Which camera should I buy?

I get asked this question a lot, so I thought I'd do a blog post on it. I'll start by letting you know up front that the target audience for this blog post is the prospective camera buyer who just wants a bottom-line recommendation on what camera to buy. I'm not going to go into all the tech specs and variances between dozens of cameras. If you need that kind of exhaustive, detailed review, there are dozens of websites that provide such reviews. Here, I'm just going to give the simple answer to those looking for a simple recommendation.

I recommend buying a Fuji. Why a Fuji? Because I bought a Fuji X-T2 and I absolutely love shooting with it. I've been a Canon shooter for years and I still am, but if I were starting from scratch today, I would start with a Fuji. The Fuji system just works best for me and what/how I like to shoot. Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Panasonic and all the other manufacturers make great cameras. None of them is better than the others. Just as the kind of stove used doesn't determine the quality of the food, the kind of camera used doesn't determine the quality of the images. You can make great images with any camera from any manufacturer. It's purely a matter of personal preference and which camera system works best for you. But with so many choices, where do you start?

I recommend Fuji. Specifically, I recommend the three Fuji cameras listed below, each for a different consumer. Fuji makes many more cameras than these three, but these are the three that are my simple answer to the "What camera should I buy?" question. I'll start with listing important features that are common to all three cameras.

All three cameras include:

  • Fuji film simulation modes that create beautiful jpegs that are ready to share with no editing. I can't say enough about this. These Fuji cameras allow you to choose from a number of different film simulations to produce finished images with a distinctive look and feel that don't require any additional processing on the computer. You can shoot and share with no editing, if you choose.
  • Advanced filters for applying special effects to the images. Again, this allows you to create a finished product in-camera that's ready to share. You may not use these special effects filters often, but it's nice to have them available when a suitable opportunity to use them presents itself.
  • Wireless communication: Install the “FUJIFILM Camera Remote” app on your smartphone or tablet to browse the images on the camera, download selected images, control the camera remotely, or copy location data to the camera.
  • Interval Timer shooting: This allows you to program the camera to take a certain number of pictures over a specified amount of time. For example, you could create your own photo booth by putting the camera on a tripod or a book shelf and programming it to take one picture every three seconds and stop at ten pictures. Another example is programming the camera to take one picture every five minutes in order to do a time lapse of a snow storm or some other event that takes place over a long period of time.
  • Full compatibility with the Fuji X Mount lenses. You can upgrade your camera body and not have to buy new lenses.
  • All three cameras shoot video: 4K in the X-T2 and X-T20, and HD (1080p) in the X-A3. I don't shoot video, so this is as far as I'll go into addressing the video capabilities.
  • All three cameras use the same battery.

Fujifilm X-T2

This is one of Fuji's flagship models. This is the camera of choice for many professional photographers using the Fuji system. The Fujifilm X-T2 delivers all the functionality that a top-of-the-line camera should provide.

Distinguishing features include:

  • Weather sealing: This means the camera can get splashed or rained on and be just fine, provided you're also using a weather sealed lens. Weather sealing also protects against dust getting into the camera, which is a must-have in environments where sand or dust are prevalent.
  • Dual card slots: This can be used to capture twice as many images. A better use for the dual cards is to capture the same images simultaneously on both cards. This is a very important feature for those who plan to sell photography services. When saving to both cards simultaneously, all of the images are stored on both memory cards, so if something should go wrong with one memory card, no images will be lost and you won't find yourself having an uncomfortable conversation with your client.
  • Dials for aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and exposure compensation: This allows you to make all the adjustments necessary for achieving a proper exposure by just turning physical dials to the proper number. This is one of the main reasons I chose to buy this particular camera. Being able to control the camera completely using physical dials and not having to look at any screens to adjust settings is something I really enjoy. You can also turn all the dials to the automatic position, which allows you to point and shoot and let the camera automatically select the optimum autofocus and exposure settings.
  • Optional battery grip: In addition to a number of other performance enhancements, the battery grip triples the camera's battery capacity, it allows for ergonomic shooting in portrait orientation, and it balances the weight distribution of the camera when using heavier lenses.

Who should buy this camera?

If you want every bell and every whistle, this is your camera. The X-T2 does everything and does it well. You can go small with the X-T2 and either the Fujinon 18mm or Fujinon 27mm pancake lens, or you can attach the battery grip and a long lens, or do anything in between. This camera is extremely flexible and it has weather sealing and dual memory card slots, which are must-have features for some types of photography.

Fujifilm X-T20

The Fujifilm X-T20 camera is a "lite" version of the X-T2. But the great thing about it is the things they don't include are the things that most people who don't pay their bills through photography have no use for anyway. Both cameras produce the exact same image quality.

Distinguishing features include:

  • Full Auto switch: You can flip one switch to go into fully automatic mode. The camera will then automatically select the optimum autofocus and exposure settings. This mode is perfect for situations where it is difficult to choose the right exposure settings or when you just want to take quick shots.
  • Touchscreen: You can touch to focus, touch to shoot, touch to zoom, etc.

Who should buy this camera?

If you like the X-T2, but don't need weather sealing, dual card slots, or the additional functionality provided by the battery grip, then the X-T20 is a great camera to deliver everything you would actually use on the X-T2, but at a significantly lower price. If you later decide you need those pro-level features in the X-T2, you'll likely be at a point where you need two cameras anyway, since it's not a good idea to show up to paid assignments with only one camera, in case something goes wrong with it. So you could buy an X-T2 later and keep the X-T20 as a second camera. Every camera I've listed in this review uses the Fuji X Mount lenses, so if you move to an X-T2 later, you'll already have lenses for it.

Fujifilm X-A3

The Fujifilm X-A3 is a great entry-level camera with lots of room to grow. The X-A3 is great for those who want to ease into photography without spending a lot of money. This camera makes it easy to shoot in fully automatic mode (like how your cell phone camera works), but it also has all the controls necessary to allow you to in semi-automatic or in full manual mode.

Distinguishing features include:

  • Screen flips up 180-degrees for selfie mode.
  • A "shooting mode" dial that lets you tell the camera what kind of picture you want to take by choosing the appropriate option on the dial. The camera will then automatically select the optimum autofocus and exposure settings.
  • Touchscreen: You can touch to focus, touch to shoot, touch to zoom, etc.
  • Multiple colors to choose from. This doesn't affect the functionality of the camera in any way, but it does look cool.

Who should buy this camera?

If you want a dedicated camera that can deliver image quality that your cell phone can't, but you're also all about the selfie, then this is your camera. As your photography knowledge increases, you can let the camera make fewer decisions until ultimately you choose all of the settings when you shoot. This camera makes it easy for you to start where you are and build your skill level up to wherever you want it to be. And any X Mount lenses you buy to use with this camera will also work with the other cameras on this page. So you can start with that camera and grow into whatever camera and lenses meet your needs.

The X-A3 is also great as a gift for someone who wants to get into photography. Again, the price is affordable and this is a camera that someone new to photography can grow into. Do note, however, that the X-A3 has an LCD only and no viewfinder. The viewfinder is the eyepiece you look through. The X-A3 doesn't have one, but the other two cameras do. So with the X-A3, you take pictures the way you do with your phone: by using the screen. With the other two cameras, you have the option of looking through the viewfinder or using the screen. This is a non-issue for many people who prefer to use only the LCD screen anyway.

Which lenses should I buy?

I've written a companion post titled "Which lenses should I buy?" to answer that very question.

Summary

Pick a Fuji. Any Fuji! I'm not sponsored by Fuji, I just really love shooting with this X-T2 I bought. You can't go wrong with any of the three cameras I've listed. They are all capable of producing images like these (all shot with my X-T2) and there's one for each budget and level of photography ambition. There are less expensive cameras available from Fuji as well as other manufacturers, but once you get below the price level of the Fuji X-A3, you have the potential to buy a camera that you will outgrow. The lowest price camera I included in this review uses the same lenses as the Fuji cameras higher up in their product line. Lenses are the most expensive part of photography and they determine image quality even more than the camera itself, so you want to buy the best lenses you can afford and be able to use them on any subsequent camera upgrades you make in the future. So buying the cheapest camera you can find may not work well for you down the road as you skills advance.

You'll also need a few accessories to go with your camera, like memory cards and extra batteries. I list those in my "What camera accessories do I need to get started?" blog post. Some of them are must-haves like memory cards (the camera doesn't come with one) and at least one extra battery (these cameras EAT batteries!). And other things are good-to-haves, but aren't required. I've labeled each section accordingly.

Here's a link to an Amazon store I created to make it easy for you to find any of the products I've recommended. I get a small commission if you make your purchase using one of my links, but you don't pay any extra.

This post is part of my "How do I get started in photography?" series. Check out the complete series and share it with anyone in your network who wants to get into photography and could use some help getting started.

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