Hours of Idleness-A Photographer's Journey in St. Louis

Starting Out in Photography, What Options Exist in 2018?

Posted in awareness, Jason Gray, learning, links, nikon, photography by Jason Gray on October 19, 2018

In 2018, digital photography has been the standard for over 15 years, which means that options are vast (we now have both traditional SLR-style cameras and mirrorless options available in multiple sensor sizes), the cost of entry is low (the 2.7 megapixel, cropped Nikon D1 was over $5k at intro in 1999 and you can get well above the specs of that camera for about $100 now), and the ease of learning photography has never been so simple (I know that is a controversial statement, but it is true). So, what camera/system should the beginner photographer purchase in October of 2018? Let’s take a look.

THE RULES

For a post such as this, the solutions are myriad, so myriad, in fact, that the suggestions a beginner might receive when asking a photographer, “What camera should I start out with?” approach a figure beyond my limited math reasoning to quantify. It is important then, for the sake of sanity and usefulness to the reader, that there be some parameters to my following suggestions.

  1. No film cameras. Yes, film is a great and very fulfilling way to learn photography, but it is not the best fit for most photographers starting out, unless they are enrolled in a photography program at a high school, college or university.
  2. Budget of $400 or less. A challenge, no doubt. And depending upon the future intentions of the photographer, maybe a more expensive camera would be better suited. However, we are going to assume here that the photographer is not sure where they want to take it, and that it’s possible that they just want to take better pictures than their smartphone can deliver.
  3. 16 Megapixels or higher. Arguments can be made for those older cameras that shoot less than 16 megapixels, but again, we are going to assume that the budding photographer wishes to best their smartphone, with print flexibility being one of those metrics. 16 megapixels also gives the photographer some peace of mind that their camera is going to be capable against newer options for at least a few years.
  4. Amazon pricing. Yes, if you are willing to scour the internet and patient enough to wait for the right match, you can find better prices online, but by using Amazon pricing for this post it introduces both a comparable metric (you get a good sense of a product’s median pricing compared to other manufacturers’ offerings) and an easy shopping interface with consumer protections built-in.

 

CANON

We’ll start with Canon because they are the market leader by a large margin, and have been for decades. They make cameras in several sensor sizes, as both DSLRs and Mirrorless. Purchasing a Canon camera ensures an investment in a system that will be around for as long as you want to pursue photography.

DSLR OPTIONS

  1. Canon Rebel EOS T6 w/ EF-S 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 IS II Lens (Certified Refurbished). This 18 megapixel, entry-level DSLR is not Canon’s latest, but it is only a slight step back. The Certified Refurbished means that the camera has been restored to “factory fresh”, and includes a 90-day warranty (always make sure that you buy these through an authorized dealer or you risk a broken cam and no recourse). It is a very capable camera to learn on and is compatible with a wide lens set. It also offers good, basic video recording. If you poke around through the Amazon listings, you can find this cam sold used with an additional lens, for about the same price. negatives: No flip-out screen, no 4K recording, menu-driven.
  2. Canon Rebel EOS T5 w/ earlier version of the 18-55mm lens. This 18 megapixel cam is the edition before the T6 (two steps back from latest), with an earlier version of the same lens, but is offered brand new for about the same price.  negatives: Same as those in the T6 though slower processing than that cam
  3. Canon EOS 7D body only in “Excellent” used condition. This 18 megapixel camera is several years older than either of the two cameras listed above, but was a full featured semi-professional camera for its time. Even with its age, it will be quicker than either of the two entry level cameras already mentioned. negatives: Does not include a lens, no flip-out screen, must be careful about seller (recommend buying from an authorized Canon dealer).

MIRRORLESS OPTIONS

  1. Canon EOS M100 w/ 15-45mm lens in “Like New” used condition. One of Canon’s entry-level mirrorless offerings, this 24 megapixel camera includes several advancements over its entry-level DSLR siblings, including dual-pixel auto focus, a tilting screen, and Bluetooth/WiFi connectivity. negatives: Same used considerations as the 7D, no viewfinder (LCD driven operation), no 4K video recording.
  2. Canon EOS M3 w/ EF-M 18-55mm IS STM lens in “Like New” used condition. Another of Canon’s entry-level, 24 megapixel mirrorless cameras, the M3 adds some basic interface improvements over the M100, while simultaneously lacking others. Very similar camera to the M100. negatives: same as M100, lens is not as wide as the M100’s (though zooms a bit further) .

NIKON

Nikon is number two to Canon’s number one in interchangeable lenses, representing the gigantomachy over the industry that has perpetuated for years and years. A notable benefit to Nikon’s DSLR offerings is that they utilize the 60+ year old F-Mount, meaning that hundreds of lens options exist for use on these cameras (more than any other manufacturer). That said, the D3xxx and D5xxx series cameras place limitations on the functionality of those lenses. Though Nikon current makes Mirrorless cameras and has in the past, there are currently none to recommend within the requirements of this post.

DSLR OPTIONS

  1. Nikon D5300 w/ 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR DX lens in “Very Good” used condition. This 24 megapixel camera is a step up from Nikon’s entry-level DSLRs in offering better autofocus performance and a flip-out screen. negatives: must be careful of seller, two generations old in tech.
  2. Nikon D3400 w/18-55mm VR DX AF-P lens (Certified Refurbished). Nikon’s second to most recent entry-level DSLR features a 24 megapixel sensor, and Bluetooth connectivity. The Certified Refurbished means that the camera has been restored to “factory fresh”, and includes a 90-day warranty (always make sure that you buy these through an authorized dealer or you risk a broken cam and no recourse). negatives: primitive video recording, limited external feature set, no flip-out screen.
  3. Nikon D7000 body-only in “Very Good” condition. This older 16 megapixel Nikon was a semi-professional offering that offers superior autofocus performance, a more robust build, and better ergonomics over the more entry-level offerings (with the exception of the D5300’s flip-out screen). negatives: Does not include a lens, no flip-out screen, must be careful about seller (recommend buying from an authorized Nikon dealer).

MIRRORLESS OPTIONS

None are recommended fitting the pre-requisites of the post.

SONY

Sony is the major up and comer in photography. In just over a decade, the electronics brand has built a solid “number three”, that continues to eek away sales from the big two. Though they started in DSLRs, Sony is now known primarily as a mirrorless camera line, often leading the way, in terms of technological innovation.

DSLR OPTIONS

None are recommended fitting the pre-requisites of the post.

MIRRORLESS OPTIONS

  1. Sony Alpha A6000 w/16-50mm Power Zoom lens in “Very Good” used condition (the price of these brand new often dips below $400 during the holidays). This 24 megapixel camera may be a few years old, and several generations behind the current model, but it still sells new for a reason: it is incredibly popular. This camera has very good autofocus, a tilting screen, WiFi/NFC Connectivity, and is very small compared to most DSLRs. negatives: No 4k video recording, drains batteries fast, slower viewfinder than newer options, must be careful about seller (recommend buying from an authorized Sony dealer).

FUJI

In the film era, Fuji was a photography market leader. Though it has fallen further behind in the digital era, it has carved a very secure market out for itself in cropped sensor mirrorless production. Much like Sony, Fuji started out in DSLRs, but has moved on.

DSLR OPTIONS

None are recommended fitting the pre-requisites of the post.

MIRRORLESS OPTIONS

  1. Fujfilm XT10 body only in “Very Good” used condition. Fuji has an interesting process for rolling out new models: ever camera of any particular generation share essentially the same sensor. This means that camera layout, styling, AF performance, and other aspects are what distinguish models from one another. The XT10 is one generation old in Fuji’s lineup, but represents a level a step up from entry. It is a 16 megapixel, retro-styled cam with Fuji’s distinctive X-Trans processing and film simulations. Very capable camera. negatives: No 4k video recording, must be careful about seller (recommend buying from an authorized Fuji dealer), no lens included.
  2. Fujifilm X-Pro 1 body only in “Very Good” used condition. Fuji’s former flagship professional 16 megapixel camera, with optical and electronic viewfinder, weather sealing and all the bells and whistles. negatives: older tech that has its quirks, slower EVF, no 4k video recording, must be careful about seller (recommend buying from an authorized Fuji dealer), no lens included.
  3. Fuji XE2 body only in “Very Good” condition. A 16 megapixel camera only one generation for Fuji’s latest. Sort of like the X-Pro in a lighter, smaller package. negatives: no 4k video recording, must be careful about seller (recommend buying from an authorized Fuji dealer), no lens included.

OTHERS

One could certainly argue that other options exist, especially with the line-ups of Olympus and Panasonic, but I believe the strongest cameras that fit the bill of this post are already listed above. With the current trend toward more full frame mirrorless cameras entering the marketplace by most of the big manufacturers, I am hesitant to suggest that someone starting out should buy into the Micro Four-Thirds segment. Certainly, they have their uses, but I think those uses mostly befit more experienced photographers who know when they need them.

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