Cameras for Christmas, Part 1 / by Brian Surguine

For Part 2, and my overall recommendations, click here.

Christmas is coming up, and if you're looking at cameras, I have a recommendation for you: skip the DSLR.

This year, I completed a transition away from Nikon, and now shoot completely with Fujifilm. Cameras like the X-T1 are part of a new breed of cameras called mirrorless cameras.* Because they lack a bulky mirror and optical viewfinder, mirrorless cameras are much smaller and lighter than their DSLR brethren, with almost equal performance.

Smaller cameras = easier to take with you = more pictures.

Although you can buy a mirrorless camera from almost any manufacturer now, I am going to primarily recommend two: the Olympus OM-D E-M5 (either the original or the Mark II), and the Fujifilm X-T1 (or its little sister, the X-T10). I will cover the latter in a separate post.

Olympus OM-D E-M5

I have never actually shot with the Olympus. However, I have held it in my hands at Ann Arbor's Camera Mall, and I have done a ton of reading up on it, including reviews from respected photographers like Ming Thein.

I recommend this camera because I believe it offers the best combination of picture quality, lens selection, and user friendliness for most casual photographers. Since it's a Micro Four Thirds camera, you'll gain access to the entire M43 lens system, and because the lenses can be made smaller, you can find some serious glass for not a huge amount of money. Olympus, unlike other manufacturers, puts image stabilization in the body instead of the lens. What this means is they can make their lenses without the extra expense of image stabilization, and the in-body stabilization is better anyway.

You can pick up the first generation E-M5 for a steal, or splurge for the Mark II. Either will provide a great experience. If you do get one, I found this setup guide helpful.

If I had to buy one today, I'd get the body, a spare battery, and lenses like the Olympus 14-42mm EZ (the tiny one) and 40-150mm. The Olympus 25mm f/1.8 and 45mm f/1.8 are very well regarded and make for a great low-light, street, and portrait setup. Panasonic also makes a 12-32mm zoom which gets you just a bit wider, which I actually prefer.

Disclaimer: Although I have received zero compensation for this recommendation, I wouldn't complain if Olympus sent me a camera to shoot with for a couple of months.

*Ninja edit: Earlier I described this class of camera as "interchangeable lens cameras." ILCs actually encompass both mirrorless and DSLRs.