December 6, 2021

Recommendations Wanted: What Is Your Dream Camera?

That is a question for all you photography buffs out there. I'm asking because I received an unexpected gift of money that I want to put toward a better quality camera. My cameras have always been low-end, mostly point-and-shoot types that 1) never give the kind of photos I'm hoping for and 2) seem to have a short lifespan. Since this is a rare opportunity for me, I want to spend that money wisely. What I'm hoping for is a professional quality camera for under $1000 (if there is such a thing!) 

The function of this camera will be for documenting our homestead projects and progress. So, I'm not interested in all the bells and whistles, nor in having a large collection of lenses. Besides general purpose, I like to take close-ups and zoom shots, so I've approached my research with that in mind. 

One thing  I was surprised to learn, is about mirrorless cameras. These are different from the single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras because their viewfinder doesn't use a mirror. So, the first leg of my research wasn't comparing brands and models, but the differences between DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) and mirrorless cameras. Then I organized what I learned into pros and cons relevant to my personal goals and needs. Here's what I've learned so far:


  • better battery life
  • less expensive
  • more lenses available
  • optical viewfinder can be used when the camera is off
  • larger
  • heavier
  • noisier
  • slower burst speed
  • optical viewfinder
    • doesn't show exposure as it is
    • doesn't show accurate depth of field
  • little to no current development of DSLR technology (camera manufacturers still make DSLR cameras, but have pretty much switched their emphasis and development to mirrorless cameras)

  • smaller
  • lighter weight
  • quieter
  • faster
  • improved autofocus now rivals DSLR
  • electronic viewfinder
    • real time image preview (WYSIWYG)
    • shows exposure as it is
    • shows depth of field
  • better quality video
  • more mirrorless lenses available than previously

  • shorter battery life
  • more expensive
  • electronic VF
    • lower refresh rate (on lower end cameras)
    • can't use it when the camera is off

There are also a few things which I'm basically neutral about:
  • GPS - I know where I am
  • WIFI or bluetooth - everything goes through a photo editor before uploading to the internet
  • lens options
    • I'm only interested in 3 basic lenses
    • plus there lens adapters to use DSLR lenses on mirrorless cameras

At this point, I'm strongly leaning toward a mirrorless camera, but I'm open and ready for recommendations. If you're interested in photography and could buy your dream camera, what would it be and why? Opinions welcome!


John said...

Hi Leigh,
To be honest with my blog just a fledgling I have been snapping the few pictures with my phone. Having said this on an older blog (musings of murphyfish) which may still be out there in the ether of dead blogs I took many close ups of nature's small wonders (macro function) on a palm held Fujitsu camera with served perfectly well.
Before I managed to 'stick' with blogging again I had a mind to improve my photography and bought myself a second hand Panasonic Lumix camera, Model DMC-FZ200. It is a digital camera but not a DSLR type. It makes up for not having the capacity for changing between various lenses by having an excellent zoom function. I believe that this camera is known as a 'bridge' camera. Although I have not used it a great deal, the intention is to learn more about its functions and use it more now that I am blogging again, I found that the pictures taken with it are more than pleasing and that it will be a good allrounder for blogging.
I am sure technology has moved on but this second hand camera was inexpensive (compared to new) and is more than adequate for my needs.
Apologies for the waffling comment m'dear but I hope it helps a tad

Leigh said...

John, everybody's comment helps! I find it interesting that so many folks take great pictures with their phones. Almost makes me wish I had that kind of phone.

The two best cameras I've had so far (picture quality) were my very first Canon Powershot (early 2000 model) and a Panasonic Lumix, that I don't remember the model of. Amazingly, the old Powershot was great for sports action shots. Of the Powershots I've had since, none have been as good. The Panasonic was an entry level, so it had a fixed lens, but the photos were great. When the lens cover motor died I got a undated Panasonic, but photo quality seemed to degrade with its "improvements."

I guess what I'm trying to say, is there's a lot to be said for an older model second hand camera. Newer tech isn't always better tech, for example, some of the newer cameras have the same specs as the old models but now have GPS, wifi, and bluetooth. All for a much higher price!

Rosalea said...

Most of the cameras have so many 'bells and whistles' that are not necessary IMO. I prefer 'simple and straight forward'.
I love your comment re GPS.."I know where I am."!! Good luck with your search.

Ed said...

I am on my second DSLR, both of which probably cost about what your budget is by the time you get a couple good lenses and other accessories to go with it. Both take beautiful pictures and I enjoy using it.


As the saying goes, the camera that I have with me when a picture arises is the best camera and I don't like lugging bulky cameras with me everywhere. My expensive DSLR, lenses, tripod, back of accessories, all gather dust in a closet because it is too fragile to just take everywhere I go and too big of a hassle to take everywhere I go. The camera in my pocket, i.e. the smart phone, is none of those things and so is always available when the photo arises.

I know your situation though and that you don't have a smart phone and I wouldn't go out and buy one just for the camera. So based off what I have learned above and what I know below, my recommendation would be to just find a nice point and shoot camera that fits in your pocket so it is always with you wherever you might be. For your budget, you could probably buy nearly 10 of them and keep one in every outbuilding or vehicle glove box too. If they make one that can shoot in RAW format, get that and take the money you save and invest in a nicer photo editing software. I use Lightroom and it can do wonders to even the worst photos I take.

My two cents worth anyway.

Ed said...

P.S. Lightroom works with just about all formats and can do wonders even if it is just a JPG.

Leigh said...

Rosalea, and it seems that the bells and whistles are the main selling points! Eventually, they become "standard" when someone else develops a new bell or whistle. :)

Ed, I hear you about the weight of the DSLR cameras. My current camera is a low-end DSLR, and it's something of a nuisance to carry around. One of the appeals of mirrorless is, by getting rid of the mirror mechanism, the cameras are much better in terms of weight and size. I've been chatting with folks who have mirrorless and they love them for that reason.

RAW format definitely perks my interest; admitting that it's new territory for me. I will keep that ability in mind.

I'm seriously impressed with what smart phones can do in terms of stills and videos. But you're right, wouldn't make sense to buy one for those purposes. Still, it's nice to see for folks who use them.

And thanks for the Lightroom suggestion! I currently use Gimp, but will definitely look into Lightroom.

Goatldi said...

I will read your blog entry in the waiting area of my appointment today it’s looks like it’s going to be a doozy. But what do I want my camera one that will take pictures and write my blog and put it up for me. Flying by the seat of my wranglers catch up with you later.

Florida Farm Girl said...

All I can say is good luck. I bought a new Sony mirrorless camera nearly a year ago and a Sigma 100-400 lens and still don't know how to use it properly. But that's on me. Don't kid yourself about them being lighter weight. Any lens you add to it will increase the weight. I know some folks who have a Nikon that costs about $1,000 and they use them for bird pictures. Probably what I should have gotten.

Nancy In Boise said...

I've been using an older DSLR, it's a Canon Rebel XS model. Personally I'm not a fan of wireless cameras because if you can't upload the manually then you're kind of stuck. I figure there's also enough Wireless stuff in my house I don't need more stuff Bouncing Off My Brain. I also still use the free Picasa software to basically just edit and do some minor touch-ups my mom told me. If you can get it when it Costco or through Best Buy a lot of times you can get a nice a case, several lenses, etc.

Nancy In Boise said...

I should have the photos are so so so much better than a point and shoot. And there's a lot more you can do with the actual camera than a phone camera.

wyomingheart said...

I am really curious about your results here, Leigh! I have the same questions and thanks for this post! I have a cannon camera, but I have to download the pics off it, where when I use my phone, or iPad, I can upload the pics to the blog instantly. So, again…thanks for this post!

Nancy In Boise said...

My hubby suggested getting an older DSLR that someone is upgrading, nice cameras and cheaper, Canon or Nikon. Our daughter worked in a camera shop and said they are the top 2 brands. She also was an art major and is a very skilled photographer. Good luck!

Leigh said...

Goatldi, when you find a camera like that, let us know! lol

Sue, good feedback on camera weight. Of course, the lenses would be just as bad on a heavier DSLR camera, so maybe it's all relative! I think once I get the camera, I'll look into an online photography course, so I can learn how to use all the manual adjustments and lenses. Have you considered doing the same?

Nancy, I have to agree about wireless stuff. I'm not a fan of constantly having to replace and recharge batteries, so I put up with all the wires for my computer. To get photos of my camera, I like simply removing the memory card and inserting that into my computer. That's pretty much my routine, so I don't mind the small extra step.

I'm really excited about getting better photos than the point-and-shoots! I've been frustrated for years because for every good photo I take, I seem to get 2 or 4 poor quality photos with it. I'm also excited about getting away from auto-everything. I'm up for a creative learning curve this winter. :)

Wyomingheart, I'll let you know once I figure it out! I don't think I'd care for instant upload of photos. I always want to take a look at them in my photo editor first, often to crop and always to optimize. With my current camera, the color is often washed out and I find myself darkening images just for object definition. It looks like it may be a little more work with a new camera, but it's the kind of thing I enjoy.

Nancy, thanks for all that! Good tips!

Kathy said...

I'm a long time DSLR user and Mirrorless has been around for a couple of years and not something that I was interested in. However all the camera brands are moving towards this and Canon [I've been a Canon user for 40 years] have made an adaptor to people can use their current lenses with the new mirrorless cameras. I would go mirrorless for sure. Lots of people are talking about the Sony Mirrorless is brilliant. I myself will still be sticking with Canon however I have heard great things about the Sony. It's a purchase that you will be using for the next 10 years so I would go with the latest technology. As far as the wifi goes [well it's really bluetooth functionality] it's great to be able to take self portraits or get in the frame yourself. Canon have an app called Cannon Connect and you use your iphone to connect through the wifi and then on your phone you can control your camera settings and see what your camera sees through the viewfinder. It's brilliant so that is why the wifi function is great.

Retired Knitter said...

I am a big believer that in photography - half of the picture quality is determined by the camera and half the picture quality is determined by the person taking the pictures. I have seen some stunning photos while in blog land and they were taken with a “point and shoot” camera. But there are some photos that cannot be obtained without special equipment. Good luck on your search. I look forward to see what you get and the pictures you take.

Leigh said...

Cathy, wow, there's an app to control your camera with an iphone? Amazing! Too bad I don't have mobile phone or I'd definitely give it a try.

Good point about going with the newer technology. The good thing is that even though it's new, it's been around long enough to work the bugs out and have the benefit of development.

RT, I've gotten some pretty amazing photos with my point-and-shoot as well. But this last camera has been extremely frustrating on many levels. Less than 50% of the photos are ones I'm happy with. So when I contemplated a new camera, I decided it was time to take a step up and follow a dream I've always had. :) Tomorrow's post will reveal what I got!

Nancy In Boise said...

Yes and all I have to do is plug my camera into my laptop and off I go!

Leigh said...

Nancy, I think that's easier than trying to do a wireless connection too. Actually, for awhile now, I've been simply putting the memory card into the computer and transferring photos from that. I figure that's one less time I have to turn on the camera and can save a little on batteries. :)