The Ultimate Guide for Choosing a Professional Camera

Choosing the right digital camera certainly isn’t easy, since the market is huge. 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? And what are even the differences?

What other aspects 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.

Our personal recommendations for every budget

Most of all it’s probably a question of money, which is why we recommend you exactly one camera for every budget right at the beginning. If we had to choose one within those budgets, that would be the ones we’d buy ourselves.

Thus if you don’t want to read the entire article, you find our recommendations right here.

Canon PowerShot SX540

For a very small budget with a maximum of 350$, we recommend you to buy a bridge camera. Those are camera with a bigger lens that is permanently attached to the body.

You don’t need to buy a seperate lens, but still get a pretty big zoom range. The Canon PowerShot SX540 is the perfect entry-level camera for a smaller budget.

Sony Alpha 6000 including the kit lens

If you have a some more money at hand, you can get a noticeably better camera.

Here we recommend a mirrorless system camera with a simple lens. This way you can easly buy a better lens later without having to buy an entirely new camera, in case you want something a little better.

The Sony Alpha 6000 has been our top recommendation for quite some time for beginners.

We used the Alpha 6000 ourselves for a long time and can recommend it confidently.

For less than 700$ you get the cmaera and the simple kit lens with a focal length from 16 to 50 mm – a very good money for value deal.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G85 with 12-60 mm lens

There’s a huge amount of cameras on the market for up to 1000$.

Panasonic offers a very good value for money with its mirrorless Lumix-Camera, with the clunky name DMC-G85.

You’ll be well prepared with the accompanying 12-60 mm lens. With the significant zoom-capacity, you’re especially well equipped for traveling.

Also, Panasonic has a great range of lenses, in case you want to treat yourself to something new in the future.

Sony Alpha 6000 with 18-135 mm lens

Here we recommend the 18-135 mm lens, the zoom lens which has the best value for money for the Alpha 6000.

It offers an excellent image quality and a significantly bigger zoom range than the kit lens.

For this version you will need to order the camera without the kit lens and this lens seperately, as they are not available as a kit.

Sony Alpha 7ii, Sony Alpha 7iii

You budget is higher than 1400$? Then you get a really good camera that even profesionals use.

We have been using the Sony Alpha 7ii for a couple of years and simply love this camera.

The image quality is outstanding, the handling is perfect for us and when it comes to size and weight the camera is way better than better than professional DSLR cameras.

The only disadvantage is the relatively high price, especially for the additional lenses. But quality costs money and the camera is definitely worth it.

At the end of 2018, Sony has launched the successor model Alpha 7iii, which offers quite a few improvements, e.g. a better autofocus, longer battery life and an even better image quality.

However, the new model is even more expensive. You will have to pay twice the price for its successor.

Those were our top recommendations on the questions “Which camera should I buy?”.

There is no ultimate answer to this question, which is why we would love for you to read the rest of the article as well.

There we present even more products and tell you more about DSLR and compact cameras. We personally would not buy one of those, but maybe such a model is just the right thing for you.

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

We ourselves are huge fans of mirrorless system cameras and would not want to use anything else. Sometimes, however, a different type of camera might be a good choice as well.

DSLR 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.

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

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.

Canon EOS 2000D

The Canon EOS 2000D is a beginner model from the Canon family and a real value for money miracle.

The camera is extremely light and compact for a DSLR and perfect for anyone who is taking weight and size into consideration.

Nikon D3500

The Nikon D3300 is the perfect entry-level DSLR from Nikon. We definitely recommend these cameras for beginners.

Sony Alpha 68

Sony is known for its excellent mirrorless cameras. But the manufacturer’s DSLR cameras a worth checking out too!A solid beginner model is the Sony Alpha 68, which convinces with a very good autofocus.

DSLR cameras for advanced users

At some point you’ll want to switch from your entry-level camera to a better model.

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 1200$ on a more advanced DSLR camera. Of course we have another three recommendations for you.

Nikon D7500

We used spent a lot of time taking pictures with the Nikon D7000, a predecessor to the D7500, and can recommend the series very much.

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.

Canon EOS 77D

The Canon EOS 77D is still relatively new on the market. The camera excels with its excellent image quality and extremely fast autofocus. A big advantage is the relatively small weight for a DSLR camera.

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.

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.

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, Panasonic, 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

Mirrorless system cameras for beginners are generally slightly cheaper than comparable DSLR cameras.

Sony Alpha 6000 and its successors

Sony is currently the star among the manufacturers of mirrorless system cameras and sets standards in this segment.

The most popular model is the Sony Alpha 6000.

Even though the Alpha 6000 has already been available for a couple of years, it’s still an excellent choice. We have used this camera a lot ourselves and still like to recommend it.

Nowadays there are also a substantial number of lenses available for the Alpha 6000.

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.

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 III

Olympus has does not need to hide behind Panasonic and Sony when it comes to producing good mirrorless cameras.

A really good beginner model is the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III. The E-M10 offers some practical features such as a touchscreen and a tilting display. For Olympus there are just as many lenses, as the connection is the same that is used for Panasonic cameras.

Mirrorless system cameras for advanced users

There are also suitable mirrorless system cameras for advanced photographers with higher technical demands. The following three models leave little to be desired.

We have been using such a camera for years now and never regretted the switch from the DSLR. On the contrary.

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.But you will be rewarded with pin sharp, wonderful photos.

In 2018 its successor was launched, the Sony Alpha 7iii. Unfortunately, it costs about twice as much as its predecessor.

But in return some significant improvements were made. The already excellent image quality is even better, the autofocus is faster and sharperand the battery lasts even longer.

Fujifilm X-T3

Fujifilm has been offering excellent mirrorless cameras for years. It particularly addresses professional photograpers, which is why there are mainly high-end cameras by manufacturer. The X-T3 is one of them.

We would personally take a Sony camera, which offers a full-frame sensor for the same price. It is still a good choice, since Fujifilm stands for highest quallity products.

Canon EOS R and Nikon Z6

For a really long time Nikon and Canon have completely ignored the market for mirrorless cameras. The entire world watched as Sony & Co. pushed the former top dogs off the throne by taking more and more market shares and customers.

2018 the sleeping beauties woke up and each launched a mirrorless camera in the high-end segment.

If you already own a couple of Nikon or Canon lenses and want to switch to the mirrorless system, both models are a good alternative.You can then easily use your old lenses with an adapter.

Bridge cameras

Bridge cameras bridge the gap between DSLRs and small compact cameras. 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)

Is a bridge camera the right choice for me?

A birdge camera can be a good option, if you have a rather small budget, or if a compact camera is not enough for you but you don’t have ambitions to experiment with lenses either. After all, not having to constantly change lenses can be quite an advantage.

To be honest, we can’t really see much of an upside to buying a bridge camera in the higher price segments, 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.

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

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.

Canon PowerShot SX540 HS

The PowerShot SX540 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 fromcamera shake.The Canon PowerShot SX540 HS is very affordable.

Nikon Coolpix B500

Another cheap compact camera for beginners is the B500. The Nikon Coolpix offers a 40x optical zoom and is available in different colors.

However, the camera does support the manual setting of aperture and shutter speed. If you want to improve your photography skills, you should choose another camera.

If the different automatic modes are enough for you, this camera is a good choice.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ72

Panasonic also offers another excellent entry-level bridge camera with the Lumix DMC-FZ72, a name that rolls off the tongue. The camera is a little more expensive tan the other beginner models, but provides a good image quality and functions, such as a 60x optical zoom.

If your budget is a little higher, we can warmly recommend this camera.

Bridge cameras for advanced users

For quite some time bridge cameras were only for beginners. Since then, the market with really good cameras for ambitious photographers grew a lot.

Sony DSC-RX10 and DSC-RX10M3

The RX10 series 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.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000EG

The Lumix DMC-FZ1000EG from Panasonic is also a top-class bridge camera. 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.

Compact cameras

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?

We don’t see the need to buy a cheap compact camera, which is why we don’t give a particular recommendation in this area.

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.

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.

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 two cameras also have a retractable electronic viewfinder. That’s a real rarity in the compact camera segment.

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-LX100

Panasonic has a number compact cameras as well. In our opinion, the best money for value offer the Lumix DMC-LX100.

The camera is equipped with an extremely fast (f/1.7-2.8) lens with a focal lenght of 24 to 75 mm and is, with its compact design, the right companion for every occasion.

Canon PowerShot G3 X

The PowerShot G3 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 G3 X offers everything you could possibly wish for.

It’s extremely light intense, offers a 25x zoom and a lot of manual setting options. The camera 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.

Are megapixels important?

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.

Lens range

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.

Sensor size

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.

We hope you enjoyed our camera buying guide. Of course, a camera recommendation is always a bit subjective.

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