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My friend tried out my Pentax K-x and found that it was not as easy to use as he preferred. He has no interest in becoming a hobby photographer, he merely wants a camera that is easy to use and takes good pictures.

What are some cameras that are known for or are popular because of their ease of use? (They should have a sensor substantially larger than a point an shoot.) I'm thinking of either a mega-zoom or an entry level SLR.

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Superzooms usually have P&S-sized sensors (e.g. the SX10 had a 5-100mm lens on a 5.6x crop sensor for its 28-560mm-equivalent focal length). Are you specifically looking for a large sensor, or just anything that can give your friend a lot of flexibility? –  drewbenn May 7 '12 at 18:26
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Most mega zooms don't have larger sensor - which is why they can get away with massive zooms. Otherwise the glass would be large. –  rfusca May 7 '12 at 18:27
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Note that a larger sensor results in shallower depth of field. Thus you have to focus a large-sensor camera more accurately, and think about what specifically should be in focus. This may be at odds with the easy-to-use requirement. –  coneslayer May 7 '12 at 19:58
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I wonder if you're confused about what 'large sensor' means in practical terms. Why do you want a large sensor? –  Flimzy May 7 '12 at 20:37
    
+1 to every comment so far, but especially to @coneslayer's. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. No camera takes good pictures. Photographers take good pictures, ideally with the help of good equipment. As with any art, there's no substitute for practice, and a nicely-designed entry-level DSLR isn't an unreasonable level of complexity if you really want good results. –  mattdm May 8 '12 at 3:54

3 Answers 3

up vote 1 down vote accepted

The entry level Nikon DSLRs - D3100 and D3200 - offer a 'guide' mode. You simply answer a few questions about a what kind of picture you'd like to take and it configures the camera settings for you.

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Actually, your friend has the right one. The Pentax K-x is certainly one of the simplest and most straight forward cameras to use. He is going to need to experiment with it to become more familiar, just like he would have to with any new digital camera.

There other options in the large-format arena, including SLDs from Olympus, Panasonic, Nikon and Sony. Panasonic's SLDs seem to have the most point-and-shoot like interface, if that is what you are after, something like the G3.

Sony's are not reputed to be very usable except for the NEX-7 which has enough customization options to make it usable. Sony does one thing very well which is provide an exposure-priority display on its SLDs. This means that you see the image as it will be exposed before taking the shot, something that DSLRs cannot do through their optical viewfinders. Other manufacturers do this too but not Panasonic and not so consistently.

Inevitably, it is either the latter or bulk which disappoint people moving to a DSLR. The final option is a Canon G1 X which is actually a near-replica of their prosumer compact but with a large sensor. Maybe this has a psychological effect but I do not think it is simpler than an entry-level DSLR. Compact cameras are rather complex now with all the features they offer!

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I have concern over recommending a camera for your friend. While the large sensor of a DSLR is one of the things that makes it capable of taking good photos, it's not the only thing. Most DSLRs offer a fully-automatic mode that makes the camera easy to use, typically just requiring a press of the shutter button to get an adequate photo. That's not a good or guaranteed way to get "good pictures," though.

How will the fully automatic mode work in difficult or special situations? For example, when shooting action in dim light the camera may think a slower shutter speed is ok -- but that results in a blurred photo. Or, shooting a heavily backlit portrait may make the meter bias to significantly overexpose the subject. Those are not going to be good pictures. Expecting that the camera is capable of getting good results all the time is a sure pain point.

I'm not recommending against getting a DSLR with a large sensor. I'm recommending he understand that a large sensor isn't the only thing required for a good picture, and that more knowledge may be required to get a good picture. Said differently, learning a bit about photography is probably the best way for him to get good pictures.

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Isn't this more of a comment? –  rfusca May 7 '12 at 19:54
    
Perhaps, but I couldn't fit it in 600 characters. :) –  Dan Wolfgang May 7 '12 at 20:01

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