Which camera should I buy? (2013 version)

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A few years ago, I wrote a couple posts in response to folks who asked what kind of camera to buy. One suggested a good point-and-shoot option, and the other was about SLR options. The camera landscape has changed a great deal since then, so I thought I would offer an update, including my current favorite.

I won’t mention many specific point-and-shoot models in this post. The latest iteration of the Canon G-series is the G15, but that seems to change quickly. And I’m not sure I’d recommend a point-and-shoot camera of that size anymore with the other more flexible cameras available near that price point.

If you have a smartphone, you may already have a very capable camera with you all the time. As Chase Jarvis and others have demonstrated, you can take some very good photos with your phone’s camera, especially when you use an app like Camera Awesome. In fact, Camera Awesome has some features that I wish my SLR did! And my phone’s camera has the immediate gratification factor of being able to edit and upload with Instagram right after taking a photo.

If you’re looking for something more than what your smartphone has to offer, but don’t want to carry around a bulky SLR, there is another class of camera that may interest you.

Mirrorless cameras offer high-quality optics (many have the same size sensor as SLRs) in a smaller package than an SLR, and often at a lower price. Some, like those that use the Micro Four Thirds system, have interchangeable lenses. But my new desert island camera is the Fujifilm X100S.

A couple years ago, Fuji came out with the X100. I was first attracted to it because its design reminded me of my first SLR. I was also interested in carrying a smaller camera body than my 5D around with me on a daily basis. I wound up ordering one, and despite its quirks, I found myself using it for most non-professional work. It is compact, almost silent, and its jpegs are so good I almost never shot in RAW. I ordered a white balance cap for it as I typically prefer to set my white balance manually, but its auto white balance is so good I ceded control to the camera. In fact, almost all of its automatic controls were too good to bother with Lightroom tweaks.

The X100S is better yet. The focusing issues are fixed; I can even focus manually, which means macro photography is almost as fun as with my Tamron 1:1 macro lens. The fast lens means flash is rarely required, and the camera offers both an optical and electronic viewfinder. The X100S is just a lot of fun.

Downsides: It’s not cheap, and the fixed lens means you have to exercise legwork to get up close (not an option for bird photographers and paparazzo). You also don’t have the immediate shutter release you do in an SLR, so it won’t work for sports photographers or those chasing hyperactive children.

For everyone else, it’s at least worth consideration. You don’t need to take my word for it: Both Zack Arias and David Hobby posted very positive reviews of the X100S. So positive, in fact, that I sold my X100 to preorder the X100S. The X100S is such a good all-around camera that even a career photographer like David Hobby is no longer carrying an SLR in his standard kit.

So ditch the extra camera bag. Don’t worry about which lenses to pack. Force yourself to forget about gear and just enjoy taking pictures.



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