Find the camera that best suits you

As Christmas approaches, and Hanukkah is quickly passing by, I thought it might be helpful to post a review of a few cameras that go beyond the point and shoot, in case anyone has their eye on one for the holidays. I often get questions from friends and family before a camera purchase. Usually I can’t help much because I have only ever researched the big, expensive pro cameras. Surprisingly not many people want to spend $3500 on a camera for their next vacation. Go figure!

So I thought it would be a good idea to finally dive in and do some research of my own. To use my photography knowledge to create a list of consumer level cameras that would be a smart purchase to make. So the next time someone asks what moderately priced camera to buy, I can simply point them here! Also, I’m putting together a beginners photography course to learn how to really get the most of these fancy new toys. I’ll be rolling that out in a couple of months, so keep your eye out for that announcement early next year! 

Under $500

Olympus TG-5- $399

“Though she be but little, she is fierce.” Made for the intrepid adventurer, this camera packs a lot into a little body. It’s features include waterproof design, a bright lens, RAW shooting, and competitive macro capabilities. This model has an new enhanced sensor with capabilities that sound like something from a Bond film. It has, a GPS, compass, manometer, temperature sensor and accelerometer. Every photo or video you take will have information attached to it like how hot it was that day, or how cold the water was, how deep you dove or how high you climbed. Use the handy accompanying app to show off to all your friends just how much of a badass you are.

Nikon D3500 – $396 (with a kit lens)

This DSLR is really the best bang for your buck in the entry level DSLR models. Much as it pains me to say as a Canon shooter. One feature I found particularly cool was a guide mode that actually walks you through the process of using the camera, including using the manual mode. So if you’ve only ever used a camera phone, this could be a great option for you. Plus, you have the added benefit of being able to invest in different lenses if you want to get creative down the road. Some of the other cool features include bluetooth (which syncs to the Snapbridge app on your phone for instant posting ability), excellent battery life, and 5 frames per second burst shooting. Great for capturing those fast moving toddlers or your child’s sports game.

Over $500

Nikon D5600 DX-Format – $582 (body only)

Keeping a lot of the same amazing features as the D3500 above, this camera also has a built in time lapse feature which would be really fun to play with. It also has a tilting lcd touch screen display with higher resolution, longer battery life, and additional shooting programs like sunset, beach, and night portrait. It’s lightweight and ready to travel. This would be a great choice for capturing memories close to home or out on adventures. 

Nikon starter lens suggestions: Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8, Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G 

Panasonic Lumix FZ2500 – $998

The biggest difference between this camera and all the others is 4k video. If you’re wanting to experiment with high quality video with you new camera purchase, this is the model for you! You can’t swap lenses with this camera but it has a Leica built in, so what more can you want? (If you’re not familiar with the brand, Leica lenses cause most pro photographers to drool like they’re eyeing up a chocolate cake. It gets messy.)  It has a swivel, touch screen back monitor which you can also use to set the focus. Also, competitive auto focus speed if you’re looking to capture fast moving subjects. Bottom line, best choice for video and a solid choice for still images.

Sony a77II – $1,200

This camera is on the high end for Christmas gifting, but thought I would include it since Sony makes some great camera technology. It has vibration reduction actually built into the body, which makes the lenses cheaper than Nikon or Canon. Highlight features are 12 frames per second burst shooting, 79 AF points (that’s a lot of focus), and 24.3 effective megapixels. Other fun features include face and smile detection, and Wi-Fi and NFC control for one-touch sharing with your smartphone.

Not included, but worth researching, are mirrorless cameras. Simplify your search and stick to Sony and Fuji, then pick a price point that works for you. Sony is winning the mirrorless market and you really can’t go wrong with them quality wise, but I hear their customer service isn’t awesome. I have a Fuji X-T20 mirrorless and I love it plus I hear great things about their other models as well. Olympus is a top contender also but their interface just makes no sense to me.


This is just a tiny sliver of the options out there, but I’m going to stop here. I’m just not a gear nerd, reading all these specs is making my head spin and I have too many tabs open.

The best advice I can give you is to go try them out in person. No matter how many specs you read and youtube videos you watch, it doesn’t compare to holding it in your hand and navigating the features yourself. I can tell you from personal experience, it makes a difference in your final decision.

When I was looking to buy a mirrorless camera for travel, I was sure I was going to buy an Olympus model. Luckily, my friend let me borrow his for a week and man was I glad I did. The settings were not intuitive to my brain at all and I had a difficult time operating the camera in manual mode. I may be a bit of a control freak when it comes to exposure. No machine will tell ME what to do! I ended up with a Fuji which I still struggle with but Canon didn’t have a mirrorless when I was shopping two years ago. Le sigh.

“But where can I go to actually hold a camera before buying it?” you ask. 

Everyone knows camera shops are dying out. You’re lucky if you have one less than an hour away. Damn this online shopping culture!

But fear not, Best Buy has a great new initiative to give you a hands on experience before you buy. With a new, expanded range of cameras and lenses as well as experts on hand to offer advice.

This is a long one, but hopefully helpful. I would love to hear if you found this useful and what you ended up buying.

Happy shooting!