This page has been written because many people ask me for advice on camera purchases. It is my recommendation as of February 2015. It appears the future market for cameras are moving slightly away from big SLR (Single Lens Reflex) cameras towards mirrorless system (i.e. with replacable lenses) cameras for the higher end of the consumer market. For the lower end, phone-cameras are taking an ever larger market-share from lower end compact cameras, while there will be an inceasing interest among high quality compact cameras, even if these cost the same as entry-level SLRs.
Two approaches to a camera purchase:
1. Get the best camera on a limited budget (Assuming "best" means best image quality)
2. Camera functionality and size preferances. The two main categories are those with interchangeable lenses (SLRs and the smaller mirrorless sytem cameras) and those with a non-removable lens. (Various degree of pocketable compact cameras.)
Note: For quality images with better options for later editing, make sure you get a camera that can shoot in RAW-format, not only in JPG.
The budget approach:
1. Less than USD 200: Save your money and use the camera on your phone.
2. USD 200 - 500: A compact camera with non-removable lens of a well-known brand. Canon Powershot G-series or the smaller S-series are good choices. In the lower end of the price-range, look for older G or S series deals. If you can stretch this price-range, my best recommendation for a small camera is the Sony RX100 series cameras. You can also get low-end SLRs in this price-range, but my experience with these are not the best. They are unecessary large for the image quality they produce. My experience is that mirrirless system cameras from Sony or Olympus gives more value for money in this price-range.
3. USD 500 - 1000: An excellent small camera is the Sony RX-100. A good selection of cameras with replacable lenses from Canon, Nikon or Sony are available, but usually with a kit lens of inferior quality. Lenses are easier to manufacture for mirrorless cameras, and my experience is that these cameras have better lenses than SLRs in this price range. Panasonic is also a brand many photographers enjoy, but I have never used them.
4. USD 1000 - 2000: As 3. above, but you now have the option of buying a better lens than the kit lens. SLRs are good options in this range, particularly from Canon, Nikon and Sony. Some Sony cameras may have issues with 3rd party accessories.
5. USD 2000 - 5000: A good selection of full-frame sensor SLR cameras with replacable lenses from Canon, Nikon or Sony are available. Some Sony-models are less compatible with 3rd party professional camera accessories. Make sure to get top-of-the line lenses suitable for full-frame sensors to utilize the camera to it's full. Less heavy options in the form of mirrorless system cameras, particularly from Sony, has made interesting moves into this territory as well.
6. Above USD 5000: The chance is slim that you need my advise
The functionality and size approach:
1. Small compact that will fit in most pockets: Sony RX-100 is the best available, at least below USD 1000.
2. Large compact that will only fit in a large coat pocket: Look for something with a large sensor (large in surface area, not necessarily the one with most megapixels.
3. Small mirrorless system camera with interchangeable lenses. These are generally smaller than SLRs and can produce similar quality images. Great for travelling. Sony and Olympus are good options. Stay clear of the Nikons and Canons in this category, as their offerings appear crippled to prevent cannibalizing their SLR markets.
4. Large system camera with interchangeable lenses (SLR). These are large to carry but great photographic tools. Nikon and Canon have several good offerings, particularly in their higher price ranges with full-format sensors. They have the widest range of accessories and are the preferred brands among most professionals. There have been some quality issues with some Nikon-models, but their top-of-the-range D3 and D4 family of cameras appears to have escaped these problems.
5. Medium format cameras where the Pentax 645 is a good option at USD 8000. In this category, the chance is slim that you need my advise.
Other criteria and notes:
The above is the personal opinion of the author of this web-site. Cameras may have a large number of additional features, I have only considered camera size, form factor and image quality. An excellent camera review site is Dpreview