Camera Reviews

It’s time for a new digital camera, yes? Yes!

Below is a list of cameras I recommend that should work for any skill level or budget. In addition, I have a more complete list of Camera Lens Reviews that covers all the lens I use for my photography.

Sony NEX-3N

Good Camera: Sony NEX-3N

Priced at about $499, this Sony mirrorless camera is highly recommended if your budget is keeping you at around the $500 level.

If budget is not a concern, I suggest you jump down to the “Better” or “Best” recommendations. However, if budget is your principle concern, then no worries this Sony is the way to go! One great thing about it is that all the lenses that you get for this camera can also be used when if you decide down the road to upgrade to the Sony NEX-7 below.

Sony NEX-6

Better Camera: Sony NEX-6

Starting at around $750 which includes an 16-50mm lens.

See my full Sony NEX-7 Review (which is not that different than the NEX-6). The only significant difference is that the NEX-7 has a few more megapixels. The NEX-6, on the other hand, counteracts that with much faster autofocus for better performance in low light. I use it to take photos of everything, from kids to landscapes to architecture to objects.

Best Camera: Sony a7R

Starting at just over $2000

A full-on Sony a7R Review is here on the site that is full of a ton of sample photos. This is currently my main camera. I absolutely love it. It has all the power of the giant DSLR systems at a fraction of the price and size. It’s Full-Frame goodness combined with a small mirrorless form factor gives you everything you need. Plus, the camera smarts inside are absolutely insane. Check on the review there to see even more!

Camera Lenses

Sony a7R Lenses and Goodies

  • Sony 55mm f/1.8 Prime (Amazon | B&H Photo) – In short, a great for portraits and objects of things
  • Sony 35mm f/2.8 Prime (Amazon | B&H Photo) – In short, a great fast lens, also great for portraits and landscapes
  • Sony Alpha Adaptor (Amazon | B&H Photo) – So that you can attach the other Sony full-frame Alpha lenses to your Sony a7R
  • Novoflex Leica Adaptor (Amazon | B&H Photo) – Fantastic for attaching any lens that uses the Leica lens mount.
  • Nikon F Lens Adaptor (Amazon | B&H Photo) – To hook up your Nikon DSLR lenses
  • Canon EF Adaptor (Amazon | B&H Photo) – To hook up your Canon DSLR lenses

Sony NEX – Two Great Lenses

If you are just getting started and want recommendations on your first three lenses, here they are. Often times a camera will come with a “kit lens” that is pretty versatile and can get you a long way. The Sony NEX-7 comes with a 18-55mm lens that produces great pictures. But there are many lenses that are better for more specialized situations.

  • Sony 55-210mm (Amazon | B&H Photo) – This lens is a little big but its versatility is perfect for mid-range stuff like landscapes, birthdays, sports, etc. I’ve also used it to zoom in and get shots of the moon (like you can see below)
  • Sony 10-18 F/4 (Amazon | B&H Photo) – An excellent lens, see my full review here, that gives you maximum wide-angle flexibility for landscapes and architecture

Nikon – First Three Lenses

Following are the first three lenses I would recommend getting if you bought a professional Nikon camera.

  • Nikon 14-24 Review – A great wide-angle lens for landscapes and architecture
  • Nikon 28-300 Review – Perfect walk-around lens mid-range stuff like landscapes, birthdays, sports, etc.
  • Nikon 50mm Review – Ideal for cute children, family and close-up objects where you like a blurry background

I only write reviews for lenses that I use and recommend.  Here is a complete list of camera lens reviews.

Tripod and Head

My best advice for tripods is to visit your local camera store and try them out!  Find one that you find easy to use…  I’ve tried many, and my recommendations are below. A tripod is composed of two parts – the Legs and the Head.  The head simply attaches to the legs, and these have universal connections.

What I carry

  • RRS Tripod (link)- And here is the tripod.
  • RRS Head (Small) (link) – This is the Really Right Stuff tripod head I use. It doesn’t have to be too big because the camera is small.
  • RRS Head (Big) (link) – This is the ballhead I used with my much bigger DSLR systems. It’s highly recommended if you use hefty DSLRs!
  • L-Plates for your camera (link) – These allow your camera to attach to the tripod head. These “L” plates are of the variety that enables you to easily adjust it from landscape to portrait orientation.

Entry Level Tripod and Head

More Reviews and recommendations

I have many other reviews and recommendations you may find helpful!

Any questions about the nature of these reviews? Please visit my Ethics Statement.

Sample Photos

And last, here is a collection of photos I’ve shot with my equipment over the years. There are many more examples if you’d like to surf around the site!

Many of my photos use a special process you can find out more about in my HDR Tutorial. If you’d like to know more about HDR or HDR Photography, click on those links to discover something new and fun!

Farewell India I had a truly wonderful time in India and I can't wait to return.  After spending most of the day exploring the Taj Mahal, I found a car to take me across the river.  The bridge was over 100 years old and crowded with every type of locomotion - from donkey to pull cart to bike.  After working my way down to the river, I found I could not quite get low enough to take the photo I wanted.  So, reluctantly, I took my camera off my tripod and buried it in the mud, about half an inch above the water.  I spent all night in the bathroom saying I was sorry to the camera... cleaning her up back into her old self once again.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

The Bay at Portofino This isn’t really Portofino, but it sure does look like it, eh? We might even make the case that it is more pretty than the real Portofino! This is a beautiful resort in Orlando, over at Universal Studios.  All the colors in the sky and the buildings seemed to melt together, so I stopped for a quick photo.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

The Morning Fisherman Now, getting to this place was not easy!I arrived about 1 AM at a tiny family-run inn by the river.  I was meeting a local guide at 5 AM, so I didn't get a lot of what I would call "quality sleep".  Anyway, I got up very early and went downstairs in pitch black.  There seemed to be a big white cloth box I had to go around to find the front door.  My guide was outside.  The door was locked and we could not figure out how to get it open.  Everyone at the little inn was sound asleep and I was totally confused.  Then, from inside the big white box, a body flew out of it!  There was a 60-year-old Chinese guy inside that was sleeping until I woke him up with all my lock-manipulations.  His naked limbs in the white sheets scared the bejeezus out of me and woke me right up!And then we were on the river about 5:15.  It was still completely dark outside.  And I mean COMPLETELY DARK.  It was a thin bamboo raft with an outboard motor.I turned around to ask my guide, "How the heck does the boat driver know where he is going?!?"He calmly said, "Oh, no worry.  The river is very wide."I not-calmly said, "Well, that's great and everything, but I can't even see the edge to the river!"He calmly said, "But it is so wide."This line of questioning was not getting me anywhere, so I just decided to sit back and enjoy my possible last moments on Earth.  Then the sun started to rise, and we moved the boat over to the best bank for the angle.Want to hear something amazing about these fishermen?  You won't believe it... but maybe others can confirm this! The fishermen use these two trained cormorant birds that have their throats tied.  The birds dive into the water, eat a fish, but then can't swallow it because of the rope.  The fisherman rudely pulls the fish from the bird's throat and drops it into that basket behind him.  The bird then goes over to a tiny keyboard and sends out the tweet, "WTF".- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

A Neo-Rockwellian Christmas When dad is a photographer, then there is a major degree of pressure to deliver photos on all the requisite holidays and celebrations! So, I decided to try to re-invent the family Christmas photo with HDR. Please note that many of my inventions go down in flames, but, as Winston Churchill said, “success is the ability to go from one failure to the next with no loss of enthusiasm”.Christmas scenes have a lot of light levels. The lights on the tree, the deep greens withn the branches, a roaring fire, lights in the room, reflections off the ornaments, and the like. It’s wild! I’m pretty sure this is why people like Christmas scenes so much - a wonderful treat for the eyes that is rich in texture and rich in light. Traditionally, it’s been very difficult to capture so much richness in a single photo, saving a lucky and heroic combination of shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and lenses.The tree lights made the faces of my three stunt-children (who are also my real children) glow perfectly. No flash could have achieved this, unless you are the kind of Rambo-flash guy that would go bury one inside the tree to hit their faces from the left. But, let’s face it. That’s hard.This was a 5-exposure HDR. You will notice that I often use 5 exposures, but note I could have done it with 3 exposures at -2, 0, and +2. Some silly Nikon cameras, like the D3X I use, will not let you step by twos, so I had to take 5 at -2, -1, 0, +1, and +2. The middle exposure, from which the kid’s faces were masked in and perfectly lit, was shot at f/4 aperture, shutter speed of 1/250, 100 ISO, and at 28mm.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

The Most Beautiful Road in the World I found it!I've looked at travel guides and driven on a ton of beautiful, scenic roads all over the world, but I think this road to Queenstown (on the way to/from Glenorchy) is the most beautiful in the world.  The road winds down one side of a perfect, fjord-like lake, and every few kilometers, the mountain views change dramatically.  Depending upon the time of day you travel it, the entire landscape transforms before your eyes.Wonder what it looks like on the other side of the lake?  You won't believe that it is in the same place!  See this photo called Mountainstorm that I took on a previous trip to this location.  It was shot later in the evening, so I wasn't able to properly capture the road that time.What's the prettiest road you have ever found?  I've seen conflicting guides of the most beautiful roads in the US... I'm sure everyone has their opinion... I'd love to know what you think!- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

-The Great Wall of China-Wow I was alone here. As I walked along this ancient, original stretch of the Great Wall, I felt the ghosts haunting the old towers and little enclaves.I finally found an extremely remote part that is far enough away from civilization to stay pure. The ruins of the wall in this area has been overgrown with vegetation. When you walk along the top, you have to snake your way between huge bushes and all sorts of trees. Stairs and parts of the walkways have crumbled away in the past thousand years. The old towers are slowly fragmenting as lichens and moss cover parts of the stone that are decaying away.This has only reminded me that the main tourist part of the Great Wall is a very tiny stretch that has been re-built in recent years… so it is all fake and kind of Disney-wall. I don’t think I like that…That day I walked from tower to tower, looking at the sinuous wall as it snakes over the mountains. It’s so huge that I won’t even begin to come up with analogies… but, speaking of snakes, a family here told me to watch out for them. I kept that in mind as I hiked back in the pure black of night. I had a little flashlight to keep me company, along with my music. I didn’t see any snakes, and I didn’t fall down, so all together it was a great day and night.

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