New Camera Recommendations!

I’ve done a MASSIVE update to my “Stuff You Need” page, which is repeated in part over on the “Camera Reviews” page. This is THE most common question I get: “Which camera should I buy?” Because there are thousands of cameras out there, I like to boil it down to Good, Better, and Best. And here we go…

Good Camera

Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1

Olympus E-PM1

Priced at about $499, this Olympus 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 principal concern, then no worries! This Olympus will serve you well! It has a 12 megapixel sensor and is based on something called the “Micro Four Thirds” standard. This means that there many different lenses you can attach to this camera, which is something you can add over time. If you’re just getting started, there is no need to worry about lenses, since it comes with a serviceable 14-42mm lens that will allow wide-angle shots and a little bit of zoom.

Better Camera

Sony NEX-7

Starting around $1,300 which includes an 18-55mm lens.

See my full Sony NEX-7 Review. In short, this is really a great camera. I carry it! It is compact and powerful. It can be used it almost any photographic situation and is one of the best models available in this class. I use it to take photos of everything, from kids to landscapes to architecture to objects. This tiny 24 megapixel beast has a thousand other features that those clever Japanese crammed inside… see the full Sony NEX-7 Review for more information and sample photos.

Best DSLR Camera

Nikon D800

Nikon D800

Starting at $3,000 for the camera body.

See my full Nikon D800 Review. This is currently my main camera. I also carry the Sony NEX-7 above as a second camera to get quick shots here and there. But this Nikon D800 is a bigger, traditional DSLR camera. It shoots a massive 36 megapixels and has all the professional-level features associated with high-end DSLRs. For me, I prefer this over the Nikon D4 which is almost twice as expensive. You can see many sample photos and read more in my full Nikon D800 Revi

  • I will tell my boss – he’s going to Paris on Fri and know he’d like to have one of these cameras!

  • Casper van Zyl

    All nice cameras,but what about Fujifilmx-Pro 1 body bundled with XF 18mm F2 R + 35mm F1.4 + F60 F2.4 R Macro > This is not a bad buy in Hong Kong if anyone is going there. The price is 28,500 Hong Kong dollar  =$3660 American for the lot ,plus leather case for the camera. Just thought I’d throw this in as it has high iso with good results, small and compact for travel. Test results and where to buy are on the blog ,The World of roland Lim.

  • The D4 is not designed for what you do Trey.
    “I plow fields so I prefer the tractor over the Ferrari”

  • Paul Jennings

    I have to say that I think the new HDR Spotting site sucks big time. Forcing square format onto every picture is so lame. I’m sure you would be angry if smugmug or flickr suddenly decided to randomly crop your pics to square. Whoever designed the new site should be shot. So much worse than the first version, which worked pretty well. I’m not even going to bother posting there any more. 

  • Trey, I’m a huge fan of yours but I’m completely baffled by your recommendation of the Sony NEX-7 as ‘better camera’ here. I get that it’s a great camera – I don’t disagree – but in your review you say that it only brackets at +/- 0.7 ev. How can you possibly recommend a camera with these constraints for HDR work? Surely a D7000/7D remains the camera of choice here?

  • Trey Ratcliff

    Yeah – I see your point, but I think the NEX-7 is still better for most photo situations.  I’ve been taking a lot of pictures with the NEX-7 and will publish some more HDRs, even taken from a single RAW.  Check my G+ stream here soon – at to see one on a plane — I will add more to the review page too.

    You are right that .7 to -.7 isn’t so much… but I think going into this Sony system is a pretty good bet for the next few years.   Since it will inevitably include lens choices as part of the package.

  • What’s your point?

  • Trey Ratcliff

    Sorry to hear you think this — we are still in early beta with a new redesign – so we will take your valuable feedback to the team! 🙂

  • Trey Ratcliff

    It is true – I use the D800 more for landscape / architecture shots.

  • Does anybody have any thoughts on the Sony NEX-5N? I’m firmly in the budget category for now, and I’m looking in the range of $5-600. I may eventually move up to the NEX-7 (or whatever it becomes in the future), so I was thinking about staying in that family of cameras with the NEX-5N, but is this Olympus E-PM1 significantly better? Is the NEX-5N a huge step down from the NEX-7?

  • If I was getting a new camera I would certainly be looking seriously at the D-800 – it’s a monster!

    My 1DS is still pretty good despite it’s age – I need a really awesome telephoto lens though as the one i’ve got is kind of slow and clunky which is never good.

  • My point was, what is the point of a statement like “I prefer (the D800) over the Nikon D4 which is almost twice as expensive.”
    When you need a racing car you don’t buy a tractor and vica versa.

  • t_linn

     The 5N is a good camera.  It’s actually has lower noise than the NEX-7 due to its lower pixel count.  It would be a fine choice.

  • t_linn

     Adding to what Trey said, you can manually bracket +/-5 stops using exposure comp so the crippled auto bracketing is an inconvenience but not necessarily a deal-killer for HDR.

  • t_linn

     Adding to what Trey said, you can manually bracket +/-5 stops using exposure comp so the crippled auto bracketing is an inconvenience but not necessarily a deal-killer for HDR.

  • Jeremy Jones

    Trey you talk so much about investing in lenses where you can upgrade bodies as you progress so why do you recommend 3 completely different systems?  Why would you recommend the Olympus E-PM1 over a SONY NEX 5n if the idea is to buy more lenses and upgrade bodies over time?  Glass being all important and with the authority that your opinion carries why not make your recommendations based on overall systems instead of individual cameras?

  • Between the D800 and the NEX-7 there is about a $1700 price gap…I’m sure there can be a camera that is better than the NEX-7 but not as good as the D800 when it comes to HDR photos?  Perhaps when Nikon refreshes the D7000 or D300s you can add another camera to this list?

  • Best  DSLR is Canon 5d Mark III. Been a Canon guy since 1979.

  • Trey. I noted you bracket 7 exposures with the D800.  Shooting in RAW mode, what have you found to be the better setting in full daylight sun for HDR?  o.3, 0.7 or a fill 1.0 ??  I would assume 1.0, as RAW already has a lot of lattitude.

    I noted on other threads (including Kelby himself) that some say you cannot shoot an ‘auto’ sequence. But you do in one of your videos..I noted [Custom Setting Menu] – [C3 – Self Timer] will allow you to customize how many sequential shots will be released in Timer mode.  Very useful, and placed that in the [My Menu] dialog.Thank you for all your tips and examples.

  • Vincent Randal

    Howard, about the time you posted this I had ordered and just received a Sony NEX-5N. As t_linn points out below it’s 16 megapixel sensor does have better low noise performance than the Sony NEX-7 that Trey uses as his second camera. I’ve owned the NEX-5N for about two weeks now and I am convinced it has unnecessary feature limitations simply due to the way the firmware was poorly implemented.

    I am hoping Sony will address these issues because the Sony NEX-5N camera unquestionably has the best 16 megapixel sensor on the market today. If Sony were to fix the firmware limitations of the NEX-5N it would no doubt be the worlds best 16 megapixel image acquisition platform out there – in any price range.

    I have posted my concerns in two places for Sony, you, and anyone else to read:

    Just yesterday May 18, Trey announced he would be posting an HDR tutorial for the NEX-7. The NEX-7 suffers from all the same firmware limitations of the NEX-5N. It will be interesting to see what Trey has to say about the NEX-7. I expect his approach using the NEX-7 will be a significant departure from how he has done HDR in the past since the NEX-7 does not adequately support auto bracketing it its Continuous Bracketing mode. I could be wrong. In fact I hope I am wrong. I love my NEX-5N and want to keep it.

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