Photography

The Best Mirrorless Cameras for Your Small Business

Photo by  Jessica Furtney  on  Unsplash

Explore Mirrorless Camera Options That Will Serve Your Business Well

If you've read our pros + cons list for each camera type and decided to dip your toes in the mirrorless camera waters, then this is the place for you! I'm outlining my top picks for a mirrorless camera body and lens below.  I make every attempt to avoid too much technical jargon, but if you have technical questions, ask away in the comments below!

Before we begin, note about mirrorless pricing: in general, mirrorless cameras cost more than DSLRs because the technology is newer. Engineers/designers fit in a lot of power to a much smaller space. Lower priced mirrorless cameras tend to have fewer physical features like a built-in electronic viewfinder (EVF) and fewer dials and knobs, such as an ISO dial. Budget cameras also have less high grade build materials and don't typically offer weather sealing. In addition to have a greater range of physical features, higher end mirrorless cameras often have deeper capabilities (such as maximum ISO and frames per second). Although still lighter than DSLRs, high end mirrorless cameras tend to be bigger and heavier than less pricey options (because they had to pack all those features in somewhere). Keep your portability preferences in mind as you buy.

Finally, the big names in mirrorless cameras roll out new models or new versions of a model every 6 to 18 months. Often, the additions in the new model will be imperceptible to most shooters. I recommend consider older models if you're looking to save money.

Without further ado, our mirrorless camera recommendations for your small business ...

My Top Pick

My go-to camera and top recommendation is the Sony a6000. This camera has an APS-C sensor and a shoots up to 11 fps (it's fast!). It's also super lightweight. The body is just over half a pound. Plus, it has a built-in EVF, a pop-up flash, and a hot shoe. It only has 1080p video, though. If you're looking to do more with video for your business I recommend the newer models: the Sony a6300 or the Sony a6500, both of which offer 4k video. 

I've used the Sony a6000 extensively for almost three years. It takes fantastic product images and portraits. I've also used it for personal vacations. It's incredibly versatile.  My go-to lens for this camera is the Sony 35mm f/1.8. With the a6000 crop sensor, it offers a field of view around 52mm. It's a fantastic all-around focal length and not too heavy on the front of the camera. It also has a hardy metallic build quality to it. 

The Smaller Choice

If minimizing size is a top priority, check out the Nikon 1 J5. This mirrorless lineup gets a bad rap because it has a 1" sensor (which means it is smaller than many other mirrorless cameras), but I loved my Nikon and I still consider it the most enjoyable camera I've ever owned. I'd call it zippy. It's lighter than any other mirrorless cameras, it's crazy fast, and it has Nikon's solid technology and image quality. I took thousands of images with my Nikon 1, and I was thrilled with the camera's output. Plus, the camera has a touch screen and menu setup that makes life easy. 

The camera with the kit lens is just under $500 and is a solid set-up. I recommend adding the Nikon 1 18.5mm f/1.8 lens. This lens is sharp and offers you a field of view around 46mm which is versatile for most small business photography. 

The Pro Option

If you need (or just really want) the go-to full frame professionals are trading in their DSLRs for, then check out the Sony Alpha a7II (or the Sony a7S II if you need 4k video). I owned the predecessor to these babies (the Sony a7) and I can confirm that it's as good as the hype. It has everything you get from high flying DSLRs, but in a far smaller package. The sensors used in Sony mirrorless cameras are the industry standard (and used hush hush by many other companies) because they're spectacular. Purchasing a full frame Sony mirrorless puts you at the the forefront of camera technology. 

My absolute favorite full frame lens for the Sony Sony Alpha a7II camera is the Sony 55mm f/1.8.  The colors are rich, the focus is sharp, and the bokeh will blow you away. I also truly enjoy the Sony 28mm f/2.0. It has a more moderate price tag and is a great walk around lens. 


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The Best DSLR Cameras for Your Small Business

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Find the right DSLR body and lens to jumpstart your visual story

If you've read our pros + cons list for each camera type and decided a DSLR is right for you, then let's jump in and check out your best options. We'll outline below a recommended camera body and lens for each price point. As a reminder, DSLRs offer you many brand options, many price points, and room to upgrade or add to your gear.

Before I lay out options, let's talk about budget versus high end gear. Budget gear does not automatically equal lower image quality. Most often, gear is priced lower because it has fewer physical features (exposed dials and knobs), slightly lower capabilities (maximum ISO or shutter speed), and a less hardy build quality (plastic parts vs. metal parts). A fully booked wedding photographer needs extra dials, extra capabilities, and extremely durable parts throughout the camera in order to accommodate every shooting scenario he/she will face. If you're shooting product photography for your Etsy shop, though, you don't need the spend the extra cash. 

One final note: I make every attempt to avoid too much technical jargon, but if you have technical questions, ask away in the comments below!

The Budget Option

Budget DSLRs are a fantastic option for most photographers—particularly if you're just beginning to explore photography for your business. Entry-level or budget DSLRs will have APS-C sensors or crop sensors. You can google "sensor size" to get visuals, but the basic point is that these cameras have a bit lower light capabilities than full frame DSLRs. This makes a difference if you're doing outdoor night photography or are photographing inside dimly lit homes or venues. Otherwise, you won't notice a huge impact. 

Nikon and Canon are the powerhouse companies in the DSLR space. We recommend selecting a camera within one of those two lines. Once you commit to a brand, lenses and bodies are mostly interchangeable within that brand. You can upgrade to a higher end body, for example, and still use your existing lenses. Here's how you choose between Canon and Nikon: which one feels right in your hands? I highly recommend testing out both. 

Our personal budget DSLR preference is the Nikon D3400. This camera has a max ISO of 25,600 (which is really high), it weighs under a pound a less than its predecessor, and you get the benefits of Nikon's speed. We've always loved the way Nikon images look. Another great budget option is the Canon Rebel T6i, with capabilities very similar to the Nikon. 

Both the Nikon D3400 and the Canon Rebel T6i include the kit lens. This is a basic lens that will cover a midrange of focal lengths. They're okay lenses, but they're not great. If you buy a camera second hand, I recommend buying the body only (without any kit lens) and then looking for one the "Nifty 50" in your brand. The Nifty 50 is so name because it is an excellent focal length for a variety of photograph from landscape to portraits. You can also purchase them at a reasonable price and they are much faster and let in more light the the kit lens. 

Check out the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 and the Canon 50mm f/1.8 reviews and sample images to get a better sense for them. 

The Mid-Range Option

After your budget cameras, the prices of DSLRs jump fast. There are plenty of cameras with slightly more features than your budget camera in the $700-1000 price range. We recommend skipping these. If your entry-level DSLR isn't doing the job, it's time to think about a full frame camera to get the extra light capabilities. 

We owned and loved the Nikon D610 and recommend it whole-heartedly. This camera isn't too big (for a DSLR) and it just feels right in your hands. It has easy-to-access and customize dials and buttons, but it's not an overwhelming amount. And the images are buttery. If you don't know what that means, you will. Google "Nikon D610 images" and see for yourself. 

As far as mid-range lenses go, we recommend the Nikon 28mm f/1.8. This will give you a much wider field of view than your Nifty 50 and it will allow you to shoot in tighter spaces. 

The Luxury Option

If you're ready to go all-in and purchase a high end DSLR, look no further than the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. The 5D Mark line is the line pros lust after and live with day in and day out. It's a beautiful beast. (Note: the Mark IV predecessors like the Mark II and Mark III are also very very good.) An entire generation of high end professional photographers carry this camera in their work bags and wouldn't trust anything else. It's truly something spectacular. 

An out of this world body needs an out of this world lens and we recommend the Canon 85mm f/1.2 to knock the world's socks off. This will give you bokehlicious portraits all day long. Seriously, you'll want to swim in these portraits. 


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How to Find the Right Camera for Your Blog or Business

Photo by  Caryle Barton  on  Unsplash

Photo by Caryle Barton on Unsplash

Explore the pros + cons for each camera type

As you get your marketing legs underneath you, you're inevitably thinking about how you can best take photos for your blog or business. Blogs and businesses take photos for a variety of reasons: product photography, styled shoots, lifestyle images, etc. Before you dive into which camera to buy, you need to figure out which type of camera to buy. Here, we dive into the pros + cons of each category.

DSLR Cameras

If you're thinking about stepping up your photography game, you'll likely consider a DSLR first. DSLRs are those bigger, professional-looking cameras you likely saw your wedding or family photographer carrying around his/her neck. DSLRs became standard in the photography community in the early 2000s as digital photography grew and film photography declined. Following are reasons for and against a DSLR camera for your blogging needs.

Pros:

  • Lots of brands to choose from
  • Affordable camera options within each brand
  • Tons of well-priced lenses to choose from
  • Second-hand cameras are easily available
  • Huge knowledge base of tutorials to help you learn your camera
  • Fantastic image quality (IQ) (even in entry-level cameras!)

Cons:

  • Heavy and bulky compared to other options
  • More conspicuous; less opportunity for discreet photography
  • Often (but, not always) louder shutter sound
  • Too many features/options for some individuals
  • Other than high end options bodies and lenses, DSLRs depreciate in value quickly

The bottom line: DSLRs offer you many options, many price points, and room to grow. But if you're going to be taking this camera around town or on trips with you, consider lighter options. 

Mirrorless Cameras

Mirrorless cameras are sort of the new kid on the block. First popping up around 2008, they didn't seem to gain steam until 2011. These days, mirrorless cameras are all the rage as more and more professional photographers trade in their bulky DSLRs for something a little sexier. Here are some reasons a mirrorless camera may or may not be right for your business photography:

Pros:

  • Lighter than DSLRs with similar features and capabilities
  • You can find very small body/lens combinations that pack a big punch
  • Cutting edge technology
  • Camera companies are investing more heavily in mirrorless lineups
  • Mirrorless camera currently retain their value longer than other types of cameras

Cons:

  • Mirrorless bodies/lenses are more expensive than comparable DSLR options
  • Fewer mirrorless bodies to choose from
  • Fewer lenses to choose from within each brand
  • Local camera repair shops cannot repair most mirrorless issues (you must mail your camera in to a brand-approved location for repairs)

The bottom line: mirrorless camera lineups have fewer options and cost more than DSLRs, but they're rapidly growing in popularity and they have excellent resale value. If having a small form factor or the latest technology is up your alley, this is the category to consider.

 

Point & Shoot Cameras

When most people think of point & shoot cameras they think of the camera their parents use (and often with not very good results). And that's fair—the vast majority point & shoot consumers are individuals looking to document personal or family events. It's a mistake, though, to think that's all there is to the point & shoot market. In the era of smartphone cameras, camera companies want to give consumers a reason to buy their products. Many companies invested heavily in packing serious photography capabilities into a small camera body. 

Pros: 

  • The best combination of small form and photography capability
  • Easy to travel with; great for discreet photography 
  • You can store point & shoots in your purse or briefcase so you always have it with you 
  • The image quality (IQ) of many point & shoot cameras is far superior to that of your smartphone camera

Cons:

  • Fixed lenses; you can't change the lens to accommodate different creative or environmental needs
  • Feature-packed point & shoot cameras are pricey
  • Very few point & shoots have a view finder
  • The IQ of many point & shoot cameras (except for the most high end cameras) is less than the IQ of mirrorless cameras or DSLRs

The bottom line: If you don't need a camera with interchangeable lenses, and the ability to travel with your camera is a top priority, there are some great options to consider in the point & shoot category. 

Smartphone Cameras

When I start talking with small businesses about improving their photography, my first question is: do you have a relatively new smartphone? For many individuals, this is all you need to get started. A tiny percentage of photo quality has to do with the camera and a large percentage has to do with the photographer. If you follow a few basic rules, learn how to find and shoot in good light, and do some light editing, you'll find you can build a base of fantastic brand-worth photos with your smartphone camera.

Pros:

  • Low cost solution; you may want to invest in smartphone lenses or small studio lighting, but you don't have to shell out tons of cash 
  • You can shoot, edit, and upload everything from your smartphone and/or tablet which saves you time and the cost of computer software
  • Smartphone cameras have fantastic IQ these days; many allow shooting options like as creating panoramas or bokeh 

Cons:

  • If you need to to print large copies of your photos (larger than an 8x10) you'll want a camera with higher resolution
  • Smartphone cameras do not shoot RAW photo files so you have a smaller editing range
  • Not great in low light situations (such as concerts, dimly lit restaurants, etc.)

 

The bottom line: I always recommend learning some photography basics with your smartphone and then upgrading once you've clearly identified your technical and creative needs. Many small businesses find they never need more than their smartphone to create stellar visuals for their brand. 


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