Lots of people write me asking for recommendations on new cameras. The questions generally fall into one of these two categories:
1. I’m going on a big trip to Africa next week and I need to get a new camera. I’m willing to spend up to $500 for a nice camera. Which one should I buy?
2. I’m looking for a good backup camera and want something pocketable that will produce great results. I want it to respond quickly and take awesome pictures. I’m willing to spend $300. What should I buy?
The truth is that it is hard to find a high performance camera for under $500, but it is possible. Buying cameras is a lot like buying a new road bicycle. You start looking at the lower end models and prices first. Just about anyone can find a usable road bike for $300 to $500. However, once you start looking more into it, you realize that you can easily spend $2,000 to $10,000 on a bike that really fits your needs. Nice components, great fit, etc. The same goes for cameras. It is hard to get a great camera for $500, but you can get close.
For more expensive SLR cameras, I’m partial to Nikon since they do such a good job with ergonomics and image quality. For smaller camera systems though, the field is wide open. Manufacturers such as Sony, Olympus, and Panasonic have really done a good job in this area.
A good bridge camera between a small point and shoot and a larger SLR is the Nikon P7000 or the Canon G12. Both are excellent. A lot of professionals use these cameras because they offer manual override, but are relatively small. You can “almost” put them in your pocket. Cost will be about $450 – $500. Here are some direct links:
Another option is to get a new type of camera called a Four Thirds (4/3) system. They have changeable lenses and are very high quality. Cameras I like in this range are the Panasonic Lumix G2 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2. Here are some direct links:
Finally, if you want to go with a traditional camera (SLR) and spend just a bit more than $500, then I recommend either the Nikon D3100 or D5100. You can buy these two cameras from Costco, Best Buy or just about anywhere else. Nothing really compares to the speed and quality you get from a larger camera. The downside is they are larger! Here are some direct links:
Finally, finally. If you want a camera that you can truly put in your pocket, but you also want professional features, then I recommend the Canon S95. It truly is a great camera and will only set you back about $400. Link: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/729876-REG/Canon_4343B001_PowerShot_S95_Digital_Camera.html