony camera has just opened up a whole new range of budget friendly cameras.  It even has a 180 degree flip screen LCD so you can capture the best selfies ever!
  2. Olympus OM-D E-M10 MARK II (Price Range $800-$1100) – A total bang for your buck, if you’ve got the cash, buy this.  I’m not familiar with most of the Olympus line, but I know this one is pushing the limits with all its competitors!  It’s popularity is growing and it’s perfect for first timers using the mirrorless system.
  3. Sony Alpha A7 Mark II (Price Range $1700-2200) – The best of the best of the best. Ok, yes. I LOVE this camera. It will probably be the next one I invest in myself.  I’m ready to switch from DLSR to Mirrorless, and I know this will be the ultimate professional system to have in my camera bag.  It actually does more than most DLSR’s with less.

If you are curious about the advance in mirrorless technology, check out this awesome article called, “Mirrorless Cameras: A Buying Guide”, to help you get started.

Serious Cameras for Serious PhotographersCanon 5D Mark III DLSR Camera

For the extra serious buyers out there who are looking to invest in top of the line equipment, you’ve got three major choices for the best cameras out there today:

  1. Canon EOS 5D Mark III (Price Range $2000-$2500) – The only thing better than this, is number 3.
  2. Nikon D800 (Price Range $2100-$2600) – The best think Nikon has to offer, at least for now.
  3. Canon EOS 5D Mark II (Price Range $2800-$3500) – Go big or go home. This bad boy will take you places.

As a professional photographer, I am always researching and learning about the newest technological advances in this ever-growing industry. Although I am a Nikon and Canon girl at heart, I know that other outstanding companies are developing great equipment as well. Use this guide as a starting point to making your decision.

Bottom line, you can not go wrong. Everything on the shelf today is better than yesterday. That’s how fast technology is moving. And that’s why it can seem daunting to choose how to invest. While you use this article as a guide, remember that there are tons of options ranging from much less, to much more than what I have written about here.

So have you decided yet? Do you at least have an idea? When (not if) you have questions, feel free to message me and ask. I am always just a click away!