In the not too distant past, so-called entry-level cameras were stripped-down models built to a price point. They were designed to entice point-and-shoot photographers into the serried ranks of serious photographers.
You can thank (or curse at) the smartphone for disrupting these time-honored parameters, but casual shooters moving up to “real cameras” are now more focused on enhancing their creative potential than getting basic features at bargain prices.
These emerging enthusiasts are a demographic sweet spot for retailers because they’re very likely to expand their involvement with photography. That means they’re highly motivated to acquire additional lenses, more advanced high-ticket cameras and various accessories going forward. The most effective strategy in establishing long-term relationships with this key demographic is to get to understand their priorities and become a purveyor of expert advice and empathetic encouragement, as well as imaging equipment and services.
A great place to start is by perusing the carefully selected list of interchangeable-lens cameras below, many of which come in both black and silver versions for personalization. All of them also deliver outstanding image quality and advanced feature sets. And they are all aimed at satisfying folks that are likely to become your best customers.
ILCs for Entry-Level Photographers
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II
This upgraded, broad-spectrum OM-D model provides many key features of the flagship Micro Four Thirds-format Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II. It does so in a handsomely portable, high-value package. The ILC incorporates a 16.1 megapixel Live MOS sensor that works with a state-of-the-art Olympus TruePic VII sensor to produce sharp full-resolution images at a blistering 8.5 frames per second (fps). It additionally provides ISO settings to 25,600 for low-light performance and has a built-in 5-axis sensor-shift image stabilization (IS) system engineered to deliver a 4-stop anti-shake advantage in handheld shooting.
The MFT camera can capture Full HD 1080p video at up to 60 fps and has a responsive 81-point “FAST” AF system. It also boasts a 2.36M-dot electronic viewfinder (EVF) with a remarkable 120-fps refresh rate. A 3-inch, 1.04M-dot, tilting touch-screen LCD with touch AF complements the EVF.
Other features include: a top shutter speed of 1/16,000 sec; 14 art filters; a 4K time-lapse movie mode; and an integrated flash. Wi-Fi connectivity aids in easy sharing and remote shooting via smartphones. With M.Zuiko 14–42mm EZ lens, $599.99. olympusamerica.com
This is the first Nikon to offer a touch-screen LCD for more convenient navigation and camera control. The attractive DSLR employs a 24.2MP APS-C-size, DX-format sensor coupled to an advanced Expeed 4 image processor. As a result, the D5500 produces high-res images and Full HD 1080p video at 60/50/30/25/24 fps. It also delivers enhanced low-light performance at sensitivity settings up to ISO 25,600, and a full-res burst rate of 5 fps.
Moreover, to achieve a higher level of sharpness and benefit from the full resolution potential of its sensor, the usual low-pass filter has been eliminated. Other key features include: a 39-point AF system with 9 cross type sensors; a 2,016-pixel RGB metering system; an intervalometer that records up to 9,999 consecutive frames at set intervals; and an eye sensor that turns the monitor on/off and starts playback when the shooter’s eye moves away from the finder.
There are also selectable audio frequency ranges, including wide and voice. The D5500 is a bit smaller and lighter than its predecessors yet incorporates a large, 3.2-inch, 1.04-dot, vari-angle LCD with 180º swivel capability. And built-in Wi-Fi provides remote viewing and shutter release when the camera is paired with smart devices. With DX Nikkor 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6G VR II lens, $799.95. nikonusa.com
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX85
The upgraded GX85 has the look and feel of a classic rangefinder 35mm model, but it’s an advanced Micro Four Thirds-format mirrorless camera. Its 16MP Live MOS sensor works with a cutting-edge Venus engine processor. The combination achieves 4K UHD video capture at 30/24 fps, a maximum full-res burst rate of up to 10 fps with single-shot AF (6 fps with continuous AF) and an 8MP still option at 30 fps!
The GX85 has sensitivity settings to ISO 25,600 and excellent responsiveness thanks to its Depth from Defocus AF technology. Moreover, a 3-inch, 1.04M-dot, tilting touch-screen LCD monitor and a 90º, 2.76M-dot EVF provide excellent viewing options.
The camera also captures Full HD 1080p video at 60 fps. Other features include: a dual image stabilization system that leverages the camera’s built-in 5-axis IS and the IS capabilities built into OIS Lumix lenses; wireless connectivity with NFC; a silent shutter mode; auto HDR and multi-exposure modes; and an ergonomic form factor. With 12–32mm f/3.5–5.6 Lumix G Vario Asph lens, $699.99. panasonic.com
This sleek, new Fujifilm X-mount, mirrorless camera delivers a full complement of advanced features and capabilities. These include an upgraded 24.3MP APS-C-format, X-Trans CMOS III sensor. The sensor works with an advanced X-Processor Pro image processor to deliver a sizzling full-res burst rate of 14 fps.
The camera also delivers sensitivity settings to ISO 51,200, 4K UHD video recording at 30 fps, Full HD 1080p video capture at 60 fps, and impressive responsiveness. It has a 0.4-sec start-up time, a 0.25-sec shooting interval, a 0.05-sec shutter lag time and AF speeds of 0.06 second!
Other features include: a 3-inch, 1.04M-dot, touch-screen LCD with touch AF and touch shoot functions; a 2.36M-dot electronic viewfinder; a 91-point contrast-detection AF system with custom AF-C settings; and built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. Other creative niceties include film simulation, grain effect and scene recognition modes, advanced filters and a multiple exposure mode. With XF18–55mm f/2.8–4 R LM OIS lens, $1,299.95. fujifilmusa.com
Canon EOS Rebel T6
Donning a handsome, contemporary version of the classic Rebel form factor, the compact, high-value Rebel T6 DSLR has an 18MP APS-C-format CMOS. Furthermore, it joins forces with Canon’s upgraded Digic 4+ image sensor to deliver ISO settings from 100–6,400, which are expandable to 12,800. The duo also produces a maximum full-res burst rate of 3 fps and Full HD 1080p video capture at 30 fps.
In addition, a 9-point AF system incorporates a single central cross-pattern sensor to increase accuracy and focusing speed. It also provides an AI servo AF mechanism for faster tracking of moving subjects, and it uses a contrast-detection focusing system for enhanced precision when shooting movies or in live view.
Other features include: a 3-inch, 921K-dot LCD; built-in Wi-Fi connectivity with NFC; basic+ as well as creative auto modes; and a scene-detection-based intelligent auto mode for entry-level shooters. With EF-S 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6 IS II lens, $549.99. usa.canon.com
This ergonomically contoured classic DSLR delivers imaging performance and features on a par with upper-tier DSLRs at an attractive price. Its advanced specs include a 24.2MP APS-C-format, AA filterless CMOS sensor and the latest Prime MII image processor. The result is the ability to record Full HD 1080i video at 60i/50i/30p/25p/24p plus 4K interval recording.
Its ISO settings top out at ISO 102,400, and it achieves a full-res burst rate of 6 fps. The K-70 employs Pentax’s first hybrid AF system during live view autofocus operation. It uses a contrast-detection AF sensor along with a phase-matching AF sensor. Moreover, the advanced SAFOX X 11-point AF system has nine cross-type sensors and works with 77-segment metering.
Other features also include: a 3-inch, 921K-dot, vari-angle LCD; a bright 100%-view optical pentaprism viewfinder; an in-camera sensor-shift shake reduction system with Pixel Shift and Diffraction Correction technology; a selectable antialiasing filter simulator; and integrated Wi-Fi as well as GPS (using the optional O-GPS1 GPS module). All of this is built into a robust, weather-sealed body. With smc Pentax DA 18–135mm f/3.5–5.6 ED AL DC WR lens, $899.95. ricohimaging.com
Sony Alpha a6300
This 24.2MP APS-C-format camera with a CMOS sensor married to an advanced Bionz X processor sets a high standard with its advanced sensor design. It offers enhanced 4K UHD video capture and a full-res RAW burst rate of up to 11 fps for 21 frames. The new sensor combines wide-area, 425-point phase detection with 169-zone contrast-detection AF to deliver precise, decisive AF in as little as 0.05 second. It addition, the system achieves superior object identification; faster, more consistent tracking; an 8-fps burst rate in live view; 14-bit RAW file output for capturing a wider tonal range and color gamut; and ISO settings up to 51,200.
The mirrorless a6300 offers two viewing/reviewing options—a 2.36M-dot OLED EVF as well as a 3-inch, 922K-dot, tilting LCD monitor. It captures 4K UHD video at 30, 25 and cinematic 24 fps, as well as Full HD at up to a slow-motion 120 fps, all in XAVC S format. The camera captures video at 20MP resolution (6,000×3,376) and outputs at 8MP in 4K, when using the Super 35mm 16:9 aspect ratio.
The camera also supports custom color and S-Log3 Gamma profiles, as well as Wi-Fi/NFC connectivity. With 16–50mm f/3.5–5.6 power zoom OSS lens, $929.99. sony.com
Sigma sd Quattro
This unique mirrorless camera combines Sigma’s lauded three-layer 29MP APS-C Foveon X3 Quattro CMOS sensor. The sensor delivers full color information at every pixel point without interpolation. As a result of its amazing 1:1.4 RGB pixel ratio, the sd Quattro can create 19.6MP lossless compressed RAW images with superior color output and a spatial resolution equivalent to a conventional 39MP Bayer sensor.
An advanced Dual True III image processor enables continuous, full-res shooting at 3.6 fps for 14 frames, at sensitivities up to ISO 6,400, as well as super-fine detail mode. Plus, the camera provides a 3-inch, 1.62M-dot LCD complemented by a 2.36M-dot, 1.10x magnification electronic viewfinder.
Another beneficial feature is the camera’s hybrid AF system that incorporates both phase-detection and contrast-detection points with up to nine selectable zones. The splashproof sd Quattro has a distinctive ergonomic shape, an intuitive, customizable control layout and a Sigma SA lens mount. Paired with the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC HSM Art lens (45mm equivalent), it provides very shallow depth of field for artistic effects, rounded aperture blades for enhanced bokeh and an 11.8-inch close focus distance for compelling close-ups. With Sigma 30mm f/1.4 Art lens, $999. sigmaphoto.com
This attractively contoured digital SLR features a high-res 24.2MP, DX-format CMOS sensor coupled to Nikon’s Expeed 4 image processor. To achieve higher sharpness and greater detail in both photos and videos, the sensor’s low-pass filter was eliminated. The result is an extended sensitivity range of ISO 100 to ISO 25,600, a satisfying full-res burst rate of 5 fps and Full HD 1080p videos shot at 60 fps.
Other features include: a 3-inch, 921K-dot LCD with a 170º viewing angle; an eye-level pentamirror viewfinder; 10 built-in special effects; Nikon’s Multi-CAM 1000 AF sensor with 11 AF zones; and a pop-up flash compatible with Nikon’s i-TTL system.
The D3400’s SnapBridge enhanced wireless connectivity options include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. In addition, it boasts a long-life Li-Ion battery with a claimed 1,200-shot-per-charge capacity. With AF-P DX Nikkor 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6G VR lens with built-in IS, $549.95. nikonusa.com
Sony Alpha a7
The mirrorless, E-mount a7 provides plenty of room for entry-level enthusiasts to grow. Its full-frame 24.3MP Exmor CMOS sensor is coupled to an advanced Bionz X image processor and an enhanced fast hybrid AF system with 117 phase-detection and 25 contrast-detection sensors. This all amounts to superior focus tracking as well as a full-res burst rate of 5 fps with continuous AF and AE.
In addition, advanced area-specific noise reduction operates on every image. The camera also provides 16-bit processing and 14-bit RAW output. And for great portraits, eye autofocus creates sharp focus on faces with a shallow depth of field, even when partially turned away from the camera.
The a7 records Full HD 1080p video at 60/30p as well as cinematic 24p. Other key features include: a 2.9-inch, 1.2M-dot, tilting LCD monitor; a 0.5-inch, 2.4M-dot XGA OLED EVF; a Quick Navi Pro direct access interface that displays major shooting options on the LCD; built-in Wi-Fi as well as NFC; a multi-interface shoe; and a robust, moisture-resistant body. With FE 28–70mm f/3.5–5.6 OSS lens, $1,199. sony.com
Canon EOS M100
The latest iteration of Canon’s sleek, full-featured, interchangeable-lens mirrorless series provides impressive performance parameters yet is designed for easy operation. It features a 24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor coupled to an advanced Digic 7 processor. Together they deliver a full-res burst rate of 6.1 fps with AF lock, sensitivity settings to ISO 25,600 and Full HD 1080p video capture at up to 60 fps.
Dual Pixel CMOS AF integrates two separate photodiodes into each pixel for enhanced phase-detection and faster autofocus lock-on without hunting. In addition, the M100’s touch interface was revamped to make it easy to change settings, adjust modes and focus with the touch of a finger. The 3-inch, 1.04M-dot, touch LCD also tilts. In addition, a creative assist function walks users through how certain settings affect an image.
Other key features also include: movie servo AF mode for smooth transitions, tracking sensitivity and AF speed adjustments; time-lapse movie mode; self-portrait mode with smooth skin adjustments; HDR backlight control; and built-in Wi-Fi/NFC/Bluetooth for linking to mobile devices and controlling the camera remotely. With EF-M 15–45mm f/3.5–6.3 IS STM lens with lens-shift IS and a stepping motor for enhanced video performance, $599.99. usa.canon.com