Carrying a big tripod is said to be the badge of the professional photographer. There’s nothing quite as definitive to mark a photographer emerging from the ranks of casual shooters to become a real enthusiast, but it may well be the interchangeable-lens camera (ILC).
That’s because ILCs can surpass even long-range point-and-shoot models in delivering the full range of visual perspectives, from fisheye to super-telephoto. They allow shooters to mount wide-aperture lenses for expanded low-light capabilities and enhanced depth-of-field control; true macro lenses that capture stunning life-size-on-sensor close-ups; and, using inexpensive adapters, even classic SLR and rangefinder lenses for retro effects.
Entry-level interchangeable-lens cameras aimed at today’s emerging enthusiasts include traditional DSLRs with optical viewfinders and mirrorless cameras with electronic viewfinders (EVFs). Excellent examples of both types are covered here, and every camera in the selected list offers an enticing combination of high performance and high value that can transform your customers’ picture-taking experience and elevate it to the next level. That’s a win-win on both sides of the counter. Need we add that they also make great holiday gifts?
Nikon D5300. This versatile DX-format (APS-C) DSLR has a 24.2 megapixel CMOS sensor coupled to an Expeed 4 processor. The combo delivers high-res images, impressive low-noise performance in low light with sensitivity settings from ISO 100–12,800, expandable to ISO 25,600, and excellent responsiveness with a 5-frames-per-sec burst rate. It can record Full HD 1080p video at 60/50/30/25 and 24 fps. Other features include: 39- or 11-point AF with a Multi-CAM 4800DX AF sensor for quick,
accurate focusing; a 3.2-inch, 1,037K-dot, vari-angle, wide-view LCD plus penta-mirror optical viewfinder; active D-lighting for enhanced shadow and highlight control; and numerous selectable scene modes. Picture control settings allow in-camera adjustments of color and brightness. Also provided are built-in Wi-Fi and GPS. It’s available in black, red and gray bodies. With AF-S DX Nikkor 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6G VR II lens, $699.95. nikonusa.com
Sony Alpha a5100. This cool, entry-level mirrorless model provides many of the features of the wildly successful a6000 at about $150 less. These include: a 24.3MP APS-C-format Exmor HD CMOS sensor; an advanced Bionz X processor; a 3-inch, 9,216K-dot, touch-screen LCD that tilts up 180º; and a 1,200-zone evaluative metering system. This E-mount beauty provides a maximum full-res burst of 6 fps, sensitivity settings from ISO 100–25,600 and Full HD 1080p video recording at 60 or 24 fps. Its Fast Hybrid AF system
incorporates 179 phase-detection points and 25 contrast-detection points for quick, accurate autofocus with a wide variety of subjects. It has built-in Wi-Fi connectivity with NFC, and an auto object framing function suggests an “ideal composition” based on the camera’s algorithms. It’s available in black or white. With 16–50mm f/3.5–5.6 OSS lens, $549. sony.com
Olympus PEN E-PL6. The latest iteration in this engaging series of mirrorless Micro Four Thirds-format compacts, the elegantly minimalist E-PL6 features a 16MP Live MOS sensor coupled to an advanced TruePic VI image processor. The duo delivers impressive responsiveness, full-res maximum bursts of 8 fps, Full HD 1080i video recording and sensitivity settings from ISO 200–25,600. Sensor-shift VCM 3-axis image stabilization
minimizes the effects of camera shake, and a “FAST” 35-point AF system with face/eye detect offers quick, precise autofocus. Other features include: a 3-inch, 460K-dot, touch-screen LCD that tilts 170º for easy selfies and low-angle shots; a built-in interval timer; an electronic level gauge; picture modes; and 23 scene modes plus 12 special effects and art filters. The included FL-LM1 external flash provides additional illumination in challenging conditions. With M.Zuiko 14–42mm f/3.5–4.6 II R lens, $299.99. olympusamerica.com
Pentax K-50. This handsome, ergonomically contoured classic DSLR delivers many of the features of the former top-of-the-line Pentax K-5 IIs at an enticingly moderate price. These include a 16.3MP APS-C-format CMOS sensor, Prime M image-processing engine optimized for Full HD 1080p video at 30 fps, an advanced SAFOX IXi+ TTL autofocus system, and 77-segment metering. Continuous bursts top out at 6 fps. Other features are: a 3-inch, wide-view, 921K-dot LCD; a bright, 100%-view optical
pentaprism viewfinder; an in-camera shake reduction system; ISO 100–51,200 plus auto; a host of capture modes and custom functions; and a robust weather-sealed body. The K-50 uses rechargeable Li-ion or AA batteries to power all functions. It comes in black, white or red bodies. With smc DAL 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6 AL WR lens, $449.95. ricohimaging.com
Samsung Smart NX30. This mirrorless, interchangeable-lens camera looks like a DSLR and provides a DSLR-like shooting experience, combining a tilting, 2.36M-dot, eye-level EVF and a 3-inch, 1,037K-dot, swiveling touch-screen AMOLED display. The NX30 incorporates an APS-C-format 20.3MP CMOS sensor and an advanced DRIMe IV processor—a combo that delivers a sizzling 9-fps maximum burst rate, Full HD 1080p video at 60 fps and sensitivity settings from ISO 100–25,600. Other features include:
the hybrid NX AF II system for enhanced AF speed and performance; a Tag & Go feature that lets users quickly tag and share images; PC auto backup; HomeSync that shoots and saves images simultaneously to a personal cloud; optical and digital image stabilization; a baby monitor function; Wi-Fi/NFC connectivity; and a copy of Photoshop Lightroom 5. With 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6 lens, $649.99. samsung.com
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF7. This engagingly compact Micro Four Thirds mirrorless camera from Panasonic incorporates a 16MP Digital Live MOS sensor coupled to a high-performance Venus engine to deliver crisp, low-noise images at sensitivities up to ISO 25,600 and Full HD 1080p video in AVCHD and MP4 formats. Its contrast AF delivers sharp images at up to 5.8 fps using the camera’s mechanical shutter or up to 39 fps when the camera’s electronic shutter is employed. Other key features include: a 3-inch, 1,040K-dot, 180º tilting, touch-screen LCD; built-in Wi-Fi with one-button
connect; face shutter that lets users take a picture by waving at the camera; beauty modes for flattering close-ups; dual shutter buttons for steadier selfies; intelligent auto mode; creative control special effects modes; and creative panorama mode. The GF7 comes in black or pink. With G Vario 12–32mm f/3.5–5.6 Asph OIS lens, $499. panasonic.com
Canon EOS Rebel SL1. Canon’s fetchingly compact DSLR combines an elegantly petite form factor with many of the key features found on higher level models. These include an 18MP APS-C-format CMOS sensor coupled to the latest Digic 5 image processor to deliver Full HD video capture with continuous AF at 30, 25 and 24 fps and ISO settings from 100–12,800, expandable to 25,600. Other features are: scene intelligent auto mode; 4-fps, full-res continuous bursts; a 9-point hybrid CMOS AF II system with contrast- and phase-detection sensors and a high-precision central cross sensor; a 3-inch, touch-screen LCD; and effect shot mode that captures two images of
the scene, one with and one without the special effect. Background simulation makes it easy to achieve dramatic blurred or sharpened backgrounds, both of which can be previewed on the 1,040K-dot LCD. The SL1’s body, which comes in black or white, measures only 4.6×3.6×2.7 inches and weighs just 13 ounces! With EF-S 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6 IS STM lens, $699.99. usa.canon.com
Fujifilm X-A2. This sleek, stylish, selfie-ready Fujifilm X-mount camera delivers a full complement of advanced features and capabilities at an attractive price point. These include a 16.3MP APS-C-format CMOS sensor coupled to an advanced EXR II processor that provides a maximum full-res burst rate of 5.6 fps, sensitivity settings of ISO 100–25,600 and Full HD 1080p video recording at 30 fps. It boasts impressive
responsiveness, with a 0.5-sec start-up time, a 0.05-sec shutter lag time and a 0.4-sec shooting interval time. Other features are: a 175º tilting, 3-inch, 920K-dot LCD; a Q-menu shortcut button for quick access to camera and exposure settings; built-in Wi-Fi; film simulation modes; eye, auto macro and multi-target AF modes; in-lens optical image stabilization for sharp handheld shots in low light; and a wide range of advanced special effects filters and scene position settings. It’s offered in silver, brown and white. With Fujinon XC 16–50mm f/3.5–5.6 OIS II lens, $549. fujifilmusa.com