One of the most common questions I get from people when they learn that I’m a photographer is a variant of the “What camera do you recommend”-question. My constant answer to that question seems to come as a surprise to many, judging from their response.
Many photographers seems to expect that I will tell them to buy camera X from maker Y, but In my opinion, that's not a response that make much sense, as it completely disregards what I think is the most important when it comes to picking a new camera, perhaps especially for beginners who are shopping for their first "serious" camera.
The simple answer that I often give people is that they should go to a camera store and have a look at many different cameras, try them out and pay close attention to how well they connect with them on a haptic and emotional plane. It might sound odd to base something as technical as the purchase of a new camera on something as abstract and emotions, but there’s a good explanation for this.
Essentially, every camera you can buy at the time I’m writing this, a few weeks before Christmas 2017, will have such high-quality sensors as well as other internals, that any technical limitations will only matter to professional photographers with very special needs – If you plan to frequently shoot sports you might need higher burst rate than what the average DSLR or Mirrorless of 2017 will give you, and if you plan to make exhibition-grade prints all the time you might want to go the extra mile and get a camera with a higher resolution sensor than the industry average of 20-24 megapixels that we have today.
But for everybody else, I would say that even an entry level DSLR would be everything they need. Heck, I could even shoot 99 % of my current work with a Nikon D3300 or a Fujifilm X-T20 and my clients most likely wouldn’t notice.
Please note that lenses are not a part of this reasoning. Kit lenses are generally quite bad, and picking the right lens is a much more important question than what camera body you mount it on. But that’s the topic of another blog post...
There are, of course, a few caveats. Most importantly, I do not include compact cameras in the equation, as I think the step up from a mobile phone is not big enough unless we’re talking about a Sony RX100 or other camera with a 1’’ sensor or bigger.
But if someone would force me to mention a specific model to put under the Christmas tree, as a present to any ambitious newbie who wants to get serious with his or her photography, I would quite likely go for a Fujifilm X-T20. Either with their excellent 18-55mm kit zoom or in a package with two of Fuji’s cheaper primes, namely the 23mm F2.0 (35mm equiv) and the 50mm F2.0 (75mm equiv).
Either way, you’ll get a small and lightweight package that delivers great image quality at a reasonable price. Moreover, and perhaps more importantly – the haptics of this little camera is very, very good. Proper dials for things like aperture and shutter speeds, and tons of buttons that can be customized depending on the needs of the user. The fact that it also has a 4K video mode, fast framerates, a completely silent electronic shutter mode as well as a reliable and quick autofocus systems are nice as extra bonuses, but those are not the primary reason why I’ve made this camera, coupled with the 18-55mm zoom and the 50mm prime as my own “carry everywhere” camera for most of this year.
But, I'm sure there are plenty of users out there who would be even happier if they got a Sony a6000, A7II or perhaps a entry level DSLR. Either way, I guarantee that it won't be the image quality properties of the camera that determines if they will grow as photographers or not...