Cheapest camera with RAW?

I've been searching through the internet and also going through this forum for info and it's driving me nuts!

It used to be (well, my crude understanding anyway) that there were compacts and there were the DSLRs, and that's it. Now there's a wide range of cameras in between, from the cheapest 'cheap' compacts to the serious compacts, 4/3, u4/3 cameras, small sensors to APS-C sensor sizes in compacts, mirrorless, hybrid cameras, fixed lens, interchangeable lens bodies, semi-DSLR to full blown professional DSLRs, to the medium formats.

I don't really know how to 'categorise' the breadth of camera choices in my head anymore. So I'm thinking I can start with the RAW format - what is the cheapest camera out there that has RAW?

I'm asking because I've recently discovered that someone I know has a photographic eye. She knows absolutely nothing about photography and she only has an iPhone from which she takes photos but I can totally see that she has a great artistic eye for photography (even if she doesn't yet understand why it is so). I can sometimes see what she is trying to do with a particular photo but she doesn't yet understand how to achieve a particular look/photo or what needs to be done to get there.

I'd like to suggest some better cameras for her that will allow her to really stretch her photographic potential, perhaps something with RAW (she knows how to use Photoshop but not for photography purposes), but not something that is too expensive. I've been looking around and I'm coming up with about $400-$500 price mark for a decent camera. Would that be right? I think once she understands the basics, her understanding and photography will go in leaps and bounds quite fast.


betwixt and between
Real Name
If you can find a year old model, that would be a good start. What do you think - does she need a zoom? There's the Canon S95 which is great, and also the Olympus XZ1...and, of course, with a fixed lens the GRD III.
hi BB! She would like a zoom but I think that is the default thing that every beginning photographer thinks they need. Not really sure how to explain to her that fixed lens without zoom will not be as limiting as she thinks it is, and that great photography can be achieved (and learned!) from, say, a 35mm or 50mm fixed.

I'll have a look at the XZ1 and the GRD III, thanks.


Hi James,
I recently had a similar situation. My daughter is really getting into photography and had a very cheap compact and an iPod Touch. She takes some fantastic photos and is starting to experiment with the editing apps available for the iPod/iPhone and has certainly convinced me that it is not the camera that makes a great photographer. Anyway she was really pushing the boundaries of what she could do with what she had. I think it is important to talk to your friend about what they like about photography and what they would like to do (if it is to be a surprise gift you can talk in general terms about your shared interest in photography). I found that my daughter had two particular 'requirements' - she wanted something that could focus a lot faster than her little compact and she was also keen to explore depth of field (although in her words she referred to it as having people in focus with a nice blurry background).
I too had thought about getting her a camera with RAW functionality and also one that might be able to grow with her. I ended up getting her a Panasonic Lumix G2 for a few reasons - it had everything she wanted and a lot more to explore. We can add other lenses to it as she explores more. The size of it is also very good for her - it looks a bit like a DSLR and came in a 'cool' colour (looks are important at her age) but is small enough for her to comfortably handle and also, since it was a runout model on special, came at a fantastic price. I looked for a while and the prices of each model varied so much that it was impossible to rate them by price as there seemed such a big difference between recommended retail price and the deals that come available.
I don't know if the G2 is a fantastic camera but it does everything she wants and she loves it. Getting a runout or year old model seems like great advice because there are some fantastic cameras that fit into that category and some distributors seem to offer great deals in order to move that stock.

Milwaukee, WI USA
Real Name
any of the last gen micro4/3 cams would be great, too and she would have the ability to add different lenses for different needs. None of them are outdated by a long shot. I'm still shooting with the G1 which can often be found with a kit lens for somewhere around $ Olympus E-P1 for around the same price also spits out great looking JPEGs though may be a bit too quirky for her (although if she's OK with the quirks it's a LOVELY camera and one I've bought and sold several's really hard to give up).


Top Veteran
Houston, TX
Real Name
Jerry, that's a really good choice. The G2 didn't get a lot of attention, with the G3 coming out very soon after the G2 hit the market. But it's a very capable camera with excellent controls. Your daughter will love it! And cameras in cool colors definitely take better pictures!
Thanks very much for the suggestions, I feel I have a proper starting place to start looking, as opposed to running around randomly looking at various cameras.

Jerry - it's actually a work colleague but I hate to see good potential talent go to waste so I'm trying to help her out as best as I can with this. I can see that she has an eye for it but she doesn't really know the 'hows' and the 'whats' yet. It's a bit like me when I first started with this, I could sort of visualise photo-related images in my mind's eye but had absolutely no idea how to get it from the really, really cheap 2.1MP Samsung camera I had. And it was quite disappointing because I thought it was me, that I just didn't have a thing for photography. It wasn't until 10 years later when I bought the Canon 7D and the LX5 (and later the Leica) when I could learn how to get the images I wanted and really start to understand the technical side of photography. I know when I bought my LX5 and started coming to this forum, my understanding exploded from that point and have never looked back. I'm really glad I found photography.


betwixt and between
Real Name
Olympus does have great out of the camera colors which I think is a big plus. That said, I've never used any of the Panasonic MU43 cameras.

Remember, less is more in the beginning. She can always move up in the camera world.


Hall of Famer
Real Name
I'd definitely go for one of the models that has by now been superseded by a newer model, or is at least not the latest "it" camera - the increase in image quality for the new model is usually very small, but the decrease in price of the old model is often dramatic.

A camera that stimulates experimenting, with easily accessible manual controls, would be the way to go. Also perhaps something she can take with her wherever she goes, since from what I understand, at this point photography isn't a real hobby for her yet, so a camera that doesn't require an additional bag is probably the best idea.

I like the LX3 suggestion, it's an amazing camera, although in my opinion the manual controls aren't as intuitive as on some other cameras. Canon G series are a bit more fully featured but also larger; their smaller cousin the S90/95/100 are really pocketable but offer relatively little DOF control due to the lens stopping down very quickly when you zoom in. XZ1 has come down more in price than I expected, and would probably serve her very well.


Super Moderator Emeritus
Down Under
Real Name
My two cents.

A friend of mine bought his daughter a camera to delve a little deeper than her little P&S would allow. He took the initiative and bought her a Panasonic G10. She loved the look of it, but ended up feeling overwhelmed by "all the controls". At least she was honest enough with him and they sent it back and she got a more capable 'compact' with RAW - I believe it was either the G10 or S90 I can't quite recall which.

I suppose the moral of the story here is it might be prudent to go incremental. If she loves it then I'm sure she'll jump up to something like a GH2, EP3, or the suchlike, but might be intimidated if she "has it all" right from the get-go. Maybe a very capable compact zoom with RAW - S95, XZ-1, EX1, LX3/5, etc. Still has the form,without the intimidation, factor. But you know her better than I so.....

Just a consideration...


Top Veteran
My suggestion would be a used LX3, G11 or a m43 kit depending on which size camera she'd feel comfortable with, but definetely something with a hot shoe.
Not that she'll need to run around with a big flash, but having a hot shoe opens up for a lot of creativity with bounced flash shooting and the likes, and having access to TTL is a lot more convinient than having to use "dumb" slave flashes.


Hall of Famer
Dallas, TX
Real Name
Stratocaster is quite correct, if she insistson a zoom the little EXR super zooms are a good way to get started. They are as small as her Iphone, have quite good lenses, RAW and full manual control if you want

Thanks everyone. I had another chat with her about her options as recommended in this thread but she's quite fascinated now by the LX5 and the Canon S100 after I explained what RAW is and fast f/stops (I mentioned that f/2.8 is considered a minimum for fast low light photography). Actually she would ultimately love a DSLR but she can't afford one of those yet but after hearing my schpiel about the higher end serious compacts and what they can do, it's opened up a whole world of alternative opportunity for her.

As recommended by some of you in this thread, I did mention some of the models like the Olympus and other Pannys, I also mentioned that the previous models LX3 and S90 and S95 for example are still excellent options but she's got her eye on the latest models I guess. She's a bit of a tech head (she calls herself a 'mac-tard' - she has a MacBook Pro, the latest iPhone, and an iPad) so working with the latest tech is important to her.


New Member
I don't know about in AU, but Fuji UK have a refurb shop where they do the F550EXR for £160.
This is probably the cheapest out of the box RAW compact camera in the UK at the moment.

The Samsung NX100 kit is brand new on Argos Clearance for £199.99 inc postage. Making it the cheapest compact system camera in the UK.

The Olympus E-PL1 seems to be the cheapest M43 kit at £230 + postage.

Possibly the absolute cheapest is the Canon A3000IS + CHDK. This can be had for £30+postage from Canon's ebay Outlet.


Zemun, Serbia
Step by step

Olympus XZ1 or Samsung EX1.

Both have all that she could wish for now - great image quality, full manual control, fast lenses, RAW, compactness. For someone getting seriously into photography, I believe it's a better way to start.

Because, as her experience grows, she will be able to choose a serious system for herself based on HER proper NEEDS. She does not KNOW them YET, but will in time. And once she knows what would really suit her, she would still have great, small and very useful camera, in pocket/purse for those times she does not want to lug the big guns around.

If she starts with a system now, she might invest into one, let's say m4/3, then discover she prefers the Nex offer, or buy Nex and afteward face the fact of many more (and smaller) lenses of m4/3 etc... Or she could become enamored with Foveon look:)

Whatever path she might choose then, a "pocket monster with bright lens" will not hurt:) Besides, EX1 can be had so cheap now and XZ1 dropped price considerably also.

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