As the Editor of DigitalCameraReview.com I have access to hordes of new camera technology. Every day I am asked the same question, “What camera should I buy?” Answering that question is not as easy as it seems. I don’t believe there is only one answer to that question. With the abundance of cameras in the market, it’s important to understand the user and the camera.
I adhere to the principle that there is no perfect camera for everyone. Each camera is designed to fit a specific need. What is perfect for a casual shooter may not fit the needs of a professional. What is perfect for a professional sports photographer will be way too much camera for even the most avid family photographer. Portrait photographers need different functionality from their camera and lenses than landscape photographers. The most important part of finding that perfect camera is understanding what you truly want your camera to do.
As a professional portrait photographer I want a camera that can take a beating and I want lenses that have wide open constant maximum apertures. I enjoy working with prime lenses. They have absolutely changed the way I photograph. The newest mirrorless cameras are just so amazing. How could I not utilize this genre of cameras? And let’s not underestimate the worth of a quality Point and Shoot camera that has maximum portability and ease of use.
I built my camera stash around a few basic principles: great image quality, solid design and build, ability to withstand heavy use, manual functionality, and, of course, it has to be fun to use.
I have the unique pleasure of being able to see every new camera that is released. I have been able to review cameras that span the gamut of price and functionality. So, with all this new technology at my fingertips, what do I have in my camera bag?
My first SLR was a Nikon–the Nikon N65. Soon after that, I bought the N80. I switched over to the Fuji S2 Pro for my first digital camera almost 11 years ago. Holy cow was that expensive! I purchased two camera bodies at $2400 each. Talk about a large investment to make the switch to digital. Over the last 10 years I have purchased quite a few other Nikon cameras: Nikon D200, Nikon D300, Nikon D7000 and the Nikon D600.
As soon as I got my D600 I fell in love with it. It fit me like a glove and was instantly an extension of my hand. The D600 was everything I needed–tack sharp with very good autofocusing capabilities. But about 6 months into owning the camera I started finding a plethora of spots lining the sensor of the camera. Sadness swept over me as I ignored the spots through the entirety of the busy fall season of portrait photography. I finally mustered up the courage to send it off to be serviced, worried that it would come back with problems or have the spots return as quickly as they vanished. Luckily, I received my camera last week virtually spotless, with updated firmware, and adored with a brand new shutter mechanism. Even after a very intense weekend of shooting over 3,000 images I am happy to report that there are no new spots. My autofocus is still good and my images are still proving to be tack sharp.
My Favorite lenses to go with this camera:
Sigma 35mm f1.4
Holy cow! The sharpness that you get from this lens makes the images look like they will pop off the screen. The smooth texture that it produces will have you coming back for more. I love, love, love this lens.
Nikon 85mm f1.8
Can great image quality really be available at this price point (less than $500)? The answer is yes! I was astounded at the sharpness and bokeh that is produced by this lens. I am also very in love with this lens. In every session and every wedding I have photographed for the last year, this lens has been used.
I still own 2 D7000s. Over the years these cameras were used as backups and have always treated me good. The D7000s don’t see much use, but I will never be without a backup camera with the same mount as my primary one. The D7000 still has quite a bit of appeal. I can’t wait until my son takes his first photography class. This will be the one he gets to practice with.
After my head-to-head comparison with the Nikon D600 article, how could I not have one of these awesome cameras? The image and color quality from the Pentax K-3 is fantastic. I love that the camera has a maximum shutter speed of 1/8000 sec. I can’t get that from my D600. And I really love the button placement of the preview/zoom. It just makes sense! The camera has a great grip and is easy to use. It’s hard to beat the cost of this camera when you look at its specs. The camera’s biggest drawback is the lack of AF during video capture.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 /Olympus OM-D E-M5
The first time I got my hands on the E-M5, I was astounded at the way it responded quickly in almost every lighting situation I threw at it. I very quickly became a firm believer in Olympus’ 5 axis image stabilization system. Seriously, it is nearly impossible to get a blurry shot from this camera. But the E-M5 lacked a good grip (without the grip accessory) and the placement of some of the buttons was hard for me to get used to. But along came the E-M1 and all of those issues were addressed.
The E-M1 has a pleasing built-in grip and the buttons have better placement. Immediately I was able to pick up the camera and use it like I would my DSLR. It has every mode and feature that I could ask for. The camera has super fast autofocus and can grab focus in super dark situations. I love to use it at my weddings during the ceremony, at the reception, and for detailed macro shots of the ring or dress. Like I said before, it is almost impossible to blur an image with this camera.
My favorite lenses to go with these cameras:
The clarity I get from the 75mm f1.8 attached to the OM-Ds is amazing–even when using the lens completely wide open. Images coming from this lens are smooth and dreamy. It is a great lens.
60mm f2.8 macro
My obsession with macro photography is met with much joy when I use this lens. I have been able to capture some stunning images of a bride’s jewelry or of a delicate flower with this lens. The shape of the lens takes a little getting used to, but the results are worth it!
Despite the arrival of the Fuji X20, I chose to stick with the X10. I really love this camera. The reason for this is twofold. First, the X10 renews my love of Fujifilm color. I fell in love with Fuji color back in the days of film. While using my Fuji S2 Pro, that love continued to grow. After a long relationship with Nikon’s color, I began to forget how much I loved it. Then I played with the Fuji X10 and it all came rushing back. The color quality from this camera is just something you have to experience. My second reason for loving this camera is the manual lens barrel. It may seem like a little thing, but it just feels right. Being able to perfectly adjust my focal length by way of a lens barrel instead of a toggle zoom button is something I have done for the better part of my life. So having a Point and Shoot camera with that functionality is my idea of a perfect compact camera that can be thrown in my purse.
If someone would have told me a year ago that I would love a rugged camera I would have laughed at them. But then I met the Olympus TG-2 and everything changed. This little $300 has a super Macro Mode that will knock your socks off. It’s really amazing. The TG-2 has become my go-to camera for anything and everything macro. The snowflake pictures you see below. Yup! They were taken with the TG-2. Additionally, the camera does a great job with underwater photography. I handed it to my kids during a pool party and they had a blast with it.