This excellent camera recommendation hurts me in one way (I don’t need to buy another camera!) but it helps me out in two other ways.
First, I get to link to The Wirecutter some more. This pleases me, because they're doing excellent, essential work there. Really, before you start diving into research on buying something, give them a look. They’ll save you so much time. They’ve recently steered me in the right direction on grills, standing desks, LED lightbulbs, cheap cables, and soundbars.
Second, I get to talk cameras!
What cameras would you recommend these days? I’m glad you asked! (You didn’t. I don’t care.) I’m assuming we’re talking new cameras only (and there have been extraordinary advances in cameras lately). I’m also making the blanket claim that image quality of any new camera is “more than good enough”. Let’s go by general parameters (and roughly by increasing price).
- Point and shoots Ehh, these aren’t worth it anymore. Your cell phone camera will do. The only exception would be if you’re really interested in a waterproof camera like the Panasonic TS line or the Olympus Tough TG1
- Small but competent I’d look hard at the Canon S100 (also reviewed here), which is awesome and significantly smaller than even the smallest mirrorless system cameras. The Sony RX100 looks amazing, but ’spensive.
- Small mirrorless system camera Will you buy other lenses? If yes (and you mean it!), go Olympus (E-PM1 or E-PL2) for the lens selection (mostly) and image stabilization. Otherwise, maybe consider the Sony NEX5n.
- Entry-level DSLR I have a hard time recommending any of these. They’re fine – even outstanding – imaging machines and a lot of people love them. But they’re (to me) not very fun to use, and they all have dinky, unpleasant viewfinders. I dunno. Pass. Or get the latest Canon Rebel and be happy. Whatever.
- Mid-level mirrorless Toss-up between Panasonics: G3 if you want an included viewfinder or swivel screen. GX1 if you don’t. If you’re looking at the GX1, do at least peep at an Olympus EP3 for the chic retro styling and image stabilization.
- Top tier mirrorless Toss-up between the Olympus EM5 if you want image stabilization or the slightly aging Panasonic GH2 if you want a full swivel screen or are serious about movies. The Sony NEX7 is a sweet camera but the system doesn't have a lot of enthusiast lenses. The Fuji XPro1 is glitchy and, no, it won’t get better.
- Mid-level DSLR My diamond in the rough here is the Pentax K5: it’s small but extremely well-built with full weather sealing and image stabilization. Not to mention that for $900 as of this writing it’s a screaming deal. If I were bootstrapping an event photography business today, I’d grab two of these and a bunch of lenses for a fraction of the price of a comparable Nikon or Canon system and get to work.**
- Full-frame DSLR At this level you don’t need me to tell you what you want. (But it’s probably the Nikon D800.)
** I’m torn here. The Nikon D7000, Canon 7D, and Sony A77 are sweet cameras. Big problem: Sony, Nikon, and (especially) Canon keep refusing to make appropriate enthusiast lenses for their smaller-sensor cameras (which are the vast majority of their sales), and even when they do make appropriate lenses people don’t buy them “because they might [but won’t] go full-frame someday”. So you’re stuck with a lot of lenses with inappropriate focal lengths that are larger, heavier, and more expensive than they have to be. Pentax also has the legacy lens problem, but they don’t make full-frame digital cameras now. So their new lenses are at least right-sized (but don’t get me started on the focal lengths for some of their primes). Check out Pentax’s digital f/2.8 telephoto zoom: the focal length works out to the classic 70ish–200ish range, but it’s several inches shorter, half the weight, and a fraction of the price of Nikon’s latest 70-200. Why won’t Canon make a lens like that?
Comments? I don’t do open comments. Life is too short.