In this article, I will give you my recommendations for your camera, with different choices for you depending on where you are with photography. I get asked this question all the time, so I thought it made the most sense to create this page and keep it updated.
If you are just dipping your toe in the water . . .
Canon T6i (750D) – $749
The latest Rebel. introduced in February of 2015, has 24 MP on an APS-C sized digital sensor. It is well-built and has all the latest bells and whistles. It has Wifi, shoots HD video, and has a swiveling LCD. It has the latest Canon processor and also boasts strong low-light performance. This camera will get the job done.
Nikon D5500 – $746
A new, highly rated 24 mega-pixel camera. It is very comparable to the Canon T6i. I like this camera a lot, and did a review of it here. The main difference is that this camera has a touchscreen LCD. It is slightly preferred to the Canon model by both DP Review and DxO Mark. Because it is new, you are getting the latest from Nikon.
If you are enthusiastic about photography . . .
Canon EOS 6D – $1,399
This camera might be a little bit of a reach for this category given its price, but it is worth it. You get a full-frame camera that compares will with cameras twice its price (see explanations below).
Nikon D610 – $1,496
This is another reach, but the price reduction makes it worth taking (formerly priced at $2,000). This is a full-frame, 24 megapixel, fast shooting camera from Nikon with great low-light performance and dynamic range.
If you are all in . . .
Canon EOS 6D – $1,399
The Canon 6D has 20 megapixels, great low-light performance and dynamic range, and the latest processor from Canon. It stacks up well against the Canon 5D mark 3, which costs $1,100 more. You cannot beat the bang for the buck with this camera.
Sony A7ii – $1,698
Mirrorless cameras are now on the scene in a big way, and there are no better mirrorless cameras than the Sony A7R. This is a 36 mega-pixel beast that performs well in every category. It is nothing short of awesome.
Here are some questions you may have about these recommendations:
This seems expensive. Is this hobby going to cost me a ton of money?
Yes and no. But mostly yes.
Getting your foot in the door is very expensive. The cameras in the chart above are not cheap, and there are still lenses and other items to worry about. So the up-front costs can really hurt.
There is no question that it can continue to be expensive, but it might not be as bad as you think. Once you are set up, digital photography is essentially free. You can roam around taking pictures all day and it costs you nothing. It is not like the old days where you had to pay for film and developing. There is still a lot of software and gear to buy, but once you are all set up, the costs stop (or at least slow down).
Unless you turn into a gear-head, that is, and then the costs continue to spiral.
How much does the camera actually matter in taking good pictures?
About 10-15%. Taking good pictures is much more about knowledge than about the specific camera you use. But that 10-15% is very important.
The fact is that you can do great photography with a basic DSLR and a moderate lens. There are people taking truly great pictures with nothing more than entry-level DSLRs and kit lenses. Conversely, there are people out there with the best gear possible who are taking crappy pictures. Good photography is much, much more about knowledge than it is about gear.
That said, gear matters. It is common for experts to state that “it is not about the gear,” but the next time you hear that, ask them what kind of camera they use. You can bet it won’t be a budget model. They probably spent a lot of money on it. There is a reason for that.
The ultimate message is to get the best camera you can afford, then forget about it, and go on to focus on learning how to use it.
Why are these almost all Canon or Nikon? And which is better?
Canon or Nikon are the industry leaders right now as to DSLR cameras, and they have been for several years. Neither is better. Even if one gets an upper hand in one area, you can bet the other will match it in short order. When it comes to DSLRs, I would stick to those two brands for a few reasons:
- Again, they are the industry leaders, and both make great products. You really won’t go wrong with any DSLR they make.
- You will find that over 90% of other photographers shoot with either Canon or Nikon. It is therefore easy to find someone to help you with yours (in real life or online).
- Even if another manufacturer had a slightly better DSLR (and I do not think that any do), Canon and Nikon have the best lens line-ups. That is very important because lenses typically only work on the same brand of camera. So, when you buy a DSLR, you are buying into a system and forever will it control your destiny.
Frankly, there is nothing wrong with Sony or Pentax or some other brands, but just make sure you will be happy with their lens lineup in addition to the camera you are considering.
Also, note that this discussion pertains to DSLRs only. When it comes to mirrorless cameras, look no further than Sony.
Why Do You Have the Canon 6D Listed Twice?
Because it fits two categories. Here’s how:
When it come to the Intermediate offerings, I tried to limit the price to about $1,000. When the 6D initially came on the market, the price was over $2,000 so it did not fit at all. As time has passed, the 6D’s price has dropped so it is now $1,399. You might find it lower elsewhere (but beware bait and switch places that show it markedly lower). As noted above, this camera is a slight reach in that it is still well above $1,000, but this is a full-frame camera that compares well with cameras that cost way more. It is worth the reach.
In the Advanced category, I did not have a set price limitation. I previously listed the Canon 5D mark iii as the best in this class, and it is a fine camera. Like you, however, I am always looking for bang for the buck. Testing that has been done on both the 6D and the 5D mark iii indicates that the 6D is every bit the camera that the 5D mark iii is, and in some ways more. Reviews put them a tie (see here and here). The 5D mark iii has a slight, but really insignificant, edge in megapixels (22.3 versus 20.2), and it has more focus points and card slots. Meanwhile the 6D has been tested to have slightly better low-light performance and dynamic range than the 5D mark iii. The 6D is smaller, lighter, and has GPS. They both use the same processor and have most of the same bells and whistles. So why pay $1,100 more for the 5D mark iii?
What About Mirrorless Cameras?
Mirrorless cameras are really coming on strong right now. They are a lot smaller than DSLRs, but frequently with comparable image quality (and in some cases every bit as good). Unless you are particularly sensitive to size and weight issues, I still think the DSLR is the better choice.
That said, the Sony A7ii has made my list. This is a full-frame mirrorless camera with 24 megapixels that tests really well as to low-light performance and dynamic range. It is also significantly cheaper than the Nikon D810 or the Canon 5D mark iii (or the Sony A7Rii or that matter). The only drawback to this camera is that Sony has really only focused on this market recently, so their lens line-up isn’t that great yet. They are getting better all the time though. In addition, there are adapters to any lens you might conceivably want to use.
Can I Just Use a Point and Shoot?
Not really. Sorry.
Point and shoots won’t work because (1) the sensors are way too small to get good image quality, (2) they don’t have interchangeable lenses, and (3) you just don’t have the amount of control you need. You’d frankly be better off just using your phone for the time being.
Where Should I Buy My Camera?
The best places are:
Amazon. This is particularly true if you have a Prime membership.
Adarama. One of the two big New York camera stores (along with B&H), they are reputable, have as good of prices as your will find, and have good service.
B&H Photo. The other big New York camera store. And if you are ever in New York, it is worth visiting their superstore. It is unlike any store you have been to.