The holiday season is upon us, and chances are, somewhere in your family there’s a budding photographer. You’ve been watching as they hone their eye through an iPad lens or the pictures that mysteriously populate your smartphone’s camera roll when your phone goes missing for a few hours (or days). And now, you’re realizing this is a skill and talent they might want to hone further. It’s time to step up their game and begin their gradual and comfortable transition into some more serious hardware. Here are 6 of the best cameras for budding photographers in your family. One major factor to take into account is something that perhaps the older, more seasoned, veteran photographer in the family might not put too much stock into, but is an absolute must for the younger generation of shutterbugs is Wi-Fi connectivity. This will allow them the ability to be immediately be able to share their images to their favorite social networks, whether it be Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Snapchat or Twitter. The next consideration in getting your kid a camera will most likely be durability and the ‘kid-proof’ element, which is what puts these first two cameras into consideration:
1. Olympus TG3 - On top of being waterproof, crushproof, shockproof, freeze proof, and dustproof (not joking), this thing is packed tight with a 16 megapixel BSI (backside illuminated) sensor, a 25-100mm zoom lens, the capability to shoot in full HD, and the all-important built-in Wi-Fi, GPS, and even a compass. It has a variety of custom shooting modes, as well as some manual modes such as Aperture Priority and Program mode, perfect primers for the next stage, which would bring full manual option. Best of all, it lies at about $350. If you’re on a tighter budget, there is also it’s little brother, the Olympus TG-850 at $199, but it should be known, it’s missing Aperture Priority mode as well as Wi-Fi capabilities.
2. Nikon Coolpix AW110 - Also waterproof, dustproof, shockproof, freezeproof, the AW120 sports a 16 megapixel CMOS sensor, 24-120mm/f2.8 lens, a 3” OLED monitor, full HD video recording capabilities, as well as Wi-Fi, GPS, and a compass. It’s shooting modes are slightly limited as compared to the TG3, but it’s also $50 less, and you have the option of a really cool orange color.
If your child is at the stage where you’re trying to teach responsibility and ‘the value of a dollar,’ and they’re ready for their first interchangeable lens camera experience, here are a couple of options to consider. These two are both a great way to introduce the casual photographer, who more likely than not use their phones or a point and shoot, to the world of more serious photography, but not intimidatingly so. These options are a great middle ground to get the budding photographer used to more manual controls, and perhaps, familiarity with RAW photography:
3. Samsung NX300 - The NX300 packs a serious punch with a 20.3 megapixel CMOS sensor, full HD video recording, Wi-Fi and all sorts of smart modes, as well as full manual controls and a tilting 3.3” AMOLED LCD on a super stylish retro-design body. Additionally, Samsung has a great and ever-growing line of NX series lenses that run the gamut of focal lengths and functionality. There’s good reason Samsung has pushed their way to the #2 spot in mirror less camera manufacturers and the NX300 is one of those reasons. I shot for months with this thing as an Imagelogger and absolutely fell in love with it. Not to mention, it comes bundled with Adobe Lightroom, making the package all they’ll need to ease a transition into making images instead of just taking them. Right now, you can snag an NX300 with the 18-55mm lens for between $400-450 depending on which day you check in.
4. Sony Alpha A5000 - This camera continually gets high marks from anyone that gets a chance to check it out. It comes packed with a 20.1 megapixel CMOS sensor, has the ability to shoot full HD video, shoots both JPEG and RAW in full manual controls, and, of course, has both Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity. Sony has an impressive array of lenses and has built a very solid reputation in the mirror less interchangeable lens camera market, making the A5000 a great choice to help your young gun step up their game a couple notches. This one will also run you around $400.
Finally, if your youngster is past the responsibility phase, have proven themselves by making a habit of using the strap, and they’re feeling ready to be enthusiastically overwhelmed for their first semi/pro camera, your best bets might be:
5. Olympus OMD EM-5 - For several years now, and rightfully so, the Olympus OMD line has been the darling of the mirrorless camera world, and right now is a GREAT time to take advantage of . There are rumors that this camera will be replaced soon, meaning that it’s no longer in production, meaning incredible savings on a wonderful piece of machinery. What’s usually a $1000 camera is currently $599, and this for a 16.1 megapixel micro-four thirds sensor with a 1440k dot Electronic Viewfinder, 5-Axis Sensor-Shift Image Stabilization, full HD video at 60fps. It’s also dust proof and splash proof. The one potential downside is that it lacks Wi-Fi, but your little shutterbug might be too busy snapping away to even notice. In any case, it is compatible with the Eye-Fi line of Wi-Fi enabled SD cards, effectively turning into a Wi-Fi camera.
6. Samsung NX30 - This is another camera that I’ve had the extreme pleasure of using for the past 6 months as a Samsung Imagelogger, and, well, it has replaced my Nikon D7000 for most uses. Considering that my D7000 kit has been my go-to for almost 5 years, that’s saying a lot. As a matter of fact, most of the images you see on the pages of this blog for posts from the past 6 months have been with this camera. Samsung has been incredibly aggressive and innovative with their cameras, and the NX30 is no exception. A 20.3 megapixel CMOS sensor, fast and accurate auto-focus, 9 frames per second high speed capture, Wi-Fi and NFC, a slew of SMART features including social media uploads and email, full HD video recording, a 3” AMOLED swivel screen, and, again, like mentioned with the NX300 above, an increasingly growing and impressive line of lenses. Also, like the Olympus above, this is also currently on sale from $999 to $649 and also comes bundled with Adobe Lightroom 5. Worth every. Single. Penny.
And some may wonder why I haven’t included any Canon or Nikon DSLRs. I won’t go into a full tirade against their lack of innovation while the other manufacturers continue to churn out technology that the ‘big two’ seem to have slept on, but, well, there seems to be much more dedication to the consumer on the part of manufacturers like Samsung, Fuji, Sony and Olympus these days, especially in pushing the envelope forward in mirror less camera technology. Plus, it’s no longer a secret, thanks to the Samsung Imagelogger program, after years and years of being a religious Nikon DSLR user, I’ve become a proud and unapologetic mirror less convert. Especially with the recent arrival of the Samsung NX1…but that one…that one needs a post all of its own. Coming soon…
And if you missed it last week, here are Ten Fail Proof Gifts For Photographers In Your Circles.
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