need help choosing a first camera for climbing and mountain biking

Started May 15, 2013 | Discussions thread
MarkInSF Senior Member • Posts: 2,237
Re: need help choosing a first camera for climbing and mountain biking

rides bikes wrote:

Thank you for the suggestions! For my purposes (learning photography, decent photo/video quality, preferably not huge) is there one type you think you'd lean towards or is it kind of a personal preference thing where I'd have to try each out?

You can learn photography on any camera with a full complement of manual settings.   Compacts usually have fewer buttons/dials (there are exceptions, like the Nikon P7700), so you have to use the menus more to change settings.   Mirrorless cameras vary from models with few controls, designed to be unintimidating, up to models with controls much like a dslr.   Having more dedicated buttons/dials is good, but not absolutely essential, but having them sure is nice.

The Panasonic G models are designed for serious photographers and have very nice controls.   Historically, the GF line were the simpler models with minimal controls, but the new GF6 reverses that trend a bit.   It is a more serious camera.   The new G6 also looks excellent, with some substantial upgrades from the G5, most notably the OLED viewfinder and very good WiFi features.   Nothing much wrong with the G5 or the older, but very similar G3, available very cheap.   The GX1 is also marked way down.   It lacks some features, like the viewfinder, but has nice controls still.   The high-end GH models have even more controls, but make sense maainly if you expect to shoot a lot of video, their strength.

The less expensive Sony NEX cameras seem to rely a little more heavily on their menus, but they are still pretty nice.   The NEX-3N has the advantage of being tiny for a camera with such a big sensor.   It is a bit limited in its features compared to more expensive NEX models, but they are also a lot bigger and heavier.   This would be a very easy camera to carry, and adequate for learning.

The entry-level Olympus E - PM2 has weak controls, so not ideal for your purposes, but it is a little camera capable of fine results.

There are other models, like the Samsung NX1000, a bit clunky and cheap feeling, with slow performance.   And the clearance priced Nikon V1 (that I own).   It has very limited controls and requires excessive menu diving, but it's a delightfully quick camera with an amazing autofocus system that no mirrorless system has yet to equal.   But the controls are bad.   They bug me constantly.   For people who want to shoot in auto it's a great choice.

And, of course, there are dslrs, which I won't get into much.   The new Canon SL1 is trying to be a dslr that's as small as a mirrorless model.   What compromises that entails I don't know.   The Sony A57, technically an 'slt', not a 'dslr'  is on clearance and marked down a couple of hundred to about $500.   This is a popular line with video shooters since entry-level dslrs are pretty bad at video and the Sony models are OK.   The A57 has an electronic viewfinder you may find acceptable, which you can use while shooting video, unlike a dslr vf, which blanks out.   The A57 can also track focus on a moving object, if that matters to you.   It's certainly priced right and offers an interesting in-between option.  It's smaller and lighter than many dslrs.

In conventional dslrs, the Pentax K30 is a neat little model with some features not usually found in an entry-level model, like weatherproofing (most lenses aren't) and a big, bright pentaprism viewfinder.   Pentax doesn't offer anything like the lens selection of one of the big companies, but the K30 is a nice deal..   It's also pleasantly small and light.

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