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

First Three Lenses for the Sony a7R

  • Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 (Amazon | B&H Photo) – A great mid-range lens the covers wide to mid-range zooming. See more on the Sony 24-70mm Review.
  • Sony 10-18 f/4 (Amazon | B&H Photo) – A great lens that gives you maximum wide-angle flexibility for landscapes and architecture. Even though this lens is made for the NEX series of camera, it works fine on the A7 series of cameras and is still full frame. Instead of 10-18mm, you’ll get full coverage from 12mm to 17mm. To find out more, read my full Sony 10-18mm Lens Review.
  • Sony FE 55mm f/1.8 Prime (Amazon | B&H Photo) – In short, a great for portraits and objects of things

Other Goodies for the Sony a7R

  • 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.
  • Sony 10-18 F/4 (Amazon | B&H Photo) – A great lens that gives you maximum wide-angle flexibility for landscapes and architecture. To find out more, read my full Sony 10-18mm Lens Review.

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.

  • Rick Scheibner

    Hmmm, pretty Nikon-centric if you ask me. The Canon 5DmkII is one of the best values in digital photography right now. If you work hard, you can pick one up for ~$2000USD. 

  • Brent Balzer

    Great list of cameras and accessories.  Thanks Trey!

  • http://www.facebook.com/donald.djb Jackson Botlero

    wow onek shondur/very nice

  • Mark Andreani

    My choice of best value cameras for producing digital images are as follows:

    OK CAMERA:
    Canon 550D 2nd Hand plus Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8GOOD CAMERA:Canon 5D (Mk 1 or Mk 11) 2nd Hand plus 24-70mm L f/2.8BETTER CAMERA:Nikon FE + Nikkor MF 35mm f/2 + Nikon Coolscan 5000 Scanner. From Ebay, the same price as an entry level DSLR from Canon if, like Indie, you choose wisely.

    BEST CAMERA:Leica M2 + Voigtlander 35mm f/1.7  + Nikon Scanner. From Ebay, the same price as a prosumer level DSLR from Canon again, if, like Indie, you choose wisely.

  • Trey Ratcliff

    Thanks for the feedback all – I read it all! :)

  • Trey Ratcliff

    Good choices there too! :)

  • Trey Ratcliff

    Yes the 5D Mk2 is a good bargain now for sure…  And yes, I am Nikon-centric because I know that system best.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=6804962 Eaton Zhou

    Was seriously considering the TVC-33 but in the end bought the Gitzo Systematic GT3541LS.  Main reason was that being 4 sections, the Gitzo can fold into my carry-on bag while the 3 section RRS cannot.  If RRS made a TVC-34 I would have bought that (they make a TVC-34L but that is way too tall)…..Trey, how do you lug the tripod around and travel with it?

  • http://www.traverseearth.com/ Johnny Peacock

    I’m wondering the same thing. I’ve got a Benro Travel Angel, purchased after a big spend on equipment, mistakenly went cheap on the tripod. The legs have all come loose, no matter how hard I try to tighten them. It’s time for an upgrade. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=573007396 Dan Rose

    Hi Trey,

    Just wondering what 3rd Gen DSLR cameras you would recommend for HDR Photography?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001534129090 Michael Baglione

    Wow Trey was very surprised to see a Sony NEX-7 instead of a Nikon d7000 which used to be on the camera reviews. Now your photography is amazing and I trust your reviews, but I still feel skeptical when I see a smaller camera body. My big decision is between the d7000 and the Sony NEX-7. Size/weight doesn’t matter to me, which would you recommend?

  • http://www.facebook.com/sirpopealot Scott Pope

    No Canon G1X?

  • http://twitter.com/Lainer Lainer

    Trey, have you tried the Fuji X Pro? Just curious.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=755262057 Yoyi Gomez

    Go with the Pentax K5, it has the same sensor as the D7000, and it can do 5 Bracketed pictures for HDR, same price level

  • http://www.facebook.com/recasper Cas Per

    You must give the OM-D a whirl. It has single handedly forced my DSLR equipment in a dusty closet. I haven’t flipped a shutter on my Canon gear since mid-May.

    As for the Nex… I’m sorry to say, but once a lens is attached, it no longer qualifies as “compact”

  • lindaozag

    I love my lightweight  Panasonic DMC-TZ4 Lumix.  My heavy Nikon D70 and extra equipment is sitting in the closet.

  • http://www.facebook.com/loveskiing Gary Leonard

    I’m Landscape/Nature/Outdoor Photographer.  I have owned my Canon 5d3 for little over a month now. This Camera simply amazes me each and every time I shot.  I guess I’m Canoncentric, but I’m not opposed to other brands that are comparable.  They all have their Pro’s & Con’s.

  • http://www.stuckincustoms.com/ Luke Lakatosh (SIC Support)

     Having held a D800 and NEX in rapid succession (both with lenses on), I’d say the NEX is still tremendously compact by comparison!

  • Edman123

    I’d take the Panasonic G3 over the  E-PM1. Its $550 with a kit lens on amazon, BUT it has a built in EVF. IMO much better value than the E-PM1.

    And for the “better” category, for $1300 the Olympus E-M5 absolutely smokes the NEX-7 – while image quality is quite similar for the two, the number of native 3rd gen lenses on the micro four thirds format is huge, like the 7-14mm wide angle, 100-300mm telephoto, 25mm f/0.95, 12mm f/2, 75mm f/1.8, etc.

  • Kathy108

    Anyone have any experience with the Sony NEX-5N?  Nex-7 too pricey, but I really need to lighten the load I carry due to some back issues..thanks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1545403639 Mark Staun Nørgaard

    Will you recomend a Nikon D3100, for a first time DSLR?

    I’m on a very small budget..

  • patrickBr

    Hi Trey,
     looking forward to the NEX 7′s next incarnation. Why dont the camera companies give us full frame cameras instead of putzing around with micro 4/3 and aps and cmos etc. I am disappointed with my Canon EOS 7d, the color noise is unacceptable above 800, and the kit lenses have  muddy resolution; who has the money to spend on an $1800 replacement  lens, let alone $6000+ for full  frame bodies? Just because I dont make my living shooting weddings (my idea of a nightmare), doesnt mean that I should have to pay for inferior but expensive “enthusiast” equipment.Keep up the good work,PatrickRecife, Brazil

  • http://www.facebook.com/larry.copley Larry Copley

    These are the type of photos I want to take. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/Amicitas Amy Price

    Hi Trey – Got into a discussion with a Austin-based photog this week about mirrorless cameras, and even brought up your name.  ;)  Net is that he doesn’t believe that mirrorless will be ‘serious’ as compared to DSLRs – it boiled down to focus speed and ergonomics. To the contrary, I’m getting amazing results from the Sony NEX-5n, even in low light, and I love the light weight and versatility, though a really good wide lens would be a welcome addition to the line. (Disclaimer:  primary camera is a D7000, backup is a D300 and waiting for the D800.) 

    How do you believe that Nikon and Canon will enter this market, with what features, and when? I don’t count the Nikon V1/J1 in the same class as the Sonys at this point, because the sensor is so much smaller, but the form factor is on target.  Also – what new companies do you see coming into the market, what benefits will they bring and what challenges will they face? 

    Appreciate your PoV!  :) 

  • Zach Smit

    What is your opinion on the Nikon D7000? A review would be great!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeremyalberts67 Jeremy Alberts

    Are there any lenses that you would recommend for the olympus e-pm1 other than the kit lens?

  • http://www.facebook.com/KrisSzupa Kristopher Michael

    For an entry, spend a few more dollars and get the D5100. You’ll be glad you did. Never buy a camera “just because it is the same price as money you have.” Hold off and grab exactly what you want to get started.

  • Speedbird

    I use a Sony NEX 5. OK, it might not have a viewfinder and the ISO only goes as low as 200 but sometimes you need a challenge and see what you can do with such limitations. I find it takes great pictures. The colour is very accurate and even the kit lenses are pin sharp. I’m saving for the 50mm so that my portrait work is a little nicer, as the 16mm doesn’t really work for that kind of subject. I have been doing HDR with it for some time now and find that it can produce some amazing scenes. The only trouble is the bracketed exposures it insists on doing (-0.7 –> +0.7). Instead I’ve been manually capturing my exposures but as long as your subject stays still (I shoot landscapes so unless there’s an earthquake I should be alright) it works fine.

  • Paul Griffiths

    Trey, I’m curious to know why you chose the Sony NEX7 over the Nikon 1 V1, which has now been upgraded to the V2? Was it sensor size or camera design… I ask this, as with the Nikon V1 using the FT1 mount adapter you could have utilised all your Nikkor lenses, in addition to a 10-30mm kit lens… (like you I am Nikon-centric)

  • Indy

    The Nkion D7000 has served me well with time-lapsing as it has a built-in intervalometer feature, saving me one piece of equipment to not forget when I’m out in the field. I use it primarily for astrolapsing, and it does a pretty good job. it also works quite well for daytime time-lapsing and general photography, too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kathleen.troeller Kathleen Troeller

    Hi. I’m just getting started in photography. Saw a great deal on Canon Rebel T3i DSLR & came with 2 lenses. A deal I could not pass up. Wanted more than a point and shoot and more than the Sony I was using. Would love maybe the Sony Nex7 next. Do you have any thoughts on the Canon Rebel T3i?

  • http://www.facebook.com/shane.close.18 Shane Close

    What lenses would you recommend for the GX1?

  • spiral architect

    Hi Trey

    You might think of this as ancient. But i still manage my photolife with a 70 model Yashica GS 35mm film camera :) and then washing and drying the output. I guess it is time i upgrade or i would end up as a gargoyle of sorts.I was thinking of DSLRs and then i came across your review on 3rd gen camera. I needed your views on what i should go for. I am not a professional, but i do like to look at things from a different view point altogether. I am impressed with the Nex 7 but wanted to know alternatives. Knowing that i managed to live about 20 years of my life with one camera the next one should see me through the next 20 years hopefully :). Your suggestions would be utmost helpful….cheers, subra

  • jordan_dodge@hotmail.co.uk

    I’m just wondering what camera you would suggest for a complete beginner looking to get into HDR photography, i was looking at both the 650D and D5200 but relise that the AEB option on these only allows for 3 Exposures to be taken in quick succession, I would like the option to shoot HDR by hand so am guessing that this would be an important feature…could I set up AEB in both “A” and “M” mode on these cameras and swich the dial quickly between modes to get 6 shots at different exposures? would i be better off going for something like the D7000 where the Mode dial is on the oposite side to the shoot button meaning there would be less movement in the camera? Thanks in advance and thank you so much for this amazing website!

    All the best,

    Jordan.

  • http://mohammadafshar.com/ Mohammad Afshar

    Just a quick note for those (like me) who have Sony NEX (NEX3,5,6,7,… & a7, a7r) cameras and shoot HDR: one of the most stupid firmware design Sony made is that to shoot with Bracketing option you have to press and HOLD the shutter button, which may cause camera shake even if you use a tripod specially when you need a long exposure time (like in low light conditions). Unfortunately you can’t also use the 2-second delay option with bracketing. Here is a solution I found and may help you also:

    I have a Sony a6000 (succesor of NEx6 & NEX7), I bought a remote control (RMT-DSLR2) and I confirm that the remote works withautobracketing. The fun parts is that you don’t need to HOLD the shutter button on the remote. You just press the shutter button on the remote and it takes the 3 (or 5) pictures automatically. You can also use the 2-second delay button on the remote. However, you may not need it when you use a remote. I tested this with RMT-DSLR2. I have not tested it with the old remote control (RMT-DSLR1). As far as I know the software of a6000, a7, a7r are similar, so I assume you RMT-DSLR2 will work with these cameras too, but I have not tested myself.

    Hope this is useful for you and enjoy shooting HDR.

  • Brad Zimmerman

    Thanks for the heads up on the remote! I called Sony and they verified what you said- though they don’t list the A6000 as “compatible” it is! This is going to be a GREAT help for me!

  • http://www.troyarnold.com Erehwon

    I can confirm this to be true – I too have an A6000 with the RMT-DSLR2 remote. I use it all the time when auto-bracketing. I line the shot up stand back and hit the remote. I normally use the 2 second delay to ensure I’ve stepped back away from the equipment. Only thing I don’t like is the remote doesn’t work so well from the rear of the camera – I have to reach my hand around to the front. It’s become second nature to me at this point but some folks may find it annoying.

    Here is a link to an image of the remote (note the Shutter and 2 SEC buttons).
    http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/81bkTKSTtGL._SL1500_.jpg

Welcome to STUCK IN CUSTOMS Welcome to my travel photography blog!
Enjoy the daily photos, tips, tutorials & more!
Newsletter Sign Up
The Most Beautiful Newsletter Ever!


x
  • © 2004 - 2014, SIC Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved.