3 Great Cameras for Parents (+3 Bonus Tips!)

little boy taking picture of little girl with big camera

You have kids and you have a cell phone and you take a lot of pictures. Maybe you’re wondering if there’s something out there that gives you more control than the camera phone?

Of course there is! There are TONS of options! Here are three of my favorites, when factoring in usability, features, and price…

(BTW: None of these recommendations factor in video, just photo… that’s a giant other conversation. I personally use my cell phone for basic video of my kids!)

two teenage boys playing with dog in front of lake

Camera phones have come a LONG way for people who want a solid automatic picture-taking tool. But for those who desire a bit more control, they can get INCREDIBLY FRUSTRATING. (Have you ever tried to take a cell phone picture of your kids indoors while they’re moving and they’re just a giant blurry mess?? Case in point. Althooough there is a story there in that blurry mess….)

That said, there are dozens of point-and-shoot cameras that are in direct competition with camera phones. These are fantastic options for parents who prefer not to drain their phone battery! But for the recommendations below I am assuming that you want something a little bit different than the simple point-and-shoot variety.

Instead let’s talk about how to up your game a bit, with introductory DSLRs and Mirrorless cameras. Here are 3 great options for parents who are finding the camera on their cell phone a little bit limiting

(BTW If you order using any of the Amazon affiliate links below, I get a small commission from Amazon. I appreciate your support!)

little girl digging a hole

Pick #1: Canon 6D Mark II DSLR

This camera is the real deal. It has a ton of features packed into a pretty reasonable price tag. So much so that I know several professional photographers who use this as their secondary camera. Do you get passionate about something and dive in? (I can relate btw.) It’ll be a long time before you hit your learning limit with this one.

One thing that makes this camera so great is that it is full frame. Which means it has a bigger sensor, which means it has better image quality (especially in low light conditions)- among other things. Do you like being able to have something in focus and blur out the background beautifully? Full frame makes that effect even dreamier.

This is a big step above your cell phone camera – probably more so than the other options I suggest – but it has a price tag to match. Though extremely reasonable, it is not the most entry-level DSLR on the market; it just offers a TON of professional features for your buck.

Are you thinking you’d prefer to have a camera that is a bit more lightweight and inconspicuous? Consider a mirrorless option like this next one…

girl lounging in crib with lots of stuffed animals

Pick #2 Fujifilm XT3 (Mirrorless)

Here’s the deal with mirrorless cameras like the XT3: The technology is different/newer than DSLRs but innovating like mad right now. There are fewer lenses available for mirrorless cameras, and the cameras have a much shorter battery life than DSLRs. BUT the lack of internal mirror makes them lighter and more compact, and they are really fun to carry around.

Newer photographers will love the ability to preview the finished photograph through the viewfinder/rear screen – just as it will look after you take the picture. (Unlike the DSLR, in which the scene is presented to you just as your eye sees it.) This feature makes it easier for you to set up your exposures on the fly. However, I could very easily see this becoming a crutch, making it difficult to ever REALLY learn exposures properly.

On a personal note, I find the rear live view screen on mirrorless cameras really distracting. The last thing I want is to use the camera like a cell phone, but I feel the rear screen makes it way too easy to do so. But again that is a personal preference- and given by someone who has been shooting WITHOUT live view for over 20 years. Change is a tough beast.

ALSO… (for those with teens or chronic cheese-ers)… the silent settings on mirrorless cameras are better than on DSLRs. Significantly so.

I own the XT3 and recommend it, with one caveat. I find my Canon DSLRs handle low light settings much better. Which means in dark rooms I’m always reaching for my DSLR, not my Fuji. But for outside purposes, this thing is so much fun! This next photo was actually taken with the XT3 camera and I love it.

little boy playing with bubbles in the backyard

Pick #3: Nikon D3500 DSLR

The Nikon D3500 is one of the cheapest options for getting into DSLR photography. Like my other suggestions, this camera features interchangeable lenses. This basic introductory DSLR camera has solid build quality and is bulkier/heavier than the Fujifilm XT3 option. If you’re looking for a minimal investment, this is your best value. But it is a very basic model, in all respects. For example, it does not feature a touch screen. (If you require a touch screen, then consider the rival Canon option EOS Rebel SL2.)

Here’s the most important point:

The thing to keep in mind is that camera bodies are a technology that ages quickly. You will likely be reaching for a more updated model in just a couple of years’ time. It is the LENSES that hold their value. I use pristine high quality lenses from over 10 years ago, still today! BUT the thing to keep in mind is that each camera company makes a unique mount for its own cameras (where lenses attach). Which means that the lenses you purchase for your Canon camera will NOT work on your Nikon camera.

This is important because once you buy X brand camera and start purchasing lenses to fit it, you become invested in that brand. It is hard to switch brands without losing a lot of money. This is the reason that my primary cameras have been Canon since 1998!

Okay, time to move on to my 3 bonus suggestions…

toddler laughing as his dad pulls him on a bright green sled through the sidewalks of their bellevue city streets in pittsburgh pa

BONUS TIP #1: Don’t buy the kit lens!

Each of the three camera options above features interchangeable lenses. This means you can pick and choose the lenses that you’d like to buy, based on the specific events you will most be photographing. Do your kids do a lot of sports? Long fast zoom! Are they mostly young? Midrange zoom! Do you not have a lot of natural light in your house? Wide prime! Do you just want an affordable quality portrait lens? 85mm prime!

It’s very easy to feel overwhelmed by lens options (trust me, even the pros do). But it’s a lot simpler than it sounds. I would suggest reviewing the camera roll on your phone closely, taking note of the types of pictures you take and in what conditions, and then consult with an expert for a recommendation. Our local(ish) YM Camera is always happy to offer suggestions, and there is a wealth of information online; or you can always set up a 1:1 with me. I know your time is valuable and online research can send you down an endless rabbit hole!

BONUS TIP #2: Go USED!

Now is a good time to pick up DSLRs in particular. Professional photographers are notorious gear-lovers, and the early adopters are getting excited about the potential of the mirrorless lineup… they are selling off their tried-and-true DSLR gear to fund new purchases.

  • Let me know what you are looking for and I will check in with the local photography community to see what is available.
  • Try FB marketplace/craigslist (buyer beware)
  • I highly recommend YM Camera for local photography purchases! They have a pretty good lineup of used lenses coming in and out the door there, offer fantastic customer service, and are at competitive rates.

BONUS TIP #3: Got the camera. What next?

There is a bit of a learning curve for these cameras! If you have the time, you can find a wealth of information online. Aside from free content here on this blog, try these websites:

  • Clickin Moms – This is a supportive community of moms who have a strong interest in photography. Paid membership for access to community boards and content. They also offer additional paid workshops exclusive to members.
  • SLR Lounge – This team of photographers is dedicated to teaching ALL levels of photographer, from beginner on up. Lots of great, clear, FREE videos here.
  • Creative Live – These online classes are paid, but daily a few will streamcast for free, too. Just sign up for their mailing list and wait for a relevant 101 class to stream!
  • Flickr – Think facebook, but only for photographers. Lots of sharing and critique and support here- for ALL types of photography.

But if your time is short, a little bit of hand holding goes a long way. Consider a mentoring appointment, so I can answer all your questions and point you in the right direction. For more information, just email me or submit the form below.

3 great cameras for parents

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