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by Bart Arondson

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I'm looking to get an entry level camera. My budget is $200-600.

My requirements are a step way above cellphone pics/movies, preferably near professional quality. I have a need for outdoor shots, indoor shots, and possibly some macro shots (traveling to China in a few weeks). I am guessing 90% of the shots will just be of me and people/places I visit.

I have heard DSLR's are the way to go, however they are much more expensive. I have never used a DSLR before, so I'm tempted to get one and learn, but how hard would it be to hand the camera to a friend to get a good shot of me posing on the great wall? Are DSLR's even better for general purpose shooting or do they just offer more control for those shots where you want to focus on one thing and blur everything else?

I have two other requirements, sports shots and sports movies in low light. 60fps preferred.

I do a lot of youtube guitar videos, and the quality with my cellphone is very bad. I would like to be able to capture the finger movement in lowlight, bedroom conditions without turning things into a a blurry mess.

I do a lot of skiing videos and would like to capture some stills and videos of that as well.

Another option I have been considering is getting a camcorder, a camera, and a GoPro, but that would be more expensive than getting a good camera with video capabilities I think. I also don't need the smash and bash capabilities of the GoPro at the moment.

I'm considering getting this: http://www.amazon.com/Nikon-Includes-Multivoltage-Batteries-Table-top/dp/B00BJ8XKVS/ref=pd_sim_sbs_p_3. My only reservation is that it's not DSLR, but I don't know if that really means much. How much am I limited by not going DSLR? The only thing I can think of that I want a DSLR for is taking creative and artistic shots like playing with bokeh, which I'm not that interested in if this $200 deal can take "normal" pictures as well as a $600 DSLR. "Normal" meaning everything is in focus stills, video. Cons of this one are the AF apparently is glitchy and the camera is fairly big.

Other possibles I've scouted include:

http://www.amazon.com/Canon-PowerShot-Stabilized-Wide-Angle-Recording/dp/B006UMM1J0/ref=dp_return_1?ie=UTF8&n=502394&s=photo

http://www.amazon.com/Canon-PowerShot-Digital-Stabilized-Wide-Angle/dp/B00BW6LUL4/ref=sr_1_6?s=photo&ie=UTF8&qid=1372705552&sr=1-6

http://www.amazon.com/Canon-T3i-Digital-Imaging-18-55mm/dp/B004J3V90Y/ref=sr_1_1?s=photo&ie=UTF8&qid=1372705160&sr=1-1

http://shop.panasonic.com/shop/model/DMC-ZS30K?t=accessories

I am almost sure I am going to get the Panasonic zs30 after looking at image comparisons and features. Is this a good camera for the price $400 or can I do better at this price point?

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closed as off-topic by mattdm, Paul Cezanne, MikeW, AJ Henderson, dpollitt Jul 1 '13 at 21:35

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave these specific reasons:

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Shopping questions really don't fit our Q&A format here..., but please, stick around and ask and answer other questions! –  Paul Cezanne Jul 1 '13 at 20:35
2  
Maybe split the question into (a) Do I need a DSLR? And (b) What is important for filming sports? The first question is almost certainly already answered here and the second one belongs to AVP StackExchange. –  Unapiedra Jul 1 '13 at 21:05
2  
The solution to the "lowlight, bedroom conditions" problem is more light, no matter which camera you choose. It's cheaper and more effective than a "slightly less bad" camera. –  user2719 Jul 1 '13 at 21:38

2 Answers 2

To try and answer some of the photography bits of your question which aren't pure shopping questions:

  • If you want "near professional quality", be prepared to pay near to the price you'd pay for professional quality kit - $400 won't cut it today, and almost certainly won't cut it in 10 years either. While verging into things that are off-topic here, Why are cine lenses so much more expensive? is probably going to be worthwhile reading if you're serious about professional quality video.
  • Where SLRs (or more generally, anything with a large sensor) do better than smaller sensor cameras like the ones you've linked to is in a couple of areas: in low light, and in giving you depth of field control (one thing in focus, other things out of focus). Depending a bit on what you mean by "low light", you probably do need to be considering an SLR, or other large-sensor camera.
  • As for skiing, you'll need to consider weather resistance. This is something which generally appears only on specialised "tough" cameras, which won't give you "near professional quality" images, or (expensive!) professional quality kit.

As for the general usability of SLRs, almost every SLR has a "fully automatic" mode - with that, you can pretty much just give it to somebody else and get a photo at least as good as you'd get from a smaller sensor camera.

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Simply put, for $600 you aren't going to meet all of your requirements. For skiing videos, the GoPro is the only way to go in your price range and would exhaust most of your budget in that alone.

As far as low light performance with quality, that's more or less the domain of high end pro gear. Almost all consumer gear gets really noisy when it gets in to low light or isn't that great of quality to begin with.

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