You’ve finally realized that your old point & shoot just doesn’t quite cut it anymore when it comes to taking pictures of your fast moving little ones. There are a lot of reasons why your pictures may not be coming out as you expect and while there are techniques you can use to get better images with any camera there are some limiting factors. The sensor size (what actually captures the image) is going to be one of the main things holding you back. They are so tiny in small cameras that they just can’t capture light in the same way a bigger camera sensor can.
Here are the two best options that I can recommend that keep you around $500 without compromising your quality. I have found that photography is unfortunately one of those hobbies where money can really improve your results, but saying that, you can still achieve fantastic images with affordable gear. There are a multitude of options out there and these aren’t the only choices and may not be the best, but I am speaking from what I have found to work for me. And honestly, if you can’t afford to buy either one of these then I would stick with the smart phone (serious, see below). Kids just most too fast for most point & shoot cameras. If you are ready to move up in price then keep your eyes open for a future blog post.
(full disclosure: these are affiliate links for Amazon Associates, but these are my unbiased, mostly unfiltered thoughts!)
If I had to buy a camera today that I could take anywhere with me that isn’t my iPhone and I don’t have more money to spend then this would be the way to go. It is compact, but is packed with crazy features like a 1.8 aperture (bokeh effect!), a huge sensor for a compact camera, high speed auto focus (big deal), and low light sensitivity filtering. Basically, if you don’t want to have to think about what you are doing, then this is definitely the way to go. With moving up to a DSLR like the Rebel Series below you will definitely have to do a bit of learning and actually read the whole manual. Its not impossible to learn by any means, but this camera almost takes the pictures for you. It does have a pop-up flash, which I would avoid using at all costs in general, but its still there. This is a great choice for anyone not ready to take a jump into manual modes, but it does have some of those options if you so desire. So, if you are just going to leave it on automatic, then do yourself a huge favor and just get this camera. You will have a billion more features, that you might never need, and all without the hassle of taking a photography class and being frustrated.
My first step beyond a point & shoot was the Canon Rebel T1i. This was a fantastic first start and really helped me learn the basics necessary before making a larger investment. I even shot a wedding with this camera as well as quite a few portrait sessions. If you are really looking for a new camera to step out of your comfort zone a little and really improve the quality of your photos, you can really make some strides by checking out the Canon EOS Rebel T5
It is a stripped down version of the Rebel T5i and if you are looking to just get your feet wet then I think this is the best way to go. Right now it is $499 on Amazon and comes with a kit lens that is a great starter lens. Its not a super fast lens, so it will struggle in low light, but it will do the job. Once you learn a few basics, you are going to want to pick up a new lens and I would highly recommend the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens. It is $125 right now on Amazon but I have seen it drop to around $89 during the Holidays. This opens a whole new can of worms, but if you are looking for a great way to shoot in low light and/ or achieve that beautiful blurring effect (bokeh) that you see from professionals, then this is absolutely the cheapest way to go. You will notice that the kit lens that comes with the camera is pretty cruddy when it comes to shooting indoors, especially without natural light and once you figure out why; and then its time to get the 50mm. You could certainly upgrade a little to get more features, but at this point I would keep it simple. If you prefer Nikon then check out the NIKON D3200. I don’t have first-hand experience with Nikon, but people seem to pretty happy with either company so I feel comfortable recommending it.
iPhone: I know this sounds like a stupid answer, but I really have got some of the best pictures of my nieces and nephews with it simply because I had it with me. Apple has done a great job at optimizing the way their camera works with really small sensors and it takes some amazing pictures. That said, it will not hold up once you move indoors. The less light there is then the longer shutter speed it will need to achieve a correctly lit photo and the artificial light we have inside our homes just cannot compare to God-given natural sunlight.
I tend to just stick with the camera app that comes from Apple and haven’t really felt let down yet. This probably isn’t exactly what you are looking for since everybody has one these days, but it can do really well if you give it the chance.
If you have more questions, I would love to help if I can. Just leave a comment below and I will get back to you as fast as I can.
Brett Fox Photography is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.