Not that long ago, if you wanted to take up photography, even as a hobby, it took a substantial investment to get what you needed. I remember not too long ago (to me anyways) I wanted to take the photography elective in high school, but the requirement for everyone to own their own camera kept me from doing that.

With the advancements in technology over the past few years, the ability to take high resolution images has become commonplace. So with the wealth of options available to you these days, where is a good place to start?

Yes, #iphoneography is a thing these days, however, due to the optics (and the fact that it’s main purpose is for making phone calls) these images often have no depth to them at all and take some sort of “filter” the bring it to life. Although most smart phones now have at least some way to adjust the camera settings manually, they still cannot compete with the look and feel of a camera and lens with better glass elements inside of it.

This is a list of some cameras in different price points that, in my humble opinion, would be perfect for someone that wants to try photography, but doesn’t want to drop a bunch of bread before they are sure that they like it.

I will begin this list by stating that I am not a fan of point and shoot cameras. Not to say that people don’t do amazing things with them, but generally speaking, they fall into the same category as smart phones for me. With the exception of the first camera on our list:

Lytro – Light Field Digital Camera

The Lytro is a great camera to learn Depth of Field on as you can change it… after you have taken the photograph!
On each photograph you can select your focal point and change it as many times as you need to find the sweet spot. It is the only camera of its kind and for $99, it is perfect for helping people begin to think differently about angles and focal point.

Olympus – PEN E-PL6 w/14-42mm

This is a mirrorless micro four thirds (MFT) digital camera with a 16MP Live MOS sensor. It has a fast 35-point auto focus system with face and eye detection, but also allows for manual focus for more artistic shots. MFT cameras are generally light weight and any additional lenses you may get wouldn’t take up much room in your camera bag.

This camera also allows you to record video in 1080i resolution. It is $299 for both the camera body and lens, and it is a great starting point for DSLR style photography with the option of video as well.

Sony – Alpha a5000 w/16-50mm

The a5000 is also a mirrorless camera for Sony E-mount lenses. This camera also offers quick auto focus as well as manual focus. It has a 20MP CMOS sensor and a 3inch tilting LCD screen. This camera has a small form and the lenses are not too obtrusive. It comes in 3 colors for the more fashionable photography enthusiasts and can record Full HD 1080P resolution video at 60fps for smooth slow motion. This one is $398.

Nikon – J5 w/10-30mm

This is another mirrorless camera system with a Nikon 1 lens mount. This camera has a 20.8MP CMOS sensor, an EXPEED 5A Image Processor and a 3 inch tilting touch screen LCD. It can also record Full HD 1080p/60 or Ultra HD 2160p at 15 fps.

This is a take anywhere camera from one of the biggest names in the game that produces fantastic photo and video clarity all while staying so sweet and so small! The Nikon – J5 is $496.95.

The final 2 cameras on this list are from my top 2 favorite companies. I personally own cameras from both companies and use them on a regular basis with fantastic results.

Canon – EOS Rebel SL1 w/18-55mm

This is the smallest DSLR camera body ever made. Don’t let the size fool you though, it still packs a heck of a punch. With an 18MP CMOS sensor, DIGIC 5 Image Processor, 3 inch 1.04 million dot Clear View II touchscreen and the ability to use Canon lenses/accessories — it really can’t get any better for the beginner photographer.

This camera does video as well has the ability to record Full HD 1080p up to 30 fps, mix that with the image coming through the canon glass and you will have a crispy picture every time. The SL1 also has Movie Servo AF for quiet continuous auto focus while filming video. Canon made the first DSLR that I ever used and they have only gotten better! You can get this camera for $499.

Panasonic – Lumix DMC-GF7

The last camera on our list is another mirrorless MFT camera. This one has a 16MP Live MOS sensor, Venus Engine Image Processor, a 3 inch touchscreen and built in wifi. There are a host of other options as well including buddy and face shutters (which recognizes when two faces are brought together in front of the camera and automatically activates the shutter), Jump Snap (which uses your phone to detect the highest point of a jump and takes the picture), Intelligent Auto mode, Panorama, Time lapse and creative controls that allow you to use different filter to adjust your pictures and video in camera.

This camera allows Full HD in multiple frame rates as well as multiple codecs (file types) for $461.19.

So there you have it. A few of my recommendations for beginning photographers, or people that simply want their family photos to look better. Hope it was useful.

Now get out there and shoot somebody! Tweet us @ColumBUZZ614.