Its that time of year, and I am asked repeatedly, “Which camera should I get?.”

Christmas is here! Which camera should I buy?
(Copyright 2011 Jordan Reeder / Reeder Studios, LLC)


Even though most of the new smartphones take really decent pictures, most people still like to have a “better” camera. Special occasions, holidays, travel, etc. Most smartphones still can’t compete with a proper modern digital camera in terms of low light sensitivity, optics, resolution, color, autofocus, flash power, RAW capability, dynamic range, etc. A few more years…and smartphones will probably be good enough.

There are 3 big categories for consumers seeking digital cameras.

1. Compact / Point and Shoot / Pocket Cameras – Pretty obvious…small cameras (no interchangeable lenses) with decent megapixel sensors. Downside – usually physically small sensors which produce noisy images in low light, and can’t achieve the shallow depth of field look you get with a full frame or APS -C sized sensor. Generally least expensive compared to other types of cameras, decent cameras for average consumers range from $150-500.

Canon PowerShot S120
(photo from Canon USA website)


2. Mirrorless Cameras with Interchangeable Lenses –  This segment has seen the most change/growth in the last few years. Falls between compact and DSLR cameras. Sensors are now high MP and can be as large as full frame 35mm. Most midrange cameras have a slightly smaller chip size. They do very well in low light, smaller form factor and weight compared to a DSLR. Vast lens selection. In the next few years, many consumers interested in DSLR’s will be buying these instead. Moderately priced. Decent cameras (with 1 lens) for average consumers range from $400-2000.

Sony a7 24.3 megapixel mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses
(photo from sony website)


3. DSLR Cameras with Interchangeable Lenses  Larger / heavier bodies and lenses, SLR viewfinder, usually larger APS-C and full frame 35mm sensors which produce better images in low light. Great color, dynamic range, fast AF, huge selection of lenses, features, etc. Most professionals use some type of DSLR. Decent cameras (with 1 lens) for average consumers range from $650-2200

Canon EOS 6D Full Frame 35mm 20.2 MP Camera w/ Interchangeable Lenses
(photo from canon website)


So which one should you get?

If you want something small that you will take with you all the time because you’ll hardly notice its there, go for the compact point and shoot. I’ve found larger point and shoots like the Canon Gxx (G15, G16, etc.) series get left at home. They weigh too much, if I’m going to mess with that I want a proper big camera with interchangeable lenses. Some people like them…that’s fine…just my opinion.

If you are really into photography, you are probably already thinking about upgrading your current DSLR…then you need to really think about Mirrorless vs DSLR. If you have a bunch of DSLR lenses already, probably best to just upgrade the body.

For those of you who really enjoy photography and are thinking you want interchangeable lenses…look into mirrorless cameras. Cool thing is you can mount a simple compact lens when you want to travel super light and still fit it in a jacket pocket…DSLR would be tough.

In the next week, I’ll post some recommendations on makes and models.