I get this question more than any other. It’s a difficult thing to answer without knowing a person’s needs: What will they shoot? How often? What’s their budget? hobby or pro? The most important thing to remember is that the best camera you can have is the one you’ll take with you and use. My expensive DSLR camera sits on the shelf most days while I do 90% of my shooting with my iPhone 5s (which has an excellent compact camera, by the way). Before you make any decisions, make sure you weigh what’s important to you. Then figure out your budget – and leave some money for lenses and accessories. That will help you narrow down the type of camera that you want. The most important part is using the camera OFTEN to build your photography skills. If you just want a few camera recommendations, just scroll to the bottom of the page. But first I’d like to explain the two types of cameras you will want to consider: DSLR (digital single lens reflex) and Mirrorless ILC (interchangeable lens compact)…
Do you want to buy a DSLR? It’s not the most practical camera but they take truly amazing photographs. If quality is paramount to everything else, you want a DSLR. If you’re thinking of “going pro” someday, you want a DSLR. They offer so much control and customization that you have practically no limits on what you can accomplish. Of course, there’s a big learning curve and also a pretty big price jump. The DSLR is for professionals… and hobbyists who want great images and have the money to spend. Here’s what to expect with a DSLR:
Bottom Line: I recommend that you choose a DSLR from the Canon or Nikon family and choose the best one you can afford (while bearing in mind that a cheaper one might suffice). Make sure you leave room in your budget for one or two additional lenses because you will want more range with your new camera! Or consider which brand your friends shoot with and buy the same so you can borrow or “try out” their gear until you build your own collection. I make some personal camera recommendations at the bottom of this page.
If you want something a little less intimidating and smaller in size, then maybe you want to investigate my next recommendation which is a Mirrorless camera.
A Mirrorless camera (also sometimes referred to as a 4/3rd camera or an ILC for interchangeable lens compact) is the latest type of camera that exists between a point & shoot and a DSLR. Much like a DSLR, these cameras have larger sensors, support interchangeable lenses, and provide better manual controls. But like a point & shoot or an iPhone, they’re often easy to use and aim to be as compact and portable as possible. Some people feel these cameras are the best of both worlds because they provide superior image quality in a very portable size.
You are not saving THAT much money by choosing a Mirrorless camera instead of a DSLR. But as more manufacturers create these compact, mirrorless cameras, I expect prices will go down.
Bottom line: Buy what you can afford. Stick with any brand name and the quality of camera is usually great in the DSLR or Mirrorless ILC categories. Point & Shoot pocket cameras vary GREATLY and I couldn’t begin to recommend camera models.
Here’s a few excellent cameras I can highly recommend at this time (February 2014):
To see what’s in my camera bag, click here: http://buzzclickphotography.com/bag/