Updated: August 2014
The number one question I get from readers is, “Which camera should I buy?” Camera choice is about compromise. In general, a Digital SLR (DSLR) with a good lens will provide excellent image quality, ease of use, and flexibility. DSLRs are generally fast, responsive, and your best bet for photographing sports, children, pets, and anything that moves. However, they’re also larger and heavier than mirrorless and compact cameras, making them less attractive for travel and casual photography.
Mirrorless cameras with interchangeable lenses are also capable of excellent image quality in a smaller and lighter package, making them ideal for travel and general photography. Of particular note are Fujifilm cameras with the X-Trans CMOS sensor. These cameras have change the mirrorless landscape by providing higher quality images than many DSLRs. They are quickly becoming a favourite of enthusiasts and professionals alike, and their autofocus speeds are catching up with DSLRs.
A range of compact digital cameras are available to suit various budgets and styles. They vary greatly in capabilities, including optical zoom and size. Most are attractive to those seeking a basic point-and-shoot, although a few higher-end models offer full manual controls making them attractive to advanced users. Many DSLR owners also purchase a compact for those times when they’d prefer to leave the DSLR at home.
When choosing a camera consider what you wish to photograph and where. Be realistic. If you’re going to buy a DSLR, will you carry it with you on vacation? Or will it spend most of it’s life in your hotel room or trunk of your car because it’s too heavy to carry for hours? If you spend a lot of time camping, hiking, or at the beach, perhaps a compact waterproof camera would be a better choice.
This page lists cameras that I recommend, but please remember that the best camera for you is one that fits your budget and shooting style. The bottom line is that the “best camera” is usually the one you’re carrying when you wish to take photo.
Note that within the categories, cameras are presented in alphabetical order.
- Canon EOS Rebel T5i: Good entry-level DSLR
- Nikon D3100, D3200, and D3300: Good entry-level DSLRs.
- Nikon D7100: Best price/performance in the DSLR market. Solid low-light performance.
- (Potential: Canon 70D: Still waiting to review)
- Fujifilm X-E2: Image quality surpasses most DSLRs. Exceptional low-light performance. Great handling. Excellent option for travel, street, and general photography.
- Panasonic DMC-GX7: Responsive with good image quality. Nice option for lightweight travel.
- Canon Powershot G15: High-end of the compact camera segment. Manual controls.
- Canon S110: Similar image quality to G15 but smaller and fewer options.
- Fujifilm X20: Small and response. Great compact walk-around camera.
- Fujifilm XF1: Elegant camera with superb automatic modes and manual controls.
- Nikon P7000: High-end compact camera. (Note: Dated, hoping to review the Nikon P7700)
Waterproof and Rugged
- Fujifilm FinePix XP200. Waterproof to 15m and as rugged as they come. Cool mobile phone integration features.
What’s in my bag?
My travel and general purpose camera is a Fujifilm X-E2 with two lenses:
- Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS zoom
- Fujinon XF 35 f/1.4 R
The camera and lenses fit nicely into a Timbuk2 XS camera insert along an extra battery, neutral density filter, circular polarizing filter, and extra memory cards. (The power supply does not fit well with two lenses and other accessories in the insert.) This allows me to slip the camera insert into a medium Timbuk2 laptop bag and have room left for non-photo gear.
My SLR is a Nikon D7000 with a variety of lenses: 35mm f/1.8, 50mm f/1.4, 12-24mm f/4, 28-70 f/2.8, and 70-200 f/8. I chose the D7000 for good low-light performance and the ability to shoot video clips of the kids. (Note to beginners: A lower-end camera with a good lens will give you better images than a high-end camera with a cheap lens.)
While taking just the D7000 and either the 35mm prime or 12-24mm zoom does make it more manageable on long walks, I prefer my Fuji gear for travel.
If you have questions or suggestions, please feel free to contact me!
Disclosure: Yes, I make a small amount of commission if you follow one of my links to B&H and purchase from them. It helps keep this site going. No, it does not influence anything I post. B&H Photo Video in New York sells virtually every camera on the market. I only recommend gear that I would use and/or suggest to family and friends.