Nikon D3500 or Sony A7 III ? (Also Sony A6600 or Nikon Z50) for absolute beginner

Started 4 months ago | Discussions thread
bobn2 Forum Pro • Posts: 67,520
Re: Nikon D3500 or Sony A7 III ? (Also Sony A6600 or Nikon Z50) for absolute beginner

sonic123 wrote:

Hello. I know this kind of questions are not much liked but I would try to be brief. No matter how good each new generation of smartphones is supposed to be, I find that the photos I take with my iPhone (currently iPhone 11 Pro Max) are always missing something and I don't find them that great.

I am an absolute beginner willing to learn BUT I would like to buy a kind of camera that would serve me as a "gateway drug", I mean, a first camera that would take such great photos in comparison to my iPhone that it would motivate me to learn more, get into the hobby and upgrade the camera. In 2010, I bought an Olympus PEN E-PL1 that was supposed to be better than a regular point and shoot and while the photos were somehow better than my cheap P&S camera, the photos were nothing to talk about.

I've seen some photo samples of the Nikon D3500 and I've loved them. Being so used to my iPhone photos, I could instantly tell that the D3500 photos were different in a good way. The vivid/natural colors, the detail et al. looked to me like a "professional" photo.

I've read that the D3500 is quite recommended for a beginner's camera BUT it is not ideal as a video camera. I would also like to shoot better videos than the ones I get from my iPhone so it would be ideal if I found a camera that can take photos as good as the D3500 but also great videos.

The problem is that I'm an ignorant beginner with ZERO knowledge and one of the things people praise the D3500 about is that it actually includes an "in-camera" tutorial and a great internal photo processing so you can get great photos without using external/additional computer programs.

So my questions are (being that money wouldn't be a problem):

1) Does the Sony A7 III take better photos (better image quality - pro looking photos) than the D3500 or does the D3500 still makes the better photos?

2) Does the Sony A7 III in "auto mode" could be used by a beginner like me, so I could take good-looking "regular" photos, portrait photos, landscape and sports photos as equal or better than the D3500?

3) Could the Nikon Z50 be the sweet spot? Or maybe the Sony A6600/A6100

I would be using my camera to make everyday moments photos look BETTER (way better) than the ones I obtain with my iPhone and also to shoot photos (both regular and portrait) photos of my daughter and wife and shoot videos for my daughter.

I am willing to learn about the basics and get into the hobby but in the meantime I would like to be able to take great photos while learning, just like the D3500 it's supposed to allow.

Why, you could say, I don't go and buy the D3500 already? The answer is because the D3500 is not good at shooting videos so would much rather get a camera that is also a good video device without losing any image quality of the D3500.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH for your insight, suggestions and recommendations!

Best regards,

Wow. Where to start.

You seem to have picked an odd assortment of cameras there, they are in completely different classes. I think if you're serious and in it for the long term, then working out some kind of decision tree is worthwhile.

Question 1.

Do your want to buy a 'beginners camera' to get you started, learn the ropes, and give you the basis to make a longer term decision later, or do you want to jump into your long term system with both feet from the get go? The advantage of the first approach is that you aren't committing to anything. At the moment you don't know what type of photography you like to do or how seriously you are going to take it. All that makes the chances of getting the choice wrong. Another advantage is that you can buy a decent all rounder, and get access to a wide range of photography styles without spending a lot of money. The disadvantage, of course is that you'll have a camera fro just a while, but it'll likely get something back on the second had market.

If you do decide on a 'beginners camera', then something like the D3500 (and there are several cameras 'like' the D3500) and a couple of lenses is a possibility, but I'd suggest going for a so-called 'bridge' camera, like the Panasonic FZ1000, its updates or similar types from Nikon, Canon or Sony. These have quite large (so called 'one inch') sensors and good zoom lenses and are quite capable of taking very good pictures. They have all the same controls, so are great cameras to learn the basics on.  The lens isn't interchangeable, but that's an advantage at the beginning, because you start with a lens that can do quite a wide range of different tasks.

If you decide against this route, go to question 2.

Question 2.

What's your budget? You can spend an absurd amount of money on photographic gear, and if you plunge straight into the top end, the you have to spend quite a bit just to get a kit that is reasonably flexible and covers a wide range of situations. Once you've spent enough, you'll get something that covers everything extremely well, but you'll have spent a lot of money. Particularly, cameras with big 'full frame' sensors like the A7III are likely to empty your wallet fast. It's not just the cameras, it's the lenses that go with them. Only you can make the decision. Depending on the decision you make, take different routes through the subsequent questions.

Question 3.

What type of photography do you think you're going to do? Whilst pretty much all cameras and systems are general purpose, so are better for different types of photography than others.

Question 4.

DSLR or Mirrorless? The future is undoubtedly with mirrorless systems, but right this moment DSLRs are generally cheaper and have a wider range of lenses available, on the other hand mirrorless cameras have their own advantages, such as potentially a potentially wider range of lenses (though at the moment it's narrower), maybe better optical quality (though that's debatable), and a more flexible viewfinder system, though at the cost of battery drain and some delay which can make action photography difficult.

Question 5.

Which brands and cameras appeal to you? This is an underrated issue. By and large you'll do better with equipment you like that that which you don't, even though the reasons for that might be irrational. It's very worthwhile finding the opportunity to actually handle and try any camera you're thinking of buying. Purchase on spec sheets, reviews or other peoples' recommendation without ever using a camera, not so much.

Think about the questions, and you'll at least have some personal criteria against which to judge the available choices, and there are a lot more than the cameras you mentioned.

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