GAS Advice You've Given to the Old "What Should I Get?" Question

agentlossing

Hall of Famer
Location
S. Oregon Coast
Name
Andrew L
You know, to friends and family, acquaintances and perfect strangers who see that you're into photography and ask what you would recommend they buy in order to get better photos and/or video. I think we've all been asked this question. Usually it's by people who don't know a lot about photography, and just want to magically obtain better photos. I think we are getting a little closer to an age where that's possible. In fact, the best advice may be to get a better smartphone. However, you can't always tell this to the person who's asking you as it can come across as a bit dismissive, unless you're prepared to delve into the details of computational-assisted photography and how advanced that is with smartphone sensors relative to cameras.

I just got this question again from my wife's parents. I've previously recommended a Panasonic GX85 to them as a solid, inexpensive step up from their small-sensor bridge camera, but after using it for a bit they found it lackluster and returned it. So, this time around I'm thinking of recommending the Canon M50 mkII. I've realized they need low-light performance and a fairly wide lens, for taking photos of groups inside interior locations. Plus they want some video capabilities. They came to me this time asking about the Rebel T7 and a 50mm f1.8, but I don't think they realize the fifty will a) be cropped and b) is a prime lens, which they might not understand the meaning of. Plus a DSLR will just have an added level of incomprehensibility to people who've only used an LCD or EVF for the past 5-10 years.

Have you guys given advice to the non-photographically-minded among us, and how did it work out? I have the idea this might work as an ongoing thread where we can report how our advice has worked out, if and when we dare give it. Sometimes maybe a shrug and "I dunno" is the safest way forward!
 

Irene McC

All-Pro
Here's a verbatim cut and paste from a conversation I had very recently when asked exactly that
I still find brick & mortar dedicated shops with knowledgeable (unbiased towards brands) staff the best resource

"Hey, about cameras, I really don't feel I'm in a position to give advice because it's really a very personal choice based on what you are going to be using it for most .
I would really recommend that you speak to the very helpful and knowledgeable staff at *** - they have branches in the city and at *** area
Explain your needs and your budget and they'll guide you lots better than me. I'm not at all up to date with current models; things keep changing very quickly, new stuff coming out all the time that I'm not familiar with"
 

Tili

Regular
I've noticed that a lot of beginners just want more shallow depth of field compared to their phone. I would high recommend the LX 100 mk1.
The lens can go wide (~24mm) AND can go up to ~75mm, it's aperture is very decent for a compact camera.

Also has an EVF, and will allow them to shoot RAW for that extra oomf in post processing.
Dials are a plus as well for beginners so they can figure out what each one does.
It can do a bit of macro(ish). It can record 4k. It has a bit of IS.
It is jacket pocketable, so they will actually take it with them, maybe.

For <300 euro/dollars including the lens, it is hard to beat.

(It's also my favorite camera atm)
 

JensM

Top Veteran
My go-to recommendation since its release has been the GX85, initially with the 12-32/35-100 kit lens combo, and usually a fast, wide prime of sorts as well as a decent little bag. This should carry most of General Purpose Photography (GPP), especially if they also get the book "Read This If You Want to Take Great Photographs".

4-5 buys on this. Lens choices has been somewhat variable, but basically all have gone for the 12-32 kit lens, some has mixed and matched on the other ones, and none has complained so far. It is somewhat what I got into the system with, but with the GX7, somewhat swiftly followed by the GX8.

Had the release notes on the GX80 been out before I bought the GX8, I would have waited over the summer and gotten that instead of the GX8 based on the stabilizer, but as per usual, I pulled the trigger on the GX8 inside of 14 days of the release statement on the GX80. As per now, I think I would recommend the same basic set-up, but could substitute the GX80 with the GX9, depending on budget.

Would be interested in some back-story on what your in-laws found wanting with it. :)
 
Location
Switzerland
Name
Matt
You know, to friends and family, acquaintances and perfect strangers who see that you're into photography and ask what you would recommend they buy in order to get better photos and/or video. I think we've all been asked this question. Usually it's by people who don't know a lot about photography, and just want to magically obtain better photos. I think we are getting a little closer to an age where that's possible. In fact, the best advice may be to get a better smartphone. However, you can't always tell this to the person who's asking you as it can come across as a bit dismissive, unless you're prepared to delve into the details of computational-assisted photography and how advanced that is with smartphone sensors relative to cameras.

I just got this question again from my wife's parents. I've previously recommended a Panasonic GX85 to them as a solid, inexpensive step up from their small-sensor bridge camera, but after using it for a bit they found it lackluster and returned it. So, this time around I'm thinking of recommending the Canon M50 mkII. I've realized they need low-light performance and a fairly wide lens, for taking photos of groups inside interior locations. Plus they want some video capabilities. They came to me this time asking about the Rebel T7 and a 50mm f1.8, but I don't think they realize the fifty will a) be cropped and b) is a prime lens, which they might not understand the meaning of. Plus a DSLR will just have an added level of incomprehensibility to people who've only used an LCD or EVF for the past 5-10 years.

Have you guys given advice to the non-photographically-minded among us, and how did it work out? I have the idea this might work as an ongoing thread where we can report how our advice has worked out, if and when we dare give it. Sometimes maybe a shrug and "I dunno" is the safest way forward!
Interestingly, the last camera I recommended was exactly the same you did: the GX85; my friend was very happy with it, in fact, she still is. Prior to this, I usually recommended Nikon APS-C DSLRs - but that was years back.

However, what I *wouldn't* do is recommend a potentially dying system like the EOS M; nice though those cameras may be, there's not a lot to be expected, and if they like low-light shooting, I'd go for something stabilised (and something with better low-light performance than Canon's 24MP sensor - I own that in the G1X III, and it's not great). Which, in APS-C land, almost directly takes you to the Fujifilm X-S10 - fantastic bang for the buck in my view. Pair it with the very nice 18-55mm f/2.8-4, and they have a system that is capable of great imagery while staying pleasingly small.

That said, my Z 50 has been nothing but a pleasant surprise and finally ousted the X-E3 (that in turn more or less killed Sony as an APS-C system for me) - superb low-light IQ included, easy to handle, and the two standard zooms,the Z 16-50mm and Z 18-140mm, both are exemplary for their class: very reliable IQ while being commendably compact. They won't feel as premium as Fujifilm's offers, but in my experience, they simply outclass most of the available competition, especially the EOS M zooms that aren't anything to write home about. However, it doesn't offer I.B.I.S., and the sensor, while super-solid, feels a bit underwhelming for many because of its "meagre" resolution, and it's hard to explain to the "more's better" faction how good and reliable the sensor really is.

Which really brings me right back to the X-S10 ...

M.
 

MiguelATF

Legend
Location
Talent, Oregon (far from the madding crowd)
Name
Miguel Tejada-Flores
I don't have any recent first-hand experience with making personal camera recommendations, not in the past few years.
But my previous recommendation, maybe 6 or 7 years earlier, was for the 1st-generation version of the Olympus E-M10, as a superb and affordable small camera, with a nice-isn EVF, a decent zoom, small and lightweight, good IQ, and did I mention affordability?

However, re-reading Andrew's (@agentlossing) and Jens's (@JensM) recommendation - for a GX85 + a small (but excellent) 12-35mm pancake zoom - I couldn't help remembering a similarly themed blog post, written years ago by Ming Thein, about his reasons for picking up a GX85 with the 12-32 pancake zoom, which he called, clearly, The un-camera camera. He categorized it as a modern (the article was written in 2017) 'point-and-shoot', and described it in the following terms: "either the non-photographer’s ‘serious camera’, or the photographer’s ‘un-camera’. The kind of thing we chuck in a briefcase when you’re going to a meeting but want to make sure you’re covered just in case, or the kind of thing your mum might bother to learn when she’s going on the trip of a lifetime."

Here's a link to Ming's article: The un-camera camera
 

agentlossing

Hall of Famer
Location
S. Oregon Coast
Name
Andrew L
Interestingly, the last camera I recommended was exactly the same you did: the GX85; my friend was very happy with it, in fact, she still is. Prior to this, I usually recommended Nikon APS-C DSLRs - but that was years back.

However, what I *wouldn't* do is recommend a potentially dying system like the EOS M; nice though those cameras may be, there's not a lot to be expected, and if they like low-light shooting, I'd go for something stabilised (and something with better low-light performance than Canon's 24MP sensor - I own that in the G1X III, and it's not great). Which, in APS-C land, almost directly takes you to the Fujifilm X-S10 - fantastic bang for the buck in my view. Pair it with the very nice 18-55mm f/2.8-4, and they have a system that is capable of great imagery while staying pleasingly small.

That said, my Z 50 has been nothing but a pleasant surprise and finally ousted the X-E3 (that in turn more or less killed Sony as an APS-C system for me) - superb low-light IQ included, easy to handle, and the two standard zooms,the Z 16-50mm and Z 18-140mm, both are exemplary for their class: very reliable IQ while being commendably compact. They won't feel as premium as Fujifilm's offers, but in my experience, they simply outclass most of the available competition, especially the EOS M zooms that aren't anything to write home about. However, it doesn't offer I.B.I.S., and the sensor, while super-solid, feels a bit underwhelming for many because of its "meagre" resolution, and it's hard to explain to the "more's better" faction how good and reliable the sensor really is.

Which really brings me right back to the X-S10 ...

M.
The Nikons seem to be a bit higher price point which I don't know that they'd go for. :confused:
 
Location
Switzerland
Name
Matt
The Nikons seem to be a bit higher price point which I don't know that they'd go for. :confused:
Only combined with the 18-140mm, surely? The Z 50 with 16-50mm goes for a third less than the X-S10 with 18-55mm around here - and optically, there's not a lot between the lenses (which is hard to believe, but I tried them side by side). Actually, the GX80 with 12-32mm goes for exactly the same price - which makes the Z 50 the clearly more appealing proposition as far as performance is concerned, in spite of the lack of I.B.I.S. ... Curiosly, the Z fc with 16-50mm is about 5% less expensive again ... interesting.

I really wish I knew what they found "underwhelming" about the GX80/85, though - we may be completely off track as to what they want/expect/need ...

Maybe it was the form factor or the handling? Honestly, most people wouldn't see the IQ difference between quite a few different sensors, :mu43: or APS-C, 20 to 26MP, up to ISO 3200, especially not if they're mostly sharing online (if they print, it'll probably be different - the GX80's sensor can keep up until ISO 1600 IIRC, but above, it's less convincing). But considering my E-M5 III's performance, there's about half a stop of real world performance difference in it up to ISO 3200. I try not to use the E-M5 III below ISO 1600, though, and FWIW, I cap even the Z 50's Auto ISO at ISO 3200 - not because you couldn't go lower, but because the images visibly suffer below that while they keep up amazingly well at ISO 3200. Most people will probably tolerate ISO 6400 without hesitation on most APS-C cameras today, though - especially if they come from shooting with a smartphone. Another point may be JPEG characteristics - the Panasonic files usually seem a bit rougher and grainier, but keep details pretty well, and colour science is much improved in the last couple of generations.

Honestly, we may chasing a spectre here - do you remember what happened?

M.
 

agentlossing

Hall of Famer
Location
S. Oregon Coast
Name
Andrew L
Only combined with the 18-140mm, surely? The Z 50 with 16-50mm goes for a third less than the X-S10 with 18-55mm around here - and optically, there's not a lot between the lenses (which is hard to believe, but I tried them side by side). Actually, the GX80 with 12-32mm goes for exactly the same price - which makes the Z 50 the clearly more appealing proposition as far as performance is concerned, in spite of the lack of I.B.I.S. ... Curiosly, the Z fc with 16-50mm is about 5% less expensive again ... interesting.

I really wish I knew what they found "underwhelming" about the GX80/85, though - we may be completely off track as to what they want/expect/need ...

Maybe it was the form factor or the handling? Honestly, most people wouldn't see the IQ difference between quite a few different sensors, :mu43: or APS-C, 20 to 26MP, up to ISO 3200, especially not if they're mostly sharing online (if they print, it'll probably be different - the GX80's sensor can keep up until ISO 1600 IIRC, but above, it's less convincing). But considering my E-M5 III's performance, there's about half a stop of real world performance difference in it up to ISO 3200. I try not to use the E-M5 III below ISO 1600, though, and FWIW, I cap even the Z 50's Auto ISO at ISO 3200 - not because you couldn't go lower, but because the images visibly suffer below that while they keep up amazingly well at ISO 3200. Most people will probably tolerate ISO 6400 without hesitation on most APS-C cameras today, though - especially if they come from shooting with a smartphone. Another point may be JPEG characteristics - the Panasonic files usually seem a bit rougher and grainier, but keep details pretty well, and colour science is much improved in the last couple of generations.

Honestly, we may chasing a spectre here - do you remember what happened?

M.
It's that they don't understand the first thing about making a photographic exposure, so they are only going to point and shoot. Honestly, advising they get a better smartphone would be the most effective thing for them, but I don't think they would go for that, because they would see it as dismissive of their desire for good pictures. The GX85 with a kit lens didn't deliver photos with a standout improvement that they could see over what they already had, but trying to explain the nuts and bolts of how to get a better exposure wouldn't go very far. I only recommended the APS-C mirrorless Canon because they were considering a Rebel T7, and I think a mirrorless would be much easier for them to use than a DSLR. Aside from technique, though, it becomes a messy jumble of larger aperture, larger sensor, IBIS, versus computational imagery, versus who has the best auto mode to get close to what they want. The more I talk about it, the more I lean towards recommending the smartphone.
 

John King

Member of SOFA
Location
Beaumaris, Melbourne, Australia
Name
John ...
It's that they don't understand the first thing about making a photographic exposure, so they are only going to point and shoot. Honestly, advising they get a better smartphone would be the most effective thing for them, but I don't think they would go for that, because they would see it as dismissive of their desire for good pictures. The GX85 with a kit lens didn't deliver photos with a standout improvement that they could see over what they already had, but trying to explain the nuts and bolts of how to get a better exposure wouldn't go very far. I only recommended the APS-C mirrorless Canon because they were considering a Rebel T7, and I think a mirrorless would be much easier for them to use than a DSLR. Aside from technique, though, it becomes a messy jumble of larger aperture, larger sensor, IBIS, versus computational imagery, versus who has the best auto mode to get close to what they want. The more I talk about it, the more I lean towards recommending the smartphone.
Andrew, that's what iAuto was invented for ...

In time, they will progress. In the mean time, they will get decent photos.
 
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