Picking a Beginner Camera

Nikon D7000
Nikon D7000 - by Nikon

The question I get most often is, “What kind of camera should I buy?” That’s a big question and a lot depends on your budget and what kind of photography you’ll be pursuing and at what level.  The word beginner comes in many contexts: are you a beginner to shooting for money or using a camera period. Different options apply.

Professional and Semi-Professional

You’re planning on making money with your camera or plan to do a lot of shooting as a semi-pro or amateur. You have $1,800 to $2,500 in your budget.

Cameras: Nikon D300s , Nikon D7000Nikon D700, Canon 5D MKII, and Canon 7D.

If you’re shooting stills, go with Nikon. If you think you’ll be doing a lot of video go with Canon. Nikons have video recording capability, but most of the video accessories are made for Canons.

Advanced Hobbyist

You are really serious about taking pictures, but you have a day job in another field. Photography is a serious hobby. There’s an outside chance you’ll be taking a paying job, or filling in for friends who can’t afford a professional photographer. You have a budget from $800 to $1,500.

Cameras: Canon 60D, Canon T3i, Nikon D3100, Nikon D5100

It’s pretty much just which ever camera you like in this range.

You Just Want To Take Good Pictures

You want to take great pictures, but mainly of your family and friends. You want something better than a pocket camera and you might want to experiment with manual controls once in a while.

Your budget is $400 to $800.

Cameras: Sony NEX-5N, Canon S100, Nikon P7000, Samsung NX100

Remember you can always use Snapsort to get the latest and best camera recommendations, including beginner DSLRs, semi pro DSLRs and small high quality cameras.  Our system will produce slightly different results from our editorial coverage as it allows you to define your exact personal criteria.

Mirrorless Cameras Cut Into Canon, Nikon

Mirrorless cameras take a bite out of Canon and Nikon markets - by Samsung

Figures from Bloomberg indicate that Sony, Panasonic and Samsung may be scoring market share gains from Canon and Nikon with their mirrorless camera models. The trend is most obvious in Japan where Canon and Nikon’s combined share of that market has fallen an eye-popping 35%.

The losses for Canon and Nikon have been a boom for Sony, as their market share has doubled.  Panasonic and Samsung also scored gains, but not as significant.

Mirrorless cameras have a smaller physical frame and lower weight, while keeping the larger sensor sizes and interchangeable lenses.  The big chips behind good glass are getting results comparable to larger DSLRs at closer to half the weight of their bigger DSLR cousins.

If you’re tempted to dismiss the trend as one confined to Japan, keep in mind that the smart phone and tablet trend also started there before spreading to more distant shores.

No surprise that rumors have surfaced that Canon is coming out with mirrorless models in 2012, it’s not much of a stretch to think Nikon is engaged in similar efforts.

It’s my opinion that Panasonic and Olympus stumbled with the 4/3 sensor format.  I just don’t see professionals investing in that format when full size and APS-C sensors are superior and proven technologies.  For consumer cams, it’s less of an issue because the average buyer doesn’t really understand the difference in chip sizes.

As the trend in SLRs moves to mirrorless, expect Canon and Nikon to claw back some of the market share lost to Sony.  But I don’t expect to see any significant growth from Panasonic or Olympus until they abandon 4/3.

Sony Launches NEX-7 and NEX-5N

Sony Nex-7
Sony NEX-7 - More proof good things come in small packages

Sony announced two new models to their growing mirrorless, small-frame camera line.

The NEX-7 and NEX-5N both sport APS-C sensors, support interchangeable lenses, and video with the new AVCHD Progressive codec.

The NEX-7 carries the new 23.4 MP APS-C sensor backed up by the Boinz image processor, capable of writing 10 full-resolution images per second in burst mode.

Most of the external controls in the NEX-7 have been migrated to menus in their Tri-Navi menu system, which uses a combination of two unmarked physical dials and scroll wheel on the back to access camera functions.

The ISO rating is an eye-popping 100-16000, making that a significant leap over the NEX-5.

Video mode offers 1080p HD at 60 fps and 24 fps along with full manual control over exposure along with a selection of creative effects.

Also new to the NEX-7 is the built-in viewfinder, which is an add-on for the NEX-5N that also happens to block the port used by the flash, an unfortunate design choice.

The NEX-7 is almost the same size as the NEX-5, maybe a bit taller, and sports a redesigned grip which adds quite a bit to the stability.

Price for the NEX-7 is expected to be around $1,350 with an 18-55 f/3.5 kit lens, delivery in November.

Nex 5N
NEX-5N - Small frame, big features

The NEX-5N is fitted with the new 16.1 MP APS-C CMOS sensor that features the ability to select electronic first curtain to speed up capture times.

The 5N offers the same AVCHD 1080p video modes in 60 fps and 24 fps.

Menu options are similar to the NEX-7, except the 5N adds touch screen capability to the LCD back screen.

The ISO range is rated from 100 to 25,600, which means we should be able to expect some mind-blowing low light performance.

The NEX-5N offers a lot of features for $600.  Add the 18-55mm zoom for another $100.  Not exactly a pocket camera with the interchangeable lenses, but a sweet camera loaded with a lot of attractive features in a small frame.

Sony Announces SLT-A77 and SLT-A65

Sony A77
The Sony SLT-A77 takes aim at Nikon and Canon

Sony announced new entries to compete with Nikon and Canon, demonstrating they’re serious about trying to carve out a foothold in the digital camera space.

Sony SLT-A77

The A77 comes packed with features aimed at the Canon 7D and Nikon D5100 and could be compelling enough to wrestle some business away from the market leaders.

Built with a magnesium-alloy shell, the A77 provides clear testimony to the success of Sony’s push to improve the fit and finish of their cameras.

Inside Sony has fitted the A77 with an APS-C chip behind a translucent mirror.  Instead of a flip-up mirror, the A77’s translucent mirror remains fixed and allows continuous auto-focus both in burst mode and movie mode.  This feature was first introduced in the A55 and improved for this generation.

Several features are aimed at sports photography, including the ability to shoot 12 full-resolution images in burst mode with a shutter delay as low as 0.05 seconds.

The video capabilities have been enhanced, with the introduction of the AVCHD Progressive codec.  The A77 can deliver 1080p in either 60 fps or 24 fps and boasts a continuous shooting time of 29 minutes.

The LCD screen has dual-hinge, three-way tilt shift capability, something Canon users will envy when shooting outside on sunny days.

For audio the A77 has stereo mics, but strangely didn’t include any manual audio controls.

The Sony A65 has very similar capabilities in a plastic shell and the burst mode only handles 10 pictures instead of 12.

The A77 will have a $2,000 kit price and the A65 will weigh in at $999 with the 18-55mm kit lens.

Instead of a lower price point, Sony opted for the “more for your money” approach.  It will be interesting to see if it works.