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Nikon D3500 review | TechRadar

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Still the best DSLR for beginners

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TechRadar Verdict

It’s now over three years old, but the Nikon D3500 remains the best DSLR around for beginners looking to embrace creative, manual photography with a traditional setup. Built around a solid core of great image quality, intuitive menus and a superb battery life, the D3500 now offers impressive value, too. Mirrorless rivals should also be considered, particularly if you need a touchscreen or 4K video. But Nikon’s entry-level DSLR continues to fly the flag for the format by offering the kind of handling and value that mirrorless cameras struggle to match.

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The Nikon D3500 might be well over three years old, but it remains our number one pick for the title of best beginner DSLR, and even faces up well against stiff competition for the best DSLR camera overall. Why so? While this is partly down to the lack of new competition – most manufacturers have now stopped making new DSLRs – it’s also because the D3500 nails the basics in a way that few other cameras have managed. 

For starters, it delivers the three big advantages that DSLRs offer over their mirrorless alternatives: a superb battery life, great handling and good value. The latter is partly because the D3500 has an optical viewfinder, unlike the EVFs found on mirrorless rivals, but also because its huge range of native lenses are no longer new enough to command high price tags. For that reason, the Nikon D3500 is one of the best cheap cameras you can buy.

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While the D3500’s age counts in its favor when it comes to price, it does mean it lacks some modern features. The first is a lack of 4K video capture, which is now standard on most new cameras, although if you’re happy with 1080p resolution (or you’re not that interested in video at all) that shouldn’t bother you too much.

Perhaps more limiting are the lack of an articulating screen and touchscreen functionality, which means the D3500 will take a little adjusting to for those coming from smartphones. If you think a touchscreen is a deal-breaker, then it’s worth considering alternatives like the Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D, or a mirrorless camera like the Fujifilm X-T200.

(Image credit: Future)

On the other hand, neither of those cameras come close to the D3500’s 1,550-shot battery life, and it does compensate for the lack of a touchscreen with a handy ‘Guide’ mode for beginners, which takes you through the process of creating effects like a blurred background. This is a great way for inexperienced shooters to understand manual settings and start building their confidence and knowledge.

What about image quality? The D3500’s 24.2MP sensor produces impressive results, although you’ll want to invest in some additional lenses to really see its potential. 

Fortunately, Nikon’s DX system has a vast range of lenses to suit pretty much every shooting style and budget. We’d recommend buying the D3500 with the ‘VR’ version of its kit lens – the AF-P DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR – as this brings handy vibration reduction for very little extra cost.

Some more AF points would have been nice, but the 11-point AF system works fine for general shooting, and does the job for some moving subjects too.

If you’re looking for a smaller camera for travel shooting, then mirrorless alternatives like the Fujifilm X-T200 or Canon EOS M50 Mark II are worth considering. But as an affordable, camera for beginners that’ll teach you the nuts and bolts of creative photography, then the Nikon D3500 remains an excellent choice.

Nikon D3500 review: features

  • Newer sensor than D3400, but effective resolution stays the same
  • No touchscreen or 4K video
  • Bluetooth connectivity

The D3500 retains the same effective 24. 2MP pixel count as the old Nikon D3400, but uses a newer sensor, and closer inspection of the specs shows that the total count on the D3500’s sensor stands at 24.78MP, compared to 24.72MP on the D3400. 

The APS-C sized sensor (typical for an entry-level DSLR, and much larger than the sensors used in most compact cameras) in the D3500 also does away with an optical low-pass filter to help improve image quality. 

The D3500’s ISO sensitivity range of 100-25,600 is also pretty wide, but doesn’t improve on the D3400’s range.

Nikon D3500 specs

Sensor: 24.2MP APS-C CMOS

Lens mount: Nikon F

Screen: 3.0-inch fixed display, 921,000 dots

Burst shooting: 5fps

Autofocus: 11-point AF

Video: Full HD 1080p

Connectivity: Bluetooth

Battery life: 1,550 shots

Weight: 415g (with battery and card)

Given that almost all mirrorless cameras (and even smartphones) offer 4K video, it’s a bit disappointing to only see Full HD capture on the D3500. It’s not all bad news though, as the D3500 can shoot at a smooth 60/50p, as well as 30/25p and 24p, while there are lower-resolution recording options as well. 

There’s also no microphone port, so you’ll need to rely on the D3500’s built-in monaural microphones. If you’re looking to shoot video regularly, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere, but for those who only have need to capture the odd clip or two, it’s a perfectly adequate set up.

Nikon has also opted to carry over the same 3-inch display, with a modest 921,000-dot resolution, from the D3400. The screen is fixed, and sits flush with the body – if you want a DSLR with a vari-angle display then you’ll need to look further up the range to the Nikon D5600 or at the Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D. It’s also slightly disappointing to see no touchscreen functionality, a feature that would really lend itself to a entry-level DSLR, with touchscreens having become second nature for anyone using a smartphone. 

Complementing the rear display is an optical viewfinder. This is perhaps the most obvious feature that that distinguishes DSLRs from mirrorless cameras. Many similarly-priced mirrorless cameras either rely solely on the rear screen for shooting, while others will feature electronic viewfinders (EVF) with fairly modest resolutions (at this price point).

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EVFs certainly have their advantages, especially as you can see the exposure ‘live’, meaning you don’t get any nasty surprises when you fire the shutter. These days, modern EVFs are also fantastic at what they do. But still many photographers prefer the cleaner, definitely lag-free view offered by an optical viewfinder, so there’s no ‘best’ option for everyone. 

The optical viewfinder on the D3500 offers a coverage of 95%, which is typical for an entry-level DSLR, so you may need to be a bit careful when framing some shots to avoid unwanted elements creeping into the edges of the frame.

As on the Nikon D3400 there’s no Wi-Fi connectivity, but you do get Bluetooth, so it’s possible to transfer images via Nikon’s SnapBridge feature. Here, an always-on Bluetooth Low Energy connection is made between the camera and your smart device, and you can configure SnapBridge so that images are automatically transferred as you shoot, or later, so you can select particular images to transfer. 

Which 18-55mm kit lens should you buy with the D3500?

While you can buy the Nikon D3500 as a standalone camera with no lens, most people looking at this beginner camera will choose to get the 18-55mm lens that’s bundled with the camera for a few more dollars or pounds.

Often referred to as a ‘kit’ lens as these lenses are sold as part of the kit with the camera, the focal range of 18-55mm offers a decent standard zoom range to get your started. This covers everything from wide-angle landscapes to moderate telephoto that’s more suited for portraits.

(Image credit: Future)

It’s worth paying close attention to the lens though when you’re looking to buy a D3500 as there’s two versions available. There’s the AF-P DX 18-55mm f/3. 5-5.6G and the AF-P DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR. The VR designation is what you want to pay attention to as this denotes Nikon’s image stabilization system (known as Vibration Reduction).

The difference in cost between the two lenses is negligible, so our advice is to splash out a few dollars or pounds more for the VR version of the lens, as this will allow you to shoot at slower shutter speeds and still achieve sharp shots.

Once you’re ready to upgrade your lens, or want something to complement your 18-55mm lens, take a look at our best Nikon lenses buying guide. 

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Nikon D3500: Price Comparison

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Mark is TechRadar’s Senior news editor. Having worked in tech journalism for a ludicrous 17 years, Mark is now attempting to break the world record for the number of camera bags hoarded by one person. He was previously Cameras Editor at Trusted Reviews, Acting editor on Stuff.tv, as well as Features editor and Reviews editor on Stuff magazine. As a freelancer, he’s contributed to titles including The Sunday Times, FourFourTwo and Arena. And in a former life, he also won The Daily Telegraph’s Young Sportswriter of the Year. But that was before he discovered the strange joys of getting up at 4am for a photo shoot in London’s Square Mile. 

Fujifilm X-T200 review | TechRadar

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A capable entry-level camera with a viewfinder

(Image: © TechRadar)

TechRadar Verdict

Where Fujifjilm fell just short of hitting the mark with the X-T100, the company has succeeded the second time round. As a pared-back version of the X-T30, the X-T200 makes for a much better entry-level camera than its predecessor thanks to its better autofocus performance, superior video prowess and its burst of speed. But little niggles like an unreliable eye sensor and an uncomfortably placed joystick diminish the advantages of having a viewfinder.

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Pros
  • +

    Excellent color and dynamic range

  • +

    Sharp 3.5-inch rear touchscreen

  • +

    Reliable autofocus performance

  • +

    Sleek retro design that’s lightweight

Cons
  • Very low buffer depth

  • Lacks subject tracking in video

  • Unreliable eye sensor

  • Joystick not well placed when using viewfinder

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Fujifilm’s higher-end X series cameras are some of the best around, so when the company decided to launch a scaled-back version of the X-T20 two years ago, we expected something special. While a very capable camera, the X-T100 didn’t quite blow us away but Fujifilm didn’t give up. Second time round and the camera maker has come close to hitting the mark with the X-T200.

The new beginner mirrorless camera equivalent of the X-T30 is essentially an X-A7 with a viewfinder. The X-T200 shares a lot of the latter’s features, including the same sensor, autofocus system, ISO sensitivity and 4K video prowess. And that makes the X-T200 a major improvement over its predecessor.

Although the X-T200 was a tad more expensive than its predecessor at launch, it’s now one of the best cheap cameras around, offering great value. It’s also one of the best YouTube cameras. It’s a tad more expensive than the X-A7 kit, but you are paying for the benefit of a viewfinder when purchasing the X-T200. But is there enough of an advantage here to make the new camera a worthwhile entry-level APS-C mirrorless camera? Let’s find out.

(Image credit: TechRadar)

  • These are the best cameras for beginners you can buy right now

Key features

  • Updated 24. 2MP sensor
  • 4K/30p video
  • New 3.5-inch 16:9 rear touchscreen
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It’s hard to justify spending top dollar on a high-end kit when there are more affordable options available like the X-T200, but while it appears great on paper, it doesn’t quite match up with the X-T30.

Firstly, it doesn’t use the same X Trans CMOS sensor you’ll find in Fujifilm’s high-end cameras. Instead, there’s a revised version of the APS-C CMOS image sensor found in the X-T100 – the upgrade here being the use of copper wiring rather than aluminum. 

The improvements to the sensor means the readout from the camera is now 3.5x faster than the X-T100 (which, Fujifilm promises, reduces the effects of a rolling shutter) and ups the maximum ISO value to 25,600 (which topped out at 12,800 on the older model). It’s a similar upgrade that the X-A7 also boasts over the X-A5 and we found that the improved sensor produced some excellent results.

Key specs

Sensor: 24.2MP APS-C CMOS

Autofocus: 425-point hybrid phase/contrast AF

ISO range: 200-12,800 (exp. 100-51,200)

Max burst: 8fps

Video: 4K/30p

Viewfinder: 2.36 million dots, OLED

LCD: 3.5-inch 2.78 million dot touchscreen

Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth

Weight: 370g (with battery and card)

The sensor is just one of many improvements the X-T200 has over its predecessor. The processor has also been given an upgrade, giving the new camera a slight bump in continuous shooting speed, taking it up from 6fps in the X-T100 to 8fps in the current model. That’s better than the X-A7 as well, which shares the same 6fps burst as the X-T100.

Video capabilities are much improved, with 4K capture at up to 30fps (compared to the rather disappointing 15fps on the X-T100) and Full HD 1080p video at up to 120fps now possible. The X-T200 has a new HDR video mode that combines multiple frames taken at different exposures to add more dynamic range to standard videos, but is only available at 60fps.

To reduce shaky video when shooting handheld, Fujifilm has designed a ‘digital gimbal’ that uses the camera’s built-in gyroscope, along with an image stabilization algorithm, to smoothen footage. It is important to note that this feature is different from the in-body image stabilization systems that many high-end bodies boast. That said, you can’t use this for 4K video capture – it’s only available for Full HD footage as enabling the feature crops out a large part of the sensor (perhaps to adjust framing).

Another, albeit small, advantage the X-T200 has over its predecessor when it comes to video features is the ability to trim footage in-camera.

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(Image credit: TechRadar)(Image credit: TechRadar)(Image credit: TechRadar)(Image credit: TechRadar)

The X-T200 brings over the 3.5mm mic input that was available on the X-T100. There’s still no dedicated headphone port though, but there is a 3.5mm headphone adapter in the box with the X-T200 which can be plugged into the USB-C port. The camera is also capable of displaying audio levels on the rear display or the viewfinder.

Speaking of which – the electronic viewfinder is the most obvious difference between the X-A7 and the X-T200. While it’s not available on the former, it’s the same 2.36 million dot panel we saw in the X-T100, with the same 0.62x magnification. There’s a handy eye sensor as well, so there’s no need to look for a button to swap between the EVF and live view.

The other main headline feature the X-T200 boasts is the large 3.5-inch 16:9 rear LCD display borrowed from the X-A7. Not only is it larger than the one on the X-T100, it’s now a fully articulating screen with a higher resolution panel of 2.76 million dots (over the older camera’s 1.04 million dot display). It’s a sharp display that will suit vloggers, the selfie-obsessed as well as help smartphone photographers transition to a ‘real’ camera easily.

The X-T200 uses the NP-W126S Li-ion battery that has a CIPA rating of 270 shots in standard mode, but can provide up to 450 shots in Economy mode (which you will find under the Power Management option within the camera’s menu system). There’s no external charger in the box – the battery can be topped up in-camera via the USB-C port on the side.

Build and handling

  • Redesigned control layout
  • Deeper grip
  • Uncomfortably placed joystick

There are major physical differences between the X-T200 and its predecessor, and the first one you’ll notice is the deeper, beefier grip. This makes it a more ergonomic entry-level option if you see yourself holding a camera for long periods of time. However, the thumb rest on the back panel isn’t well positioned, mostly because the display takes up a majority of the space on the rear of the camera – something we complained about in the X-A7 as well.

The lack of space on the rear panel also means that the control layout now sports a minimalist look. Gone is the four-directional D-pad control layout from the X-T100; instead we get a joystick multi-selector which, unfortunately, is uncomfortable to use. We had a similar issue with the X-A7 but it wasn’t much of a bother there as we didn’t need to raise the camera to our eye. With the X-T200, though, using the joystick becomes a lot more difficult when using the EVF as your grip will need to be adjusted when the camera is raised for framing through the viewfinder. It’s also quite small, which may be a bother for some people with large mitts.

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Below the joystick are the menu and back buttons sitting flush against the body of the camera. They, too, are rather small and can’t be found by feel alone – you will need to look at what you’re doing to find the buttons.

The top plate has the usual mode dial, along with two others to control aperture, shutter speed and exposure compensation, but the latter pair are also small and some users may find it difficult to turn them as they will require a shift in grip to access.

The function of the left-most dial on the top plate varies depending on which mode you’re shooting in. When filming video, you can use it to change shutter speed, while it can be used to cycle through Film Simulation options when shooting stills. It is the only dial on the camera that we found easy to use – relatively easy to reach (although it does need a slight grip adjustment) and smooth to turn.

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The XC 15-45mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS lens that ships in the box with the camera is quite good as far as kit lenses go, but there are some niggles there as well. The power zoom mechanism on the kit lens isn’t fast, and it’s hard to remember which way to turn the ring to zoom in and out – although if you use it long enough it might become second nature to you. That said, at 15mm, the lens is pretty wide, offering a 23mm equivalent focal length, and a 69mm equivalent when fully zoomed in at 45mm – a decent range for a kit lens.

At first glance it seems as though Fujifilm hasn’t added a flash to the X-T200, but it’s there, neatly sitting around the viewfinder bump and raised with the switch around the left-most dial on the top plate. It’s a beautiful design that adds to the camera’s retro aesthetics.

The X-T200 also shares the same refreshed menu system introduced in the X-A7. It’s a much more user-friendly system and, best of all, offers a preview of various Film Simulation modes before you take the shot.

Most of the shooting options are available on the touchscreen, so chances are you won’t need to use (or customize) the physical buttons on the rear of the camera. If you want to keep it real simple, then just set the camera to the automatic SR+ mode (Advanced SR Auto) and everything will be taken care of for you, pretty much like how you’d use your smartphone camera.

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Performance

  • Excellent face-detect AF
  • Reasonably good subject tracking
  • Low buffer depth

The X-T200 boasts a hybrid AF system with 425 sensor-based phase detection points. To help you keep things in focus there are four AF modes – Single Point, Zone, Wide/Tracking and All. Thanks to an improved AF algorithm, there’s very little fault when it comes to autofocus performance. In most cases, the X-T200 is capable of picking up your subject without too much prompting, although it’s easy to change with the camera’s touch-to-focus ability. 

Face and eye detection are spot-on, with the camera capable of locking onto a person’s face with ease and following them even when they’ve turned away from the camera. Eye AF works well even if the subject is wearing glasses, a feat many entry-level cameras are not capable of achieving.

Subject tracking during continuous shooting is, however, a bit of a hit-and-miss. While you’ll definitely get a few usable frames from a single burst, you will find that the subject can go completely out of focus in some others. We had the same issue while shooting videos as there’s no subject tracking in this mode. 

And speaking of continuous shooting: while there’s an improved 8fps burst mode here – handy for some sports and wildlife photography – the buffer memory hasn’t changed very much. And that means the camera will slow down rather quickly in order to process and save all images to card.

The kit lens needs a minimum focus distance of 13cm, which may not be sufficient for most macro photography needs but does lend itself well to fun experiments. (Image credit: TechRadar)

The X-T200 also shares the X-A7’s 256-zone built-in metering system and, as before, works a charm. Considering we tested the new camera during the coronavirus lockdown and had to take most of our test shots indoors, the camera handled uneven lighting inside the house quite well.

As we mentioned earlier, the EVF has an eye sensor which automatically detects when something is close to the panel and switches from live view to framing via the viewfinder. However, we found the eye sensor to be occasionally unresponsive, particularly when the rear LCD was opened away from the body of the camera. We had to switch off the camera, fold the screen back against the body and then restart the device for the eye sensor to work again. A couple of times the camera even froze up when we switched it on with the LCD display already unfurled, and we had to remove the battery to get things back to working order. That said, this happened rarely but well worth mentioning in case the issue goes beyond our review unit.

The Super EBC XC 15-45mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS kit lens needs a minimum focusing distance of 13cm for sharp images at the widest zoom (15mm focal length) and has a maximum magnification of 0.24x (or 1/4 life-size) – while that’s not quite enough for macro photography, we have to admit that there’s plenty of scope for experimentation and creativity here.

Image quality

  • Excellent color reproduction
  • Good dynamic range
  • Acceptable noise performance

One thing we can never fault Fujifilm for is its color science, and the X-T200 continues that trend, producing some excellent JPEGs. Of course, what makes any Fujifilm stand out are the several Film Simulation modes and filters available on board that add some fun and pop to the images. While our personal favorites are Velvia/Vivid and Classic Chrome, the colors with Provia/Standard are just as striking.

Like the X-A7, the sensor on the X-T200 is capable of capturing plenty of tones, allowing us to retrieve details in shadows during post processing. But where the X-A7 had a tendency to deepen darker tones, the X-T200 renders them as close to natural as possible, irrespective of which Film Simulation mode you use. 

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(Image credit: TechRadar)(Image credit: TechRadar)(Image credit: TechRadar)(Image credit: TechRadar)(Image credit: TechRadar)(Image credit: TechRadar)(Image credit: TechRadar)(Image credit: TechRadar)

There’s plenty of detail in the images, with barely any moiré (striped patterns) – even at ISO 6400. Noise becomes visible only at higher sensitivities of ISO 12,800 and above, but we’re hoping most beginner photographers won’t need to head up to the faster speeds.

RAW images are, of course, slightly noisier but perfectly usable up to ISO 6400. If, however, you don’t want to edit RAW images in post, then there are two additional DR modes to improve contrast in images – DR200% and DR400% offer one and two stops of highlight compensation respectively.

In terms of video, the digital gimbal is an excellent addition, although it’s a shame it can only be used for 1080p footage. Full HD movies, while perfectly usable, felt a little lackluster to us. On the other hand, 4K video quality is pretty darn impressive, with very little rolling shutter effect and a decent amount of detail.

Verdict

Compared to the X-T100, the successor model is a far better camera, now that there’s a larger and sharper rear screen and plenty more processing power under the hood – not to mention a much better autofocus system. It’s also a lot more comfortable in the hand as compared to the older camera and the X-A7 as well. The retro DSLR styling will easily win fans, and its easy-to-use setup should get new photographers up and running in no time at all. The results it produces are marvelous and it can easily work well as a backup device for more advanced shooters. 

The X-T200 is one of the more affordable X-series cameras sporting a viewfinder – the main reason you’d opt for it over the X-A7. However, an occasionally unreliable eye sensor had us using the rear screen more often, pretty much as we would the X-A7 – a camera that’s cheaper to buy with the kit lens. Moreover, the superb X-T30 is also about the same price as the X-T200 at the time of writing, considering it’s been on shelves for about a year now, making it a much better choice even for beginners as they’ll get a camera they can grow with.

Pricing aside, the X-T200 is a very capable camera and does a much better job of bridging the gap between Fujifilm’s higher end X-series and entry-level bodies as compared to its predecessor. For beginners and sheer value, it remains one of the best mirrorless cameras you can buy.

Competition

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(Image credit: TechRadar)

Fujifilm X-A7

If it’s a beginner camera you’re after and you can live without a viewfinder, then you can save a decent chunk of change by opting for the X-A7 over the X-T200. It lacks a decent grip, but the camera ships with a leather strap that we’d recommend using. Image quality is superb with the X-A7, and a refreshed menu system has made it much more user friendly for those transitioning from smartphone photography to a ‘real’ camera. The fully articulating 3.5-inch 16:9 rear LCD is also something that will make beginners feel right at home.

Read our in-depth Fujifilm X-A7 review

(Image credit: Canon)

Canon EOS M6 Mark II

For those who can’t decide whether a viewfinder is essential or not should look to Canon’s newest APS-C mirrorless camera. The EOS M6 Mark II has a removable OLED EVF, along with specs to outdo the X-T200 – a 32.5MP high-res sensor and a burst speed of 14fps. It’s an excellent traveling companion and a superb option for vlogging as well, but it does cost more than the X-T200. 

Read our in-depth Canon EOS M6 Mark II review

(Image credit: Future)

Sony Alpha A6100

It’s a Sony camera, meaning you’re getting the best autofocus system there is. In fact, we’ll go so far as to say that it’s the best entry-level APS-C mirrorless camera Sony has produced till date. Not only is the AF system class-leading, the battery life is also excellent, as is the image quality. However, this camera also suffers from low buffer memory, and very limited touchscreen functionality.

Read our in-depth Sony Alpha A6100 review

(Image credit: Future)

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

This has long been one of our favourite mirrorless cameras, but where all the aforementioned cameras feature an APS-C sensor, this Olympus has a micro four thirds 16MP sensor. While that kind of resolution sounds quite low these days, the E-M10 Mark III is a highly capable camera that produces excellent images. You’ll also get the added benefit of in-body image stabilization (IBIS). That said, its autofocus system is not as capable as the X-T200’s and its menu system is too complicated to call it beginner-friendly. But you do get plenty of Art Filters to have some fun with.

Read our in-depth Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III review

Fujifilm X-T200: Price Comparison

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Sharmishta is TechRadar’s APAC Managing Editor and loves all things photography, something she discovered while chasing monkeys in the wilds of India (she studied to be a primatologist but has since left monkey business behind). While she’s happiest with a camera in her hand, she’s also an avid reader and has become a passionate proponent of ereaders, having appeared on Singaporean radio to talk about the convenience of these underrated devices. When she’s not testing camera kits or the latest in e-paper tablets, she’s discovering the joys and foibles of smart home gizmos. She’s also the Australian Managing Editor of Digital Camera World and, if that wasn’t enough, she contributes to T3 and Tom’s Guide, while also working on two of Future’s photography print magazines Down Under.

The best shot: choosing the right camera

The quality of the picture primarily depends on the camera, if we talk only about the technical aspect. For many years, the leading positions in the photo gadget market have been shared by Canon and Nikon DSLRs.

Since the days of film, it has been thought that a professional camera should be equipped with a reflex viewfinder. But today everything is not so clear. In 2017, Sony became the leader of the ratings. Their ILCE-9 mirrorless camera demonstrates features that were previously considered possible only with representatives of the mirror type.

Professionals and amateurs argue endlessly about which camera is better, and manufacturers regularly announce new features. Modern cameras produce high-quality 4K video, are equipped with smart autofocus, sensitive touch displays and a dozen automatic modes, with which even novice photographers can take high-quality pictures.

How to choose a professional camera

Are professional cameras really better than amateur ones, or is this a marketing ploy? Try to choose a camera by features, and you will be amazed at the wide price range of models with almost identical interiors.

It is very difficult to make a mistake in choosing a professional camera. As a rule, such models are presented in the most expensive lines.

All about professional photography

Cameras designed for photojournalism are considered professional. A camera for a photographer “in the field” is a specialized working tool, and the requirements for it are specific. Such devices are used in sports championships, races and iconic global events. They are distinguished from the general background:

  • Indestructibility and decent dimensions. Reliability is important for a professional camera. A plus is a dust- and moisture-proof case, as well as a long battery life. Using the professional Canon EOS-1D X Mark II or Mark III cameras, the photographer can fully rely on automation, even if the shooting lasts for many hours at a time.

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  • Shutter life designed for difficult atmospheric conditions.
  • Accurate and fast autofocus.
  • Quality matrix.
  • High speed.
  • Special fast format memory cards.

SLR cameras Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, Canon EOS 7D Mark II, Nikon D850, Pentax KP – premium professional models. They are designed to withstand increased workloads, support high processing speed and fast autofocus.

The high technology announced in premium cameras is pre-tested on cheaper cameras. So unless you’re planning to go to the Paris-Dakar rally or haute couture week, and your photographs aren’t paying hundreds of dollars yet, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on a professional camera.

What kind of camera to choose, so as not to go broke and get a decent working tool? The market offers a huge selection of models with excellent performance at an affordable cost. Canon PowerShot Professional Camera (G7X Mark III) features a multi-layer CMOS sensor, OIS and 2x zoom, shutter speed from 1/25600 to 30 seconds, 180° flip LCD selfie screen, all for $650 – in 10 times cheaper than the top cameras of the Mark family.

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Many online stores, such as Amazon or B&H Photo Video, regularly publish reviews of new products, make ratings based on the number of sales and positive reviews, as well as tests and comparisons that help the buyer to understand which camera model to choose.

Features of professional cameras

The operation of any camera can be conditionally divided into two stages:

  1. the photographer focuses and evaluates the exposure;
  2. light hits the matrix, the signal is processed and recorded in the camera’s memory.

According to the shooting stages, the following are important for the quality of the photograph:

  • focusing system. It is precisely its fine adjustment that allows you to get a sharp picture. In the viewfinder, you can see the operation of the focus sensors in the form of rectangles. In cameras there are linear and cross sensors. For professional cameras, it is considered necessary to have 9 or more cross focus points.
  • metering system. In professional cameras, the possibility of fine exposure compensation is implemented, when the photographer can adjust the parameters without relying on automation.
  • matrix and signal processing system. There are various models of matrix and processors, options for processing images, and their combinations.

Optics

The optical characteristics of cameras are very important for photography. Each device is equipped with a lens or set of lenses. The main quality criterion is the focal length (in millimeters).

Camera lens can be:

  • standard with 45-55mm focal length. Models such as the Canon EOS Rebel 800D (T7i) professional camera provide a picture from the perspective of human vision;
  • Wide 24-35mm. With Canon PowerShot A2400 IS you can go to landscape and interior shooting.
  • ultra wide , like the Sony Alpha 7C, with a 7–24mm focal length. Choice of press photographers and wedding photographers.

telephoto lenses with a focal length of 85-300 mm are also available in the online shops. Increased aperture settings allow you to take pictures in poor light conditions. Telephoto lenses such as the Sigma are in demand for location shooting, field reporting and sports competitions.

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Manufacturers offer a wide range of compatible optics and accessories. However, not every lens will fit the chosen camera. For example, in the eternal competitors of Nikon and Canon, they even unscrew in opposite directions.

Nikon D3500 professional DSLR comes with two lenses out of the box. This solution is suitable for beginners and those who are planning to upgrade or expand their fleet of backup cameras.

The best camera: how to choose a resolution

Resolution is a parameter indicating the number of photosensitive points of the matrix, more precisely, the maximum image size in pixels. 5-megapixel and 25-megapixel devices are on sale. The resolution of a professional camera should be sufficient for large scale printing.

Pay attention to the shutter lag – the delay between pressing the shutter button and the start of the frame exposure. Professional cameras can shoot bursts at full resolution at 16 frames per second. In this case, a continuous series can last up to 150 or more frames.

Number of megapixels

Oddly enough, hundreds of megapixels are absolutely not needed for a good camera. What’s more, the 5-megapixel camera is capable of capturing great photos. The number of megapixels is directly proportional to the maximum size of a printed or displayed photo. For example, photos taken with a Canon IVY CLIQ 2 camera with a 5-megapixel sensor can be printed in high quality at a size of 152×216 mm. And on a 16-megapixel Panasonic Lumix DMC-G85 camera – on a sheet of 305×406 mm. That is, the more pixels, the larger the resulting image can be.

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In the specifications of the camera, you can find one more parameter – the size of the matrix, that is, the physical diagonal. The larger it is, the better the picture quality and less noise in low light conditions.

RAW support

RAW is an image file format. In RAW, everything that is caught by the photosensitive elements of the camera’s matrix is ​​\u200b\u200bfixed. That is, it contains more original information. In the process of processing, converting the image into the final image, this gives certain advantages, for example, it prevents the merging of shades.

Sports photography

For a professional camera, the subject’s speed is not a problem. Nikon D6 is a professional camera that manages to make 14 frames per second and capture jet planes flashing in the sky. The photographer will have to choose the best shot, and all of them will be correctly overexposed and in focus.

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Modern cameras are equipped with highly stabilized sensors. For example, in Sony Alpha 9camera shift is compensated by an optical stabilizer along five axes. The effect is preserved even when working with third-party optics installed through an adapter.

Lenses greatly expand the possibilities of photographers. In a specialized store, you can buy both a universal zoom for a hundred dollars, and a super-telephoto lens that costs more than a mid-range car, like the Sigma APO 200-500mm f/2.8 EX DG Lens for Canon EF.

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Aerial photography

Today a photographer can show familiar things from completely unexpected angles. A bird’s-eye view opens up unprecedented horizons for photography. The market offers flying drones with cameras that take photos and videos in resolutions ranging from 720p to 4K.

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Light sensitivity and noise level

Sensitivity is a characteristic of the camera that allows you to take pictures in different lighting conditions. The parameter characterizes the sensitivity of the matrix or film (in film cameras) to light. The higher the sensitivity, the less ambient light is needed to get a good photo. In the characteristics, this indicator is indicated in conventional ISO units. In professional cameras, shooting capabilities are brought to perfection. The photographer can shoot in semi-darkness, by the light of candles and a dim light bulb.

Light sensitivity and aperture ratio are not synonymous. Light sensitivity refers to the parameters of the camera, and aperture is the digital value of the lens aperture when it is at its maximum open position.

There are always noises in digital photos. They are called noise and are completely invisible at minimum ISO. In poor light, the shutter speed is lengthened, the level of sensitivity also increases, as well as the amount of interference. Digital noise leads to a deterioration in clarity and detail, and a decrease in image quality.

A good camera is equipped with noise reduction and other useful features. For example, in the Nikon D780, the camera matrix cannot boast of high megapixel values, but it has back-illumination technology that allows you to place large light-sensitive pixels across the entire area of ​​\u200b\u200bthe sensor.

Night and landscape photography

Professional cameras shoot in almost any environment. And traditionally, the camera may not have a built-in flash. Nikon D6 it is unnecessarily. Poor illumination of night streets or a dimly lit room will not hurt to get clear pictures without a tripod and additional lighting.

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Color accuracy is important for landscape, nature and fashion photography. Here you need a high resolution camera. Today, bulky studio devices have been replaced by compact, convenient models with many automatic functions. Quality comes first with the Hasselblad X1D-50c professional medium format mirrorless camera. The linear dimensions of its sensor of 50 megapixels are one and a half times higher than full-frame cameras (43. 8×32.9 mm), which allows you to work with a minimum depth of field.

General rules for choosing a camera

Most often, when it comes to professional cameras, we mean working tools for those who are planning or already engaged in commercial photography. These photographers need solutions that provide maximum image quality when shooting in a variety of conditions and without a specific genre reference.

For different purposes and photographers, the factors for choosing a camera will vary, but the basic ones remain:

  • ergonomics and ease of use;
  • functionality;
  • performance.

Selecting a professional camera for a specific purpose

There are several approaches to evaluating the quality of images in professional photography. The photographer must clearly understand for what purposes he plans to use this or that tool. Decide whether the ability to shoot in extreme conditions is important to you, where high resolution is not a paramount parameter, or accurate color reproduction and the highest possible resolution should be the main criterion, even at the expense of size, weight, camera speed and convenience for the photographer.

How much does a professional camera cost?

Professional cameras are usually part of an ecosystem that includes many different lenses, accessories and attachments. A good camera will give your pictures depth, atmosphere, sharpness and confidence in the frame even in difficult lighting conditions.

Before buying, ask yourself if you really need a professional camera. Of course, any photographer dreams of the best equipment, but many iconic photographs were taken on simple cameras and even on a smartphone. Many photographers prefer to improve the performance of their technique with new lenses.

Let’s look at examples of how much a professional camera costs. If you really want PROs, be prepared to start at $1,000, and you’ll have to shell out the same amount for each lens.

For $2000-3000 on Amazon, you can choose a universal camera that will be appreciated by both a seasoned professional and an advanced amateur. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Nikon D850, Sony a7R III are especially popular in this category. Nikon D750 or Fujifilm X-Pro3 will cost a little less.

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Experienced shoppers know that any professional model becomes cheaper after the release of a new improved camera. In addition, manufacturers are constantly expanding the functionality of devices. If a couple of years ago only top models shot 4K video, today even budget-level cameras can do it. In the upper price segment, technology is improving at breakneck speed, spreading to cheaper models. Nikon D3500 can be bought for $500. It has a 24.2-megapixel sensor, the same as cameras three times more expensive, and an excellent speed of 5 frames per second. For about the same price on Amazon, you can find the Canon EOS Rebel T7 / EOS 2000D or Pentax K-70. Equipped with nine cross-sensors and 11-point focusing, the model was a favorite of the line not so long ago.

Saving money when buying equipment is not always justified. However, there are certain life hacks that allow you not to make a difficult choice between cost and quality. One of them is monitoring the offers of foreign retailers. “Catch” discounts and promotions, ask for current prices from price aggregators and choose the best offer. You don’t have to worry about delivery from abroad: the NP Shopping service will carefully and carefully deliver the package to Ukraine.

P.S. The prices indicated in the article are current as of the end of November 2020.

Which camera to choose for portrait photography

There are several different branches in portrait photography, and the choice of camera for portrait photography depends, among other things, on the specifics of the portraits that you plan to shoot. So, for example, the beauty direction requires maximum detail and the ability to print such photos in a large format, since beauty portraits are most often used for advertising purposes. Accordingly, the best camera for professional beauty photography should have the maximum number of megapixels. When it comes to shooting an emotional portrait, the quality of the picture fades into the background, which means that the best camera for an emotional portrait is simply the camera that you have at hand. Nevertheless, there are nuances in this genre, and today we will talk about them. We will consider only Canon cameras. In fact, cameras from other brands are great for portraiture. For example, Nikon, Fuji, Pentax, Sony… They all know how to make cameras and the result in portrait shooting will be no worse than that of Canon, but there are two points that make us devote a separate article to Canon cameras.

The first, and in our opinion the most important, is that Canon cameras have the best color reproduction. Yes, if you color-correct your portraits after shooting them in professional editors like Lightroom or Capture One, you will get great colors in portraits with any camera. But, if you’re using shots directly from the camera, Canon will probably please you more than another brand’s camera.

The second thing that puts Canon in the top spot when it comes to choosing the best camera for shooting portraits is accessibility for testing. Today, Canon is the best-selling brand. And, if you want to choose a new lens or flash, then out of ten of your friends with cameras, five will most likely have a Canon, and you will most likely find among these friends someone who already has the lens you are interested in and, at least get his opinion. And if your friend is kind to you, then test the lens on your device.

So, we agreed that today we will choose a Canon camera for portrait shooting. Well, this brand has a fairly wide range. And, perhaps, it makes sense to start with the choice of mount (mounting the lens to the camera body). At the moment there are three of them. For each type of mount on the camera body, you need a lens with the same type of mount. For example, an EF mount camera requires EF lenses.

Let’s start with mirrorless cameras.

Canon EOS M for portrait shooting, we probably will not consider. These are compact APS-C mirrorless cameras. They are great for travel. But for this type of camera, portrait lenses have not yet been released. And given that a mirrorless full-frame camera with a new Canon EOS-R mount was released this year, all portrait solutions from Canon in the future will most likely be concentrated there.

So, the Canon EOS-R is a full-frame mirrorless camera and is the first (and so far only) with an “R” mount. Perhaps the best camera for capturing an emotional portrait. And with most of the tasks that arise during portrait beauty shooting, it will do just fine. 30 megapixels is pretty decent. In the genre we’re talking about, it’s important to capture emotion. And we know that portraits are most often interesting at a shallow depth of field, but the eyes must be in focus. Not an easy task for many DSLRs, but with the Canon EOS-R you’ll have more great shots. This camera is able to recognize the face and focus on the eye, independently looking for this eye. An almost indispensable feature in portrait photography. To date, not so many lenses have been released for this camera, but there are solutions we need. In fact, three of the four lenses in this series can be used for portraits.

RF 50mm f/1.2L USM – Suitable for bust portraits and wider shots. If you take larger shots with a focal length of 50mm than the chest shot, the geometry of the face will begin to be distorted. The nose will increase, the face will stretch. Whether you want it or not is up to you. But bust portraits with this lens will look great. The
RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM is a good portrait lens. The only point that can be very conditionally attributed to shortcomings is not the brightest aperture. 9The 0233 RF 28-70mm f/2L USM is another great lens for portrait photography, and here the aperture will please us.

It should be noted that for the Canon EOS-R, the manufacturer has released an adapter that allows you to install EF series lenses on this camera. And accordingly, with this camera, all portrait lenses of the EF series, both from Canon and from third-party manufacturers, will be available to you. RF lenses will be faster than EF with adapter, but the difference in speed is not so noticeable as to write off this series. We believe that mirrorless cameras are the future in portrait photography and the Canon EOS-R is a worthy representative.

So, a short summary of the Canon EOS-R. In our opinion, this is the best camera for shooting portraits.

Advantages:

  • Face detection and eye focusing
  • Compact dimensions
  • Possibility to control the focus point using the touch display

Disadvantages:

  • High price
  • There are currently few lenses that can be used with this camera without an adapter

Recommended lens for this camera for portraits: RF 28-70mm f/2L USM.

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Now let’s talk about SLR cameras for portrait shooting and start with the camera that is best for beauty shooting.

Since detail is very important in beauty portraits, the unequivocal flagship here will be the Canon EOS 5DS R with its 50 megapixels. In second place is Canon EOS 5DS, it also has 50 megapixels, and the only difference between Canon EOS 5DS R and Canon EOS 5DS is the design of the filter installed in front of the matrix. Thanks to this design, in the Canon EOS 5DS R we get a sharper picture, but the camera will also cost more.

It is worth noting that with so many megapixels, in order to get a portrait of the quality that the camera is capable of delivering, you need an appropriate lens capable of transmitting such a detailed picture. It makes sense to use such a camera only with professional L-series lenses.

Separately, it makes sense to say that for beauty portraits, the Canon EOS 5DS R is often paired with the EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM macro lens. This allows you to get maximum detail, in which the viewer can see each pore.

The use of the macro lens in portrait photography

Now that we’re talking about detail, let’s discuss the role of the macro lens in portrait photography. Such lenses are used only in beauty portraits. They are designed so that when shooting, the photographer can get maximum micro-contrast. As a result, all pores and cilia are perfectly visible. But at the same time, even a healthy person with excellent skin learns a lot of new and interesting things about himself. Therefore, macro portraits undergo thorough and painstaking post-processing, usually in Adobe Photoshop. After such processing, the viewer sees in detail the beautiful makeup and the model with perfectly clean skin. If you’re not ready for the thoughtful work on your photos in Adobe Photoshop, don’t aim for detail.

When shooting an emotional portrait, such detail is usually not needed, and portrait lenses are just designed to smooth out micro-contrast and, along with it, minor skin defects that are unnecessary for the viewer.

So, the Canon EOS 5DS R is the best camera for beauty portraits.

The advantages of this camera:

  • Excellent detail
  • High resolution images

Drawbacks:

  • High price
  • The camera reveals its capabilities only with expensive lenses
  • Unable to recognize faces and find eyes

Recommended lens for this camera: EF 100mm f/2. 8L Macro IS USM.

Let’s take a look at some more SLR cameras for capturing an emotional portrait.

The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is an excellent camera, it fits in all parameters, but not cheap. This camera is the best DSLR for capturing emotional portraits.

Advantages:

  • Fast and accurate focusing in all modes
  • Handles high ISO
  • well

  • Wide dynamic range

Disadvantages:

  • High price
  • Unable to recognize faces and find eyes

Recommended portrait lens for this camera: EF 135mm f/2L USM.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III – out of production, but still available. Just as good as the Mark IV, but doesn’t have a built-in WI-FI module. And in live view it focuses more slowly.

Canon EOS 6D Mark II – if Canon positions the SLR cameras discussed above as professional, then this is a camera for enthusiasts. It doesn’t do well at high ISOs, and the portraits it shoots will have slightly less midtones in the transitions from highlights to darks. These will still be great shots, just when compared with the same Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, you can feel the difference.

Pros:

Most affordable full frame camera

Weaknesses:

  • Cannot recognize faces and find eyes
  • Worse than the full-frame cameras discussed above cope with high ISO

Well, and Canon EOS 800D – a camera with which it is quite possible to start the path of a portrait photographer. This camera has a smaller physical size of the matrix than those discussed above. This leads to a further reduction in the number of semitones. But in portrait photography, this is far from a critical indicator. Often portraits are made with contrast, and in contrast shots, the breadth of the halftone range is a very minor indicator. Also, this camera does not have such high wear resistance and the degree of dust and moisture protection as those discussed above. But, again, we are talking about portrait photography – far from the most aggressive genre, if we talk about the operating conditions of photographic equipment.
We named the Canon EOS 800D the best budget camera for all types of portraiture.

Advantages:

  • Cost
  • Small size and weight

Weaknesses:

  • Cannot recognize faces and find eyes
  • Worse than the cameras discussed above cope with high ISO
  • Fewer halftones than the cameras discussed above

Recommended lens for this camera: EF 85mm f/1.8 USM.

So, we’ve looked at Canon cameras that you should pay attention to in portrait photography. I think it is not necessary to ignore the lenses designed primarily for portraiture. The

EF 135mm f/2L USM is one of the best lenses for portrait photography, but due to its long focal length it is suitable for full frame cameras and not very suitable for crop sensor cameras (such as the Canon EOS 800D). The

EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM is an excellent portrait lens when the field of view is too narrow at 135mm. It is heavy, less sharp and slow compared to the EF 135mm. Besides, it’s more expensive. But on the other hand, the aperture opens up to f / 1.2, and in general it draws a soft picture, blurring the background beautifully.

EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM – Cheaper, faster, sharper, lighter than the EF 85mm f/1.2L. But it is inferior to those discussed above in the beauty of blurring the background and chromatic aberrations appear more often in it.

EF 85mm f/1.8 USM – Above we talked about professional series portrait lenses, and this is a lens for enthusiasts. Image sharpness is midway between 85mm f/1.2L and 85mm f/1.4L. Among the shortcomings – chromatic aberrations are not so rare. Nevertheless, the lens is quite worthy of attention and I would recommend it as a pair to the Canon EOS 800D camera.

Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens for Canon EF – I want to draw your attention to a third-party portrait lens for Canon. This is a great lens and well worth the money. It is sharp and has a beautiful background blur (bokeh).

We have deliberately left out the Canon EOS 80D and EOS 77D cameras, which are designed more for reportage than portrait photography. If we talk specifically about portraits, then at a higher price than the EOS 800D, they have the same picture quality. Their advantage is in the speed of access to control functions. This speed is important in reportage photography, but is of very minor importance in portrait photography.

Canon EOS 200D is also not included in the list of recommended cameras, because it is not significantly inferior in price to the Canon EOS 800D, but noticeably lags behind in ergonomics.

In conclusion, let’s briefly go over our nominations again.

Best emotional portrait camera: Canon EOS-R, which we recommend paired with the RF 28-70mm f/2L USM lens.

Best beauty portrait camera: Canon EOS 5DS R. We recommend it with the EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens.

The best budget camera for all types of portrait photography: Canon EOS 800D and the best lens for it – EF 85mm f/1.8 USM.

Finally, the best EF mount DSLR for emotional portraiture: the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with the EF 135mm f/2L USM lens.