These cameras have a few things in common:
- They all have larger sensors.
- They all have a viewfinder.
- They all have very good lens (or a good lens is available at reasonable price).
- They all produce excellent image quality.
All-in-one cameras (lenses are built-in).
Let’s start with the smallest, lightest camera with a built-in lens.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LF1 camera will fit in some pockets. The camera is pretty good in a ladies purse. The sensor is about twice the size of the small sensors found in most point n’ shoot cameras. It has a 7X optical zoom lens of very good quality. The lens is about 28mm to 200mm (f2.0 to f5.9) The viewfinder is small, but it works. I own this camera and have been able to take excellent photos with it. You will need to buy an extra battery and a battery charger (you do not want to do in-camera charging). Camera costs about $550.00 new or $300 to $350 used.
Panasonic makes another excellent camera, the Lumix DMC-ZS100. This one is a step up because it has an even larger sensor and a 10X zoom lens (f2.8 to f5.9) equal to about 25mm to 250mm. The camera has a slightly better viewfinder. You will need an extra battery and a charger. This camera costs about $550.00 new or $400.00 used.
Sony makes a camera with a built-in lens of about 28mm to 100mm. This is the Sony RX100. There is a slightly improved version (the RX100 II) that I recommend. The lens is f1.8 to f4.9. The sensor is about four times larger than in most point n’ shoot cameras. This camera has an excellent viewfinder. Camera costs about $500 to $550 new or about $325 used.
Canon has two cameras similar to those above. The G9X and the G1X Mark II both have sensor that is about the same size as the Sony RX100. Both cameras have viewfinders. The G9X has a 3.6X (f2 to f4.9) zoom lens and the G1X has a 5X (f2.8 to f3.9) optical zoom lens. These are great cameras. The G9X costs $450 new or $380 used. The G1X mark II costs $600 new or $300 used (a bargain for such a fine camera).
Interchangeable lens cameras.
Fujifilm X-E2S is a small, sort of retro camera that will accept many of the Fuji line of lenses. It has a very useable viewfinder and sports a large sensor (APS-C sensor; 23.6 x 15.6mm). Image quality is very good (somewhat better even than the all-in-one cameras described above). An 18-55mm (f2 –f4) lens is available and there are many other lenses as well. Cost of the camera body (no lens) is $400 to $500. The 18-55mm lens is about $260.00. Caution – additional lenses can be very expensive.
Sony Alpha a6000 is an even better small camera that accepts the e-mount Sony lenses. This is a modern looking camera with excellent auto focus. It has the large APS-C sensor, so image quality is very good. This is a popular camera and I am one of its fans. However, I caution that some of the lenses are very expensive. There is a 16-50mm lens and a 55-210mm lens and both are affordable. These two lenses are good, but not the very best. The other lenses are better quality, but sell for $500 to $2000 each. A newer version of the camera is out (the a6300) and it has better specs, but costs a lot more. The a6000 is still the best buy. Cost for body only is $500.00 or you can get a used one for $300.00. I own this camera and enjoy how light it is.
Canon offers a larger (SLR type) digital camera – the T5i. This camera has a APS-C sensor, a very good viewfinder and large LCD screen. (This camera is up to the T7i, which may be better, but is fairly expensive). I recommend looking for the T5i – you get a lot for the price. These cameras use all the Canon lenses (and Canon has many good to great lenses available). The T5i with 18-55mm lens is about $500.00. Used cameras are less (as low as $350.00). Canon also has a camera called the SL2. This one is much like the T5i, however it is a bit smaller/lighter and appeals to weight-conscious consumers. I like the SL2 as well. Cost is $600.00 new.
Nikon (like Canon) has a huge selection of cameras and lenses. There are two more reasonable cameras in their line-up that have outstanding performance/image quality. Look for the D5500 (light weight/fully functional) or the D7200 (heavier, but outstanding image quality). Both cameras use the full line of Nikon lenses. Both have great viewfinders/LCD screens. These cameras have APS-C sensors. The D5500 dates back to 2015 and costs about $500.00 with the 18-55mm lens (you may have to buy used at $400.00). The D7200 also dates to 2015. The D7200 costs $650. New and $500.00 used. If you want a real bargain the D7100 model is a year or so older (has similar qualities) and can be bought for $400.00 used!
If I did not own a good digital camera and wanted to buy one that I could add several lenses to over time, I would probably start with a Nikon D7200 (or D7100). I believe this is the best camera available at the lowest cost.