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Ask Slashdot: Best Camera For Getting Into Photography? 569

An anonymous reader writes "I've managed to go my entire adult life without owning an actual camera. I've owned photosensors that were shoehorned into various other gadgets, but I've gotten to the point where the images produced by my smartphone aren't cutting it. My question: what camera would you recommend for getting into basic photography? I don't mean that in the sense of photography as a hobby or a profession, but simply as a method for taking images — of friends, family, and projects — that actually look good. That's a subjective question, I know, but I suspect many of you have a strong grasp of price versus performance. For example, when I'm picking a new video card, it's easy to figure out which cards are the best deals for a given price point — then I just have to pick a price I'm comfortable with. I figure a decent camera will run me a few hundred dollars, which is fine. But I don't have the expertise to know at what point spending more money isn't going to do me, as a camera newbie, any good. Any thoughts?"
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Ask Slashdot: Best Camera For Getting Into Photography?

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  • Canon or Nikon (Score:4, Informative)

    by stewbacca ( 1033764 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @05:30PM (#38169290)

    The Canon or Nikon entry level DSLRs...you can't go wrong, except for the fact they are made for really small hands seemingly. For a little more money, get the next step up from either of those brands so you get a camera body that actually fits average human hand sizes.

    • Agreed. You cannot go wrong with Canon or Nikon. My family have a Canon compact and a Nikon SLR. Both are super for their class.

      On the other hand, for a newbie, I am not so certain that the difference between the brands (Sony, Panasonics... lots of them) are that great anyway. For a few hundred dollars you should get a decent compact.
      Just remember to get a memory chip with some capacity. Look at price per capacity, but I assume a 4 GB should cost next to nothing these days, and it will keep more than a th
    • Re:Canon or Nikon (Score:5, Informative)

      by quarterbuck ( 1268694 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @05:39PM (#38169410)
      That or Micro four thirds/ Micro four thirds.
      Two things to consider when trying to learn photography are 1) Interchangeable lenses and 2) Getting the largest possible image sensor you can get (Noise decreases with image sensor size, not with megapixels).
      Micro four thirds (or similar formats from Sony/Samsung) have a larger sensor than a typical point-and-shoot. So they work better in low lights and generally have a higher Signal-to-Noise ratio.
      Olympus EPL line is a pretty good and cheap micro 4/3 camera. Sony makes their NEX series which are the full blown APS-C (DSLR) sensors squeezed into a small camera. Olympus and Panasonic both make micro-4/3 cameras, so the lenses are easier to come by. Also they can use adapters for various other kind of lenses. On the flip side, the micro 4/3 sensor is only 60% or so in size compared to a DSLR sensor.
      All the above also have pre-set modes to increase/decrease brightness, contrast etc. -- they are useful to start. Once there you can set the camera to full manual and learn the physics part of photography. I've been told that Samsung makes the easiest to use interface , but I have never used it.
      • by Wraithlyn ( 133796 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @08:00PM (#38170956)

        I picked up a Lumix LX5 a few months back, I was basically looking for the best compact camera I could find. I've been very happy with it, it has a large sensor (1/1.63") for a compact, a decently wide angle (24mm equivalent), and bright F2.0 aperture. Full manual/shutter/aperture controls. Can even get some nice depth-of-field effects (ie, "bokeh"), something I've never really seen in a compact before.

        I'm a firm believer in "the best camera is the one you have with you", this is what drove my purchase, as I'm not really interested in carrying around lenses. The LX5 takes great quality shots (including in poor lighting, I've even compared it head-to-head against some friends' DSLRs), and has all the manual options you could want to experiment with.

    • Re:Canon or Nikon (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 25, 2011 @05:41PM (#38169432)

      Do not buy a DSLR unless you must have changeable lenses. Compare the weight of a DSLR to a fixed lens camera. The best camera to start out is the one that will always be with you.

      • Re:Canon or Nikon (Score:5, Interesting)

        by capsteve ( 4595 ) * on Friday November 25, 2011 @06:27PM (#38170082) Homepage Journal

        this is the best advise i've seen so far... the best camera to start out with is one that will always be with you.
        WTF moderators, why did this get a low score?

        OP, unless you're dedicated to becoming a photographer and don't mind carrying around a DSLR all the time, you'd be better off carrying a small compact point-and-shoot camera. get something in the $200 range(8-12MP, 3x optical zoom) they're all pretty comparable, but i've always been partial to the canon xilim or canon powershot series. my criteria was a camera OS that was usable as well as quick and responsive. i've spent time in several stores testing various brands for what i felt were important features: power on to shutter ready; switching capture modes; the ability to turn off startup sounds/animations; size or a pack of cigarettes; sd card. once you've got narrowed you choices down to a couple/three cameras, go to http://www.steves-digicams.com/ [steves-digicams.com] and compare your impressions against someone whose tested many evices.

        IMHO, if you want to learn how to take photos, you do it by taking pictures. don't get an DSLR. don't get a micro 4/3. you can graduate to these later, when your comfortable taking pictures. don't buy a camera that you haven't actually touched and toyed with.

        1) carry a camera with you all the time.
        2) take lots of pictures. if you get a one good picture out of 20-36 exposures, you're doing well.
        3) not every picture is sacred. capturing the moment with all it's flaws is better than to miss the moment.
        4) keep taking lots of pictures
        5) don't be afraid to edit out crap images
        6) learn the various functions of your camera(night shot, red eye/no red eye, flash/no flash, etc)

        i take between 6000-10000 pictures a year(the camera is with me all the time). i replace my camera every year or so(depends on how beat up it gets).
        and i get surprisingly good images from a stupid little canon powershot. i have a lot of reject images, but i also more than my fair share of keepers. eventually i'll get a fancier camera, but in the meantime i'm looking at a new refresh(canon s100 is looking sweet) for my daily shooter.

        • Re:Canon or Nikon (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ShakaUVM ( 157947 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @09:37PM (#38171654) Homepage Journal

          "i get surprisingly good images from a stupid little canon powershot"


          I went hiking in Yosemite with a friend a couple months back. I had my superzoom powershot, he had his four-digit DSLR. We ended up taking a lot of similar shots (hey, a bird!) and the images were pretty comparable. Some instances the powershot looked better. He was obviously much better at the macro / shallow depth of field shots. That said, it was possible for me to take a photograph of a waterfall while scrambling on hands and knees up a cliffside, but it was impossible for him to maneuver the DSLR into place safely.

          I'm not saying DSLRs are bad or anything, but a lot of the things that you need to take good photos (exposure and shutter control, white balance, ISO control, etc.) can be done in most mid-grade P&S cameras. I've taken some really nice photos with my powershots, that I'd have otherwise missed since I wouldn't have been able to carry a DSLR around in my pocket.

        • Re:Canon or Nikon (Score:4, Informative)

          by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @10:48AM (#38174568)

          2) take lots of pictures. if you get a one good picture out of 20-36 exposures, you're doing well.

          Your advice is good - although I'd add a few comments:

          1. Digital cameras have made it easy to shoot hundreds of pictures in hopes of getting one good one. The problem with that is people never learn composition, lighting, etc. - things film forced you to consider due to cost and limited exposures per roll. Sure - take lots of pictures but read up on the basics of exposure and composition - learn the rule of thirds. light zones, etc. Experiment with different settings - aperture, shutter speed to see what happens. Look at photos and decide what you like about them. Learn to look behind the subject - 30 photos with a branch growing out of someone's ear doesn't do you much good. Ultimately, it's the brain behind the lens that makes the difference.

          2. The biggest advantage you get from a dSLR is depth of field - but it's not worth it if you leave your camera at home. I have a number of dSLRs and a bevy of lenses; but 80% of the time it's a 5 year old Canon point and shot that I have on me, simply because fit early fits in a pocket or briefcase.

          3. Consider a ruggedized point and shot - one that you can take to the beach or in a pool. Buy extra batteries. Buy several smaller memory cards instead of one really large one. You can swap them out and if one dies you don't lose everything.

          4. Don't get caught in the hype over megapixels or zoom length. Every name brand point and shot today has a good quality sensor and lens that will work just fine for a hobbyist photographer.As with any hobby, some people spend more time measurabating over specifications than actually enjoying the hobby.

          5. Visit some photography web sites. I like Fred Miranda's site (fredmiranda.com) - posters will give good advice and critiques of your work, no flaming or gear wars; just a group of people interested in photography.

          6. Start saving money because once you get hooked...

    • +1. Entry-level DSLRs are bulkier and a bit more expensive than point-and-shoots and ultrazooms, but the difference in price is not that great. In return for the investment you will get something the small stuff lacks in: larger image sensor. In image quality, size does matter.
    • by migla ( 1099771 )

      A problem with DSLRs is that you wont have it with you when the photo opportunity presents itself.

      For a compact camera, I'd look at the size of my pockets to find how big it can be and then find the one at that size with the largest sensor, not minding the pixel count as much as sensor size and see if I could afford that one.

      Ability to shoot in some RAW format would be a definite plus also, in my opinion, in case I accidentally take a photo that I should be able to make look as good as possible.

      RAW will let

    • As others have suggested, Canon products are great. For what I perceive to be your situation, a Canon pocket camera will be your best bet. You do actually get good images from them, and I say that with certainty as I have two pocket Canons, one DSLR and a couple dozen DSLR's at work, all Canon. I resisted the urge to get a pocket camera until a couple years ago, but since I did, there's truly no going back. Why? Because you always have it with you. A DSLR you will not carry with you very often, plain

  • by HFShadow ( 530449 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @05:31PM (#38169302)

    http://www.engadget.com/2011/11/25/engadgets-holiday-gift-guide-2011-digital-cameras/ [engadget.com]

    If you just want to snap pics, go for the lumix. If you want low light photography, I'd go for the s100.

    • by SpzToid ( 869795 )

      I've owned a Canon s95 for a year, and that's the precursor to the s100, and I give it a solid thumbs-up for these reasons off the top of my head:

      - Affordable in that once paid for, you don't need more accessories, mostly. Well okay I bought an eye-fi card and love the wireless workflow it brings.
      - blue-jeans pocket-able
      - on 'Automatic' every photo 'works' and looks good. Great for n00b owners with little time
      - nice manual controls for when you have more time to play and learn.

      Note the s100 has better image

  • by nharmon ( 97591 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @05:32PM (#38169316)

    Buy a cheap digital SLR, cheapest you can find, and then invest your money in lenses as you progress.

    • I'm gonna second this recommendation. You can get last year's entry level DSLR and a normal zoom as a refurb or open box for under $400 and it'll take better quality pictures than pretty much any current pocket camera model. If you're frustrated by modern smartphone cameras (which are on the low end performance wise as far as pocket-sized cameras go), most compact P&S models aren't going to be a huge improvement. The cheapest DSLR will make a night and day difference in terms of focus speed, focus accur

  • by BWJones ( 18351 ) * on Friday November 25, 2011 @05:33PM (#38169332) Homepage Journal

    A good cell phone camera... honestly. The best camera you can learn with is one that you will always have on your person. The latest cell phone cameras can make some really beautiful images: http://prometheus.med.utah.edu/~bwjones/2011/06/time-and-space/ [utah.edu]

    When you are ready to go beyond framing and composition, then step up to a basic SLR like a Canon Rebel or a Nikon D40.

    • Beautiful images... in thumbnail sizes... if the lighting is generous.

      They are better than nothing in a spot, but if you're expecting to take photos, say on a trip or family photos, a good compact P&S will give you a better shooting experience and far better results, while still being pocketable. A decent compact with at least some manual settings is also a much better way to learn the basics than a smartphone camera.

    • by dbc ( 135354 )


      The camera that you will have with you. Whatever that is. In the old days, we used to say "f/8 and be there." -- in other words, 90% of getting the portfolio that you want is having a camera at hand when the action is happening.

      You need to ask yourself what exactly is the limitation of your current situation? Resolution? Low light capability? Control over focal length? And you also need to ask yourself how much more hardware you are willing to carry around all the time.

      But really, understand exa

  • Snapshots? Canon SD. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by David Gerard ( 12369 ) <slashdot&davidgerard,co,uk> on Friday November 25, 2011 @05:34PM (#38169352) Homepage

    Canon Ixus (or PowerShot SD in the US) is a really easy and good snapshot camera. Cheap, too. If you point it at things and click, you'll get decent photos most of the time. They're also easy to carry everywhere.

    That's the right sort of camera to learn composition and take pictures of everything and see what you can do with it and so forth on. Once you're sick of its limitations, go to a DSLR. Do not start on a DSLR, it's what you get second.

    • Actually, you want the PowerShot line, which gives you the option of using manual controls. This is essential for learning and improving your skills.
      • Mm, you could be right there.

        A second-hand older Ixus is cheap enough to do things like put CHDK [wikia.com] on it and get quite a bit of that fine control.

        • I loved my Powershot A620 with the CHDK firmware. Best point-and-shoot I've ever laid hands on.
          The A620 also let you attach extenders so you could mount filters or other lenses in front of the existing hardware, which I did with a Raynox macro kit.

          I even recorded video using the macro setup, though it has a very narrow DOF. Sample of a crested gecko baby here [youtube.com].

  • the best camera (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Imabug ( 2259 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @05:35PM (#38169356) Homepage Journal

    is the one that you carry with you.

    for a photography newbie, i'm of the opinion that the specific camera doesn't really matter. They're all more or less the same anyway. what's most important is finding one that you'll want to carry around with you and use. the more you use it the less newb you'll become over time. you'll learn things and by the time you're ready to upgrade you'll know what to look for.

    • Re:the best camera (Score:5, Informative)

      by Teun ( 17872 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @05:54PM (#38169634) Homepage
      Yes and no.

      You should at least pick a camera with the option of full manual control and a good picture quality in automatic mode.
      When the last one sucks you quickly lose interest!

      I would suggest one of the top of the line compacts of Canon or Nikon, new serves no purpose except poser status and maybe warranty.
      I can strongly recommend the Canon G-series like the G10 or the Nikon P5000, others mentioned the Lumix series but I hate their low-light noise reduction.

    • is the one that you carry with you.

      That's why I have a Sony NEX. Small size, but giant DSLR-like sensor (APC-C actually better than some Canon DSLRs), 1080p stabilized Video that doesnt sucks. Manual controls and modern interface that even has simple tutorials (has a moder cpu with linux inside). Quality is great. All-metal.

      Battery kind of sucks, but then I have an older NEX 5 model.

  • If you don't think you will get really serious about photography, then skip the DSLRs.

    Once DLSRs are out of the picture you have to decide what kind of optical zoom you are looking for. Up to about 10x optical zoom can be had on a reasonably compact camera, anyting over that you are likely getting into the mega-zoom class of cameras that are quite deep because of the monster lenses on them. I have a Panasonic Lumix FZ-18 with a 18x optical zoom and find that the camera really is just a bit too big to carry
    • Skip all the features...zoom is marketing. Go for image quality, which isn't measured by a feature listed on the box.

  • Just start taking pictures with your camera phone.
  • It's the person behind the camera that matters. Get some training, read and learn the basics, and most importantly, practice.

    photo.net is a good starting point.

  • Start with some books on photography. "The digital photography book" 1,2 and 3 by Scott Kelby helped me a lot. This assumes you want a DSLR. You might start with a point and shoot. There is a great market for used photography gear. Buy used and learn as you go.

  • Olympus' "Four-thirds" system is supposed to be great for n00bs at giving better color toward the fringes of the image, though it gives more noise at higher ISO levels. I use the Evolt E-510 and it's pretty decent. There's a "micro-Four-thirds" system that's supposed to be better but I have zero experience with it.

  • by Pope ( 17780 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @05:44PM (#38169482)

    Fujifilm, Canon and Panasonic all make fine point & shoot cameras that will get you decent results without too much futzing about with the settings.

    I recommend going to a proper camera store and playing around with them for a bit to see which interface(s) you prefer, and buying that one. Don't get too caught up in megapixel numbers or video resolution specs, concentrate on the one you think you'll actually use.

  • by forevermore ( 582201 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @05:45PM (#38169508) Homepage
    Other than the quality of the sensor and the photographer, there are two things that contribute to a photo looking "good": lens diameter (collects more light) and number of lens elements (fewer is better). Going from a pinhole-sized smartphone lens to just about anything else is going to be a major improvement. Personally, I use a Canon DSLR (mostly because I like Canon, and it fit all of the lenses from the 35mm system it replaced), but I also carry a Panasonic Lumix "super zoom" point/shoot. It takes great photos (and video), and still fits in a pocket (it was better than the point/shoot Canons of the time). Their micro-4/3 systems with interchangeable lenses are also good. These systems (I've also heard good things about Sony's) offer a pretty nice quality/price balance between traditional point/shoot cameras and DSLRs, too. But as others have said, you should probably bulk up on your photo knowledge, too. Understanding stuff like shutter speed, aperture, depth of field, rule of thirds, etc. can go a long way to making better photos, even with a smartphone camera.
  • Canon S100 (Score:5, Informative)

    by richardtallent ( 309050 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @05:45PM (#38169520) Homepage

    It's a newer camera, great mix of features (including 1080P video and GPS geo-tagging). As a professional photographer, I'm a Canon fan-boy. (Nikon is good too.)

    DP Review is a great geek-compatible site for camera reviews, here's their take:


    • by Fishbulb ( 32296 )

      I can second this. I've got an S95 (previous model) and love it. Full automatic to full manual mode and fits in your pocket. Has the sensor of the low-end Canon SLR's - much better than the sensor used in many point-n-shoots. The S90 was also very good, but only does standard video, not HD.

      I bought it after owning a Canon S230 for 8 years. I loved that one so much (built like a tank, and got some great shots out of it) I got the S90, then upgraded to the S95 shortly after. Find one of those if you don

  • Get a Canon Powershot SX150. It's about $200 if not less online. I got myself a Canon Powershot SX110 a few years ago for the exact reason you describe. The SX-series is one of the least expensive digital camera lines that allows you full manual control over ISO, aperture & shutter speed, which allowed me to learn the practical differences amongst the various combinations of settings. You also get a nearly ridiculous stabilized zoom range of about 20-250mm (12x), which allows you lots of flexibility in
  • http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/recommended-cameras.htm [kenrockwell.com] Scroll down a bit for the section for Casual Photography.
  • by Nexzus ( 673421 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @05:47PM (#38169548)

    If you want a bit more options than a simple point and shoot, but don't want the full complexity of a DSLR, go for the middle and get a long-zoom point and shoot.

    They have the options (aperature, shutter speed, ability to optically zoom to 300mm+ ranges) that the DSLRs have, but without the inconvenience of carrying around a bunch of lenses.

    Then once you're comfortable, step up to a consumer level DSLR.

    I have a Sony H5 for essentially kicking around with (and that I learned on), and a Sony A55 with an 18-55/F4 kit lens, a 55-200mm zoom telephoto lens, and a 35mm/1.8 prime lens for low-light situations, when I want to try to get really good pictures. Carrying around all that is usually impractical, so I only bring it when I purposefully want good pictures, and not just snapshots.

    I'm by no means a good photographer, but I've been very happy with the results of both setups.

  • by gaijin_ ( 134592 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @05:47PM (#38169554)

    If you want good pictures of children. It is really only one thing that is important and that is the delay from pressing the button to taking the picture.

    I got a D40 from Nikon just when they released it four years ago and have gotten tons of great pictures with it.

    It has a rather small sensor and not that many functions, but the shutter delay is measured in milliseconds.

  • Sturdy, pocket-size compact with 1-lens-fits-most needs, GPS, etc.

    $210-250, incl S&H, from Hong Kong [via eBay].

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 25, 2011 @05:51PM (#38169602)

    Those recommending otherwise aren't thinking this through. You've gone your entire adult life without a camera. You're used to your camera substitutes fitting in your pocket and that's how you should start with a real camera. The idea otherwise, that you will be instantly alright with carrying a DSLR is folly. You don't have the habits for a DSLR, you won't feel right, etc. My point is, you won't use it. It'll sit on a shelf. Sure as hell it'll take great photos the day or two you mess around with it, but after that, shelf time. I've seen it too many times before.

    Start small. Grab a good point-and-shoot. I recommend a Panasonic Lumix with a wide-angle lens, high optical zoom and GPS. In particular, the DMC-ZS10. I'll admit I don't personally own one, but a friend of mine just picked one up and I've been amazed by what he's been able to pull off with it. That's the way to go. If not that camera, one like it. Something that will fit in your pocket - so you can make a habit of having it with you.

    Then after a couple years after you've become used to a camera as a separate object, and have experience with having an actual camera, you'll have both the habits and the knowledge required to choose something better, whether that is another point-and-shoot or a good DSLR.

  • by macwhizkid ( 864124 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @06:02PM (#38169712)

    As long as you don't need a camera that fits in your pocket, a low-end DSLR is probably exactly what you're looking for. Even a lowly $400 Nikon D3100 has a sensor size and resolution that camera fanatics could only dream about 15 years ago. And if that's out of your price range, you can do much better shopping refurb or used equipment (I paid ~ $250 for a D40x two years ago when I was in a similar situation as you).

    Why DSLR? Because it (1) has a big sensor and (2) compatibility with hundreds of lenses. Bigger sensor = more light captured = easier to take good photos with less skill. And even the low end Nikon lenses give pretty good results with the new VR (vibration reduction) feature. Seriously, my photo quality went way up when I ditched the cheap pocket cam. I'll never go back.

    Get an 18-55mm lens (probably will come with the camera) and a 55-200mm lens (around $120 online), and you'll be set for just about anything except low-light and indoor sports photography.

    In terms of brands, I went with Nikon just because I was familiar with them, but the Canon stuff is functionally equivalent.

  • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @06:08PM (#38169794)

    From what you've said, it sounds like you're dangerously close to being bitten by the equipment bug.


    Every amateur photographer goes through this phase - thinking "if I only owned X, my photographs would improve immeasurably". Some never get out.

    Every photographer who is in this phase is wrong.

    What you need to do is learn about composition and light. Get to the library, hit up Amazon and learn about what makes a good photograph. Expect to take tens of thousands of photographs while you're learning - and accept that you'll never stop learning. Accept that of the thousands of photographs you'll take, possibly 5-10% will be halfway decent and maybe 1-2% will be so good you'll seriously consider having them printed to put on the wall.

  • by Sarusa ( 104047 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @06:09PM (#38169816)

    The S95 is fast, light, and cheap (especially since the S100 just came out) and takes very good pictures. It also gives you as much manual control as you want to start with - you can do aperture priority, shutter priority, adjust ISO, manual focus. And it will do RAW mode. Or you can start with just putting it on fully automatic and working on your framing and composition first (which you should do).

    If you really get into it you can put a custom ROM on it which will give you even more control like manually specifying shutter speed and aperture at the same time (manual mode).

    After spending some time with this then maybe you'll want a DSLR, but I wouldn't start with one.

  • by PhilLong ( 42015 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @06:11PM (#38169842)

    4 years ago I was in your shoes, wanting to take better pictures (of my kids primarily). I received a Nikon D40 as a gift, and have gone on from there to using all manner of cameras

    There are lots and lots of tradeoffs to consider, unfortunately. Generally speaking the SLRs will set up, focus, and click much much faster than anything point and shoot. Larger sensors perform better, especially in Low light. See this

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image_sensor_format [wikipedia.org]

    You don't need the latest generation of DSLR to get started, and I don't really recommend that you start with a lot of features. There are a lot of things to learn if you get into it. I know you want to keep it simple, and every _photographer_ (as opposed to gearhead) wants their stuff to get out of the way so they can take pictures. Unfortunately there are a lot of decisions to be made, gear and otherwise with each click and making better decisions with more capable gear means better pictures. Pro pictures look pro for a reason.

    Having enough gear to make those decisions is important, but learning what they are is more important. Things like composition and lighting, and how to bounce-flash when you can get away with it.

    You can always buy gear on CL and sell it the same way when you have exhausted its limits. You can more or less try gear out "for free" with a deposit that way. Especially if you stick with "popular" (hence semi-liquid) brands/items.

    With all that said, buy either a used D40 or D3100 off of Craigslist with a kit lens (or the canon equivalent), or get an Olympus E-P3, E-PL3, E-P1 or Panasonic GF3 (with kit lens). The new m43 bodies set up and shoot much much faster than previous "small" cameras and the m43 sensor is big enough to be "good". And they are a heck of a lot less bulky than the SLRs.

    Fantastic deals on those today

    http://www.43rumors.com/black-friday-brings-superdeals-on-e-pl3-e-p3-e-5-and-gf3/ [43rumors.com]

  • by dcblogs ( 1096431 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @06:12PM (#38169848) Journal
    The Sony NEX C-3 or N5 are mirrorless large sensor camera -- the sensors are as big as you'll find on many DSLRS -- in a compact body. It's menu system is designed to be simple. You can use it as a pure point-and-shoot and still get DSLR quality photos, but the camera has most of the same controls you'll find on DSLR. It has an interchangeable lens system and is 16 megapixels. (Megapixels do matter if you plan to make prints beyond 8x10s.). There's no through the lens viewer, but that doesn't bother me at all. I've been taking photos since the era of the Nikkormat and do not miss viewfinders.
  • by U8MyData ( 1281010 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @06:12PM (#38169856)
    IMHO you would be remiss if you didn't look at and consider Pentax.
  • Common question (Score:5, Informative)

    by AncientPC ( 951874 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @06:23PM (#38170024)

    I'm surprised that this question came up on Slashdot, but I regularly see and answer this question in other photography communities.

    Use these two links to determine which camera to buy:
    Snapsort [snapsort.com]
    DPReview [dpreview.com]

    There are a few things you need to decide:

    • budget: DSLRs and lenses are a huge money sink.
    • portability: Are you OK with carrying a bag of lenses? Do you want something to throw into your backpack / purse?
    • subject material: People? Sports? Landscapes? Events? Macro?
    • movie mode: 1080p @ 30fps a must?
    • durability: Do you plan on shooting in the rain? In sandy conditions?

    My question: what camera would you recommend for getting into basic photography? I don't mean that in the sense of photography as a hobby or a profession, but simply as a method for taking images — of friends, family, and projects — that actually look good. That's a subjective question, I know . . . I figure a decent camera will run me a few hundred dollars, which is fine.

    (emphasis mine)

    You state that you don't want to get into photography as a hobby or profession, but you just want to take good family portraits? Good portrait photography is not really that subjective and is a combination of good lighting, subject isolation, and timing (for non-posed shots). A camera is just a tool, you have to gain some basic mastery of the tool in order to use it well. Dropping a few hundred dollars on a camera and leaving it in Auto / Program mode will not get you the photographs you're looking for.

    Without more information, these are the suggestions I'd offer:

    Non-DSLR, non-superzoom route:
    - Canon S100 or S95
    - Panasonic LX-5 or LX-3

    Canon if you want more zoom range, Panasonic if you want better low light capabilities.

    DSLR route:
    - used Canon Ti1 or Ti2
    - used Nikon D90

    Pick up a 50mm f1/.8 when you feel limited with the kit lens.

  • When I sold digital cameras back in the bad old days (mostly pre-y2k) I observed that most people fall into one of two categories of photographers:
    • People who want to take pictures of other people they know
    • People who want to take pictures of everything else

    And these people need significantly different kinds of cameras.

    People from the first group want fast shooting, small cameras with minimal fuss. 99% of these people buy point-and-shoot cameras. They might or might not be technical people. They will probably get their pictures developed at the drug store or just post them to their favorite web site. Red-eye reduction is more important to them than long zoom or the ability to manually do much of anything.

    The second group want a zoom lens longer than the longest you have on hand. They want to take a picture of the nose hairs on Mount Rushmore and they want to count the feathers on baby bald eagles. They have plenty of time to get their pictures "just right" and they will pay more for professional grade media. 99% of these people buy DSLRs (or the closest things we had to them back then). You can sell a tripod to these people but they don't really care about facial recognition or red eye reduction because they aren't looking to take pictures of their best friends since they already know what they look like. These people are not necessarily anti-social they just see photography as being about remembering things more so than events.

    So my advice is first figure out which group you fall into. Then you can quickly rule out a good chunk of the cameras on the market. And don't let someone tell you there is one camera that does both well, because that is a lie. There are small cameras with good zoom but they are nowhere near being equals to DSLRs, and no DSLR is ever going to fit into your pocket.

  • CHDK! (Score:3, Informative)

    by GodGell ( 897123 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @06:37PM (#38170182) Homepage

    I'm amazed that noone has suggested this yet.

    Get a Canon PowerShot. For one thing, they're great little cameras (I started out with one), but that's besides the point. We're on Slashdot here, after all.
    The point is that you can make it a lot better with a firmware hack called CHDK [wikia.com]. It is loaded into RAM from the memory card without touching your original firmware, and gives you full manual control over your camera.
    In addition to getting features normally only seen on DSLRs (such as bracketing, saving in RAW, and a live histogram), you can write and run Lua and uBASIC scripts on the camera, allowing you to program it to do whatever you want (such as motion detection to trigger photo or video capture, sophisticated timelapse scripts, intervalometers, USB remote triggering, etc.). You can take exposures far longer than the factory limit (mine went from a max of 15" to 64 seconds with CHDK), or far shorter in fact, allowing you to take both very low-light or very high-speed photographs that were simply impossible with the camera as it came out of the factory.

    You can even play games on the thing. It's ridiculous.

    If you can really say no to all that on a simple compact, you can buy me a DSLR and I'll give you your geek card back.

  • by rAiNsT0rm ( 877553 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @07:15PM (#38170550) Homepage

    For a point and shoot I personally feel that the Panasonic TZ series is all the camera most people need. My mother is a skilled photographer and this is her carry everywhere camera and her shots often rival most of her DSLR shots, even some macro work.

    Otherwise buy a Pentax, Canon, or Nikon DSLR, used even, and in the most basic range megapixel-wise even a year or two old model that can be had for a steal will outpace most point and shoots and allow you to learn and grow if you choose.

    4/3rds cameras are decent but I've not seen enough to make the extra cost worth it to not go the TZ.

  • by steevven1 ( 1045978 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @07:25PM (#38170638) Homepage
    Take it from a professional photographer (http://facebook.com/keysphotography)...Buy a Canon PowerShot. Get the cheapest one you can buy with optical "IS" (image stabilization). I'd shoot for the $130-180 price range. From the sound of your post, you aren't interested in donating a HUGE portion of your time and effort into learning how to make a photograph, and you are concerned about price. That's fine, but because of the former of those two, you will not see ANY improvement in image quality with price past about $150. Photography is ~95% about your abilities and ~5% about your equipment in everyday scenarios. That extra 5% of goodness goes a long way for pros who have already maxed out the 95% that comes from skill, but you are not those people. The extra weight, price, and bulk of a DSLR will only be a bad thing for you, because it will make you do the worst thing you can possibly do: Not bring your camera somewhere (due to laziness, fear of destruction, or lack of space, respectively).
  • Light and Tradeoffs (Score:4, Informative)

    by nick_davison ( 217681 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @10:49PM (#38172110)

    Photography's all about capturing light. The less of it you have, the longer you need to spend capturing it. This leads to blurry images as most things move and your hands will shake too.

    You can partially solve this by:

    Using more natural light - Shooting outdoors in daylight (can lead to harsh shadows and doesn't really work for your stated goal of shooting friends and family who tend to gather indoors for things like parties)

    Supplying more light - using a flash (with the risk of redeye). Redeye is caused by light bouncing off the back of the eye on to the sensor. The closer the flash is to the sensor, the smaller the angles involved and the worse this problem gets. A flash hotshoe lets you move the flash away from the sensor. Also, external flashes tend to be angleable so you can bounce the light off ceilings and walls to get a smoother fill.

    Reducing movement - You can put your camera on a tripod but it's a pain to carry around and a lot of compacts don't have mounts. You can also ask your subject to hold the pose but this annoys friends and most people other than trained models can't really do it. You also lose all action/candid shots.

    Using a larger sensor - A larger sensor gives you a larger area to collect light.

    Giving the light a larger hole to come through - Apperture. The problem is, the wider your apperture, the shorter your depth of field. A lot of compacts abuse apperture to make up for their small sensors but you end up with horribly shallow depths of field.

    Amplify the signal - Rather than collect more light, you can amplify what you do get (higher sensitivy - ISO). The problem with this is photons hit relatively randomly with densities based on the light of the image. In large enough numbers (usually due to time), they average out and you get a nice smooth image. In small numbers, they're broadly but not exactly distributed based on the image you expect to capture. Amplify this noisy image and you get a lot of noise in the end result.

    A DSLR solves most of these issues by giving you a much larger sensor than compacts use, uses higher quality components like microlenses, has much larger glass for collecting the image, provides a mount point for a better flash and gives you the ability to fine tune everything to get the right combination of tradeoffs for the shot you want. They also tend to come with much better autofocuses so you get the shot you wanted rather than wait for the focus to hunt and give you the shot a second after the action. For that reason, most people will suggest DSLRs - your odds of getting the shots you want are dramatically improved.

    However - The best camera you can ever own is the one you have with you. If a DSLR is large enough that you never have it at parties, too expensive to risk at the beach, don't leave in the trunk of the car when out for road trips, it's completely useless except for the couple of times a year you plan a staged shoot.

    Many of us with DSLRs realise and accept this so we see it for the tool it is, accept it may get damaged but a damaged and used camera is worth far more than an undamaged and unused one so we get a decent bag, toss it in the trunk, accept the weight of lugging it and all the glass everywhere and always have it with us. If you're like most normal people however, and won't do the above, a DSLR's a very expensive paperweight that's kept safely at home. Keep all of the information from the start of this post in mind and then find the compact with the fewest tradeoffs that's still small enough you'll have it everywhere (smaller size usually means more tradeoffs).

    That might mean one of those credit card style totally flat cameras with a folding optic that goes everywhere. That might mean a basic compact with a zoom that comes out of the body. That may mean a larger compact with a larger fixed zoom. Or it may mean a DSLR. The point is, not knowing you and knowing what you will or won't put up with carrying, none of us can tell you what the right camera is for you. The best we can do is give you pointers to what will minimize your frustrations with a camera (namely ability to capture in non ideal light) and then leave you to decide what balance of size vs. tradeoffs is right for you.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"