I've used a wide variety of gear in my traveling and photography. This is a list of what I've found to work the best. The below links go to Amazon. If you need to buy something in the next few weeks, chances are Amazon has the best price. However, if you're willing to be patient over a period of 3-9 months, checking eBay's Daily Deals every day and/or setting a Slickdeals.net search email alert for the camera model you're interested in, will probably save you a few hundred bucks on a $2k camera.
There are good cameras out there for every budget. Right now, among the major manufacturers, Sony's cameras dramatically stand out from the pack. I used to be a Canon guy, but I switched to Sony a few years ago. Their sensor performance is 2 stops of dynamic range better than Canon and Nikon's cameras. (The only exception is for the sensors Sony makes for the very top-end Nikon cameras, which are equal to Sony cameras in dynamic range.) Once you learn the basics of RAW Editing in Lightroom, this extra two stops of dynamic range is absolutely revolutionary. Sony sensors also handle high-ISO shots with far less noise, which gives you a lot of flexibility to go up to insane ISO levels while maintaining decent quality. Finally, there are just a number of ways in which Sony is innovating while the other manufacturers are stagnating.
There are three basic types of standalone cameras these days. First there are interchangeable lens cameras, where you can swap around lenses. This is the type I will primarily focus on in this blog. I will assume you have an interchangeable lens camera. However, much of my advice and teaching will also be relatively easily adaptable to use with a point and shoot as well. Next there are small, compact cameras that make some compromises on lens speed, lens quality, and sensor size, but are very, very small. Finally there are large, superzoom cameras that go from very wide-angle to very telephoto, have fairly good quality, but make some compromises on size (they're large) and on lens quality (their extreme zoom range causes some compromises). If you don't mind the inconvenience of changing lenses and the size of the kit, the price/quality ratio of entry-level interchangeable lens cameras makes them a very difficult option to turn down, given the massive increase in quality compared to point and shoots. At the same time, point and shoots continue to get better than ever. Without further ado, here are my recommendations:
- Top of the Line - Sony A7rII, $3200 (full frame)
- High-end - Sony A7 II, $1700 (full frame)
- Mid-range - Sony A6000, $550 (crop frame)
- Budget - Sony A5000, $350 (crop frame)
Bridge/Superzoom Point and Shoot
- Top of the Line - Sony RX10 III, $1500 (1" sensor)
- High-end - Sony RX10, $800 (1" sensor)
- Budget - Sony HX400V, $450 (1/2.3" sensor)
Compact Point and Shoot
- Top of the Line - Sony RX100 IV, $950 (1" sensor)
- High-end - Sony RX100 III, $800 (1" sensor)
- Mid-range - Sony HX60, $300 (1/2.3" sensor)
- Budget - Sony W830, $110 (1/2.3" sensor)
I'll be following up with lens and other gear recommendations.
I'm passionate about finding awesome deals, especially on photography/tech gear and on travel. If you'd like, you can sign up for my email list that sends out awesome deals occasionally, usually a few times per month. (A few of my favorite deals I sent out recently were flights from the US to Europe for $321, a 65" 4k smart TV for $650, and a 40" 1080p HD TV for $250.)
Disclaimer: I will receive commissions if you purchase through the Amazon links, however, I will recommend purchase elsewhere if I find that to be better for you.