I don’t think there is a perfect camera, all have pros and cons. What is important is selecting a camera that fits your individual needs. Even then, figuring out which camera to buy can be tricky because no one camera may offer all the things you want, so you will have to make some compromises. I know this sounds crazy given the mass number of cameras on the market, but it’s true. For example, let me walk you through why I decided to buy the Pentax K5II.
I started my search for a new camera by identifying four factors critical to my needs:
- Great image quality: ability to shoot in low light and high dynamic range
- Value for the price: my budget for a camera and first lens was around $1400
- Weather-sealed body and lenses: since I shoot a lot in harsh wet conditions
- Relatively small and lightweight: since I travel a lot and size and weight are important considerations
Simple enough. Yet, when I began searching for this camera it didn’t exist! I could find cameras with three of the four factors, but never all of them. The Sony NEX7 is an amazing camera that fits all of my criteria, except it has no weather-seals! Because I shoot so much in wet weather this was a deal breaker. The Olympus OM-D E-5M was another solid choice meeting most of my criteria including weather seals, but image quality was not on par with other options. While I like both Nikon and Canon in general, small and light are not their forte. Being brand names also comes at a price.
DIGITAL SLR CAMERA REVIEW WEBSITES
To research different camera choices and compare options, I highly recommend using the following sites:
Digital Photography Review: This website provides the most comprehensive reviews of cameras. The camera feature search is a great place to fine tune your requirements to determine specific models that meet your criteria.
DxOMark: Use the DxOMark website to compare camera sensor ratings. Typically the performance of a camera parallels the quality of its sensor. Although bigger is usually better (full frame vs. aps-c), larger sensors come at a higher price and are not always better as you will see on this site.
Snapsort: I used this site for head to head comparisons of DSLR cameras and found it to be very informative. The website is easy to navigate and really helps to determine the key differences between models.
WHY I CHOSE THE PENTAX K-5 II
After many long nights pouring over data from the above sites, in addition to several visits to local camera stores, I determined that the Pentax K-5II was a great fit for my needs.
- The image quality is amazing with sensor ratings better than many full-frame cameras for landscape photography.
- The Pentax K-5II is among the best values for the money.
- Weather-sealed for shooting in incremental weather. This video is worth watching to see this feature in action!
- It is generally smaller and lighter than most comparable DSLR cameras.
I can say without hesitation the camera is a joy to use! I have shot in many downpours and walked away with some amazing images and I continue to be impressed with the camera’s image quality.
SAMPLE PENTAX K-5 II IMAGES SHOOTING IN THE RAIN
Although the camera has amazing abilities in low light, I typically use a tripod in dim light or at night.
Both the Sony Nex-7 and the Olympus OM-D E-M5 were on my list of finalists.
An entirely new generation of mirrorless cameras is revolutionizing photography, and the Sony NEX series of cameras is at the forefront. With amazing image quality at half the size and weight of most DSLR cameras, this is an ideal camera for travel photographers (so long as you keep it dry :))
The well known travel photographer and founder of the popular Stuck in Customs website, Trey Ratcliff, recently abandoned his Nikon D800 camera system for the NEX-7, a trend many are sure to follow.
The Olympus OM-D E-5M was another solid choice worth considering, but for me the sensor ratings and image quality didn’t compare to my other choices.
While I like both Nikon and Canon cameras, and have used Nikon a lot in the past, neither brand offered as much as the Pentax for the money.
While I highly recommend the Pentax K-5 II for anyone who shares my criteria, everyone’s requirements vary. As you embark on your own search, it’s important to determine:
- How will you use the camera?
- Under what conditions will you be shooting in?
- Is camera size and weight important to you?
- What’s your budget?
INTO THE FUTURE
I learned recently that both Sony and Fuji are racing to come out with an NEX-size camera that will have a full-frame sensor, weather-sealed body, and use a full line of interchangeable lenses. A dream come true!