There are about half a dozen major camera manufacturers with dozens of models to choose from, so knowing which one to pick can be a daunting task. Not only do you need to know what you’re going to use the camera for, but you also should know what sort of accessories you can buy, special features that each camera has and, of course, the price of the camera. Any camera can take a good image if you know what you’re doing, so oftentimes smaller decisions are what push you toward one brand over another.
Cameras range greatly in pricing, from $6,500 pro-level DSLRs to just a few hundred dollars for compact point-and-shoots. Cameras like the Canon 1DX and Nikon 5D are almost exclusively used by professionals who make their living from photography. However, a compact camera might not give you the flexibility you need as your photography skills grow. An interchangeable lens camera, such as an entry-level DSLR or mirrorless camera, gives you room to develop your skills. These kits enable you to purchase a camera and lens for around $500. Prosumer level kits are also available for around the $1,700 to $2,000 range.
What lenses you can use is one of the more important questions to ponder when buying into a camera system. The lenses from one brand may or may not be compatible with another, so going with an established brand like Canon or Nikon means that you have its entire catalog of several dozen lenses plus options from third parties like Sigma and Tamron.
A mirrorless camera, however, lets you have some of the best from many manufacturers. While the lens selection from companies like Olympus, Panasonic and Sony aren’t quite as extensive as Nikon or Canon, they are growing at a rapid pace. In addition to the growing selection of native Sony lenses, the E-Mount allows nearly any lens to use adapters to get almost full functionality from them. As E-Mounts continue to become more popular, adapters may go by the wayside in the near future.
What you are planning on using your camera for is another big factor into figuring out what type of camera you should get. Sports shooters, for instance, might want to focus on the frames per second the camera is able to shoot, such as one with an APS-C or Micro 4/3 sensor. Smaller sensors process less data, so you can get higher burst performance than full-frame cameras. Mirrorless cameras also can squeeze out a few more frames per second because they don’t need to move the mirror up and down. Low-light shooters, on the other hand, might want a larger sensor with good low-light performance, such as the Sony A7s or Nikon D610/750.
If filmmaking is more your style, any camera on the market can shoot at 1080p, but not all of them can shoot at 4K. For shooting 4K video footage, cameras like the Sony A7s and A6300 or Panasonic’s GH4 give a wide range of profiles and flexibility in terms of codecs and lens selection.