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Back to School 2013: Cameras

by Brandon Russell | August 28, 2013August 28, 2013 1:30 pm PST

canon-s120

The following post is sponsored by Best Buy. Head over to Best Buy for your back to school needs.

Cameras today are ubiquitous for being in every single smartphone ever. And while most take pictures that are good enough, they still haven’t quite pushed dedicated shooters off the map. So in order to ensure you take the best possible Facebook pictures, we’ve put together a shortlist of devices we think might expand your photographic horizons—and hopefully won’t bleed your bank account dry. No mirror selfies here, please. We’re here to talk about good old fashion dedicated shooters. You do remember those, right? Terrific.

Before you go out and spend for a dedicated shooter, make sure you at least understand the most basic photography terms: ISO, shutter speed, exposure, etc. If you really want to throw yourself into the fire, hunt down an old film camera and learn the old fashioned way—that’ll really hone your skills if you’re serious about getting into the art. Cameras are beautiful tools capable of changing perspectives. Smartphone cameras are nice, and they’re always there in your pocket. But if you want to up your game, it’s time to get a real camera.

The Everyday-er – Canon S110

We typically don’t lug cameras around because we have one in our smartphone. But the Canon S110, which is small enough to fit inside a shirt pocket without you realizing it’s there, makes a good case for always carrying one around. Out of all the pocket cameras—a little smaller than a deck of cards—the S110 is one of the most refined experiences around, offering wonderful image quality and excellent features for beginning photographers. There are enough features there, too, if you’re a pro that just wants a good companion device. Canon has an S120 coming in Oct., so if you want the very latest gear, you’ll want to wait. On the flip side, that just means the S110 will only go down in price—it’s at $349 right now—letting you save a few bucks for books and other dorm room essentials.

The Street Photographer – Sony RX100 II

It didn’t take long for Sony to win people over with its compact Sony RX100, and its new RX100 II improves on that shooter in every conceivable way. Equipped with a 1-inch 20.2-megapixel sensor and 28-100mm f/1.8-4.9 zoom lens, the RX100 II is a versatile camera designed to meet professional needs in a compact body. The ISO range, 160-12800, is terrific for sunny days and dark bars, and there’s a neat little tilting 3-inch LCD for more flexible shots. Wi-Fi is also onboard as a little added bonus. The RX100 II is a little pricey at $750, but its improved sensor and added feature set make it hard to pass up. As far as professional compact shooters go—that’s not designated as a DSLR—the Sony RX100 II is hard to beat, and should make snapping people pictures around your city very rewarding.

The Amateur – Ricoh GR

So you’re ready to bring your photography game to the next level? Get a film camera. Don’t know what the heck that is? Maybe you should consider the Ricoh GR, which is a neat little compact that’s equipped with a 16-megapixel CMOS APS-C sensor. That sensor size is the very same you’ll find lying inside something like the Canon 7D (and many others), meaning you’ll get incredible picture quality in something that’s no bigger than most phones. With a fixed 18.3mm f/2.8 lens, you won’t get as much flexibility as the other cameras mentioned above, but it will force you to plan when framing and get more creative with your shots. The Ricoh GR doesn’t necessarily bring any mind blowing features to the table, but it does offer a solid experience that will produce outstanding results. The price starts to get up there with the GR at $800, but it is small enough, durable enough, and takes terrific photos in a teeny tiny body.

The Wildcard – Olympus PEN E-P5

Olympus’ PEN E-P5 is a sweet micro four thirds camera slathered in retro style. Released earlier this year, the diminutive shooter takes some of Olympus’ best assets—incredible auto focus with the OM-D E-M5—and plugs them into one very handsome camera. Equipped with a 16-megapixel sensor, Wi-Fi and the ability to shoot at 1/8000, the PEN E-P5 is designed to be a powerful shooter that you can easily lug around town. With a wonderful autofocus system and new Super Spot AF, you’ll be able to focus and snap those crazy college moments without missing a beat. A lot of the technology found in the E-M5 migrated over to this smaller camera, which is both a positive and negative. Positive because the E-P5 is capable is taking fantastic images. Negative because the body alone starts at $999 ($1,449 with a M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 17mm f/1.8 lens and VF-4 Electronic Viewfinder). It’s not the cheapest around, especially when Sony offers micro four thirds for much cheaper. But it should more than get the job done.

The Professional – Canon 70D

Canon has been consistently putting out solid DSLR options throughout the past several years, and its newest 70D is another in a long line of prestige. If you aren’t convinced by the T5i or even Canon’s new SL1, the 70D might be the perfect combination of image quality and video features. Choosing the right DSLR can be difficult—there are some amazing options not made by Canon, too—but if you’re serious about getting something that will produce fantastic results and play nice with a ton of great glass, the 70D is a good size that won’t break the bank. The 70D comes equipped with a 20-megapixel APS-C sensor, all new autofocus system, articulating capacitive touchscreen and 7fps continuous shooting. The weird thing about the camera, though, is that it doesn’t have a headphone jack for monitoring audio, but it should still more than perform to your needs, especially if you’re just introducing yourself to the DSLR market. Canon said the 70D was going to be available in Sept., but it’s already being offered through a few select spots online for $1,200 (body only).


Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell likes to rollerblade while listening to ACDC.

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