Best camera for amateur photographers

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If you are looking for a new camera, perhaps your first camera with interchangeable lenses, then you can easily become overwhelmed by the enormous selection. All the brands generally make different cameras in the same price class. Add in older models that are still being sold, and you end up with a nearly unmanageable list. CameraStuffReview has reviewed more than 100 of the most popular cameras, and we highlight the differences for you.

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For travel photography, compact mirrorless cameras like the Olympus OM-D E-M5, with which this shot was taken, are ideal.

CHOOSE THE RIGHT CAMERA FOR BETWEEN € 500.00 AND € 1000.00

What kind of camera are you looking for?

In a previous article, we gave an overview of the budget cameras and system cameras for starters that performed the best in our tests. If you want a camera with a few more options than the pure starter models, then there is a great deal of selection in the price class between € 500.00 and € 1000.00. We have made a selection for you from the cameras that we have reviewed, on the basis of various distinguishing criteria. The best cameras in this price class are practically all better on multiple points than starter cameras. What it is good to remember, though, is that everything is never better. One camera has a better sensor, another a more beautiful viewfinder, a third is sealed against dust and splashwater, and the fourth has very good video. In order to keep the costs on these cameras limited, they are seldom better on all the important points. Consider carefully what the important points are for you. Then choose the camera that scores well on the points that you think are important.

SHARPNESS

D7200front HD

In this category, we find cameras with 16, 20 and 24 megapixel sensors, in 1-inch, micro-Four Thirds and APS-C format. At the moment, there are not (quite) any full-frame cameras that fall into this price class. A 16-megapixel sensor is more than sufficient for many photographers, and it offers a great deal of detail and sharpness, certainly if the sensor does not have an anti-alias filter. This is the case, for example, with the Olympus OM-D E-M10. But those who are looking for the very highest sharpness for photography are better off with a 24-megapixel sensor without an anti-aliasing filter. The cameras that scored best in the tests on this point are the Nikon D7200, D3300, D5500. It is an open secret that Sony produces sensors for Nikon, so the Sony A6000 (we have the more expensive A6300) is also worth considering in this price class if you attach importance to the highest possible resolution.

Video

GX80 GX85 k slant H FS12032 K

All cameras in this price class have reasonable to good Full HD video capabilities. A number of cameras can even film very well in 4K. Not everyone has a computer that is fast enough to edit 4K. But there are still good reasons for filming in this format. To start with, it is easily converted to very nice Full HD. And if you ever want a special effect like a zoom, a pan, or to rotate the image a bit because the horizon is crooked, then you can easily make a crop from the 4K frames without a loss of quality. If you do that with a Full HD image as the source material, you are immediately left with fewer pixels than you needed. And you see that in the final result. Cameras with outstanding 4K video in this price class are the Panasonic GX8, the Panasonic GX80—which also, thanks to one of the very best image stabilization systems, makes video without a tripod possible—and the new Panasonic G80 (for which a review will appear shortly). An odd ball out that we also reviewed is the Panasonic FZ1000. This ‘bridge camera’ has a small, 1-inch sensor and a non-interchangeable zoom lens.

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Photographing low to the ground is easier if you can fold out the screen on the camera.

Auto focus

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The best auto focus for sport and action photography is found in the most expensive SLR models. That is not to say that sports cannot be photographed with a much less expensive mirrorless camera. With a bit of effort, you can also get great pictures from the sidelines with a slightly older Olympus E-M5 from the first generation.

None of the cameras in this price class is really suited as a sports camera. But those who buy the right model and get to know the camera well will still be able to take a decent picture from the sidelines. The Sony A6000 can shoot a lot of frames per second and has good auto focus. The Panasonic GX8, GX80 and G80 also have good auto focus, as long as you use the right Panasonic lenses. Panasonic has its own system, DFD, for focusing lenses quickly. This system does not work with micro-Four Thirds lenses from other manufacturers. One disadvantage that all mirrorless cameras in this price class have is that at high frame rates the viewfinder does not refresh fast enough to be able to follow the action well. A good SLR like the Nikon D5300 of D5500 is a better option then, although it does lag behind the best mirrorless cameras in this group in terms of shooting speed. Another aspect of the auto focus is the ability to focus in low light. A camera that scores remarkably well on this point is the Panasonic GX8, which can even focus well at -4EV. In combination with the completely silent shutter, this is the ultimate camera for recording theatre performances and noise-sensitive music concerts.

VIEWFINDEr

The SLR cameras in this category that we have reviewed have a pentamirror viewfinder with about the same specifications as cameras from the less expensive class. The viewfinders show about 95% of the shot, and the enlargement is around 0.82 to 0.85x. In the mirrorless area, the picture is a bit brighter. In particular, the viewfinder of the Panasonic GX8 is a pleasure to look through. The viewfinder shows the whole shot, and the viewfinder image is large. The magnification corresponds with the performance of the best full-frame cameras on this point. Add to that the fact that the viewfinder can tilt and that the screen can both tilt and turn, and we have a clear winner on this point.

BUILT-IN IMAGE STABILIZATION

This is a category in which SLR cameras from Nikon and Canon are not included. They are completely dependent on any image stabilization in the lenses. There is image stabilization built into most zoom lenses, but very special lenses and fixed focal length lenses do not have it. And that limits the usability in low light. In the area of image stabilization, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 stands out with its five-axis built-in image stabilization. That is even improved a bit more in the second generation of this camera, and this Mark II version is still available for less than € 1000.00. There are also various models available from Panasonic with built-in image stabilization. The GX8 has a two-axis system that can collaborate with the image stabilization of Panasonic lenses. The built-in image stabilization does not, however, work on the GX8 for video. It does work on the newer GX80 and G80. The image stabilization on these models gives little up to that on the Olympus.

Amateur cams

 Camera   Zoekervergroting   Gewicht   Grootte 
Sony A7R0.78465++
Panasonic G800.72453+++
Sony A 63000.67361+
Olympus PEN-F0.62373+
Olympus OM-D E-M10 mk20.62390++
Canon 80D0.591070++++
Nikon D55000.55420+++
Nikon D56000.55415+++
Nikon D53000.55490+++
Olympus OM-D E-M5 mk20.5417++
Fujifilm Finepix X-E10.4350+

In this table, the size without a lens is used. The Panasonic FX1000 has a fixed, relatively large zoom lens and is thus bigger than the other camera bodies without a lens. For a more fair comparison, an imaginary FZ1000 without the lens is therefore used.

DIMENSIONS

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For these kinds of images, you need a long focal point. In this case, a 200mm on micro-Four Thirds (Panasonic and Olympus cameras). That gives a field of view that corresponds with a 400mm in 35mm format, without the additional weight or dimensions that are too big.

NEXT PART: WHAT IS THE BEST CAMERA FOR ADVANCED AMATEURS (BETWEEN € 1000.00 AND € 2000.00)?

There are big differences between the cameras in this price class if we look at the dimensions. Some people like bigger cameras better, because they are easier to grip. An SLR like the Nikon D5300 is ideal then, but a slightly larger mirrorless camera like the Panasonic GX8 works as well. Those who are looking for something a bit smaller, because that is handy to take along or is less noticeable for street photography, are very well off with a model like the Olympus OM-D E-M10 or the Panasonic GX80. Combine this with a bright lens with a fixed focal length, and you can go reasonably unnoticed while taking pictures in nearly any lighting conditions.

Wind AND water resistance

All cameras can handle a bit of rain, and no camera, not even the most expensive professional camera, is completely watertight. There are differences in the degree to which cameras are fitted with extra seals to keep dust and moisture out. The only camera in this category on which extra attention has been paid to the seals is the Panasonic GX8. Those who want to be able to photograph anytime and anywhere, whether it is raining, snowing or dusty, are best off with that camera in this price class. 

WORK WITH CSR: WE HELP YOU, WILL YOU HELP US?

It does not matter to us which camera or lens you buy, as long as you do it through one of the links to on-line shops below or in our articles. When you do that, you help us to make CameraStuffReview possible.

Amateur camera's, sorted by year and performance
Sony A 6300
Year:2016
sensor:APSC
Megapixels:24
Score:8.5
Panasonic G80
Year:2016
sensor:M43
Megapixels:16
Score:8.5
Olympus PEN-F
Year:2016
sensor:M43
Megapixels:20
Score:8
Canon 80D
Year:2016
sensor:APSC
Megapixels:24
Score:7.5
Nikon D5500
Year:2015
sensor:APSC
Megapixels:24
Score:8.5
Samsung NX500
Year:2015
sensor:APSC
Megapixels:28
Score:8.5
Olympus OM-D E-M10 mk2
Year:2015
sensor:M43
Megapixels:16
Score:8
Olympus OM-D E-M5 mk2
Year:2015
sensor:M43
Megapixels:16
Score:7.5
Samsung NX30
Year:2014
sensor:APSC
Megapixels:20
Score:7.5
Sony A7R
Year:2013
sensor:FF
Megapixels:36
Score:9
Fujifilm Finepix X-E1
Year:2013
sensor:APSC
Megapixels:16
Score:8.5
Nikon D5200
Year:2013
sensor:APSC
Megapixels:24
Score:8.5
Samsung galaxy NX
Year:2013
sensor:APSC
Megapixels:20
Score:8
Nikon D5300
Year:2013
sensor:APSC
Megapixels:24
Score:8
Samsung NX300
Year:2013
sensor:APSC
Megapixels:20
Score:7.5
Nikon D5100
Year:2011
sensor:APSC
Megapixels:16
Score:7.5

Jan Paul Mioulet
Author: Jan Paul MiouletWebsite: https://www.mioulet.nl/
Jan Paul Mioulet is zelfstandig fotograaf sinds 1994. Hij heeft zich beziggehouden met veel vormen van fotografie, van portret tot sport, van bruidsfotografie tot reclamewerk. Inmiddels is hij al bijna vijftien jaar gespecialiseerd in architectuurfotografie. Hij is een van de oprichters van DAPh, de Dutch Architectural Photographers, een collectief van een aantal van de beste Nederlandse architectuurfotografen. Van 2010 tot 2014 was hij hoofdredacteur van PF, Professionele Fotografie, het magazine voor de Nederlandse en Vlaamse vakfotograaf. Naast zijn fotografie schrijft hij voor PF en CameraStuffReview over techniek en allerlei bijzondere wetenswaardigheden rondom fotografie en camera’s.

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