In the basic photography class I teach at SLCC I get asked all the time "what is the best camera to buy". The answer of course as it usually is "it depends". What will you use the camera for the most? Where will you use it? How much do you want to spend? There are so many options we can't possibly talk about them all here so I want to focus on the three that most of you probably know the most about, cell phones, SLR cameras, and mirrorless cameras. There are still a few point and shoot cameras out there but for the most part you will get better results from your cell phone. The exception to that would be a point and shoot camera with underwater capabilities. If you do any snorkeling or scuba diving I highly recommend getting a cheap ($300 to $500) point and shoot just for that purpose.
I'm also not really going to get into camera brands or models. Brand preference Canon vs Nikon vs Sony would just get me a ton of hate mail and argument so let me just say that I think there are great things about all the major camera brands. It just depends what you like and what you need the camera for. I personally own Nikon, Canon, Sony, Panasonic, and Fuji right now and there are things I really like about every one of them.
Let me start with the most common, I bet everyone reading this has a cell phone that has a camera built in. Some are better than others but they all take pretty decent photos most of the time. If you are in a hurry there is nothing quicker than pull up the camera app on the phone and snap a quick selfie or whatever it is you want to take. You can post it immediately to Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter and your done. Your camera usually backs up the images to the cloud maybe and if you know how to find them you might get them back. You cell phone is not going to be as good at getting more creative or artistic images with shallow depth of field or slow shutter speeds or taking photos that are backlit or have poor lighting. The other maybe bigger problem with cell phone which might not be a problem for you is that the size of the photo sensor is much smaller than an SLR or Mirrorless camera. That means that if you want to create beautiful prints from your images the cell phone is going to be limited.
Mirrorless cameras on the other hand are the up and coming stars of the photographic world. Most of them create big, beautiful files you can print to your hearts content, they are lighter and smaller than an SLR and in some cases cheaper at the amateur or hobbyist level. Professional models are comparable in price to a professional level SLR. I love my mirrorless cameras for traveling, hiking, camping, and general around the house use. They are very easy to use, have a lot of cool features, and so much lighter and smaller in the backpack than my SLR. The only downsides I have with them right now is the battery life is much less than an SLR and there is a very slight lag to pushing the shutter and getting the photo. Most of the time that is not at all a big deal unless I am photographing something with very fast action. Right now there are not as many lenses made for the mirrorless models but that list will grow as they become more popular than the SLR. In my experience they are also not quite as durable as a good SLR camera. If I was looking for a great vacation camera that would also take great photos around the house of the kids and grandkids I would probably looking at a mirrorless model right now.
And that brings us to the good old work horse SLR. There are literally dozens if not hundreds of lenses and accessories available for most SLR brands and models. They are tried and true technology that has only got so much better with time. If you like to shoot film which surprisingly a lot of people still do as an art form (kind of like vinyl records) you can use most of your lenses on both digital and film bodies. They have plenty of automatic and manual features built in and if you know how to use them properly they are fast, sharp, and very reliable. Canon, Nikon, Minolta, whatever your brand of choice they all do a very good job. If you have a Nikon and like it, maybe have a few lenses to go with it, stay with your brand. If you have never used an SLR pick up a few different brands and feel them. Go to a professional camera store like Pixels Foto or Pictureline and talk to a real photography sales person. Tell them what you will be using the camera for. Find something you are comfortable with. Make sure you also get a good bag for your camera and the lenses you will need in the future. Buy an extra battery and several good size SD cards. Take a class and learn how to use it properly. As a professional photographer for my needs today I still prefer my professional level SLR. My eyes and ears are open though to the day that a smaller lighter camera meets all of my needs.
If you have any questions or are interested in classes on how to use your SLR or mirrorless camera contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As the world opens back up there is no better back yard for photography than right here in Utah so have fun and happy shooting.