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Digital Camera Buying Guide: My Recommended Cameras

Written by Tim on . Posted in Camera Gear, Deals & Rebates

Ask me what I want  and chances are, most of the items are digital cameras. Just about anyone and everyone wants to have one of these in their hands, from kids who have dreams of becoming photographers or moviemakers to adults who fancy themselves as budding photographers.

So with that said, here is a list of my recommended camera buying guide, all conveniently organized into five different categories: Entry-Level DSLR, Mid-Range DSLR, Full-Frame DSLR, Point-and-Shoot and Enthusiast cameras.

Most of these cameras have great deals on them from B&H Photo, so if you have to buy, now is the time!

Quick guide to choosing the best camera

Before taking a look at some of the best cameras in the market today, it’s a good idea to take a look at some of the factors you will want to take into consideration when choosing a digital camera for someone. These are:

  • The skills and needs of you or the recipient. Giving a DSLR may not be such a good idea if the intended recipient is someone whos never held a digital camera at any point in his or her life, or if he or she only wants to take casual photos. Be sure to match the skills of the one who will be using the camera with the appropriate device so that the full features of the camera won’t be wasted.
  • Design. Designs not just about how sleek or how fashionable the digital camera is; it also refers to the ergonomic design of the camera. It wouldn’t do to get a huge, heavyweight camera for someone who won’t even be able to carry it around, let alone use it to take photos.
  • Image quality. A digital camera may not be that appreciated if it can’t actually take good-quality photos. Be sure to do your research or even take test shots to see how well the cameras image quality is.
  • Print size. A lot of people make a big deal about getting cameras that have the highest resolution (seen in the MPs), but this isn’t actually needed not unless you have plans of blowing up each and every photo that you plan on taking. A camera with a 10 mp resolution is usually enough, especially for those who only need point-and-shoot cameras.
  • Budget. Finally, be sure to take your budget into consideration when shopping for a digital camera. The gift recipient may be thrilled if you give him or her a high-end camera, but your pocket and your bank account may not be so thankful. Again, try to do a bit of research so you can see which models are affordable but have good quality.

Recommended Entry-Level DSLRs

If you’re looking to give a good, professional-quality camera to a loved one or yourself, you can never go wrong with a DSLR. Three of the best entry-level DSLR cameras that I can recommend today are:

Canon EOS Rebel T3i With 18-55mm Lens
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Digital Camera Buying Guide: My Recommended Cameras

The Canon EOS Rebel T3i is your best bet if you’re looking for a good entry-level DSLR, as this combines excellent image quality (not to mention HD video capabilities with audio) with ease of use and user control, allowing users to tweak with just about every setting in order to get the shots they want.

GOOD FOR:

  • First-time DSLR buyers who want features, speed and quality without hurting their wallet
  • Vacation photos due to small size and light weight. Build quality isn’t pro level, but still great
  • Family photos and casual outings. You don’t have to worry about settings when having fun.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i With 18-55mm Lens
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Digital Camera Buying Guide: My Recommended Cameras

The other choice is the Canon T2i. What’s the difference? Not much. The T2i doesn’t have an articulated rear LCD and doesn’t include the ability to remotely fire flashes off camera. Other than that, they’re mostly the same camera with the same image quality, and the Canon T2i is cheaper. But knowing me, I’d get the T3i because I like newer stuff.

GOOD FOR (same as above):

  • First-time DSLR buyers who want features, speed and quality without hurting their wallet
  • Vacation photos due to small size and light weight. Build quality isn’t pro level, but still great
  • Family photos and casual outings. You don’t have to worry about settings when having fun.

Nikon D5100 With 18-55mm Lens
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Digital Camera Buying Guide: My Recommended Cameras

Like the Canon EOS Rebel T3i, Nikon D5100 is an excellent entry-level camera that was designed with ease of use in mind for the benefit of beginning photographers. It may not have all the bells and whistles of other DSLR cameras, but if you’re looking for a model that does all of the basic stuff really well, this camera is great. It has excellent high ISO images, probably best-in-class, and the image quality is outstanding. Ergonomics suffer a bit compared to the Canon T3i/T2i, but the image quality is better from what I’ve seen IMO.

GOOD FOR:

  • Family photos, kids and pets thanks to fast autofocus and speedy response times
  • Beginners looking to get great image quality at an affordable price, with best in class high ISO images
  • People who want a DSLR, but still don’t want a behemoth of a camera. The D5100 is comfortable to hold

Recommended Mid-Range DSLRs

A step above entry-level DSLRs are these guys. Some call them “semi-pro” and some call them full-out professional cameras. Me? I call them my favorites. This class of DSLRs give you the best bang for the buck, offering fast speeds, superb image quality, easy handling and tough build quality. Do yourself a favor and keep an eye out for great deals on these.

Pentax K-5 (Body Only)
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Digital Camera Buying Guide: My Recommended Cameras

Among sporting a 16.3 megapixel CMOS censor, the Pentax K-5 has an upgraded SAFOX IX+ AF system, a dual-axis electronic horizon (with pitch as well as roll indication), magnesium alloy body shell and more making this camera capable of captureing just about anything, from fast-action sport to low-light portraits. This camera is high on my wish-list if I ever decide to ditch Nikon and stay with a crop censor camera.

GOOD FOR:

  • Wildlife photography. Thanks to it’s cropped sensor, you get extra reach
  • Landscapes and Travel photography because of the great weather sealing
  • Low-light portraits, indoor or out

Canon 7D (Body Only)
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Digital Camera Buying Guide: My Recommended Cameras

Okay, I might have lied. I want the Canon 7D just as much as the Pentax K-5. The Canon 7D has an impressive feature set including a magnesium alloy body, environmental sealing, a sweet 18MP CMOS censor capable of shooting at 8FPS along with 1080P HD video at variable frame-rates, one of the best autofocus systems in a APS-C camera to-date and comfortable ergonomics. Can you say “Awesome”?

GOOD FOR:

  • Sports and Action thanks to its sophisticated AF system and 8 frames per second
  • Low light photography is not a worry with the 7D. Images are noise free up to ISO 1600
  • Landscapes, thanks to its 18MP (megapixel), high resolution CMOS sensor

Nikon D7000 (Body Only) – Price: $1299.00
Currently Unavailable

Digital Camera Buying Guide: My Recommended Cameras

I already own this camera, so why is it on my wish list? Because I want a second as a backup body! The Nikon D7000 replaced my Nikon D300S because I wanted the new image sensor the D7000 had. I’m glad I switched because not only does the Nikon D7000 have better image quality in terms of noise and dynamic range, I was able to sell my D300S and get the D7000 for practically nothing! Sure, I don’t have as good as autofocus or weather sealing, but the image quality alone more than makes up for that.

GOOD FOR:

  • Fast action because, simply put,  the autofocus is amazing and blazing fast
  • First-time DSLR buyers. Wait, what? Yes, this camera is that easy to use thanks to it’s Scene modes and layout
  • Great for traveling. It’s smaller than some other DSLRs mentioned earlier and STILL packs a punch!
  • Landscapes look amazing thanks to its high dynamic range and clean, low ISO images

Recommended Full-Frame DSLRs

If you’re debating between buying a full-frame or crop sensor like I was, think of what you already own: Are most of your lenses for cropped sensors? If so, I’d say stick with an APS-C cropped sensor camera. I stayed with the Nikon DX line because most of my lenses were meant for it. I couldn’t afford the switch to full-frame. Not only that, but the Nikon D7000 is such a good camera that it was pretty much a no brainer for me.

But if you own a good full-frame lens or two and can afford the switch, or if you already own a full-frame camera, I’d tell you to check out the cameras listed here if you don’t already own one or are looking to upgrade.

Canon 5D Mark II (Body Only)
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Digital Camera Buying Guide: My Recommended Cameras

Here, let me spit out some Canon 5D Mark II specs for you: 21.1MP full-frame sensor, 3.9fps burst mode, dust and weather resistant, the best 1080P video on a DSLR ever, and a magnesium-alloy chassis. And the best part? You get all that for under $2300. And those are just specs. This camera spits out absolutely gorgeous, sharp, photos with tons of detail that every landscape photographer wants. Myself included.

GOOD FOR:

  • Landscapes photography. the 5D MKII is amazing at capturing fine detail in landscapes thanks to its superior 21.1MP Full-Frame sensor
  • Portraits, both indoor and outside. It’s full-frame sensor is capable of great, smooth blurry backgrounds, or Bokeh, they say
  • Video. The 5D Mark II is considered on of the best DSLRs for video to-date because of how customizable it is

Sony Alpha DSLR-A900 (Body Only) – Price: $2699.99

Digital Camera Buying Guide: My Recommended Cameras

Compared to the Canon 5D Mark II, the Sony Alpha A900 is faster at 5fps and has a higher resolution, more megapixel 24.6MP CMOS sensor. It also has built-in image stabilization and 100% viewfinder coverage. What it doesn’t have is video. The Canon 5D Mark II beats it in that department. But for serious photography, the Sony Alpha A900 is one heck of a camera for the price.

GOOD FOR:

  • Professional landscape photographers! 24.6 megapixels of landscape goodness and excellent weather sealing
  •  Indoor portraits look great as well thanks to clean high-ISO images great autofocus

Recommended point-and-shoot cameras

Point-and-shoot cameras are your best bet if the intended recipient is someone who wants a no-frills camera that he or she can bring anywhere and everywhere. Some of the best point-and-shoot cameras are:

Canon S95 IS
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Digital Camera Buying Guide: My Recommended Cameras

The Canon S95 IS is equipped with fast f/2 lens and a large sensor that allows you to take crisp, clear images, especially in good lighting conditions. For those who love taking video clips as much as they like taking pictures, this camera also boasts of taking sharp, clear audio, even better than the audio quality of the videos taken using DSLR cameras.

GOOD FOR:

  • Family photos and friends because it’s so easy to use, anyone can pick it up and go
  • Your brother who loves photography but has never owned a camera
  • Travel. The SD95 IS is small and compact. It’s easy to pocket

Nikon Coolpix S9100
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Digital Camera Buying Guide: My Recommended Cameras

The Nikon Coolpix S9100 is a an absolutely amazing option for those who will be handling a digital camera for the first time, given its 19 scene modes and easy-to-use interface that makes tweaking with the controls super easy. Not only that, but the Nikon S9100 has tons of amazing features that make the camera an even better steal for it’s price. It can shoot gorgeous, full 1080P video with stereo sound, as an amazing 18x zoom for it’s size, AND, shoot at 9.5fps at 12.1 megapixels! WOW!

GOOD FOR:

  • First time camera users who want a small, compact camera with great video
  • Pets, kids and fast subjects thanks to its super fast 9.5 frames per second

Recommended Enthusiast Cameras

Enthusiast cameras are the hybrids in the camera world, having half the size of DSLRs but boasting of almost the same image quality thanks to their large sensor size. Some of the best enthusiast cameras on my wish-list are:

Sony NEX-7 – Price: $1199.99
New Item – Arrival Date Unknown

Digital Camera Buying Guide: My Recommended Cameras

The Sony NEX-7 has a whopping 24 MP resolution APS-C CMOS sensor. Yes, the same kind in a full-size DSLR. This is a serious camera in a small package, just waiting to take superb pictures. Not only is the thing built like a tank, it’s beautiful and stylish, too. It boasts a large high resolution electronic viewfinder, and it’s also able to do 1080P HD video at  24fps or 60fps in AVCHD format.

GOOD FOR:

  • Photographers looking for a compact, high quality to compliment their DSLR
  • Video in a small package more like great video in a small package.

Olympus PEN E-PL1 – Price: $399.00
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Digital Camera Buying Guide: My Recommended Cameras

The Olympus PEN E-PL1 is a camera people don’t consider that often, and that’s a real shame especially since it has been designed with ease of use and image quality in mind. Just about everything is laid out on the cameras interface, from the photo settings to the video recording option so that you can do everything with just a few button presses. There’s a reason why it has over 90 positive reviews at B&H Photo.

GOOD FOR: 

  • The camera enthusiast who wants great image quality in a small, easy to use package
  • Perfect for people who love higher end cameras and great image quality at a great price!

Fuji X100 – Price: $1199.00
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Digital Camera Buying Guide: My Recommended Cameras

Don’t let its small size fool you, because this compact camera is more than meets the eye. The main selling point of Fuji X100 is that it can take excellent photos in practically any kind of lighting. Plus, you don’t even need to tweak with a lot of buttons and settings just to get these results.

GOOD FOR:

  • Travel photography. Small and light-weight make this a great portable camera
  • Great for the enthusiast camera lover who wants full-control n a small compact package
  • Yourself! And me! This camera is simply amazing at taking great pictures. It truly has an amazing sensor

Final Thoughts

The most effective way for you to ensure that you’ll be getting the best camera that your money can afford is to do your research on the features that you’re looking for so you can find the gadget that fits the criteria you’ve set. That way, you will be able to get your money’s worth on your purchase – regardless of whether you’re buying a digital camera for yourself or for someone else. Feel free to add your thoughts below in the comments!

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