First Time Buyer Looking for Purchase Advice

FrostyToast

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Hello,
As the title would have you know, I am looking to purchase my first real camera.
$400USD is my budget. I would preferably like to keep in the mid 300s, but I'll be willing to sink in $400, or even slightly more if I am convinced the purchase is worth it. Though, I do want something that's good out of the box; I am on a budget and I can't afford to buy just a body.
Here are the main points for what I am looking for
  • decent low light (nothing magic, but incandescent lighting and terribly lit convention floors are where I will be spending my time.)
  • compact
  • macro capability
  • no video required; point & shoot cameras are fine
I have asked around a little prior to this and my recommendations included:
Lumix DMC-ZS50, a6000, and the Lumix DMC-LX100.
However, I need more insight before making such a big purchase as I don't know all of the options out there and I don't fully understand what the comparisons between each model are.

Thank you
 

goodguy

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I think for your needs the Nikon D3300 will be perfect with its kit lens Nikon 18-55mm
Its a wonderful camera (I know I own it and use it professionally) and its kit lens will give you good image quality and capabilities you will need to begin your journey in the photography world.
If you will want to do serious macro work you will have to buy a macro lens no matter what camera system you will get.
 
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FrostyToast

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Thank you for the suggestion!
It looks like a good choice, but it seems slightly larger than the three options I mentioned in the OP.
What advantages does the Nikon have over the other options I have been given?
Compactness is fairly important to me and I would want good reason to give it up if I have to.
 

Solarflare

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What advantages does the Nikon have over the other options I have been given? Compactness is fairly important to me and I would want good reason to give it up if I have to.
Its much shorter to ask for the disadvantages; which would be size and weight.

Otherwise the advantages are:
- Colors right out of camera
- High ISO / Lowlight performance
- Dynamic range (ability to handle dark portions of the image)
- Color depth (precision to determine colors)
- Choices for lenses
- Quality of lenses
- Operation speed (esp compared to most compact cameras)
- Autofocus performance, especially with moving subjects
- Metering quality
- Ergonomics
- Flash system
- Quality of customer support
etc etc etc

It an entry level DSLR. There is nothing beating the bang for a buck ratio of an entry level DSLR from Nikon or Canon.

And IMHO: if you want an actually compact camera you should probably go for something like the Sony RX100 line; personally I fancy the Mark II (theres currently Mark I to IV). These actually fit into a pocket, even of a trouser, which one of the cameras you mentioned would manage.
 

JoeW

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I won't talk about point-and-shoots...I don't have much experience with them. The reality is that for under $300, if you aren't looking at used and you want compact, a point-and-shoot is your best option. It will be small and lots of under $300 options.

Now...that being said, there is no point-and-shoot that is going to be comparable to even a decent starter DSLR when it comes to low light performance (especially if you aren't using a popup flash). I'm serious. If you're talking about shooting indoors and you can't use a flash, there is probably NO point-and-shoot that will be sufficient. None. B/c for that kind of environment you need to do two things: manipulate the ISO and put on a lens that has a very wide aperture...and a point-and-shoot won't allow for the second (and most won't be great at the first).

Look at the Nikon D3XXX series. Someone recommended the D3300...fine starter camera but I might actually suggest one of the earlier models (like a D3000 or D3100). Then you want to combine it with a Nikon 35mm f1.8DX lens. Here's what that combination gets you:
--it will be as small and as light as you can get with a DSLR. The only way to get smaller and lighter is to go with a point-and-shoot (which has issues for what you want) or a mirrorless camera. The 35mm f1.8 lens is a fine wide angle lens for group shots or interiors or buildings, it is very small, very light and very tough. The Nikon D3xxx series is smaller and lighter than almost all DSLRs b/c it doesn't have an autofocus motor in the body (saving space and weight)...it relies on the lens to have an autofocus motor (and the 35mm f1.8DX lens does).
--it will be excellent in low light. I didn't say "good" I said "excellent." That camera and that lens will match the low light performance (with no speed lights or popup flashes allowed) of camera and lens options that are $1,000 more expensive. Seriously--if you're looking for an inexpensive performer who will be fine in low light, that's a good combination. If you're looking to shoot in low light indoors without using a popup flash, you're better off trying to use a good camera phone than most point-and-shoots.
--white balance. Shooting in conventions means stuff like: a mixture of lighting (incandescent, CFLs, LED). And without the ability to change WB to compensate, you'll get people who have yellow skin, green skin...alien-looking beings. Most point-and-shoot options won't handle WB especially well...a DSLR will allow you to adjust for that for effectively.

You can buy a D3000 and a 35mm f1.8DX lens for $400. If you get a used body then probably $300 or maybe even less than that. It's up to you to decide and I think you've got two questions:
1. Will a good camera phone work for you? If so, that will likely be superior to a point-and-shoot for your purposes. It will be better in poor light and smaller than a POS.
2. If you really need to shoot in poor light without any kind of flash, is a smallish DSLR acceptable to you? If so, than a D3000 with a 35mm f1.8DX lens will beat the crap out of any point-and-shoot option you're looking at when it comes to ambient light settings in a convention halls and meeting rooms.
 

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