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The marketplace is loaded with cameras in every price range and tackling the ever-changing and expanding market can be daunting. So, where to start? There’s no overly specific technical formula for buying a camera. Be sure to do thorough research and ensure that your purchase offers the features you need. Is built-in Wi-Fi important? What about a zoom lens, or the ability to shoot video in Full HD 1080p? Pay attention to details, and figure out what it is that will best suit you. In the meantime, here are a few general pointers to get you started.
Compact Digital Cameras
Compact cameras are everywhere. Deciding exactly what type to bring home can be overwhelming without knowing how to break down the market. Basic point-and-shoots are essentially, in today’s age, a step above a smartphone camera. They’re ideal for someone looking for grab-and-go accessibility with mostly automatic operation, not for those interested in manually adjusting settings. Image quality with these cameras is perfect for social media sharing and quick snapshots, such as during family vacations or other activities. Many also shoot HD video, and come with a host of creative filters and shooting modes to really make the process as effortless as possible. The Nikon COOLPIX S3700, Canon PowerShot ELPH 160, and Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W800 are all great basic options. Anyone with a penchant for the outdoors may enjoy a compact with waterproof, freeze-proof, and shockproof capabilities. Check out the Olympus Stylus TOUGH TG-4, Ricoh WG-5 GPS, Nikon COOLPIX AW130, or Fujifilm FinePix XP80, too. The TG-4, COOLPIX AW130 and FinePix XP80 also include built-in Wi-Fi for instant connectivity.
Mega-zoom compacts offer a much longer zoom range, hence the name, for easier access to faraway subject matter. These are handy for anyone who regularly takes photos at concerts or sporting events, for example, and wants to capture shots from a distant viewpoint. They also include a few more options for manual operation, though image quality is relatively consistent with the basic point-and-shoots with which they share the spotlight. The Nikon COOLPIX P900 is hefty, which may be a draw to those looking for a more impressive device. It has 83x optical zoom and a vari-angle LCD screen. In a similar light, the Fujifilm FinePix S9900W has a 50x zoom, EVF, and built-in Wi-Fi, while the Canon PowerShot SX530 HS also offers a 50x zoom lens and built-in Wi-Fi with NFC.
Advanced compacts are perfect for anyone looking to upgrade to a more advanced system that still remains sleek and comfortable in size. These cameras tend to have larger image sensors and faster processors, which yield higher picture quality and better low-light performance. They offer more options for manual control, and many today are fully capable of shooting in RAW file formats. These are perfect for enthusiasts who enjoy photography with purpose, and might later want to make adjustments in post processing. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III is the third iteration of this popular series, and now features a pop-up OLED viewfinder, as well as XAVC S video recording, built-in Wi-Fi with NFC, and a 24-70mm equivalent Zeiss Vario-Sonnar lens. The Fujifilm X100T is another enticing option, and features a large 16.3MP X-Trans CMOS II sensor, 35mm equivalent prime lens, and the unique Advanced Hybrid Viewfinder. Another camera featuring a larger-than-usual sensor and advanced controls is the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-LX100, which features a multi-aspect 4/3" type 12.8MP MOS sensor, 4K video recording, and a Leica DC Vario-Summilux 24-75mm equivalent lens.
Advanced hobbyists or aspiring/working professionals may have their eyes on a new DSLR. These are ideal for someone who understands, wants to learn, or wants the option of total manual camera operation. Someone new to DSLR systems entirely may appreciate an entry-level camera body sold with a kit lens, such as a Nikon D3300 with 18-55mm lens. This would be a great way to get them started with the essentials. A mid-range, “prosumer” DSLR may be better suited for those upgrading or expanding into more serious applications. They’re also popular as secondary or backup cameras among professionals looking for a cost-efficient but still high-quality system. Check out the Canon 70D or the Nikon D7200.
Professional DSLRs, such as the full-frame Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EOS-1D X, Nikon D4S or D810, or the APS-C-sized Canon EOS 7D Mark II, Sony Alpha a77II, or Pentax K-3 II, are for photographers who need cameras that can stand up to the rigors of daily use and are durable and efficient, consistently capturing images of professional quality. They maintain excellent processing speed, quick autofocusing, and optimal low-light performance. Full-frame image sensors, while not as critically important to some people as others, do tend to respond better to higher ISO settings and boost overall image quality. Full-frame cameras also enable photographers to use a variety of lenses without needing to account for a crop factor; something especially important to anyone regularly shooting wide-angle images. Conversely, top-tiered crop sensor cameras do give that bit of extra reach with lenses, making them ideal for sports, wildlife, and nature shooting, and also tend to have faster continuous shooting rates.
If you’re shopping for lenses instead, take the same factors into account that you would for choosing a camera. Fixed focal length, or prime lenses, are generally less expensive than zooms, but can also be somewhat limiting depending on how they are being used. Heavy-duty, weatherproof lenses, such as those in the esteemed Canon L-series lineup, will bear a price tag that reflects their higher quality. Third-party lens manufacturers, such as Tamron or Sigma, also offer a huge selection of great glass that can end up saving money on a purchase. Once you factor in budget, you can further narrow your choices. Assuming that you do not already own an extensive lens collection, there are several things you can keep in mind to help expedite the process. For shooting insects, flowers, and other tiny details, a dedicated macro lens is a fantastic choice. Every photographer who loves broad landscapes or architecture needs a decent wide-angle lens. When shooting a distant subject, such as wildlife or sports, a sharp, fast telephoto is second to none. Lastly, standard- and medium-length telephotos make fantastic “walk-around” lenses for everyday applications and portraiture. Additional things to consider include maximum aperture (the wider, the faster), image stabilization technology, and autofocus motor.
Mirrorless Digital Cameras
Mirrorless cameras are more popular now than ever. Like DSLRs, they consist of an interchangeable-lens system, each with its own network of dedicated accessories and accompaniments. As their name would suggest, they do not house a mirror to divert light into a viewfinder. Instead, they operate similarly to a point-and-shoot, with light falling directly onto the image sensor. This allows shots to be “previewed” on the camera’s LCD screen before each click. Eliminating the bulky mirror and shutter components makes their bodies much smaller and lighter than their DSLR compeers. With mirrorless systems, photo enthusiasts and professionals are given the freedom to shoot RAW and capture high-resolution images without toting bags of heavy gear.
The Olympus OM-D E-M1 is an indication of mirrorless cameras’ rapid improvement in technology and design. Whereas many mirrorless cameras face slower autofocusing (especially in low light), the OM-DE M1 rivals the speed of a DSLR by employing both contrast and phase detection AF. It accepts lenses designed for the Micro Four Thirds System. Similar in terms of speed, Panasonic's LUMIX DMC-GH4 is a mirrorless option ideal for both still and 4K video recording.
On the other side of the coin, Fujifilm has been enticing users with its X series of mirrorless cameras, including the X-T1 and X-E2, which feature a more retro-inspired design along with imaging features, such as the APS-C X-Trans sensor and Film Simulation modes, for excellent and distinct image quality.
Sony has also been making a notable push in the mirrorless market with the Alpha a7 series of full-frame mirrorless bodies. The system includes three distinct models: the a7II, a 24.3MP model with 5-axis sensor-shift image stabilization; the a7R, a high-resolution 36.4MP model; and the video-optimized 12.2MP a7S, which offers 4K video with an optional external recorder and sensitivity to ISO 409600. All of these cameras are compatible with full-frame E-Mount lenses, as well as nearly any other lens via an adapter. Much like DSLRs, mirrorless cameras can range in cost, and lens expenses must be factored in separately.
It easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of cameras on the market, but have no fear: with some basic research, you can easily analyze your budget and needs to score the perfect camera. If you need more guidance, contact B&H for advice at 1-800-606-6969, visit our New York SuperStore, or chat online with a sales professional.