Camera for Family Needs – Which Way to Go?

Even though this topic has been touched on numerous occasions, I still get asked this one question rather often – which camera to buy? For someone who’s into photography, it is a very vague question. Almost impossible to answer without additional context as it spawns a number of followup questions – what are you planning to photograph? Are you going to invest more into the system? What lenses would you like to own? Are you planning to take up photography professionally? And for a beginner to be able to answer all these questions in return requires a certain amount of research. Truth is, not everyone is looking to take up photography professionally or even invest into more than one additional lens to accompany the kit zoom. A lot of people really only want a camera for family pictures – something a bit more capable than your average compact, something that would work in darker environments and be able to defocus the background a bit more, too, because it makes images look prettier. And the answer to the first question is usually very simple – everything.

Family Portraits

NIKON D700 + 50mm f/1.4 @ 50mm, ISO 320, 1/160, f/2.8

Interestingly enough, for such buyers it is really a question of which type of camera to choose rather than which model, or at least it should be. And I am talking about the ever-heated mirrorless vs DSLR debate, of course. Now, we’ve discussed this with professional photography in mind before, but we’ve never really talked about it when choosing a camera for simple, casual, everyday family needs. When you look at it that way, it’s not really a heated debate anymore, it’s just a matter of what works best for someone who just wants a tool to take better pictures of their children and friends without ever having to think about the settings and features. So this time, I will ask the more knowledgeable readers to stand back a little and let the more casual buyers come forward, for in this article I will try and highlight the biggest differences between DSLR and mirrorless cameras from the perspective of such a buyer in the very simplest language, so that’s it’s easy to understand no matter what is your level of knowledge. There will be no “ISO’s”, apertures and shutter speeds here, just simple tips and conclusions which should help you narrow down your choice and stop jumping back and forth between the bigger and seemingly more capable DSLR and less impressive visually, but that much less bulky compact system cameras.

First Things First – What are the Options?

So, you’re not happy with the pictures you are getting from that tiny pocket camera. It’s sort of slow to react and takes a second to snap that photograph after you pressed the shutter button, doesn’t it? It’s probably even worse anywhere near dim light and the images are not only soft-looking and a little washed out, but also have those weird blotches of smeared color in those conditions. The good thing is you can take it anywhere you go, but once you are there, it’s not very comfortable to hold, is it? The buttons are tiny and it’s hard to keep it steady at arms length when photographing. So you grew tired of it, especially after seeing images like this one:

Sony NEX-6 Review (17)

NEX-6 + E 50mm F1.8 OSS @ 50mm, ISO 400, 1/160, f/4.0

No blotches, no softness to speak of. Well, only a few years ago your only option would be buying a DSLR camera. It is one of those cameras that you bring up to your eye to compose the image and not hold it at arms length. It also has big grip for your hand and a larger lens at the front which makes for very comfortable handling. And the lenses come off, too. The best thing about it is the quality of the images, though. It is nothing like a pocket camera, especially in dim light. Suddenly, you don’t even need to pop the flash, something that rarely, if ever, makes a photograph look pretty. True enough, for the last decade or so digital SLR cameras have been the only step forward from a compact point-ant-shoot camera, and, by all means, they excel at that.

Canon 700D Rebel T5i

These so-called DSLR cameras look similar to the one shown above, correct? Now, though, there is another option. It’s not better or worse precisely, just different. You could see this new kind of cameras to be like a sort of a hybrid between a compact camera and a DSLR. A camera that attempts to merge strong points from both those camps. And you know what? Mirrorless or compact system cameras – they can be called either way – have done pretty much that. You’ve also most likely heard about these new cameras if you have friends who enjoy photography and follow such news, or maybe even seen them – for the last couple of years it’s been the new big thing in the market. In case you haven’t heard of them or seen them, this is how mirrorless cameras generally look like:

Sony NEX-3N vs Sony NEX-F3

Naturally, these are specifically Sony cameras. Olympus cameras look a little different, as do Fujifilm cameras. There’s generally a little more variation in terms of design between different mirrorless cameras than there is between DSLR cameras and one of the reasons is very simple – their design is style driven as much as ergonomically dependent. Still, when talking about the more affordable models a basic formula applies – compact camera-like “bodies” (that’s how the bit without the lens attacked is called) with seemingly over-sized lenses attached to them.

Now you know how to distinguish one from another, and a compact camera from a mirrorless camera (the latter also has removable lenses, naturally). But that’s just the surface, the way these cameras look has no effect on the image quality they are capable of producing. So, what are the real differences and which one should you go for?

DSLR and Mirrorless – What Are the Differences?

Now that you know the two ways that you can take, it’s time to weigh the strong and weak points of each one so that you can make a well considered decision. I will outline the main advantages one type of camera has over the other, starting with mirrorless.

Mirrorless Camera Advantages

  • Size – the most obvious difference between mirrorless and DSLR cameras is the size. The former are much, much more compact. You would not call them pocket cameras by any means, but the majority of high-end mirrorless cameras are actually more compact than the smallest DSLRs. Here is a roughly accurate comparison of two similarly priced cameras, one of each type:
    Mirrorless vs DSLR size comparison

    Now, this is not exactly an apples to apples comparison, these cameras don’t have identical features and the DSLR is potentially capable of delivering somewhat better results technically. It’s also among the most compact DSLR cameras currently available, yet the mirrorless camera next to it is absolutely tiny. I can not stress enough the importance of the size aspect. Trust me, you are much more likely to take a small camera with you wherever you go than a larger one. Perhaps not at first due to all the excitement, but once the joy over owning a new camera wears off a little and you start to use it more and not just play around with the functions, small size is something you will appreciate. Generally, I would recommend looking for a camera of such size that you could fit it into whichever bag (or purse) you carry around with you. That way, you won’t even need to bother with a second bag just for the camera.

  • Weight – almost as important as compact dimensions is the weight of the camera. You see, cameras tend to get bigger and heavier with time. Not literally, of course, a camera does not grow, but it does start to feel heavier. The more you use it, the more you sense how inconvenient it can sometimes be to carry a camera around due to its size and weight, and the more you want something smaller and lighter. So why not start with small and light from the very beginning?
  • Simplicity – a lot of low-end mirrorless cameras are designed specifically for people moving up from compact cameras and as such are made to be very simple to use and understand. You won’t find many buttons or dials on these cameras, so you won’t have to worry about accidentally changing a setting and not knowing about it, for example. Everything is set up for your convenience and in such a way as to deliver saturated, pleasant images right from the start. In some cases, there won’t even be a learning curve – just a noticeable jump in image quality.
  • Behind the Tree

    NIKON D700 @ 85mm, ISO 400, 1/200, f/3.2

  • Style – whether this particular point is important or not is very subjective, but it’s hard to argue that mirrorless cameras tend to be a bit more stylish. I won’t say much here – just look at the image of a DSLR camera next to an Olympus mirrorless camera above. The DSLR is, no doubt, very impressive and “professional” looking, but as far as design goes it’s actually rather bland next to the stylish Olympus Pen camera.
  • Discretion – if your little one is particularly camera shy, you probably want him or her not to notice that he’s being photographed at least sometimes. Mirrorless cameras hold an advantage here and not just because they are smaller – generally, they tend to be quieter, too (so long as you turn all the sounds off).

DSLR Camera Advantages

  • Size – you might be lost at this point and want to ask me “wait, what?” and yes, I did say size was an advantage that mirrorless cameras held over DSLRs which are bigger and less convenient to carry around. Yet when it comes to actually holding the camera, size turns into comfort. It may not be so important if you have fairly small hands, but for those with larger hands, especially men, mirrorless cameras will only be slightly more comfortable than compact point-and-shoot cameras. So if you plan to photograph a lot, this is something you might want to consider.
  • Fuji X-E1 Sample (29)

    X-E1 + XF35mmF1.4 R @ 35mm, ISO 200, 1/900, f/2.8

  • Optical Viewfinder – most affordable mirrorless cameras don’t have an electronic viewfinder, the small eyepiece that lets you photograph by bringing the camera to your eye. All DSLRs have such a feature, only when you look through the viewfinder, you are not looking at a tiny screen, you are looking through the actual lens mounted on your camera and see what is happening in real time without any delay. This is useful for two reasons. Firstly, it is more comfortable to use an optical viewfinder (OVF) or an electronic viewfinder (EVF) in sunny weather. Secondly, holding a camera to your eye often proves to be more stable than holding it at arms length, especially if the camera is lightweight. It’s especially true in dim light when shaky hands may result in blurry images. If this feature is necessary to you for that added bit of comfort whilst photographing, but otherwise you’d prefer a mirrorless camera and your budget allows it, make sure to buy one with an electronic viewfinder or buy one separately (some compact camera systems have external, removable electronic viewfinders). But even then, looking at a tiny screen is more stressful for the eyes than looking through a set of lenses. Some prefer optical viewfinders whilst others admire EVFs more, but in the end all DSLR cameras have one of the options, no matter the price point.
  • Battery – DSLR cameras tend to have bigger batteries than their mirrorless counterparts, and also use a bit less energy if you use the optical viewfinder to compose the image. All in all, you may be able to take several times more photographs on a single charge than with a mirrorless camera and if you don’t photograph that often there might be no need to charge the battery for over a month. This is especially useful when traveling.
  • Speed – modern mirrorless cameras are not slow by any means, whether you are looking through images or photographing. There is no waiting around after you press the shutter button if that is what you’ve been used to so far. However, DSLR cameras generally are a bit more snappy in their operation, especially when it comes to quickly moving subjects (as children tend to be, for example).
Nikon D3200 Sample (4)

NIKON D3200 + 85mm f/3.5 @ 85mm, ISO 400, 1/400, f/5.6

What’s Equal?

  • Price – it seems reasonable to expect smaller, simpler cameras to be less expensive, but both mirrorless and DSLR systems are similarly priced. It’s difficult to compare directly, but there’s not that much difference for a given set of features.
  • Image Quality – here’s the big, important question. And the answer is simple – unless you want to buy a DSLR for $2000+, image quality will be more or less the same as that of mirrorless cameras. It’s something you do not expect given the compact dimensions of the later, and yet it is true. In this regard, Olympus cameras can lag a little bit behind other manufacturers in some situations, but then they are also the most compact of the lot.
  • Those Lovely Diffused Backgrounds – let’s be honest, everyone loves when backgrounds just melt away. Now, whilst this characteristic is a little bit more complicated to explain, both DSLR and mirrorless cameras have the same potential to pleasingly melt backgrounds and make your subjects stand out, certainly much more than any point-and-shoot could. What else is needed to achieve this is a topic for a new article.
  • Isn’t Gear Unimportant?

    You’ve probably heard a lot of photographers say time and time again – equipment does not matter. And, in most cases, it is true. But not in your case, and let me explain why. You see, in order for equipment not to matter, one needs to master light, composition and being able to use whatever tools he or she has to the fullest. In other words, one needs to be a very good photographer. Do you need a camera so that you may become one? Then you will, and whichever type of camera you get will not stand in your way to achieving that. However, if you’r just looking for something to capture precious family moments with, it’s the jump to more capable equipment that will make the most difference for you.

    Malika Posing

    NIKON D700 @ 85mm, ISO 200, 1/1000, f/2.0

    Having said that, I would strongly recommend learning at least a little bit about light, composition and the basic settings. After all, one should not drive a car without first learning how to do it. And it just so happens that we have a good place for you to start learning some of these things.

    Our Recommendations

    Whether you choose mirrorless or DSLR cameras, there are plenty of models to choose from. Here are some of the cameras we think are really good.

    DSLR Options

    Compact Camera System Options


    As you can see, both options are different, but objectively, neither one is better than the other. I did my best to describe the advantages of both types of cameras, the final decision is really up to you to make. Personally, I have a soft spot for DSLR cameras, but for anyone who just needs a tool for better family pictures I always recommend mirrorless first, and DSLR second simply because of the convenience granted by the small size and weight. That said, DSLRs have an advantage when it comes to comfort.

    Sony NEX-6 Review (16)

    NEX-6 + E 50mm F1.8 OSS @ 50mm, ISO 800, 1/4000, f/1.8

    The last thing I want to say is what I’ve been trying to not mention throughout the article, but I feel it can’t be avoided completely. For many years, the only option up from a compact point-and-shoot camera was a DSLR. It’s a tool that’s almost surrounded by a halo of sorts – for many who are not seriously into photography, DSLR looks serious and capable and professional. Hence, the person who owns a DSLR must be a professional. Nowadays, however, DSLR cameras are extremely common and simple to use, so don’t be influenced by a snobbish opinion that they are simply better for no specific reason. They are not, nor are they worse. Owner of a DSLR is not necessarily a professional, far from it. Likewise, compact camera system is the new big thing, they are popular, everyone talks about them. Professionals use them. And, like everything new, it’s a thing of fashion as much as a tool. Don’t be influenced by an opinion that they are somehow cooler than DSLR cameras, being newer in general. They are not, nor are DSLRs cooler. What matters is how you feel when using the tool, if its simple, if it gets out of your way and just lets you capture those great images for you and your family. What matters is which camera you think is cooler for you and suits you better. That is the one you should get.


  1. Profile photo of shawn 1) shawn
    July 30, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    For simple snapshots let’s be honest: a smartphone does the business.

    • July 30, 2014 at 1:06 pm

      Doing some quality images – in all senses of that word – with a smartphone requires more skill than it does with a dedicated digital camera, such as those mentioned in this article, Shawn. ;) Something I strongly believe in.

  2. 2) Max
    July 30, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    Hi Romanas,

    Maybe the new Olympus olympus om-d e-m10 is worth to mention. I bought it as a “weekend and holydayscamera” but in fact I am using it now more than my professional Nikon D800 at the moment. Great camera, a joy to use and still affordable (although a bit more expensive than the Nikon D3xxxx).

    • July 30, 2014 at 1:07 pm


      I thought about including it and then changed my mind. Don’t you think it’s a bit too complicated for a non-photographer? I haven’t used it so I am not sure myself.

      • 2.1.1) Max
        July 30, 2014 at 1:38 pm

        Maybe you are right although the nice thing about this camera that you can deny the more complicated features easily and use it as a “simple” camera. It also has a lot of features that makes it easier to use than the D3xxxx camera’s. I think focusing and shooting via the touchscreen is nice for amateurs. The extra DOF thanks to the smaller sensor makes photographing less critical. The movable touch screen is very nice and you get what you see in the viewfinder (+ all information you need). Face recognition is fantastic and makes photographing people a breeze. The camera is great for low light because even at F/2.8 or F/4 you still get a reasonable DOF. The camera is small light and feels much more sturdy than the D3200 (that I had before as my “weekend/holydays camera”). For myself this camera gives me much more control than the d3200 and so more keepers (and more fun!).

        • Profile photo of Nasim Mansurov Nasim Mansurov
          July 30, 2014 at 1:42 pm

          I agree, the OM-D E-M10 is a very nice camera – I have used it for a short period of time until it died on me (had to send mine back to B&H). It is very good value.

          • Max
            July 30, 2014 at 2:21 pm

            Oh, that is a pity! It scares me a bit that your OM-D E-M10 died so quickly (mine is still new and I travel a lot so I must trust the camera). Did he die by a shock or falling or other “normal” reason?

            • Profile photo of Nasim Mansurov Nasim Mansurov
              July 30, 2014 at 2:28 pm

              Max, no, its shutter mechanism broke. The camera would not turn on, having a blank LCD screen. The camera was never dropped, there was no physical damage at all…

            • Max
              July 30, 2014 at 2:35 pm

              Well, I hope this problem is rare or already solved by Olympus. On the other hand, it can happen to any camera. My Nikon D800 had to be send back to Nikon 2x…

              best whishes Max.

  3. 3) Joseph
    July 30, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    DSLR’s are far from simple to use properly!

    • July 30, 2014 at 1:30 pm

      I don’t think that’s true, there are plenty of DSLRs that are very simple. Makes sense since some of them are actually targeted at users who are coming from point-and-shoots ;) Naturally, I am not talking about D800’s and the like!

      • 3.1.1) Joseph
        July 30, 2014 at 1:49 pm

        If you leave them on auto or program!!

        • July 30, 2014 at 3:07 pm

          True, but I know for certain that low-end Nikon cameras have tips in camera that explain what aperture does to an image, etc. So – yes, in auto or program mode, but not only.

  4. 4) autofocusross
    July 30, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    Hi Romanas, interesting question. I think most compact camera owners know someone with ‘a proper’ camera and that would be the go-to person to ask advice. I am sure in most cases the ‘proper camera’ owner (ie DSLR owner) would point the enquiree to the wide range of DSLR’s available, those ‘entry level’ models in the Nikon range, for example, are not there for nothing.

    Nikon’s Marketing, and R&D departments beat you to it, I reckon.

    My example enquiree, above, would no doubt end up in a local camera dealership, after being told to get a DSLR by his mentor. At this point, as long as the sales staff are both sensitive and understanding, and not on commission to push a particular product that week, one would expect the purchase of a D3300 or D5300 at most. Why? Well, to fit a camera and two lenses into his or her budget (no doubt the purchaser will be aware of the fact that you should have more than one lens, that is the whole point of an interchangeable lens camera) unless the purchaser is well funded, and enthusiastic to learn, and well advised, a basic body to begin life as a dslr shooter, but lenses which can be retained when the body is upgraded, in time, is the normal path one would take.

    As to mirrorless, I haven’t looked at them since reading some rather indifferent reviews. When I start reading better reviews, I may take a look, but to be honest, I have my three nikon lenses, a sigma superwide, and a tamron macro, all in Nikon fit, so I would need huge motivation to change brands at this point.

    In some ways, I wish I was at the start of my experience with dSLR’s – I am so envious of the young beginners who will see, no doubt, incredible innovation in our hobby / profession in the coming decades.

    Ah well! :-)

  5. 5) Gary G
    July 30, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    Perfectly poor timing of this article for me as a brown box just arrived containing our new family camera. :) We spent a lot of time discussing what each family member needed because we somehow misplaced our point and shoot camera this month (it will surely reappear tomorrow now that it’s been replaced).

    I learned some pros and cons of using a Sony mirrorless camera during our last family vacation. Compared to my DSLR, the light mirrorless camera’s accessories and lenses were easily stowed in a small fanny pack — great because I was constantly changing lenses, batteries and SD cards while toting everything else. That said, using multiple lenses is a pain while being the chief photographer, driver, tour guide and bag-carrying Sherpa for the family.

    Note: bring lots of extra large cards because (in our case) we shot a lot of video at the amusement parks and during family activities. And the display takes a lot of battery power. Fortunately, I’d purchased extra batteries and a charger. Unfortunately, needed to get up in the middle of the night to reload the charger to recharge them all and needed to purchase several new cards at tourist prices.

    While mirrorless is better for traveling than the DSLR, my Sweetie still refuses to carry it to most functions as it doesn’t fit in a purse. And to be honest, I’ve left it at home to my regret too many times because I didn’t anticipate taking photos of higher-than-cellphone quality.

    For our new family camera, my spouse wanted an “idiot mode” control option, long zoom for the zoo and macro mode for flowers. I paid extra to upgrade to a camera with RAW+jpeg (I’m pickier on post processing), manual controls, evf and the ability to shoot stills during video. Our new choice is an advanced point-n-shoot with 30x optical zoom with electronic view finder that can fit in a pocket. And I purchased extra batteries and an extra charger.

    While it cost nearly as much as our mirrorless camera with one lens, the convenience factor makes it easier to carry everywhere always and ease of use will keep my sweetie happy.

    • 5.1) sceptical1
      July 31, 2014 at 2:07 pm

      Hi Gary,

      It sounds like you thought it through perfectly to me. Good job, IMO!

  6. 6) mark
    July 30, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    Before anyone buys a camera and many who even have a camera need to KNOW how a camera works! If all you are going to do is point and shoot any camera will do that — auto mode and jpegs. Your images will look flat, dull and likely will never even be printed, and less likely framed and displayed.

    In order to photograph, you have to know the relationship of the triangle – ISO, shutter and aperture, and move on to composition and light. Gear never trumps knowledge. Galen Rowell was an extraordinary photographer who shunned the top-of-the-line equipment.

    One of my regrets in life is that I did not master the camera until later. I shot auto mode with film and processed slides at the local RX. I missed so many opportunities, children, family and great places we visited. Now that I know photography, everything has changed. Everything and everyone is now viewed in frame. It all has greater meaning and far greater satisfaction.

    • July 30, 2014 at 3:05 pm


      while I agree with you in general, I’d add something – anyone who buys a camera and is interested in learning photography. But not everyone is interested in learning photography, some people just want better image quality. Whilst I have mentioned in the article that it’s always good to learn a few things (the car metaphor), this piece is for those people who want images, want the camera, as you said, do its thing in auto mode and jpeg and for them not to look dull or flat.

      I think you are mixing up the target audience. But then I understand that, it was fairly difficult for me to write this article, too, takes a lot of effort to put yourself in the shoes of a person who does not care about photography as a form of art and craft. It’s quite an unnatural feeling for me since I have such a huge passion for it myself, but I also understand that it doesn’t mean everyone else does or even should.

  7. Profile photo of Daniel Michael 7) Daniel Michael
    July 30, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Hi Romanas,

    Great summary of the pitfalls that total beginners face in the amount of choices that they have.
    One thing I would say that although mirrorless cameras are great, I actually think they are harder to master than the DSLRs. They can also prove to be more expensive than good entry level DSLRs, especially with lenses.

    For example, the Fuji X-series are great cameras but you really need to know a bit more about ISO/Aperture/shutter speed theory to use them effectively compared to DSLRs. Even the internal settings need a bit more knowledge than some of the auto settings on an entry-level DSLR. They have more foibles, so you need to know how they will react in certain situations. Most beginners move up from a pocket cam when they have kids, and if you hand a mirrorless camera to one of these guys and they don’t realise most of them have AF speed issues, they’ll be shouting at you for for making them buy a camera that makes everything blurry! DSLRs, on the other hand can be chock full of settings for the beginner to play around with and get good results with simple set-ups. Hell, when I first started out my first move on the DSLR was to move from “Auto” to “Sports” because it gave great results with the kids.

    When my brother-in-law wanted a recommendation, knowing he is technically minded but having no idea of photography theory, I soooo wanted him to go down the mirrorless route, but in the end my conscience got the better of me and pointed him to a D3300 kit and a 50mm 1.8G. That set up is probably cheaper than one good prime lens for a mirrorless camera.

    I think beginner recommendations are the hardest, you just don’t know if they’re going to love photography or not give two hoots. Are they going to enjoy it so much they want to learn about it? Or are they going to waste the money on the kit then just carry their smartphone around? So I think the most important question to ask is “how serious are you about this?”



    • 7.1) Love2Eat
      July 31, 2014 at 8:10 am

      I would agree on the mirrorless comment, having “downsized” from my Nikon DSLR to a Fuji X-T1 with kit lens, I found that autofocus to be slow to my needs, although there were many aspects that I loved about the Fuji. At the end, gave up and decided to stick with the Nikon. I am really hopeful that mirrorless will soon catch up sooner or later for sure.
      For the D3300, I would have recommended a 35mm 1.8 instead of the 50mm, due to the crop factor. That would have been a better combination, just my opinion.

      • Profile photo of Daniel Michael 7.1.1) Daniel Michael
        July 31, 2014 at 2:09 pm

        Indeed, I do find the 35mm on a cropped sensor is a great all-round lens and is my favourite, but my brother-in-law wanted something for close up portraits of his newborn, something the 50mm on a cropped is great at, and the price is great too.

    • 7.2) sceptical1
      July 31, 2014 at 2:05 pm

      Hi Daniel,

      You can get a good micro 4/3 prime for $169 (Sigma 19mm, 38mm FF equivalent) and a great one (Olympus 25mm 1.8) for $399. This is in line with the cost of primes for a Nikon. You can also get the great Olympus OMD-M10 for $700, a bit more than a D3300 but not by much (D3300 is roughly $600) Admittedly, you could purchase the very capable D3200 for a bit less. Regardless, mirrorless is not a budget buster, IMO.

      • Profile photo of Daniel Michael 7.2.1) Daniel Michael
        July 31, 2014 at 2:14 pm

        Yup, I totally agree, but you and I know that because we’d probably know more than the person moving up from a smartphone. The total beginner would not, they’d have to do huge amounts of research to get to that conclusion, so it wouldn’t be their first port of call. And if they picked a Fuji, the primes are not so cheap.

        • sceptical1
          August 1, 2014 at 12:13 pm

          Yeah, I wasn’t considering the high cost of Fuji lenses in general. Great stuff from what I can see, but not cheap. I do think the Nikon F 1.8 primes are a hugely good deal. Unfortunately, I suspect that many beginners will not want primes regardless of system, so they will be stuck with the kit lenses or forced to spend quite alot for a good all in one. Nikon (and Canon) win there as well because of the availability of really great all in one lenses for $800 or less. For example, I have a wonderful Sigma F2.8 – F4.0 17-70mm that has fast, quiet AF and is tack sharp. I got it on sale for $469. Such a lens is not available for Fuji. Also, I would spend a lot more on micro 4/3’s with either the Olympus 12-40mm (I have it and I love it!) for $1000 or the Panasonic 12-35 (also $1000) That is pretty steep for a new user. Overall, I understand why you recommended a Nikon DSLR to your brother-in-law.

  8. 8) Artiom
    July 30, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    Buy iphone and feel free :) it willbe always with family or even “family” :)

    • July 30, 2014 at 3:00 pm


      I would never suggest an iPhone to someone who wants better image quality and shallower DOF for family images than a compact can deliver, since it’s basically trading one point-and-shoot for another. In its own right, it’s a good tool (not the iPhone per se, but cameraphones in general), but has never been the correct answer in my experience when I’m asked which camera to buy for family needs.

  9. 9) Mike Butler
    July 30, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    Interesting article and good comments from readers. I wonder however, why a compact camera such as the Panasonic TZ60 has been overlooked in a comparison like this. I use a Nikon D4 for photos in my real estate business, but have carried every TZ model since the TZ7 as my everyday “pocket” camera. One of my staff who is late middle aged and retiring from work asked my advice about finally buying a “good” camera to use in her retirement. I went through the pros and cons of DSLR and mirrorless formats, but then showed her my TZ60 and what it could do! At less than half the price of the alternatives (at least here in Australia), and after borrowing mine for a week of playing with it, she went out and bought a TZ60 for herself. The TZ60 is the best yet in the TZ line — 24mm wide angle, great telephoto capacity, RAW capture, High Def video — and it fits in your pocket. In my opinion the ideal family and travel camera!

    • 9.1) Scott M
      July 30, 2014 at 10:21 pm

      To build on Mike’s comment, I want to point out that there are point-and-shoots out there now which have the same light-gathering capability and depth-of-field as an entry level DSLR with it’s kit 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6. The Panasonic LX7 with a 1/1.7″ sensor has an f/1.4-2.3 lens, making it equivalent to an APS-C camera with a 16-60mm f/4.3-7.0 (both in terms of focal length, light-gathering, and depth-of-field). The Sony RX-100 ii with it’s 1″ sensor is equivalent to an APS-C 18-67mm f/3.2-8.8, and the Sony RX-100 iii equivalent to an APS-C 16-47mm f/3.2-5.0.

      I see very few people out shooting an entry level DSLR with any extras (lenses, flashes, etc.) and I think most of these people would be better served with a large-sensor / fast-aperture point-and-shoot. They are obviously smaller than APS-C interchangeable lens cameras while being just as fast/shallow depth-of-field and are both smaller and faster than even micro 4/3rds mirrorless cameras with their kit lenses.

  10. 10) Jozef Peniak
    July 31, 2014 at 1:10 am

    Thank´s for very good article (but it maybe a little bad timing.) I thing the good compact camera is enough for really non-photographers. The small & fun factor and easy of use is very important in this case (Olympus XZ-10/XZ-2, Canon S120, Sony RX100, cheap small CSC from Sony or Olympus) . I mean for those people know nothing about image quality and exposure or RAW.

    More serious users (amateur photographers) prefer DSLR or advanced CSC with prime lenses, but they understand photography and they are photographers :-)
    I agree with Romanas – phone is not the best option for family photos..

  11. 11) Axel Reinhold
    July 31, 2014 at 4:40 am

    I this case I have recommended successfully a Nikon J1-4 six times the last couple of years because of the price (with the huge discounts these models had) the size, simpleness and most important speed. Children are ____fast! I never experienced disapointment. These are the most underrated cameras at all – especially for family photos.

  12. 12) Patrick O'Connor
    July 31, 2014 at 8:22 am

    I guess there weren’t any “casual buyers” for the “more knowledgeable readers” to “stand back” for!? Or maybe some of us aren’t as knowledgeable as we think! ;-)

  13. 13) sceptical1
    July 31, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    My other “hobby / obsession” is adventure travel. If its exotic or out of the way I want to go. Unfortunately, I am not young anymore and have little desire to haul around even a smaller DSLR. I got about as light as I could with a DSLR in January when I went to South East Asia for a month. I took a D7100, a 17-70 Sigma (great all in one Contemporary version), a Nikon 70-300, and one flash with a small tripod for putting the flash off the camera. Even this was too much IMO.
    So I decided to kill two birds with one stone. I wanted to see if I could use a micro 4/3 system professionally and also get a lot lighter for travel and everyday photography. So, I decided to dip my toe in the water and purchased an OMD-M10 with a 12-40 2.8 lens. I am soooo glad I did! First, I figured out that I could get what I wanted professionally out of this system (I am slowly switching) and just as importantly, I got a great small camera with a very good all in one lens. I also purchased their small Olympus FL-300R flash so I can get bounce flash for indoors. Now this all fits in a small Think Tank Urban Disguise bag. This kit is light and tiny compared to the DSLR setup. Admittedly, it is slightly less capable in terms of not having a longer lens or more powerful flash, but I didn’t even use the flash off camera on the last trip. I took about 3000 pictures and only used the long lens for maybe 50 of those shots. So, bottom line, this small system can handle 97+ % of all the pictures I might want while providing much lighter weight and, as a bonus, being much less obvious. I might even get a few more pictures with it because of its size.
    So, I can say that for anyone looking for a small interchangeable lens system, the OMD-M10 will perform very well. It seems like a great combination of small size, flexibility, and image quality. The only negative is that the all in one lens I purchased (12-40mm 2.8) is relatively expensive ($1000) Fortunately, there are many great options and you could easily get the Olympus 25mm F1.8 prime (50mm equivalent focal length) for $400. Note that I don’t have this lens, but assume it is great quality based on having their 45mm 1.8 prime. This would make for a great everyday system for around $1000 that would deliver great quality.

    • 13.1) Max
      August 2, 2014 at 2:32 pm

      Hi, I did the same. The Olympus e-M10 + 12-40mm 2.8 is a great allround combo. If you want really small/light and still professional results this is it! I bought it as holydays/weekend set but I am thinking seriously whether a mtf system can replace my bulky Nikon D800 set for more professional work. Tip: there is a new really wonderfull, small but relatively strong flashlight, the Nissin i40. Small and light enough to keep on the camera all the time, can bounce every direction and strong enough to use as a fill in flash even on sunny days. It has also a lot of other nice features. This made the combo really perfect to me.

      • 13.1.1) sceptical1
        August 3, 2014 at 5:17 am

        Hi Max,

        Thanks for the tip, I will check out the Nissin. It sounds a bit more flexible than the Olympus.

        I did purchase an OMD-M1 for professional use. I am using it for about 75% of my shots (pet photography) but still find myself using my Nikon DSLR’s for the rest. That will probably change as my confidence grows and I can get a high quality longer lens. I am waiting for Olympus to release their 40-150mm 2.8 “pro” lens. At that point, I will move entirely to m4/3 for professional use. I will also pick up a second OMD-M1. Regardless, the M10 will continue to be my travel camera.
        I do think switching to m4/3 involved one compromise and that is shooting in low light. I tend to wait until its a little bit brighter for outdoor shoots. Indoors, I nearly always use lights so its not as important. If you really need low light performance there is really no great substitute for FF. Even the D7100 clearly has better low-light performance. For everything else, I think the Olympus is more than good enough.

  14. 14) Don Evans
    August 1, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    Most people are not professional photographers. Most are probably not even avid photo hobbyists. That most people group want memory snaps for their family album. Now that cameras are in smart phones (Note 3 has a 13 megapixel camera) most will be happy with that result.

    For the rest of us non-professionals there is a group who do not see the benefit of DSLR cameras. I am one of them. I have opted for a bridge camera. Lots of options without the need to lug lenses and the need to stop everyone while doing a setup.

    On our 10 day trip to London and Paris I saw just one couple changing lenses. That was in the garden at Monet’s home. At 18.62 oz weight and a 25 – 600 mm zoom lens why should I consider anything else?

  15. 15) Nizmo
    April 6, 2015 at 4:47 am

    Re picture quality: “In this regard, Olympus cameras can lag a little bit behind other manufacturers in some situations” where did you get your stats from? I have EM5 and got no problem with picture quality.

  16. 16) Anita
    July 29, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    I read your post and I still don’t know which one to pick. I purchased recently Nikon Coolpix L330 and it was worst decision ever. Great macro photos but not good for kids, very slow need loads of time to process photo and eats batteries (rechargeable) like crazy.
    Anything pocket like and with decent quality and quick enough for toddler who don’t wait ??

    thank you

    • 16.1) Don Evans
      July 30, 2015 at 11:02 am

      Despite what others may say an iPhone does replace point and shoot cameras. On our recent trip to Vancouver BC my wife never used her P&S even once. Her phone was her convenient an easy to handle camera. Surprisingly good pictures.

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