In this story, we’ll be giving you an overview of how to choose a camera by function, price, and performance.
What’s Your Platform?
There are really only two major categories of dedicated cameras: all-in-one cameras, and cameras with interchangeable lenses.
All In One:
The first major category is an all-in-one superzoom camera. (e.g. for example a Power Shot/Coolpix). These combine the camera with a lens that will essentially do anything. Your choice here since the lens is part of the camera is to invest more money for a better lens initially because you can’t change it.
These cameras tend to be small, light, and you can pop them in a pocket or purse. They are good for travel as well.
However, your tradeoff is the larger the zoom range (from wide-angle to telephoto) the more expensive it is, the more sensitivity it has in low light (the larger the light gathering capability of the lens as expressed as small F-stop numbers). The larger the sensor in the camera (which allows for better low light performance) the more expensive, large, and heavy the camera will be. This is an issue because a camera that you hate to take with you is a useless camera.
Interchangeable Lens Cameras:
The other category is an interchangeable lens camera.
Before we dive into modern mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras, One caveat is that there are many now obsolete DSLR cameras still being sold. The modern standard is mirrorless because your viewfinder is an electronic screen which shows you exactly how the picture will be when recorded. With a DSLR there is a mirror which diverts the light from the camera lens to the viewfinder which must be flipped out of the way to take the picture. This leads to a very loud clicking at a press conferences and optical viewfinders get dimmer as your light dims as opposed to electronic viewfinders that automatically amplify the light. Additionally, since autofocus on a DSLR Fails in low light. whereas mirrorless autofocus uses the same amplified image as the viewfinder.
Lastly, modern in-camera body stabilization only happens with mirrorless cameras saving money because each lens does not need stabilization separately.
Modern Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Cameras:
These come in three varieties: full-frame (the size of a frame of 35mm film from the past), APS-C (named for the APS format of the past-half the size of a full-frame camera sensor), and Micro four-thirds (half the size of APS-C or 1/4 the size of the full-frame camera sensors).
What is important to you is size, cost, and weight. The amount of glass used in a lens directly relates to sensor size.
APS-C lens of the same image capabilities od s a full-frame lens are 70% of the cost, the weight, and the size of the full-frame equivalent. Likewise, a micro 4/3 lens is half the weight, the size and the cost of an equivalent full-frame lens or 70% of an equivalent APS-C lens.
The real problem is that every APS-C camera currently on the market other than Fuji and some of the Sony models are obsolete and about to be discontinued. Neither Nikon nor Canon have yet replaced their APS-C offerings for the new mirrorless world.
Micro 4/3rds vs. Full-Frame:
Many superzoom cameras can exceed the cost of an interchangeable lens camera and the lens. Therefore, you might be well advised to get a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera such as a micro 4/3rds. Also, since Micro 4/3rds is an industry-standard you can buy cameras from Olympus and Panasonic, and other companies.
The lenses from all of the companies who build to the standard and lenses from them will work on any of the camera bodies. But lenses built by the same manufacturer as your camera body tend to work better.
As for full-frame cameras, these might possibly be out of your consideration. Full frame cameras may not be your best option due to cost and convenience issues for those who are not planning to go pro.
Obviously, size, weight, and cost are important factors to you. You must make your choices based on will you actually take it with you and use it?
The other consideration is whether you are going to use it professionally to create a YouTube Channel or to do professional photography. In that case, heavier and more expensive equipment might be justified.
However, for most amateurs, a micro 4/3rds camera will be sufficient for YouTube and photographs.
Olympus (Now OM Digital):
Our personal choice has been micro 4/3rds cameras because they are small, light, extremely capable and cost-effective. They’re great for travel and for all-around photography and video.
Although we have used Panasonic mirrorless cameras in the past we currently use Olympus Now OM Digital cameras. This is because of their amazing optical qualities, industry-leading stabilization and extremely good phase detect auto-focus. (Read: A Review of the Exciting Olympus OM-D-E M5 Mark III Camera and also What to Buy for Your New Camera, One Lens? Many Lenses?
Set a Budget and Learn to Use the Camera Properly.
Even the most expensive equipment won’t be better than your phone if you don’t use it or don’t use it properly. Don’t waste your investment. Read a book, take a class, or find information online including YouTube videos.
*if you’re wondering why we suggest actual cameras when everyone has a cell phone anyway, please go back and read our story Why You Need A Camera Even If You Have A Great Cell Phone