What camera can I buy for $X?

  • Most cameras within a given price range will be functionally quite similar.
So the main questions you need to ask yourself are:

1) What do you intend to use the camera for?
2) How much are you prepared to spend?
1) What do you intend to use the camera for?

  • First: consider that the lens’ focal length and aperture plays a significant role making the camera useful for a particular task.
    But remember that just because a lens is typically used for a particular task does not mean it can only be used that way.
Wildlife? Team sports? – Telephoto lens. ~200mm, 300mm, 600mm
Snapshots of your daily activities? – Wide-angle to small-telephoto zoom lens. ~15-130mm
Snowboarding? Skateboarding? Individual sports? – ultrawide lens. ~10mm, 20mm
Classic ‘Street’ photography? – wide angle ~28mm
Night or low light photography? – ‘fast’ ‘normal’ lens. ~50mm f/1.4
Portraiture? – fast ‘normal’ or small telephoto. ~50mm, 85mm, 100mm
Macro? – small telephoto with macro mode, teleconverter, bellows, extension tubes. ~100mm
etc etc
  • Similarly there are a myriad of important lens aspects.
A lens’ widest aperture size.
How sharp images are when the lens aperture is used ‘wide open’.
How close the lens can focus.
The kinds of visual aberrations the lens produces.
The ‘character’ of the out of focus image areas (boke / bokeh)
‘Zooms’ typically have a lower image quality and are less useful in low light situations than ‘Primes’, but may be more practical in a variety of every-day situations, and both can be supported with a flash in low light.
etc, etc
2) How much are you prepared to spend?

  • TL;DR:
DSLRs ~$1000+
Point and shoot (P&S) digital cameras ~$200+
Older film cameras as little as $20 +ongoing film costs.
  • Camera features change a lot, and the gear you want or need is highly individual and often fairly subjective.
But ultimately basic camera functions are very few, and cameras are essentially quite simple devices.
Paradoxically they can also be incredibly complex marvels of miniaturisation and engineering.

The key question is which combination of the two extremes you really need.
  • In the age of the Internet it has become possible to extensively research and purchase only the very best gear in the world.
That does not mean ‘the best’ is the most appropriate or cost effective for your purposes.
Always be aware that Corporate marketers strongly influence and artificially generate internet content and ‘opinion’, and usually sponsor popular review sites.
  • Almost any modern camera will suit the new photographer.
Some will suit the new owner developing basic photographic skills.
Some will have features or a design that better suits expert users who want to work a particular way.
Some will simply be designed for the majority of people who only need an automatic point and shoot camera, but want to buy a full-frame digital SLR.
Some will suit everybody from beginner to expert, but lack some bells and whistles, or some automated foolproofing.
  • Remember that you are buying a camera and at least one lens.
You could buy into a particular film/sensor size system, and then choose a camera and lenses based around that system.
You could research the camera body only, just accept whatever standard ‘kit lens’ comes with it, and worry about other lenses later.
Or you could deeply research lenses and camera, to get maximum benefit from both.
etc, etc
  • There are many ways to approach where to start.
But you still need to get your head around what is available, and learn some of the most basic concepts and terminology, before you can even hope to get a useful response from /p/ about what camera you should buy.

TL;DR: the current model Canon PowerShot
No but really…

  • Disregard bodies, acquire glass.
The lens is generally more important than the camera.
  • The gear doth not a pro maketh. (Your camera does not matter)
A good camera does not automatically make you a good photographer. In the right hands a crap camera can take a good photo.
Many users will never notice a lesser cameras limitations, nor fully utilise a great camera.
  • The Cake is a lie.
Some camera marketing departments try to convince us:

To ‘upgrade’ to a ‘better’ camera every few months.
That their entry level gear is related in quality and features to their professional gear.
That crippled features aren’t just a means of getting you to upgrade when you realise you want that feature.
  • Consider the underdog.
Never overlook a previous generation camera or a particular brand because of opinion or marketing, they may offer a better deal for a simpler camera, better legacy lens support, less unnecessary built-in support costs, better basic features, camera controls, or build quality.
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