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I get asked on a weekly basis, “What camera should I buy for (X) amount of money?”
Well, I decided to make a series with my personal suggestions on what camera to buy at what price point. I’ll give you the pros, cons, and my over all opinion of a few cameras from each price point. This weeks price point is under $1000.
$1000 seems to be a pretty common price point. If someone really wants to take some serious pictures and invest in a future of photography (hobby or otherwise), $1000 will get you pretty far these days!
A few words of advice before we dive into this. First, do NOT look at megapixels anymore. It is truly unnecessary this day now that any camera will be above 10 megapixels. I shot semi-professionally with an 8 megapixel camera for a year and never batted an eye! Some of my favorite pictures are still with my old 8 megapixel Canon 20d! The other thing is, don’t buy into brand recognition at this price point. There are some big names out there, but unless you have a vast collection of compatible lenses from a particular brand, consider all options!
With those things out of the way, here’s my top 3 favorite cameras under $1000 (in no particular order)…
Sony SLT-A57 – ($799 with 18-55 lens)
After working at Porters Cameras in Cedar Falls, Iowa for a year, I fell in love with Sony’s entry level SLR’s. Why? It’s simple, they have a great formula! They pack a ton of features that an everyday user can enjoy, all in an easy to use, compact, design with a long history of compatible lenses. Sony bought Minolta in 2006 and continues the use of their lenses as well as the highly regarded Zeiss brand lenses.
Here’s some features that YOU, an average, hobbyist, aspiring photographer will notice. In body image stabilization, translucent mirror, full HD 1080p video recording, a tilt-able LCD, crazy fast burst rate (12 fps), and a real, usable “live view” function.
In body image stabilization allows a user to attach any compatible lens to the body, and the image will be stabilized. With Sony (and Olympus and Pentax), the stabilizer is inside the body of the camera, meaning you aren’t limited to which lenses you use (unlike Canon and Nikon who use in lens image stabilization). Image stabilizatoin helps compensate for the movement YOU (the user) introduces while taking a picture (shaky hands) and can help maintain a sharp image even at slow shutter speeds.
Sony still has the best “live view” on the market. When you turn it on, you shoot through the screen (not the view finder) like you would any typical point and shoot. This is great for someone making the transition from a point and shoot to an SLR. A user can pick up the camera and feel right at home, holding the camera out in front of them like they’ve grown accustomed to.
My only gripe is Sony’s use of an electronic view finder. I’m still not a fan of having an electric view finder over having a true optical view finder. This means when you’re looking through the eye piece (not the back LCD screen) you’re looking at a tiny screen, instead of physically looking through the lens with your own eye. The reason this is frowned upon is there’s a TINY bit of delay (not bad) but also in low light, it’s just not the same as looking through the lens yourself.
At $799 with a lens, I really think the Sony A57 offers a LOT for the money!
Canon EOS 60D – ($899 body only)
You can’t go wrong with Canon IMO. Why Canon over Nikon? I have a reason, don’t worry! I’m not just a Canon fan boy :) I prefer Canon’s entry level far above Nikon’s entry level mostly due to Canon’s lens driven autofocus system. Entry level Nikon’s do not have an in body autofocus motor, which means you’re limited in which Nikon lenses you can use on your brand new body. Any semi-pro and pro Nikon cameras have an in body autofocus motor which allows use of their full range of lenses.
Canon has one of the highest resale of any camera and that’s because it is the biggest camera company in the world! The canon also has great low light performance, a great 3″ flip-out LCD, and full 1080P video recording.
In my opinion the Canon isn’t as user friendly as the Sony is, but it’s still very approachable. It’s build quality (although not magnesium body), is very good and feels solid. My only complaint about a body related issue is the mirror drive seems to be slightly louder than more expensive models.
Canon has countless lens options for any price range and their used lens market is very active. The Canon 60D is the industry standard, a work horse, and a great all around camera. I don’t think it excels at any one thing, but it simply does everything well.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 – ($999 body only)
Let’s just get this out of the way, I’m in LOVE with the look of this camera!!! It reminds me of the first film SLR I ever shot with, my dad’s Pentax super ME. This camera offers a lot more than just a sexy exterior though! It features the best in body image stabilizers in the industry, one that appears to be a true game changer. It’s image performance is nothing but extraordinary considering it’s size.
There’s currently an influx of new mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras hitting the market. They offer similar performance when compared to their larger DSLR siblings all in a package that’s ALMOST pocket-able. For sure small enough to easily throw into a normal sized purse. They offer interchangeable lenses, HD video, and point and shoot like ease of use and familiarity.
Why did I chose the Olympus over the beautiful Sony NEX cameras? The main reason is lens selection. Seeing that Olympus follows an industry standard of lenses called micro four/thirds, they have a much larger selection of lenses. There’s one lens that would fit on these micro 4/3rd cameras that makes me drool, the Voigtlander Nokton 25mm f/0.95 lens! A quick side note, a 25mm lens on a micro 4/3rd camera is equivalent to 50mm on a full frame SLR.
There’s only a few cons of the OM-D E-M5. One is that it might not catch on very well and it’s resale value may be affected because of it. Also, it’s autofocus system isn’t quiet as quick or accurate as a full SLR with a phase detection autofocus system.
Olympus makes great cameras and are really catering to peoples obsession with anything retro or vintage looking. I’m a huge fan and would love to have one of these cameras for a travel camera someday! The OM-D E-M5 is a trendsetter not only in looks, but also performance. I’m excited to see what Olympus does next. But for now, paint me very interested in the OM-D E-M5.
There’s my suggestions! Feel free to let me know if you’re looking into any of these cameras, or any other at this price point. I’d love to hear your thoughts as well! Don’t forget, you shouldn’t buy any of these cameras with out a “nifty fifty” prime lens! Read up on why I like primes, and why I think YOU need at least one in your arsenal!