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 lots 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 if you primarily want to shoot stills and the Panasonic G7 if you primary want to record video. 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 three Fuji cameras and one Panasonic, each for a different consumer. Fuji and Panasonic each make many more cameras than these, but these are the ones that are my simple answer to the "Which camera should I buy?" question. I'll start with listing important features that are common to the three Fuji cameras.

All three Fuji 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-E3

The Fujifilm X-E3 is a great camera with lots of bang for the buck. Of the three cameras on this page, this is the one I recommend for most people. This camera is perfect for family photography, travel photography, and any other kind of general photography. Unless you have specific needs that require a more specialized camera, the X-E3 is the best choice for most people. You will be blown away by the quality of the images that this camera produces and how much fun it is to shoot with.

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 the X-E3 and grow into whatever camera and lenses meet your needs. And you'll still want to keep the X-E3 because it's such a great camera.

Who should buy this camera?

Anyone who just wants a great all-around camera at a great price.

The X-E3 is great for those who want to ease into photography without spending a lot of money. It's also great for those who have a DSLR and would like something smaller for casual shooting, but don't want to sacrifice any of the image quality or controls that DSLRs provide. 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 shoot in semi-automatic or in full manual mode.

The X-E3 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.

Panasonic G7

The Fuji cameras listed on this page are still photography cameras that also shoot great video. This Panasonic G7 is a video camera that also shoots great stills.

Distinguishing features include:

Fully articulating screen that rotates forward so you can see yourself as you record.

Who should buy this camera?

The Panasonic G7 is the camera to choose if your primarily need a camera for shooting video.

Which lenses should I buy?

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

Summary

You can't go wrong with any of the 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 photography need. 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-E3, you have the potential to buy a camera that you will outgrow. The lowest-price Fuji 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.

If you need a camera primarily for recording video, the Panasonic G7 is the camera to buy. The price to performance ratio of that camera cannot be beat as far as video cameras go.

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.

This post is part of my How Do I Get Started in Photography? series. Check out the complete series below 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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