Boy, do I get lots of requests for recommendations for everything from cameras to printers to Photoshop books to labs. I created a category on this blog for this so you can easily come back and reference the equipment and sites I find the most safe and useful.
Before I get carried away, I’ll cut to the chase.
Best small point and shoot digital camera:
Canon Digital Elph Line (they are all good) $250-$350 depending on model
Best starter digital SLR for manual control:
Canon Rebel Kit $500-$1000 depending on model and lens in the kit
I gave Amazon links since most people are familiar and comfortable with them. Buying digital camera equipment on the internet takes some know-how. Many companies are literally setting up a temporary online presence, putting up very low prices, and then refusing to fill orders or giving open-ended shipping dates unless you “call their salespeople” to listen to long high pressure spiels for expensive extras. Once they get too many negative reviews, they change names and start all over again.
Here are two other reputable places to buy equipment. They won’t pull any gimmicks. I buy 75% of my cameras, lenses, lights, tripods, and printing supplies from one of these two places:
Those two sites will be within a dollar or two of each other. B&H has more selection for pros, I think, if I’m buying flashes or strobes, so I often go with them, but Adorama often has free shipping options, so in those cases I go for them. To see them quickly side by side, type in what you’re looking for at www.pricegrabber.com, just don’t get fooled by the very cheap places, which pop up as fast as the site can weed them out. Basically, if a company has lowballed a price, it is either a purchase-only-with-accessories or a gray market (non-US warranty) item. I’ve also used Tri-state and Abe’s of Maine (should they pop up for you at PriceGrabber), although I do not recommend them as highly.
If you want to go local, your options are few. I buy things at Precision Camera on Lamar at 35th whenever I can to support them, as the only other two camera stores with pro equipment shut down. We need Precision around and they will often work with you if you bring in an internet printout on a price. I buy a few things at Fry’s, especially printers, spare camera batteries, and memory cards. I will use them especially if I think I might end up returning the item. I will not buy cameras at other electronics or camera stores, as any salesperson who knows enough to be helpful will only work there about 1.2 seconds before moving up or on, and the others can pass on terrible misinformation. I’ve had terrible arguments with some of them, especially about negative issues on cameras they tout as “bonus” features–but they are settings you should not use under any circumstance, such as digital zoom or auto ISO.
If you’ve taken any of my photo classes, you’ll know my highest recommendation for getting your pictures printed is NEVER going to be anything you will buy and do at home, which is always an iffy proposition for both quality and longevity. Upload your images to be printed to www.mpix.com, which is a sister company to my professional lab. You will not believe how good your pictures look over your Target or Walgreens prints. Try it. You’ll believe me.
If you are buying a printer and plan to do pictures, first, really, don’t. But if you do, get an Epson. Yes, you have to take care of them (ALWAYS turn them off when you are done or the heads will dry out and it will stop working.) But they care about how long your prints last. The other manufacturers’ prints will often fade in six months. Yes, months. Not exactly what you want to fill your family albums with. I bought an Epson PictureMate for 4×6 prints for my mom and she loves it. Its a wonderful little photo printer that you can carry around with you. She takes it to birthday parties, on vacation. You stick your card in, push print, and it makes your full bleed 4×6 in about 60 seconds. For 29 cents. And the print lasts 125 years according to independent industry testing.
It is CRITICAL if you are buying a point and shoot digital camera without trying it out in a store that you at least read a review of it, hopefully one with comments where people post their problems with the camera. There is nothing worse than spending several hundred dollars on a digital camera and discovering it takes ten seconds to turn on, therefore missing most any shot. My favorite review site, mainly because they review most everything, is
You can easily compare models, see when they were released, and how much the major sites are charging for it.