With the holidays coming up, it’s camera purchasin’ time! I frequently get asked for suggestions about what to buy so this year, I’ve put together a list. There are tons of cameras out there, and many great ones, but these are just my personal recommendations based on cameras I’ve used, have experience with or otherwise feel comfortable suggesting. (I do get a small referral fee from some of the links below.)
I want a point-and-shoot for everyday photos
Canon PowerShot A3300 IS – With 16 megapixels, an image-stabilized lens (helps in low-light) and video capability, these are great, easy to operate point-and-shoot cameras for every day use. They respond quickly and fit easily into a purse or bag. Note that they don’t have an optical viewfinder, though (you don’t look through a hole with your eye) – just an LCD display.
Need something even smaller? The Canon ELPH 300HS is the thinnest, smallest camera. Super easy to carry but I found the controls a little difficult to operate because of the small size.
I want to learn more about photography but I’m not quite ready for a dSLR
The Canon Powershot G12 has the option for full manual control which will help in learning the concepts of photography without having to go full-blown dSLR. It also has a hotshoe for external flash use. It shoots in JPG or RAW file formats. It’s among the bigger of compact cameras, better suited for a bag than a pocket.
I’m ready to move up to a dSLR
My first recommendation when buying a dSLR is to skip the kit lens (any of the lenses that come bundled with the camera body). They’re generally slow, meaning that they will only work well outdoors or in a lot of light, and poor quality. Instead, go for one or both of these lenses
The Canon Tamron AF 28-75mm f/2.8 or Nikon Tamron AF 28-75mm f/2.8. This lens costs a bit more than the standard kit lenses but the upgrade in quality is worth it, I promise. F/2.8 means that it will work well in low-light. Kit lenses often vary from f/3.5-5.6 which means that the more you zoom in, the worse it will perform in less than ideal lighting conditions. This Tamron lens is generally considered a steal for the price and will take awhile to grow out of.
Either the Canon EOS Rebel T3i or the Nikon D3100 would be great starter bodies. They aren’t professional level but they provide plenty of room for learning, experimenting and capturing images in all but the most extreme circumstances. You’ll find staunch supporters in each camp of the Canon/Nikon debate but they both produce quality cameras. Pick a brand you want to stick with because your lenses will last longer than your camera body.
I’ve got a dSLR and I’m looking for a point-and-shoot to accompany it
The Canon PowerShot S95 is a great little camera. It has full manual controls (which are difficult to go without once you’re accustomed), shoots RAW, performs well at high ISOs and is small enough to fit into a pocket.
There’s a newer version, the Canon PowerShot S100, which looks to boast several improvements, but I don’t have personal experience and haven’t read enough reviews to feel confident recommending it.
I want to buy a camera for my little one
If your little one is 5 or older, I’d suggest giving them a hand-me-down point and shoot (a great excuse for you to upgrade!) but if they’re younger, I’d suggest the Vtech Kidizoom Plus. It’s small, durable, shoots video and has a number of special effects that are fun for kids. At only 2 megapixels, the image quality isn’t the highest but it’s sufficient for printing 4×6 prints and fun to use.
Where to Buy
I buy the majority of my equipment from Amazon.com and B&H Photo. Adorama is also a reputable online store. Be aware that both B&H and Adorama observe Jewish holidays and tend to be closed during those periods.
Good gifts for beginning photographers…
Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson
The Adobe Photoshop CS5 Book for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby
The Photoshop Elements 10 Book for Digital Photographers by Matt Kloskowski and Scott Kelby
Anything from the Photojojo store!
A (free) subscription to Rangefinder Magazine.
A fun camera strap. I have one from Jodie’s Camera Straps that I love. My Funky Camera and Souldier are also good options. There are a variety of vendors on Etsy who sell custom camera straps. I would avoid buying straps that are made only from cloth and stick to ones that have applied a design to a webbed strap.
What’s in my bag
What I use often, in order of use…
Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM
Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM
Canon Speedlite 580EX II Flash
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM
Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM
Lensbaby The Composer
Have some gear or accessories that you love? Tell us about it in the comments!