Recommended Camera Kits by Price
Note that price ranges include camera body, lenses, memory card and other basic accessories.$500 or less:
$500 to $1,000:
- Point & Shoot: This is the most competitive sector and nearly all brands offer a decent camera. However, Canon was one of the first to produce a high quality compact Point & Shoot and they have done a decent job refining their easy to use and overall high quality cameras. Pick the ELPH (PowerShot SDxxx series $150-350) with resolution, zoom range and features that best meet your needs. Canon's $270 SD4000IS camera has dpreview's second highest rating for a Point & Shoot (Canon S95 gets the highest rating). Also consider Canon's PowerShot SX series such as the SX130IS $200, SX210IS $280 and SX30IS $370. These cameras are slightly larger, offer larger zoom range and include a few more manual features.
- Point & Shoot: Canon PowerShot S95 $370. The best compact Point & Shoot camera available, receiving pdreview's highest rating for a Point & Shoot. This camera is a simple choice for anyone looking for a pocketable point and shoot camera. I recommend skipping Canon's G12 or Nikon's P7000 as the S95 produces similar image quality but is pocketable. If you really want manual DSLR like features then get a small Rebel with 50 f/1.8 for the same amount of money and the G12 or P7000. Note that this Point & Shoot segment has become very crowded and nearly all manufacturers have an offering.
$1,000 to $4,000:
- Crop Sensor EVIL: Sony NEX-3 or NEX-5 w/ kit zoom or fast pancake prime lens for $550-700. While I would normally recommend an entry level Canon or Nikon DSLR over mirror-less camera options, the new Sony NEX cameras are quite capable and will only become more capable as Sony releases new lenses, so if you really need a compact camera that offers good image quality, moderate ISO performance and the lens changing versatility of a DSPR then the mirror-less cameras are the way to go as they offer near DSLR like image quality in a package that will fit in a jacket pocket or purse. Just keep in mind that this compact size comes at the expense of slower autofocus, reduced access to camera functions and poor overall ergonomics in comparison to entry level Canon and Nikon DSLRs. Also consider the latest from Olympus PEN E-P and Panasonic GF series. While slightly lower image quality these cameras offer better general use performance than the Sony.
- Crop Senor DSLR: Canon 1000D/XS with 18-55 IS kit lens $500 or add the 55-250 IS kit lens $650. It may not be the most feature packed DSLR but it covers all the basics and produces good images for minimal cost. Coupled with the inexpensive $99 50mm f/1.8 prime lens you have just about everything covered for $600.
- Crop Senor DSLR: Canon 550D/T2i $700 body only or Canon 600D/T3i $800 body only. Get aone of the following general use lenses: Tamron SP AF 17-50mm f/2.8 non-VC, Sigma 17-50 f/2.8 OS or Canon 17-55 f/2.8 IS. Then consider adding a 10-22 for wide and 70-200 f/4L IS for tele zoom, and finally make sure you get the $100 50 f/1.8 fast prime for low light and shallow DOF. The 550D receives dpreview's highest rating for an entry level APS crop sensor DSLR. This is a very good little DSLR.
- Crop Senor DSLR: Nikon D7000 body only $1,200 or with 18-105 VR kit lens $1,500. If you skip the kit lens or need an upgrade then consider Tamron SP AF 17-50mm f/2.8 non-VC, Sigma 17-50 f/2.8 OS or Nikon 16-85 VR. Also consider adding the 10-24, 35 f/1.8 or 50 f/1.8 lenses. This is Nikon's newest and highest resolution DSLR besides their $7,500 D3x. Nikon's D7000 offers the best feature set per dollar, the best dynamic range and the best crop sensor high-ISO performance.
$4,000 to $7,500:
- Crop Senor DSLR: Canon 7D body only $1,400, skip the lens kits. Get any of the following lenses that best meet your needs: 10-22, 17-55 f/2.8 IS, 24-105 f/4L IS, 70-200 f/4L IS or 70-200 f/2.8L IS II or 70-300 f/4-5.6L IS and fast primes (20 f/2.8, 24 f/1.4L I or II, 35 f/2, 35 f/1.4L, 50 f/1.8, 50 f/1.4, 50 f/1.2L, 85 f/1.8, 85 f/1.2L I or II, 135 f/2L and any of the tilt/shift lenses). If you can spend the money on this body and at least the 17-55 f/2.8 IS then you will have the best quality crop sensor DSLR set up currently available. The camera body is at the top in all regards except for high-ISO. It receives dpreview's highest rating for a crop sensor DSLR. All of the lenses listed above can resolve for the 18MP sensor. For the money this is one amazing set up and the best sports/wildlife option unless you want to step up to the professional bodies.
$7,500 and up:
- Full Frame DSLR: Nikon D700 body only $2,200. Get any of the following lenses that best meet your needs: : 14-24 f/2.8G, 24-70 f/2.8G, 70-200 f/2.8G VR II, 200-400 f/4G VR II and fast primes 24 f/1.4G, 35 f/1.4G, 85 f/1.4G and 200 f/2 VR II. With the recent price reduction this full frame body coupled with Nikon's excellent zooms is a wonderful package and is the best general use DSLR. If you plan on shooting a lot of sports or other autofocus demanding subjects then this camera will more than get the job done at a very reasonable price for full frame.
- Full Frame DSLR: Canon 5D Mark II body only $2,200 or with 24-105 IS kit lens $3,000. Get any of the following lenses that best meet your needs: 16-35 f/2.8L II, 70-200 f/4L IS, 70-200 f/2.8l IS II, 17 TS-E, 24 TS-E II, 90 TS-E, 24 f/1.4L II, 35 f/1.4L, 50 f/1.4, 50 f/1.0L, 85 f/1.8, 85 f/1.2L II, 100 f/2.8L IS macro, 135 f/3L and 200 f/2L IS. The 5D2's resolution and excellent LiveView make this the ultimate architecture and landscape set up, especially when coupled with the latest tilt/shift lenses (17 and 24 TS-E). When coupled with Canon's exceptional fast primes (affordable 50 f/1.4, 85 f/1.8, 100 f/2 and 100 f/2.8) this is hands down the best studio/portrait set up for the money. In general, the 5D2 provides the best image quality for the money with the best high resolution low-ISO images and high-ISO images after downsizing to 12MP. If you want supreme image quality for stills and video and don't plan to shoot a lot of sports then consider yourself very lucky as it just doesn't get any better than the 5D2!
This is strictly professional territory. Select the lenses and camera bodies that best meet you needs, such as the following specialized kits:
- The best general and all around use kit (photo journalism, weddings and non-professionals for which only the best will do): Nikon D3s with 14-24 f/2.8G, 24-70 f/2.8G, 24-120 f/4G VR, 70-200 f/2.8G VR II, 200-400 f/4G VR II and fast primes 24 f/1.4G, 35 f/1.4G, 85 f/1.4G and 200 f/2 VR II.
- The best architecture and landscape kit (maximum resolution and overall image quality): Canon 1Ds3 or 5D2 with 17, 24 II, 45 and 90 TS-E tilf/shift lenses
- The best landscape and studio kit (maximum resolution and overall image quality non-tilt/shift lenses): Nikon D3x with 14-24 f/2.8G, 24-70 f/2.8G, 70-200 f/2.8G VR II, 200-400 f/4G VR II and fast primes 24 f/1.4G, 35 f/1.4G, 85 f/1.4G and 200 f/2 VR II.
- The best product and macro kit (maximum resolution and overall image quality): Canon 1Ds3 or 5D2 with 17, 24 II, 45 and 90 TS-E, along with 65 MP-E, 100 f/2.8L IS and 180 f/3.5L macros
- The best shallow depth-of-field kit (portraits, wedding or other instances when extreme subject isolation is needed): Canon 1Ds3 with 24 f/1.4L II, 35 f/1.4L, 50 f/1.0L, 85 f/1.2L II, 135 f/2L and 200 f/2L IS.
- The best sports and wildlife kit (long reach and high speed camera performance): Canon 1D4 with 70-200 f/2.8L IS II , 200 f/2L IS, 300 f/2.8L II IS, 400 f/2.8L II IS, 500 f/4L IS, 600 f/4L IS and 800 f/5.5L IS. The Nikon D3s is absolutely the way to go if you plan on shooing at ISO's above 1600 as it's high ISO performance is truly exceptional!
- The best video for extreme creative footage (low-light, shallow depth-of-field or tilt/shift): Canon 5D2 with any of the lenses recommended above.
© Chad Kirkpatrick : Witness to Beauty ® Photography