Recommended Cameras

There are so many factors to consider when purchasing your first “serious” camera.   Quite frankly, the cameras on the market today are all so competitive that you're unlikely to find a camera that is not capable of producing professional quality photos.

My main advice to you is to stop obsessing about scientific details, and focus more on which camera is more fun for you to shoot.  I have been shooting Nikon full-frame cameras (and before Nikon, I shot Canon) for several years.  I have shot every camera on the market many many times.  But in mid-2015 I sold all my full-frame Nikon gear and switch to the Fuji system.  Why?  It's much lighter, it has more techy features which I enjoy, and it costs half the price.

What I found is that when I got my Fuji XT1, I looked back several weeks later and found that I'd never picked up my old Nikon since I got the new Fuji.  Why?  The Nikon was so heavy and such a pain to carry around, that I never found myself bringing it with me.  Now I look back through my portfolio since the switch and there are about 10 photos in there that I would never have taken with my Nikon because I never would have brought my camera with me.

So my advice is to pick a camera that (1) Is suitable to your budget, (2) Is a good fit for the type of photography you'll be doing, and (3) Is fun for you to shoot.

If I were buying my first camera today, here are some of the main options I'd consider, along with some things to consider about each one.

Jim's #1 Pick for Your First Serious Camera: Fuji XT10

There is so much to love about the Fuji XT10.  The way I've been gushing on Fuji in this article, you may be wondering if they sponsor me.  They don't at all.

I love the Fuji system because they have an intuitive system of buttons and dials for helping the photographer to set the exposure in manual or automatic mode in the fastest time possible.  It can take some time to getting used to all of the buttons and dials, but once you do, you'll fall in love.  I also like the big, bright digital viewfinder in the Fuji cameras.

But the two primary reasons for my love of Fuji are (1) They are extremely lightweight, and (2) the lenses on the Fuji system are top notch.

I think the Fuji XT10 is an excellent choice if you'll be primarily taking pictures of family, doing portraits (including if you're thinking you may want to do it professionally), street photography, travel photography, and landscape photography.  There are two areas that I'd caution you against choosing sony: wildlife and sports.  Fuji has plans to release a supertelephoto lens but we haven't seen it yet.  If you're shooting wildlife or sports, there just aren't great lens options for you yet.

Check out the Fuji XT10 on Amazon to see the current price.

#2: Nikon D3300

No, I'm not a Canon hater.  I own a Canon camera still and I think there are many advantages to them.  However, in this case I'd pick the Nikon D3300 mostly for the price over the T5i or T6i.

The Nikon D3300 is an excellent first serious camera if you're going to be doing sports photography or wildlife photography.  It's also a good choice if you know you want to stick with a traditional DSLR format instead of trying out a mirrorless camera.

Personally, I'd take the XT10 over the Nikon D3300 or Canon Rebel any day of the week, but that's just my personal preference.

Which DSLR is better? Canon or Nikon?

There are many differences between Canon and Nikon.  Some of the differences are significant, but almost all are trivial.  Having the opportunity to shoot both brands on a regular basis, here are the major differences that I have found between Canon and Nikon cameras.

Benefits of Nikon DSLR Cameras

  • Nikon cameras almost always have more focus points.  This is a major advantage because it enables you to follow the rule of thirds where Canon cameras often don't have focus points near the third lines–forcing the photographer to focus and recompose.
  • Nikon cameras are often slightly less expensive than comparable Canon cameras.
  • Slightly larger sensors.  Nikon uses a crop sensor that is slightly larger than the comparable Canons.  Obviously this isn't true for full frame cameras, which are identical in size between the brands.
  • Built-in features.  Nikon is often more willing to include features such as timelapse and bracketing into its cameras.

Benefits of Canon DSLR Cameras

  • Better color and contrast in RAW files.  Many photographers think that RAW files come straight off the sensor without processing, but that is not technically true.  Canon RAW photos look more polished when you first look at them on the computer, but please don't misunderstand me.  I'm not saying Nikon photos look any less colorful or contrasty when finished.  I'm only saying they look more polished straight out of the camera when shooting in RAW.  If you shoot in JPEG, you'll notice a difference in the color styles, but the final photo will look just as good from one camera as the other.
  • More user-friendly UI.  The user interface and menu system on Canon cameras has always seemed more intuitive to me than the Nikon system.  However, Nikon is working to improve on this front with new GUI features on the D5200.
  • Focus motor.  There are very few lenses on the market that require the camera to have its own focus motor.  Usually the focus motor is found in the lens.  However, the popular Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens requires a focus motor and some of the entry-level Nikon DSLRs don't have a focus motor.  This means that newer photographers are forced to spend an extra $120 for the 50mm f/1.8G lens to get a focus motor.  This is a very minor difference, but since most new photographers will eventually buy this lens, it is something to be aware of.  Advantage Canon.

When it really comes down to it, buy whichever brand has the best camera in your price range and then stick with that brand.

Mirrorless or DSLR


I personally believe that all of the top cameras will be mirrorless within the next 5 years, but right now it really just depends on your personal preferences.  The mirrorless system has many advantages, but also some drawbacks that haven't yet been overcome.

If I were buying a camera today as my first camera and I didn't fall into a special situation where I needed a very robust lens system from a Canon or Nikon, I'd probably start out with a mirrorless camera since they are generally better connected, easier to use, and less expensive.

I use a mirrorless camera for all of my professional work now.

 Should I go full frame?

Good question… one which I have answered extensively in this post.

84 thoughts on “Recommended Cameras”

  1. Greetings Jim!

    Love the site and I gotta admit I’m addicted to your amazing podcast. I’m a bit swamped with work to take a class at this time but I’m gonna make time soon to become a better photographer. On that note I wanted to get your opinion on the recently released Olympus OMD-EM1. I recently bought one after watching many reviews and reading other blogs. I bought it along with the Zuiko 17mm f1.8 lens. So far I’m blown away with the color and depth not to mention how much faster the camera is than my Canon 50D. I value your opinion and really hope you have had the opportunity to shoot the EM1 as you need to see what all the excitement is all about over the current crop of MFT cameras.

    Thank you Jim and have an Awesome day!!

  2. I personally find Nikon menus more intuitive. I guess liking Canon or Nikon menus is personal preference, not an advantage of the brand.

    But I agree that both Nikon and Canon make great gear. Even entry level DSLRs of both Canon and Nikon produce great image quality these days. If you ask me, it comes down to what features people need and of course – personal preference.

  3. First of all I am loving your podcasts (I have gone thought 13 of them in 3 days (long road trip)). I am a fairly new photographer and I got into my first entry level dslr (a Sony A55) because of its fast frame rate. My purpose for getting the camera was to photograph my two girls in track and volleyball. One thing that I haven’t heard ya’ll mention is all the old Minolta lenses (A mount) that are compatible with the Sony Alpha line. I have just upgraded to an A77 and I am amazed at how many of the features I was wanting are available in this camera. I am sure that there is no comparison to the lens lineup from Cannon and Nikon but I have been able to get some great used Minolta lenses. I got my 50mm 1.7 for $50, my 80-200mm 2.8 for $650 and I have really enjoyed my 500mm reflex with autofocus that was $300. Keep up the great podcasts and website.

  4. Great Article. Great Website. I went ahead and selected the Nikon. I had the Canon Rebel XT back in 2006. I got my first Nikon D7000 in 2010 and now, I just grabbed the Nikon D7100.

    I love portrait and headshot photography. I love running a photo booth for special events.

    Once Nikon create another set of Full Frame camera that is power and not to expensive, I will go Full Frame. I can’t wait.

    My favorite photographer uses the D800 and she is amazing. Her name is Audrey Woulard. Her work in truly amazing.

  5. I just bought a T3i back in June and now have time to finally start learning how to use it. I just have the kit lens that came with it 18-55mm lens. Is this decent enough to learn on or should I try and buy something else to use along with it?

    1. I used the kit lens for a long time, and when learning the basics, it’s more than up to the task. after that, the cheap 50mm 1.8 from canon is a great second lens.

    2. I have the T3i and I use it professionally even now in 2020. I’m going to switch to Fuji soon, but I’ve already made a decent chunk of money on that old trusty Canon body. Along with it I have the Tamron 17-50, 70-300, Helios 58mm and obviously a kit lens. It’s a solid combo and definitely sufficient enough to make your first steps in semiprofessional photography

  6. You guys should update your camara prices!
    The canon 5d mkIII is now $3399 or $3168.99 at Amazon
    Didn’t checked the other cameras…

  7. You have probably already decided on this, but if not, here is some input. Your kit lens is fine to start out with and takes good pictures. You might want to supplement it with a telephoto lens for more reach. Once you get familiar with your camera and decide what you like to photograph the most, you can make the decision on whether or not you need a faster lens, bigger zoom, prime lens, etc.

  8. Equipment ? Try to ask the chef about brand of his pans?
    Beginner is thinking about equipment, professional is thinking about money, and THE MASTER IS THINKING ONLY ABOUT LIGHT.

    1. The chef won’t talk to his diners about his pans, but he will talk to other chefs about them and see them discussed in trade magazines. We are photographers talking to each other, and it is valid to discuss whether one should spend $2000 on a camera rather than $200. If you decide to keep it to $200 that’s fine, we will only judge by results.

  9. Greetings!
    In my continual photography gear research, I came across this site, and wanted to say how fine it is! Also, with regard to this comparison between Canon, Nikon, and others, I think that another major determining factor in which system to choose (besides image quality and lens options), is ergonomics! If one is shooting for long periods, it is important that controls, dials, buttons, etc., fall to hand nicely, and this “ergonomic style” is quite different between brands. So, IMHO, it is imperative that one consider handling the equipment “first-hand”, prior to committing to a particular system. Personally, I find that Nikon’s ergonomics fit my hand and shooting style at the moment. Thank you.

  10. Very profound, Slavo! However, I find that I think about all three (with emphasis on the second ;-/), because without money, there is no way of acquiring the gear, no matter how much light there is…. 🙂

    1. Yes, money is the power… it’s so sad… hmm my Pentax K1000 and 50 mm f/1.7 cost me a year work in 1988 , now probably few pounds on ebuy… and still give me better pic then d4 or 5d if light is perfect of course… my cell phone now give me better pic then my first dslr… so what??? for me if you see (feel) the light you will find the way to take a pic…

  11. I have the T5i and I am wondering if i made a good purchase or if I should have spent the extra money to get something better. After listening and reading, I am finding that all the talk is about the higher end cameras. I am a beginner and i’m sure that this camera is fine for me……but, will I be looking o upgrade quicker than expected? I want to be able to take great photos with what I have.

  12. I have heard that the Canon T4i has been recalled and is difficult to purchase even if you are willing to put up with the reasons it was recalled. As I would like either a T5i or T3i, it would be helpful to know your opinion about either of these options since the T4i is not really an option. Thanks!

  13. I have been using a Pentax in one form or another for many years. I love my K5iis and don’t really don’t want to change, but now that I’m getting serious about learning from the experts I’m finding it frustrating that everything seems to be geared for the Canon and Nikon users. One advantage to the Pentax is that the anti-shake mechanism is in the camera body so it doesn’t have to be duplicated in each lens, keeping the cost of lenses down.

    1. Yes, it’s sad, but it’s because Pentax seem to have a no-advertising policy. They were really big in the 1960-2000 period but now it is hard to find a shop that stocks them, although they can order them. Yet Pentax have a big and expanding range of cameras and lenses, and only they, Canon, and Nikon make full frame professional-grade DSLRs. Sony make full frame mirrorless equivalent but not strictly DSLRs (clue : the “R” means “reflex” as in reflecting mirror).
      The in-body anti-shake not only means cheaper lenses, it also works with legacy manual lenses, and there are plenty of those on e-bay. Actually, most advice from experts is equally applicable whatever the brand, so don’t be put off Pentax – you are just not following the crowd and are a member of a smaller but discerning group 🙂

      1. I’ve been shooting with Pentax for few years and the only problem is that if you nee to buy some gear – it’s sometimes hard to find the shop that has Pentax stuff in the offer. My personal observation is that there is not so many lenses for Pentax as for Canon or Nikon. However, when you look at the body – pentax usually offers more for the same price than others. I hope that Pentax will grow in the future – fingers crossed!

  14. Not sure if this will help, but I really kind of beat up my first good camera…it took some time to really learn how to take care of it, handle it so it wouldn’t drop, bang around, etc. Starting with something affordable that you can learn on and then saving for an upgrade makes sense. When you buy the next camera, you’ll be more knowledgable and ready to get the most out of it.

  15. IMHO for good photos most important thing is photographer’s mind, all other factors (camera’s model, optics etc.) are much less important.

    1. Never ending discussion…. talent or gear….
      There won’t be a good picture if you pair inexperienced guy with top notch camera – that’s obvious. But it is also very hard to take some pictures without proper gear even if you are an expert. As an example, shooting in poor light will often be impossible if you don’t have good lenses or camera that delivers low noise photos with high ISO (unless you have a static scene and can use tripod). I’m not pro, but better gear helps me achieve better results.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top