So you want to buy a new camera?

The other day my friend asked me to suggest some models she might want to consider for her next camera purchase. She has a run of the mill point-and-shoot, and was looking to upgrade to something that might befit her growing trade in freelance blogging. Like maybe a digital SLR. This is a revised version of the email I sent her.

Small and Light

As far as an all-around good point-and-shoot, I’d recommend the Canon SD880 IS. Canon model numbers are notoriously confusing, so if you poke around online, you may find models with higher numbers that are actually be cheaper than the SD880. Don’t be swayed! The SD880 is important for two reasons. The lens is wider than other Canon models, meaning that when you’re not zoomed in, you get a wider angle of view. That and it forgos the useless viewfinder for a larger screen on the back. It also has image stabilization (corrects for shaky hands) but that’s becoming de rigeur on cameras like this these days.

Canon SD880 IS

Canon or Nikon?

If you feel like breaking into the digital SLR world, most people would say you basically have a choice between Canon and Nikon. In Canon’s case I would recommend the Digital Rebel XS. The comparable Nikon is their D60. There are a variety of different (and more expensive) prosumer SLR models from them both, but these are really good places to start, and it’d be more important to spend money on a better lens in the future than a more expensive body now. Both are going to run just under $450 and come bundled with a “kit” zoom lens. I’ve heard that Nikon’s kit lens tends to perform a little better than Canon’s. However Canon’s lens catalog is very extensive. Either will suit you just fine.

Canon Digital Rebel XS
Nikon D60

Now for something a little different

If I were buying a digital SLR today, I’d be leaning towards the Pentax K200D, specifically because Pentax offer a number of neat, non-zoom “pancake” lenses, which are both flatter and lighter than a normal zoom lens. In particular I’ve heard great things about their 35mm macro lens (ok, this one’s not exactly a pancake), which is great for both macro photography, as well as normal perspective day to day photos. A K200D body costs about $440 and the lens costs about $450. Plus it’s not a Canon or a Nikon, which everybody else is going to have. I dunno, that speaks to me.

Pentax K200D
Pentax DA 35mm F2.8 Macro Limited

Update: Oh no they didn’t!

Pamela mentioned the Pentax K2000 in the comments, which is an updated and somewhat simplified version of the K200D. I didn’t recommend it because it’s only available with the kit lens, and I wanted to stress the K200D’s body-only configuration coupled with the 35mm macro lens. Well I just learned that Pentax is coming out with a limited-edition White K2000 kit with two zoom lenses that have also been given the white treatment, and I had to add it to the list. I gotta say, “Ballsy move Pentax, ballsy.”

Pentax K2000, white

The Others

There are of course other cameras to consider. If you want all the features of an SLR, but you don’t want to fiddle with removable lenses or their bulky weight/size, consider the Canon PowerShot G10. If you want an even smaller full-featured camera that will impress your photog friends, consider the Ricoh GX200. If you want the best SLR in the smallest package that money can buy, then think about the Canon 5D Mark II.

Canon PowerShot G10
Ricoh GX200
Canon 5D Mark II


I’ve been happy with my Pentax K2000 (aka K-m) which was just released recently. It seems to get pretty good reviews, too: I’ve only had it a few weeks but I’m happy with my purchase.

Totally. The K2000 (an updated and slightly simplified version of the K200D) would probably most compare to the XS and the D60, given that you can only buy it with the kit lens.

In this case I recommended the K200D primarily because it’s available in a body-only configuration, hence the lens recommendation.

Have you picked up any of those DA Limited pancakes? The 21mm is probably the most interesting to me—though it really only equates to a 32mm lens in the 35mm terms. A wider option would be the DA 14mm.


It’s true! I do want to buy a new camera … and before the year ends, since I can write it off. My current point and shoot does color like a dream and everything else like a poo.

Marcia, if you want to stick with a point-and-shoot, it appears I’m in good company. David Pogue from the NYT agrees with me.

what!?!?!?! No film? maybe you haven’t been seeing the way the marketplace has been moving for the last 15 years. Sheesh.


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