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 a5100 Mirrorless Camera

Good Camera: Sony a5100

Priced at under $450 for the body, this Sony mirrorless camera is highly recommended if your budget is keeping you at below 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 principal 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 if and when you decide down the road to upgrade to the Sony a7R2 model below.

Better Camera: Sony a6300

Starting at below $999 for the body.

The A6300 is the latest evolution of the high end Sony APS-C models. It features, amongst other great features, enhanced autofocus speed and 4K movie recording. You can read my complete Sony a6000 review, it is the model the A6300 replaces and has many of the same specs. It was also the replacement for the Sony NEX-7, which I loved. The a6000 series has a number of advantages over the lower-priced a5000 models. It has a built-in electronic viewfinder, more focal points, and faster continuous shooting (11 fps vs 6 fps).

Best Camera: Sony a7RII

Starting at just over $3800

A full-on Sony a7R Review is here on the site that is full of a ton of sample photos. I’m working on the Mark 2 review right now, but just know the main differences are that it is faster, 42 Megapixel (instead of 36), and, most importantly, it has in-body stabilization. AWESOME. 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!

Wildcard 2nd Camera: Sony DSC-RX100 IV

Around $1,000

I LOVE this camera. It’s my quick one-camera camera! You can’t change lenses. It’s not full-frame. But it doesn’t matter. It’s an absolutely magical little camera. I love it so much that it will be my main camera at Burning Man this year… it’s also one of my street-photography cameras. I don’t know the exact stats… but it’s like 16 photos per second. 20.1 megapixel. And it can even shoot 4K video, and slow motion 1080p at 960 FPS. What an amazing compact camera! If you have an extra $1,000 or so, just get it!!!

Camera Lenses

Sony a7R – First Three Lenses

Note these work for all the Sony A7 cameras! 🙂

  • Sony FE 24-70 f/4 (Amazon | BH Photo) – A great mid-range lens the covers wide to mid-range zooming. See more on the Sony 24-70mm review.
  • Sony FE 24-240 f/3.5-6.3 (Amazon | B&H Photo) – This lens is great. What a range! It’s not super-fast, but that’s not a problem for me.
  • Sony FE 16-35 f/4 (Amazon | B&H Photo) – I’m so excited about this lens! This is the first full-frame wide angle lens that fits the eMount on the Sony a7 line of cameras.

Sony a7R – Other Goodies!

  • 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. WARNING: Do not get the cheaper adapters. I tried them, thinking it was just a piece of metal, but it was not and many of my photos, especially at infinity, were out of focus. Check out my Leica Lens Buying Guide for more info.
  • 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 A5100 / A6300 Camera – Two Great Lenses

If you are just getting started and want recommendations on your first couple of 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 a6300 comes with a 16-50mm 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. Note: This is also a great lens for the Sony A7r Mark 2, giving you the full range of 12-17mm. The edges get a bit ropy, but only hardcore camera nerds look at the edges.

What’s in my photo bag?

Come check out my Camera Bag page for more details!

Over the past year few years, I’ve been partnering with Peak Design to build five incredible camera bags. And now you can see more! See our current Kickstarter here and/or check out our first Everyday Messenger here!

Leica Lens Buying Guide

I’m really getting into using Leica lenses with the Sony a7R. You have to manually focus but you still get focus peaking and all of the other sweet features of the Sony mirrorless system. I’ve created a Leica Lens Buying Guide where I’ll chronicle what I learn and recommend.

More Lens Reviews

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

DJI Phantom Vision and Inspire 1 Quadcopters

I recently got a quadcopter and I LOVE it! You can get amazing photos and videos from previously unattainable perspectives.

I have now upgraded to the Phantom 4 Pro and it is now my go-to Quadacopter (that’s what my daughter Scarlett calls them!). Here is my Phantom 4 Pro review.

Tripod Recommendations

I’ve recently switched tripods, then switched back, then switched again. I’m like the Caitlyn Jenner of tripods, and I’m not proud. But I’m ownin’ it girl.

  • High EndThe TQC-14 Tripod from RRS – I love this tripod. Again, I’ve switched around a lot… but this thing honestly fixes all the gripes I had with previous RRS tripods.
  • BudgetAny 3-Legged Thing Tripod – These are also nice tripods. Yes, they are still pricey but with good quality. There are some very inexpensive tripods out there, but they are so flimsy and you should not waste your time.

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!

Reflecting on the Taj Mahal

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.

A Morning with a Strange Method of Fishing

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!

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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. 

  • Hi Trey,

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

  • 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?

  • No Canon G1X?

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

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  •  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.

  • 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

  • These are the type of photos I want to take. 

  • 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!

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

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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

  • [email protected]

    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.

  • 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!

  • 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

  • I like your Sony reviews but after many weeks of reading reviews and contemplating all the differences, I just had to go with. Nikon D810. I could not be happier. That said I may pick up a Sony A7m2 for travel. Thank you for your detailed reviews!!

  • No worries – the 810 is a great machine @Bob ! 🙂

  • Yes it most certainly it. I was blown away by some of the results I got before even knowing all the functions and options. I must say that your photos are phenomenal no matter what camera you use. I wish I had your eye and more importantly your ability to travel to some of the exquisite locations you get too

  • Mike Baker

    Hey Trey,
    Just a quick opening statement then a camera specific question. Every since I was in my mid teens I have been interested in photography and always thought that I had an eye for the art but it has always seemed that once my images were on paper they had “that look”, The look that made me feel that anybody could have taken that shot. Fast-forward 30 something years, I’m now 50, and with the evolution of computers, most importantly youtube.com, I found you! I found myself immersed in your videos, speeches, and tutorials which have opened my eyes to colors and compositions that I would have never thought of. On top of that, I’ve stated looking at my images from my point of view and not how I think other people would like to see them. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for that!
    I never owned a DSLR camera before and a couple of years ago I purchased a Nikon D3000, It has been a great entry level camera for my knowledge level. But, with HDR photography, and the necessity of bracketing, I had been tossing around the idea of purchasing a D300s. Then I saw your video on mirrorless cameras and I am now considering going in that direction.
    I was curious if you have had any thoughts on the Nikon 1 J5? It is more close to my price range but I can’t find any information as far as AE bracketing. Going out tomorrow to look at the a5000 with strong consideration as well.
    Once again, thank you for giving me new perspective and battling the status quo.

  • Dan Waldie

    I recently fought a Nikon D610. Am I correct in assuming that it will not shoot HDR files in RAW?

  • You know Trey in retrospect this was a dumb comment by me. To each his own, right? Now though with the a7rII out in kind of pining for that camera. I simply can’t afford it at this point. Oh well…such as life 🙂

  • Michael Ward

    Hi Trey
    Partly because of your enthusiasm for Sony, I chose the A6000 as my first mirrorless camera. I have a Canon 6D but wanted a smaller and lighter camera which I certainly got.

    Very happy to start – very pleased with photos in Turin.

    It was when I was planning on taking it to a Group meeting about Time Lapse that my opinion began to change. The app page stated I’d need to upgrade the Firmware to Version 2 and the download crashed leaving the screen black and the Help Desk weren’t true to their name. Sent it off for repair and got it back about 10 days later. And they kindly upgraded it to Version 2.

    So, after a few days I attempted to download the Time Lapse app and it has been very frustrating. Not sure if the fact stems from my running a Mac but the Internet suggests this can still work.

    Have you/anyone out there had problems and, if so, any recommendations? As I feel at the moment, I looking more fondly at my Canon. Pity it’s so heavy, though!

    Ordered the Peak Design bag. Looks awesome!

    Thanks.

    Michael Ward

  • Hi Michael,

    I did some poking around and it seems like you are definitely not alone in having issues with the Time Lapse app. I noticed in a few places that doing a factory reset and reinstalling helped some people – but definitely do some reading up on how that will impact your setup before you do so.

  • like Cindy implied I am stunned that any body can make $5241 in one month on the computer. try this website on `my` `prof1le`

    (fffffffffffff

  • RLLawrence

    I really love your site and appreciate all that you share. I would really like to see some of your work with the Sony DSC-RX100 IV.

  • I am really thankful to you that you have shared this kind of exclusive information.

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