Which camera is right for you? Our simple camera buying guide!
Buying a new camera isn't easy! Our simple camera buying guide will help you find the right one for you and show you what you should pay attention to when buying a new camera.
Choosing the right digital camera isn’t easy. We’ve just been dealing with buying a new model ourselves. It’s not exactly fun because there are so many things to watch out for when buying a camera.
What kind of camera should I get? A DSLR or a mirrorless system camera? Or is a bridge camera or a compact camera good enough? What other specs do I have to pay attention to when buying a camera? Megapixels, ISO, sensor? And what about lenses? Should I buy them directly with the camera or is it better to buy them separately?
Phew! Really not that easy. That’s why we’ve compiled all the important information you need when buying a camera in our camera buying guide. We’ll be presenting the different camera types and then giving you three concrete recommendations for each camera type for beginners and advanced users.
We’ll continue to update this post as new models become available. We always keep an eye on the camera market and if a new camera is released that we think is worth featuring, of course we’ll recommend it to you.
Please note: We receive several emails every day asking us which lens is best for people’s personal purposes. We hope you understand that we can’t manage to answer them all. As a 1-woman-1-man company, we just don’t have the time. Thank you for your understanding.
Which camera is right for me?
Before diving deep into the technical specifications, you should think about which type of camera is right for you. There are four main types of digital camera, the advantages and disadvantages of which we’ll briefly outline below:
- DSLR cameras
- Mirrorless system cameras
- Bridge cameras
- Compact cameras
Digital single-lens reflex cameras (more commonly known as DSLR cameras, or simply DSLRs) are the premier class of cameras. They provide excellent image quality and offer you countless settings.
The lenses of a DSLR are interchangeable, so that you can assemble your ideal camera according to your specific needs.
For a long time we only took pictures with DSLRs, so we can generally recommend this type of camera.
Advantages of a DSLR camera
- Large number of available interchangeable lenses
- Wide variety of manual settings
- Excellent image quality
- Optical viewfinder, i.e. you can see the exact image section that will be recorded through the viewfinder
Disadvantages of a DSLR camera
- Size and weight
- A DSLR only makes sense if you know the basic settings
Is a DSLR camera the right choice for me?
If you just want to point and shoot with your camera and you’re fine sticking to the automatic mode, then there’s no need to buy a DSLR. These cameras only really make sense if you know how to use the most important functions.
You should definitely factor in the size and weight when deciding pro or contra DSLR. A DSLR camera plus lens can easily weigh around 1.5 kg and takes up a lot of space in the bag. If your packing list for traveling is anywhere near as minimalistic as ours, you’ll quickly reach your limits with a DSLR.
Nevertheless, we don’t want to discourage you from buying a DSLR camera. If you want to become familiar with the basic camera functions and you want to take up photography as a serious hobby that goes beyond a couple of vacation snapshots, then a DSLR is a good choice.
But a mirrorless system camera may be a better solution for you if size and weight are important factors in your decision-making.
Which DSLR cameras are recommended?
First off, the good news: There are no truly bad cameras on the market, so you can’t really go wrong. Now we’d like to present some of the cameras we feel comfortable recommending.
Ultimately, it doesn’t really make that much difference if you choose a Nikon or a Canon or a completely different manufacturer. All the major manufacturers provide good quality cameras.
DSLR cameras for beginners
Price level: 300-500 euros.
The first camera is often a very special one. People generally remain loyal to the manufacturer of their first camera for a long time. Once you get used to the settings on a Nikon, you’ll probably think twice about making the switch to a Canon or a Sony later on. After all, humans are creatures of habit.
You can get an entry-level DSLR without a lens for about 300 euros, or for 400 to 500 euros including a kit lens. We can recommend the following cameras:
The Nikon D3300 is the perfect entry-level DSLR from Nikon. The camera body is available for less than 300 euros. With a kit lens, it’ll cost you about 450 euros.
We learned to take pictures with a Nikon DSLR camera ourselves and can definitely recommend these cameras for beginners.
Canon EOS 100D
The Canon EOS 100D is one of the best entry-level models from the Canon family. The camera is incredibly light and compact for a DSLR and perfect for you if size and weight are important considerations in your purchasing decision.
With a kit lens included, you can already get an EOS 100D for less than 400 euros.
# 3 Pentax K 50
The Pentax K 50 is the perfect entry-level camera if you plan to take a lot of pictures while exposed to the elements.
It’s on the same level as comparable Nikon and Canon cameras in terms of image quality and technology, but it’s also weatherproof and therefore ideal for outdoor photographers. In terms of price, it’s similar to the other two recommendations.
DSLR cameras for advanced users
Price level: over 900 euros
At some point you’ll want to switch from your entry-level camera to a better model. Even though the recommended cameras for beginners definitely take good pictures, you’re bound to become more ambitious as you gain more experience.
As a general rule, we’d say if you’re happy with your current camera, then you’d do best to remain loyal to your manufacturer. So if you’re already used to shooting with a Nikon or Canon, it wouldn’t make much sense to switch to another model. That way, you can continue to use your lenses and don’t have to get used to operating a new camera.
If you want a model for advanced users, then you’re going to have to dig a little deeper in your pocket. You should expect to spend about 1,000 euros on a more advanced DSLR camera. Of course we have another three recommendations for you.
We used spent a lot of time taking pictures with the Nikon D7000, a predecessor to the D7200. The camera has a very good image quality and is the best Nikon camera you available right now unless you really want to splurge on a professional-grade camera.
The camera itself is available for just under 1,000 euros. There are kit offers here too, but they generally don’t make much sense for a camera in this price range, because the included lenses usually don’t match the quality of the camera.
Canon EOS 80D
The Canon EOS 80D is still relatively new on the market. The camera excels with its excellent image quality and extremely fast autofocus.
However, the EOS 80D isn’t all that cheap and currently costs around 1,300 euros. If you want to take the next step with a more professional camera and Canon is your favorite system, then this camera is definitely worth considering.
Sony Alpha 77 II
The Sony Alpha 77 II is the best DSLR camera from Sony that is currently available below the professional class.
The camera costs a bit less than 1,000 euros and is worth every cent.
Mirrorless system cameras
Mirrorless system cameras have become increasingly popular over the past few years, and with good reason.
Mirrorless cameras combine the advantages of DSLR cameras, such as manual settings and interchangeable lenses, with significantly reduced size and weight.
The absence of a mirror makes these cameras much more compact. However, this means that you’ll have to do without the optical viewfinder. Most system cameras have replaced it with an electronic viewfinder so you still have something to look through.
Taking pictures with an electronic viewfinder is a little different than with an optical viewfinder, but after a short period of familiarization you’ll get used to it very quickly.
After ten years of using DSLRs, we recently switched to mirrorless system cameras ourselves, and so far we haven’t regretted it one bit.
Advantages of a mirrorless system camera
- Manual setting options
- Excellent image quality
- Exchangeable lenses
- Reduced size and weight compared to DSLRs
Disadvantages of a mirrorless system camera
- Higher battery consumption due to electronic viewfinder
- Smaller range of lenses compared to DSLRs
Is a mirrorless system camera the right choice for me?
If you’re interested in exploring the manual settings of a camera and want to do more than just take a few vacation snapshots, then a mirrorless system camera is a great choice.
If you’re bothered by the weight and size of a DSLR, but still want to take advantage of the luxury of different lenses, a mirrorless camera is the ideal alternative.
In terms of image quality and operation, the mirrorless cameras are in no way inferior to DSLRs, and many experts agree that the future belongs to these cameras.
Which mirrorless system cameras are recommended?
The top camera manufacturers, Nikon and Canon, have completely missed the boat on the development of mirrorless system cameras. Neither of the two manufacturers offer any decent cameras in this segment, which is pretty surprising.
Other manufacturers such as Sony, Fujifilm, and Olympus are the market leaders here. In our camera buying guide we now want to present you with three models for beginners and advanced users that we can wholeheartedly recommend.
Mirrorless system cameras for beginners
Price level: 350-800 euros
Mirrorless system cameras for beginners are generally slightly cheaper than comparable DSLR cameras. You can already get a simple system camera with a kit lens starting at 300 euros.
Sony Alpha 6000 and Sony Alpha 5000
Sony is currently the most popular manufacturer of mirrorless system cameras. Sony offers two highly recommended models for beginners: the Alpha 6000 and the Alpha 5000.
The Alpha 5000 is the cheaper option. You can already get this camera for about 350 euros including a kit lens. That’s an almost unbeatable price.
If you’d rather start at the next higher quality level, we’d recommend the Alpha 6000. It’s about 200 euros more expensive than the Alpha 5000, but it has a superior autofocus and produces a higher image quality. We used the Alpha 6000 ourselves and were on the road with it for half a year in Asia. We can definitely recommend this camera.
Nowadays there are also a substantial number of lenses available for the Alpha 6000. For an overview, check out our post on Sony Alpha 6000 lenses.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G6KEG-K
Admittedly, the names of the Panasonic system cameras don’t sound very sexy and aren’t particularly easy to remember either. Nevertheless, the DMC-C6KEG-K model camera is a good choice for your first steps into the world of mirrorless photography.
The camera costs about 450 euros with a simple 14-42 mm kit lens. There are also some other available kit lenses so you can upgrade the camera right from the get-go by choosing an even better lens.
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II
We’ve given a lot of thought whether to recommend the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II as an entry-level camera or as an advanced level camera. At a price of around 800 euros including a kit lens, it’s kinda in between the two categories.
In terms of technology and image quality, it can definitely compete in the higher leagues. So if you want to start off with something really great, then we can highly recommend the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II.
Tip: Check out Olympus’s own web shop. Now and then they have good offers there, and you can often find other kits than on Amazon: to the Olympus shop.
Mirrorless system cameras for advanced users
Price level: 1000-2000 euros
There are also suitable mirrorless system cameras for advanced photographers with higher technical demands. The following three models leave little to be desired.
Sony Alpha 7 II
We recently added the Sony Alpha 7 II to our own collection and we’re absolutely thrilled with it. The camera is equipped with a full-frame sensor, takes razor-sharp photos and even at very high ISO levels, there’s hardly any discernible image noise.
The autofocus is excellent and so far, we have nothing bad to say about it. OK, the price might be a little daunting. You can expect to spend about 1500 euros for the camera body alone. We would definitely recommend the kit with the 28-70 mm lens. For less than 300 euros you get a really great always-on lens included with the camera.
Here’s an overview of all available lenses for the Alpha 7: Sony Alpha 7 lenses.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II
The OM-D E-M5 Mark II is the premium product among the mirrorless system cameras made by Olympus. At a price of about 1000 euros for the camera body, it’s significantly cheaper than the Sony Alpha 7 ii, but then it doesn’t feature a full-frame sensor.
The OM-D E-M5 Mark II has a particularly wide range of available lenses. It’s also weatherproof, which is a real advantage for outdoor photographers.
The camera is available with different kit lenses. It’s definitely worth taking a closer look to see which lens is the right one for you.
The Olympus Pen-F definitely stands out among the mirrorless system cameras presented here. That’s mainly due to its retro design, because the Pen-F is reminiscent of the cameras of the 1960s.
However, the technology under the hood is anything but outdated, as the camera shines with great image quality and a very fast shutter speed. The camera isn’t just a nostalgic throwback for enthusiasts, it also has a lot to offer.
The body costs about 1,200 euros. And as always with Olympus cameras, there are many worthwhile kits with compatible lenses.
Bridge cameras bridge the gap between DSLRs and small compact cameras (i.e. the cheap little digicams, see the next section for more information). They combine the characteristics of both camera types, hence the name.
Unlike the first two camera types, bridge cameras don’t have an interchangeable lens. Nevertheless, these cameras have a very large optical zoom range.
In many cases, the zoom range is much larger than that of the lenses usually used on a DSLR camera or a mirrorless system camera.
The zoom range of bridge cameras isn’t usually specified in millimeters like the focal length of a lens. It’s usually referred to as a 30x or 50x zoom. To give you a comparison: A 50x zoom on a bridge camera is equivalent to a lens with a focal length of 1200 mm. That’s pretty impressive.
Unfortunately, many bridge cameras have problems with image quality in the higher zoom ranges. But you can’t really do much with a zoom that high without a tripod anyway.
Advantages of a bridge camera
- Smaller size and lighter weight than a DSLR (with some exceptions)
- Large optical zoom range
- Good compromise between easy operation and manual setting options
Disadvantages of a bridge camera
- No interchangeable lenses
- Lower image quality compared to DSLRs and mirrorless system cameras in certain application scenarios (e.g. low light, low depth of field)
- Not much cheaper than a mirrorless system camera
Is a bridge camera the right choice for me?
To be honest, we can’t really see much of an upside to buying a bridge camera, since a good bridge camera only costs slightly less than a mirrorless system camera. And there are just too many drawbacks as far as we’re concerned.
But you might see things differently, and there are certainly a few good reasons to buy a bridge camera. If a small compact camera isn’t enough and you have no ambitions to experiment with different lenses, then a bridge camera might be an option for you. After all, not having to constantly change lenses can be quite an advantage.
Which bridge cameras are recommended?
Even though bridge cameras aren’t as popular among photographers as cameras with interchangeable lenses, the market is still pretty crowded. Almost all well-known camera manufacturers offer bridge cameras in all price and performance classes.
Bridge cameras for beginners
Price level: 200-250 euros
You can get a simple bridge camera for less than 200 euros. So a bridge camera is a good way to get started with photography without breaking the bank.
If you have a small budget, but still want to get serious about photography, then a cheap bridge camera is a good choice for the beginner.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200EG9
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200EG9 is a great introduction to the world of bridge cameras. For less than 300 euros, Panasonic offers an excellent all-round camera with a 24x optical zoom.
Particularly noteworthy is the lens speed of f/2.8 and a very good autofocus.
Canon PowerShot SX530 HS
The PowerShot SX530 HS is a highly recommended entry-level model from Canon. This bridge camera provides a 50x optical zoom and an image stabilizer to help protect your shots from camera shake.
The Canon PowerShot SX530 HS costs around 250 euros, making it very affordable.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ72EG-K
Panasonic also offers another excellent entry-level bridge camera with the Lumix DMC-FZ72EG-K, a name that rolls off the tongue. The camera is also available for less than 250 euros and even provides a 60x optical zoom.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ72EG-K also has an ultra-wide angle of 20 mm, so that you’ll well-prepared for all possible situations.
Bridge cameras for advanced users
Price level: 500-700 euros
The ceiling for bridge camera prices isn’t particularly high. You won’t find any models for several thousand euros in this segment.
The most expensive models cost about 700 to 800 euros.
The Sony DSC-RX10 is probably the best bridge camera you can find on the market today. The image quality is very good. No wonder, because the Sony DSC-RX10 does without a typical bridge camera superzoom.
Instead, this camera has a Zeiss lens with a focal length range of 24-200 mm. And the best part: With this camera, you have a maximum aperture of f/2.8, meaning you’ll be perfectly equipped for low light conditions.
If we were ever to buy a bridge camera ourselves, this would probably be the one. The Sony DSC-RX10 is priced at just over 700 euros.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000EG
The Lumix DMC-FZ1000EG from Panasonic is also a top-class bridge camera. Priced at around 650 euros, it’s equipped with a Leica lens with a focal length of 25-400 mm and an aperture of f/2.8 to f/4.0.
The Lumix DMC-FZ1000EG is also great for recording video and supports 4K and Full HD video.
Olympus Stylus 1
Olympus also offers a top-of-the-range bridge camera – the Stylus 1. Its distinctive design is first thing to catch the eye, but the camera also has a lot to offer under the hood.
The lens has a focal length of 28-300 mm and with is very fast with a lens speed of f/2.8.
The Olympus Stylus 1 is already available for around 550 euros.
Many people have taken their first steps into the world of photography with a small compact camera. Of course, the main advantage of a compact camera is its low weight and minimal size. Hardly any larger than a pack of cigarettes, a compact camera handily fits into every pocket.
But nowadays, compact cameras have become a bit of a niche product. Almost anyone who’s photographically ambitious opts for a larger camera, since they’re relatively cheap these days.
And if you just want to snap a few pictures, most modern-day smartphones are more than up to the task so you don’t need a separate camera anymore.
Advantages of a compact camera
- Low weight
- Small size
Disadvantages of a compact camera
- Lower image quality
- No interchangeable lenses
- Only a low optical zoom
Is a compact camera the right choice for me?
If perfect image quality isn’t that high on your list of priorities and you don’t want to make any manual settings on your camera, we recommend that you just take pictures with your smartphone.
You probably always have it on you anyway, and a good smartphone doesn’t take worse pictures than a cheap compact camera.
Of course there are also premium models of compact cameras with prices in the high three-digit or even four-digit range where the image quality is up to scratch. This might be the right camera for you if you want to reduce the size and weight of your equipment to a minimum.
Recommended compact cameras
Price level: 500-1000 euros
We won’t be making specific recommendations for very cheap compact cameras here, because we recommend using your smartphone instead.
So now we’ll introduce you to three superior models with manual setting options and good image quality.
Sony DSC-RX100 III and IV
The Sony DSC-RX100 series is among the best you can get in the compact camera segment.
The latest model is the Sony DSC-RX100 IV, but it’ll set you back nearly 1,000 euros. This camera is perfect for you if you’re looking to shoot high-resolution video or want to record in super slow motion. The new sensor offers you all these possibilities with this camera, which is certainly unique among compact cameras.
If you’re looking for a very good camera for everyday photography, then the predecessor model Sony DSC-RX100 III should be just fine for you. The camera costs about 300 euros less, but still offers the same high image quality and ease of use.
The two cameras also have a retractable electronic viewfinder. That’s a real rarity in the compact camera segment.
Ricoh GR II
The Ricoh GR II is a genuine cult object among compact cameras. The image quality of this camera is outstanding. No wonder the Ricoh cameras have a small but dedicated fan base that swear by the Japanese manufacturer’s technology.
The design may look a bit boring at first glance, but the camera is extremely ergonomic and robust. The Ricoh GR II is priced at just under 650 euros and offers great value for money.
Canon PowerShot G7 X
The PowerShot G7 X is the flagship among Canon’s compact cameras. According to its advertising, it has the performance of a pocket-sized DSLR camera, and indeed, the Canon PowerShot G7 X offers everything you could possibly wish for.
It’s extremely fast and offers you a lot of manual setting options. The camera costs about 500 euros and is definitely a good solution if you don’t want to carry around a lot of gear.
What factors are important when buying a camera?
I hope reading all these camera recommendations hasn’t made your head spin. Obviously we can only present a fraction of the cameras available on the market in our camera buying guide.
If you’d like to explore a wider range of options, we’d first like to present the most important criteria you should consider when making your choice. Since you’ll probably be using the same camera for several years to come, the decision isn’t that easy.
But knowing what really matters makes things a little easier.
For a long time, megapixels were considered the most important factor when buying a camera. The more, the better. That’s actually total bullshit. You only need a high megapixel count if you’re planning to take photos to be hung on large billboards or sold in galleries.
6 megapixels are more than enough for the average amateur photographer, and all the cameras presented here have way more than that. An average HD screen displays images at a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels, equivalent to approximately 2.5 megapixels. You can easily print a 6 megapixel photo on A4 paper without any noticeable drop in quality.
Something you might want to keep in mind before you succumb to megapixelomania is the size of the image files: The more megapixels, the more storage space your photos consume.
Good image quality with low light
Almost all cameras take good photos in good lighting conditions. The differences often only become apparent in extreme situations, for example in darkness.
So when you buy a camera, it’s really important to make sure that you can still take decent images with little to no image noise at high ISO values of 1,600 or 3,200.
The lens also plays a major role here. If you have a high-speed lens, you can take good photos even in low light conditions. You can tell how good your lens is by the maximum aperture, or lens speed, which is indicated with f/3.5, for example. The lower the number behind the f, the faster your lens is.
F/3.5 is a very common aperture. Lenses with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 and lower are very fast.
An important factor in the purchasing decision is the range of available lenses for the camera. If you choose a Nikon or Canon SLR camera, you’ll have a huge range of lenses that you can buy later on. The manufacturers themselves offer a wide range of lenses, and there’s an even wider variety of third-party lenses.
On the other hand, if you’re considering buying a less popular model, you should survey the range of available lenses before buying. That doesn’t have to be a deal breaker, but you should at least give it some thought.
If you’re buying your first camera, this isn’t an issue you’ll have to deal with. Cameras for beginners and advanced users usually have smaller sensors. This is no problem at all for your run-of-the-mill photographer and doesn’t cause any issues in terms of image quality.
But if this is your third or fourth camera, and you have a lot of experience and feel like a new challenge, you might want to think about a camera with a full-frame sensor.
Full-frame sensors offer even better image quality, which is especially important for very large prints. The strengths of a full-frame sensor are particularly evident in low light conditions, as they allow you to take better photos.
However, full-frame cameras are very expensive, very large, and very heavy. So you should weigh your decision carefully.
Zoom or focal length
The focal length of your lens determines the range in which you can zoom in or out on your subject.
The decision is especially important when buying a lens. There are lenses with a very large zoom range, such as the Tamron 16-300 mm, which is available for Nikon, Canon, and Sony. That way, you’re prepared for all situations. We’ve just tested this lens extensively.
But there are also so-called prime lenses with a fixed focal length. That might sound like a limitation, but there are times when this kind of lens can be pretty useful.
Handling the camera
It’s also important that the camera is easy to handle. If you have the opportunity to pick up and try out different cameras at a camera store, then do it.
When shopping online, you should pay particular attention to the reviews. They usually give you an idea as to whether a camera sits comfortably in the hand and whether the control elements are arranged in a sensible fashion.
Should I buy a camera in a kit with a lens?
Many DSLR and system cameras come in so-called kits where a lens is already included with the camera. You can usually save quite a bit that way as compared to buying them separately.
Generally, that isn’t a bad thing and if you want to take your first steps in photography, this is a good way to go. But if you already know that you really want to take a lot of pictures and have higher technical demands, we wouldn’t advise using a kit lens.
In that case, buy the camera body on its own and spend a little more money on a better lens. If you’re faced with the choice of spending more money on the camera itself or the lens, we would always recommend that you invest more in the lens.
But if you’re just starting out, then a kit is the best choice.
What camera is the best for you?
We hope you enjoyed our camera buying guide. Of course, a camera recommendation is always a bit subjective. That’s why we’re interested to hear which is your favorite camera and why. Leave us a comment, we’re very curious!