Wednesday 26 June 2019

Ask Adrian: Our technology editor tackles your trickiest tech problem


Fantastic value: the Fujifilm X-A10
Fantastic value: the Fujifilm X-A10
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Question: Hi, can you recommend the best camera (but not the most expensive) for a beginner? It's mainly for taking photos of a new baby. I'm looking at the Olympus Pen, but is Canon any good? I'd prefer it to be somewhat compact and Wi-Fi would be a bonus. I should say that I'm not very techie.

Answer: There are a few candidates, but the one I'd recommend overall is Fujifilm's X-A10 (€299 from Harvey Norman). It's an excellent beginner's camera with very high quality photos and access to loads of amazing lenses. Crucially, it comes with Fujifilm's really decent 16-50mm (II) lens, one of the better kit lenses out there.

That lens's focal range is excellent, going from pretty wide to a nice medium zoom. And the screen flips up so you can take good selfies. The whole thing is very beginner-friendly, with few knobs or dials. The lens is a few inches long, making the overall camera not as compact as some rivals I'm recommending below.

But it's nice and light. And because it's an X-Series camera, if you decide that you want a professional-grade lens later on, you can just stick it on that camera body.

Because this camera has been out for a while and is being replaced with the X-A20, there are some amazing deals on it. Harvey Norman's current sale, pricing it at €299 including the lens, is an absolute steal. Honestly, the lens alone is worth almost €299.

I'm even considering buying that kit myself to have as a casual, walking-around camera, so highly do I rate it at that price.

There are other options. I rate Panasonic's Lumix GX800 (€369 from most retailers) fairly highly as a very portable, decent quality interchangeable lens camera. The kit lens that you get, 12-32mm, takes very nice quality photos, too; it 'tucks in' way more than other lenses, making this one of the most compact, high-quality interchangeable-lens camera systems out there. Like the Fuji mentioned above, this is also compatible with a huge range of great lenses (made by both Panasonic and Olympus), from professional portrait glass to good zooms in case you want to experiment in future.

This camera is also quite beginner-friendly and has a flip-up screen that's selfie-friendly. Of all the models I'm recommending here, the GX800 is probably the prettiest (if that matters at all), as it comes in different colours: the tan brown finish, in particular, is very attractive. Its only minor drawback is that it takes a second to start up compared to rival devices, mostly to give the lens a chance to activate and extend.

The third one I'd recommend is Canon's Eos M100 (€389 from Conns), which comes with the kit 15-45mm lens. This might be the most beginner-friendly of the lot and, again, takes very good quality photos. Like the two before, it has a flip-up screen. In terms of size, it's somewhere between the Fuji and the Panasonic. Right now, this is on quite a steep price reduction: this kit would have cost over €500 a couple of months ago.

You'll notice that I haven't recommended any traditional budget DSLR cameras. This is because for what you want, a DSLR is clunky and too big. You don't see the lighting conditions of what you're shooting until after the photo is taken and it's all a bit messy.

Honestly, it'll feel like a bit of a production just to use it.

However, I could just as easily have answered your question by recommending large-sensor 'all-in-one' cameras with a fixed zoom lens that are even more compact than the ones I've chosen above. These are quite popular right now, although they get pricey very quickly. The most popular model in this genre is probably Sony's RX100 series, which costs from €399 for the original five-year-old model (still on sale) to over €1,000 for the 'Mark 6' version.

It's really beginner-friendly and takes fantastic photos, thanks to a relatively large one-inch sensor. But it's no bigger than a compact camera, literally fitting into a pocket.

My favourite in this category, though, is Panasonic's LX100 (€579, although you might see it cheaper on sale at this time of year). It's a gorgeous metal device and cheaper than most of the Sony RX100 models.

However, it's not quite as beginner-friendly as the Sony and, while fairly compact, can't really fit into a pocket.

Incidentally, I haven't spoken much of the video capabilities on the cameras I've recommended above.

I've tried them all and they're all fairly decent, mostly recording to 'full HD' (1080p) standard, which I still think is sufficient for 99pc of people. (4K is really only useful if you're serious about editing video.)

But I don't regard video functionality on cameras to be a primary feature for beginners, as the quality and stabilisation you'll get off your phone is going to be as good, or better in many circumstances.

Recommendation: Fujifilm X-A10 (€299 from Harvey Norman); or Panasonic LX100, (€579 from Conns Cameras)

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