Best Consumer Cameras & Camcorders

Looking to document your family through photos and videos, but want an upgrade from the average smartphone? There are hundreds of consumer cameras for a range of needs in a range of prices. Here’s a run-down of what to look for with some recommendations.

Point-&-Shoot Cameras

If you want a camera that you can whip out without having to play with fancy settings, you’re looking for a point-and-shoot. These cameras are designed so anyone can use them. Here are two great options.

Photo Courtesy B&H Photo Video

Best Quality Point-and-Shoot- Canon PowerShot SX280 HS ($299.00-329.99): The SX280 is easy to use for both advanced photographers as well as beginners. With its fast auto-focus speed, extra long zoom lens, and image stabilization, it’s top notch for beginners. For shooting video, it shoots in high definition and has multiple shooting modes so you can get the most detail in your photos and have the clearest image possible. The major draw of the SX280 is its Wi-Fi connectivity, making it easy to share photos in a flash! (Pun intended) Most point-and-shoot cameras require you to plug in the camera to your computer via cords, but this one is wireless so you can go straight from the memory card in your camera to your computer. Just be careful about leaving the camera on because the SX280’s only big weakness is its short battery life.

Best Point-and-Shoot on a Budget- Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-WX50 ($99.99): The WX50 is designed for shooting both inside and out. It’s ultra-compact and fits easily into a purse or pocket, making it great to shoot on the go while still having room to fit a memory card to record all of your photos and videos. For the cost, the WX50’s shooting features are excellent, with both good photo and video quality. The major downside is its settings wheel being too easy to unintentionally move, but the low cost makes up for it.

Camcorder (video)

“Camcorder” is just a fancy word for video camera. For some people, using a camcorder over a smartphone or point-and-shoot digital camera has many advantages. For one, because the camcorder has extra weight, making it easier to keep your hands steady.  With camcorders, you also typically have longer continuous shooting time. (With my DSLR, you have to cut every 12 minutes. This camera is not a great option for filming the school play.) Camcorders also have better internal audio quality and more external audio options, as well as a digital zoom lens. If you’re looking for a video-only camera, there are some great options.

Photo courtesy B&H Photo Video

Best Quality Camcorder- Canon Vixia HF R42 ($449.00-499.00): One of the newer consumer camcorders, the R42 is perfect for high-quality HD home video. The touch screen makes the R42 easy to operate and the battery life is twice that of the average consumer camcorder. The R42 has both 32GB of built in memory and a slot for memory cards. One big draw to the R42 is the Wi-Fi connectivity feature and ability to watch a video on other devices (your TV or computer) while you’re recording. For shooting only video, the weight and features of this camcorder make it easy to record excellent video.

Best Camcorder on a Budget- Samsung HNX-W300 ($99.00): If you want to shoot video on a budget but either a) don’t have a smartphone or b) don’t want to worry about anyone breaking your smartphone while using it, the W300 is a good option. The W300 has a few white balance features (which makes sure the camera is recording the proper colors) and image control options, giving you more control than a bare smartphone. The W300 records onto a memory card, making it easy to upload your video onto a computer. While the video quality isn’t drastically better than that of a smartphone, the W300 is waterproof, durable, and great for shooting outdoors, whether you’re on a hike or at the beach.

DSLR 

If you’re familiar with things like ISO, aperture, and shutter-speed, consider investing in a DSLR. These high quality digital cameras take both photos and videos at a professional level. When used properly, these cameras are heads and shoulders above any point-and-shoot or consumer camcorder.

High Quality DSLR- Canon EOS Rebel T5i ($1,049.00-1,149): For talented amateur photographers and videographers with some money to spend, the T5i is an excellent DSLR. It’s incredibly easy to switch from photo to video and can be operated by touch screen, making switching the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed seamless. Like most DSLRs, this camera records onto memory cards. Highlights of Canon’s Rebel line include the attention to capturing accurate color and noise (grain) reduction. The Canon EOS Rebel T3i model is slightly cheaper and works well if you want to spend a bit less, but a skilled shooter will find the T5i worth the price. 

Photo courtesy B&H Photo Video

Best DSLR on a Budget- Nikon D5200 ($796.95-799.95): This camera is meant for family and vacation photography. The D5200’s interface is incredibly user friendly and creates a streamlined experience, and records directly onto a memory card. It turns on and shoots very quickly, making it ideal if you want to capture a quick moment in time and is great for continuous shooting like during a sporting event for great action shots. The major downside is that when you’re using autofocus and changing the zoom on your lens, the camera takes a lot longer to autofocus, slowing down your shooting speed. But for a less costly DSLR, the D5200 gives you a lot for your money.

 

The Hybrid

If the DSLR option has you excited but is a bit more than you’re interested in spending, there’s a new option on the market – the hybrid camera.  These cameras don’t fall into either the point-and-shoot or the DSLR categories, making them great for the entry-level photographer.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 (516.24-$599.99): The Lumix is unique, as it can function as both a DSLR and a point-and-shoot. It has loads of shooting functions, plus comes with a great lens for high quality photos and video, and records onto a memory card. Great for shooting family vacations and kids, the Lumix has a quick shutter speed, making it perfect to shoot objects (or small children) in motion. Plus, if you decide to get more creative with your photos, you can purchase accessories for the lens to attach other lenses, ranging from a telephoto lens (for shooting things far away) to a close-up lens (for shots that you want as large as possible). If you don’t want to spend the money for a DSLR but want to experiment with photography settings, this is the camera for you.

Samsung NX1100 ($465.21-599.00): Like the Panasonic Lumix FZ200, the Samsung NX1100 does well in competition with entry-level DSLRs. The image quality is great with the benefit of being lightweight and portable, making it great for travel. It shoots in HD and uses memory cards for storage. However, the NX1100 has no viewfinder, making it a bit more difficult for the new photographer than the Lumix. Its battery life is also shorter than average, but its CMOS sensor makes it a great option for shooting in low-light.