I can't count how many times I get asked "what kind of camera should I buy?" and "which camera is more suitable for portrait photography?" I have been working as a portrait Photographer in St. Augustine for a long time so I thought to share the secrets of cameras with you.
I am going to keep this post as simple as possible by talking about what I have learned on my journey as a photographer and making highly opinionated suggestions based on that journey.
Avoid common mistakes.
My first consumer grade DSLR was a Nikon D60. Of all of the Nikon bodies out there, it was the worst one I could have gotten for what I wanted to do. A ton of lenses don't focus on the D60 (it had no internal focus motor) and I think it has 3 focus points which can be tough for people without manual focusing experience. I furthered my mistake buying lenses that were priced right instead of built right. Instead of reading reviews on the internet, I should have looked at photos the camera had taken. Sites like flickr or 500px are perfect for letting you search for images created with a certain camera and lens combination. If you like the images a camera (and lens) take, at least you will know what the gear is capable of... it is a great place to start.
I want to buy a camera on a budget.
I would suggest that you get a fun Fuji Instax. It is a wide format, instant film camera that is perfect for people who want maximum bang for their buck. I have one of these and I love the photos it takes (and so does everyone else). You just aim, snap and pvvvvvvvt the film pops out the top.
Your only realistic option is a used iphone. There are countless apps that let you process your photos in creative ways... I was in Mexico a couple of years ago and documented the whole trip with my iphone. It was inexpensive, automatically backed up my photos online and it fit in my pocket. I would suggest purchasing the waterproof case as well.
Fuji's XF1 is a fantastic point and shoot camera. It has a nice sensor(the 2/3-Inch 12MP EXR), works well in low light and is perfect for the photographer looking for an easy camera to carry around with them. There isn't a better camera for less than $250.
This is a tough price point. A lot of people looking to spend about $500 US either get a beefed up point and shoot camera or low end DSLR. A lot of mediocre DSLR cameras fall into this range but unless you are going to shoot just portraits at f/8 then you will quickly become frustrated with it. My advice would be to find a used Fuji X100. I have seen these on Craigslist going for less than $400. It is an amazing camera with a fixed 35mm lens. It is great for portraits, landscapes and just about everything in between. You can read one of my favorite reviews about the camera here. If you are nervous about buying something used or just can't find what you are looking for then my next suggestion would be a Lumix DMC-LX7K.
If I was buying a camera today, what would I buy?
If I was shopping for a camera today I would buy a Fuji X-T1. At just $1,300 USD for the mirrorless body it is the best value to performance camera I have ever seen. It looks good, takes professional quality photos and is so easy to use... I have been asking my wife for one of these cameras for 3 years now. I would pair this body with a 27mm lens. For less than $2,000 you have a professional quality system that would make ME jealous.
To save a few bucks you could always track down a used copy of this lens on ebay, Craigslist or the local pawnshop and save %30 or more.
Do you buy cameras used?
Yes I do. I recently bought a new camera body and by using a private seller was able to save %30 on a camera that was less than a month old and only used a couple of times (still under warranty!). Money you save on cameras and lenses can be spent on lights and plane tickets.
I know that this post won't answer everyone's questions but it is a start. You can always email me if you have specific questions, I love talking about this stuff and welcome debate.