The best cameras for moms – is there such a thing? What is important is that there is a best camera for YOU, and you can find it if you know how to wade through the marketing hype to match the cameras with what you want to shoot.
So, you’re ready to buy a camera. There are about 87 jillion options on the market. Which do you buy? This article will break it down into what you should look for, the 4 primary types of cameras, and the pros & cons of each. Edited to include new camera news and the latest models.
The Best Cameras for Moms: Features to Look For
When you’re shopping, check for the features below. The main differences between camera models and price points are related to them. Not all features will be important to all shooters, so think about what your particular needs are.
- Megapixels – The bigger the number, the larger you can print your photos. Even if you don’t want large prints, more megapixels will allow you to crop and zoom into your subject with more clarity and sharpness.
- Manual Mode – Shooting in manual (once you learn how) gives you the most control over focus, proper exposure and creative techniques like background blur. Even if you don’t understand how to shoot in manual (yet), it’s good to have the ability to grow into it.
- Interchangeable Lenses – this is a huge feature. Being able to change lenses is one of the most important factors in getting the photo you want.
- Sensor Size (Full-Frame vs. Cropped) – in general, the larger the sensor, the higher the image quality and the less noise or grain you’ll capture in your low-light images. Full-frame cameras used to be for professionals only, but now they are priced moderately enough for many camera buyers. But don’t feel bad if they still aren’t in your budget. They aren’t a necessity for taking beautiful photos.
- Raw Files – Recording your images in Raw (instead of or in addition to JPG) gives you the most options for correcting image issues after you shoot them.
- Speed – If you want to capture baby’s first steps or the soccer goal, you need a dSLR or a fast mirrorless. Point & shoots & older mirrorless cameras have a longer lag time between pressing the shutter and recording the photo. You can miss lots of photos due to this lag. Make sure to ask about or research shutter lag if you are considering anything other than a dSLR.
- Video capability – Most, but not all, cameras these days shoot video. If video is important to you, make sure the models you look at have this feature.
- Continuous shooting speed or burst mode– Great for soccer games. Hold down the shutter button and the camera will record photo after photo. Camera specifications refer to FPS or Frames per Second. You’ll see anything from less than 1 FPS to 10 or more, depending on your other shooting settings. The more frames the second the better.
- WiFi – You’ll probably want your images to be WiFi compatible so that you can send them over to your phone or tablet like magic, right? I love this feature on my cameras.
- Brands – Canon vs. Nikon vs. anything else. You’ll find lots of folks who say that one or the other is better. I say that none of the big guys are inherently better than the others. If you’re going with a dSLR, I suggest staying with Canon & Nikon for 2 reasons. First, the biggest brands have the most lenses to choose from. Second, most tutorials you’ll find online are specific to either Canon or Nikon. You’ll have an easier time learning your camera if you can find tutorials specific to it. Also, if you’ve had a specific brand of camera in the past, it might be easier to learn a new one from the same manufacturer.
- Flash – Most, but not all, entry-level camera do have flash. However, you’ll soon find that (1), there are some photos you just can’t take without a flash, and (2), those photos that you do take with flash don’t look that great most of the time. Flash is best for photos that you want to take to record the memory, that you don’t expect to be works of art, and that you can’t take without turning the flash on. It’s probably best to get a camera with a flash, but make a point of learning how to avoid using it when at all possible. Higher-level dSLRs do not come with flash, and I don’t miss it at all on my cameras.
- Point & Shoot – this is the camera that many of us start with, and they can take perfectly adequate photos.
- Pros: compact & budget-friendly ($50 to $500)
- Cons: the least amount of control over your photos (usually no manual mode) and the slowest lag time between pressing the shutter and capturing the shot, no interchangeable lenses
- Features: can have high megapixels, shoot video and even record Raw images. However, even when manual mode is available, it’s often impractical to change settings on the fly.
- Perfect for: kids, people on a budget.
- Warning: before you invest in a point and shoot, check out the camera on your phone. You might find that it can do just about everything this type of camera can.
- Basic example: This little Canon will fit in your pocket even with all the cash you save when buying it!
- Level up example: I nearly bought this Olympus the last time we went to the beach. It’s tough and shoots underwater. I’ve heard great things about it!
- Mirrorless Cameras – great for travel or if camera weight is an issue.
- Pros – compact, offer more control over your images than point & shoots, interchangeable lenses
- Cons – Some models are slow to shoot, but most should be faster than a point & shoot. Can be as expensive as a dSLR.
- Features: can have high megapixels, shoot video and record Raw images. However, even when manual mode is available, it’s often impractical to change settings on the fly due to button and menu constraints.
- $450 and up, not including lenses.
- Perfect for: vacation!
- Example: I shot with an older version of this Olympus mirrorless camera for years and loved it. It’s lightweight and the photo quality is fabulous!
- Level up example: Mirrorless cameras offer full-frame options now. This Nikon gets great reviews. (Note: I’m not quite ready to recommend the Canon full-frame mirrorless just yet. If you already have Canon lenses and are considering a mirrorless, I suggest waiting until the next release.)
- dSLR – Ideal for family photography
- Pros – fast to shoot, interchangeable lenses, lots of control over the photo
- Cons – can be more expensive than point & shoots or mirrorless options
- Features: dSLRs will perform well in most of the feature categories mentioned above.
- $450 and up, not including lenses
- Perfect for: moms, dads, grandparents – family photography
- Full frame dSLR
- Pros – highest quality photos due to a larger sensor size.
- Cons – pricy (But nowhere near as pricy as they used to be!)
- Features: full-frame dSLRs will perform well in most of the feature categories mentioned above.
- Perfect for – folks who want the best of the best, moms who might want to explore photography as a source of income
- Example: I shot with the Canon 6D Mark I until recently. Here is the Mark II:
Questions to Think About
- Have you ever had a camera before? Did you shoot on Manual mode or learn its advanced features? Consider purchasing the same brand and make sure that your new camera has at least the same features, if not more.
- Do you think you might ever want to go into photography as a business? You’ll want to start with a dSLR for sure, if not a full-frame.
- How old are your kids? If you are just shooting college graduation pics and aren’t expecting grandkids soon, you might not need a speedy camera. If your kids are babies or sports-playing age, you’ll want to go for speed – no shutter lag and a good number of frames per second (FPS).
- Do your kids play sports? Speed is key here too. Look for high FPS numbers on a dSLR.
- Does the camera you are considering include a lens or two? Read my lens article to learn why I recommend buying a camera body with no lenses or just one lens so that you can get the lenses you need.
Warning: Cameras to Avoid
Beware of international models as you shop and compare prices. Yes, international models often offer a significant discount. However, they might not have warranties and the menus might not be optimized for the language you speak.
If you are trying to save money, I’d suggest looking at used or refurbished models instead. Ask for an “actuation” count for the camera you’re looking at. That’s the number of times the shutter has fired or the number of photos the camera has taken. Cameras with close to 200,000 actuations are nearing the end of their useful lives. There is no set number of photos you can take, of course, but 200,000 is a good benchmark.
Best Cameras for Moms: The Bottom Line
If your primary goal is great photos of your kids, I recommend a dSLR. You’ll have the quickest shutter-to-capture time, can change lenses depending on your shooting situations and can take full control over your shooting settings. If you want to take great travel photos, a mirrorless is the way to go due to its portability.