Which Camera Should I Buy?

One of the questions I am asked most often is “Which camera should I buy?”  The answer… it depends.  What is your budget?  What pictures do you want to take?  How much time will you spend learning how to use the camera?  Does size matter?

The first thing you have to decide is what type of camera you really need.  Is your best choice a DSLR, a superzoom (bridge camera), compact point and shoot, or a mirrorless camera?  It is easy to see the soccer mom on the sidelines with a fancy DSLR camera and feel like you’re missing out on the best pictures.  But the reality is most people who buy introductory level DSLRs don’t buy the lenses they need or take time to learn how to use the settings.  This results in a few awesome outdoor images and a bunch of blurry photos and frustration.  Therefore, I generally recommend the bridge camera or superzoom point and shoot.

How to Choose a Camera

My personal favorite camera of all time is a Sony bridge camera (not pictured).  After being dropped, I replaced it with the Panasonic Lumix pictured above which is still my “go to” camera for travel.  That’s right, my “Disney camera” is a point and shoot with a long zoom.  Why?  Because it is small enough that I can carry it around but versatile enough I can zoom without changing lenses.  Most importantly, I get great shots with it.  Granted the photos I take with my point and shoot are not always as stunning as those taken with my professional camera and a massive zoom lens, but they are perfectly fine for my facebook page, scrapbooking, and my refrigerator.  If I could only have one camera it would be a superzoom.

Below are some general guidelines for choosing your camera type.  Keep in mind these are based solely on my personal opinions and preferences.   I have never owned a mirrorless camera, so I am not addressing that type here.


A DSLR May Be Right for You if

  • You want to take awesome pictures in a variety of situations.
  • You plan to start a photography business.
  • You are willing to spend hours learning how to shoot in manual or semi-manual modes.  (Pictures taken in auto mode on DSLR cameras are seldom better than those taken with the point and shoot digital cameras.)
  • You don’t mind carrying bulky equipment.  Remember you will need your camera, a couple of lenses and an external flash to have the flexibility for any situation.  This is not fanny pack gear.
  • Your budget is over $500.  It is true that you can purchase the “kit” at the big box stores for less than $500 but the lenses that come in a typical DSLR kit will not give you the range pr quality you need for awesome zoom shots.  Plan on purchasing the camera, quality lenses, and external flash separately and you will have a better chance of getting those amazing shots.  Most brands make a 50mm lens that takes great portraits for around $100.  You will need a lens with a long range and a wide angle lens as well.  External flashes run $100 – $300 depending on the brand and quality.

My DSLR Recommendations for Beginners:  Canon T3i or Nikon D5100


A Superzoom Point and Shoot (“Bridge Camera”) May Be Right for You if

  • You want to take awesome pictures in a variety of situations.
  • Your budget is between $200 – $500.
  • You want a camera that is easy to carry and all-in-one.
  • You don’t need your camera to fit in your pocket.
  • You want to get the most “bang for your buck.”
  • You will be taking pictures of things that are far away (sports, safari animals, concerts, etc.)
  • You like to shoot in auto and let the camera do the work (although many superzooms have powerful manual controls, too.)

My Superzoom Recommendations:  Sony HX200V or HX100V or Panasonic Lumix FZ-150


A Compact Point and shoot may be right for you if

  • You want to take great pictures outside and decent pictures inside.
  • Your budget is below $200.
  • You want a camera that fits in your pocket.
  • You don’t need more than 6X-10X zoom.

My Compact Recommendations:  Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 or Canon PowerShot ELPH 300 HS

Once you narrow down the type of camera, you can more easily do researchon the Internet to find a camera that fits your needs.  Here are some websites that may be helpful:  

If all else fails, give me a call and I’ll give you my two cents too!  Happy shooting!

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