Back-To-School Digital Cameras

Olympus's Micro 4/3rd's camera

School will be starting again and you’re going to be taking that digital photography or photojournalism class you always wanted to (or just to get rid of credits.) If it’s a good program, your teacher is going to tell you to go out and buy a manual camera of some sort. Despite the fact that you’re most likely going to sell back those textbooks, it will probably be a good investment for you to get a great camera now. Here’s a list of cameras that you may want to get your hands on that may potentially stick with you for the long run.

Author’s Note: If you’re reading this article then you also may want to check out why you will need to get a 50mm lens, lenses to help you out while learning, which telephoto lenses to get your hands on as well as my other tips. You may really enjoy my tips on shooting big cities while traveling light. Before you proceed, know that all cameras in this posting are tailored for long-term use, both photojournalism and art students, will shoot both JPEGs and RAW, and for the most part are all interchangeable lens cameras with the exception of the G10. I wouldn’t recommend anything less than these for your needs and I also highly recommend that you do some deal-hunting.

Canon G10


Though everyone is raving all about the G11 and the S90, they’re not available for purchase yet. When the G10 hit the stores, everyone was raving about that camera. My mentors went out and bought them because they wanted a compact camera of some sort to accompany their DSLRs. In truth, it is a good camera with lots of megapixels to make big prints.

To be fair, your professors will probably not ask you to make prints bigger than 8×10. If that’s the case, 5MP handles that job very well. The 14MP sensor of the G10 will allow lots of room for cropping and post-production work. In the rare occasion where they ask you to make bigger prints and enter them into a gallery in order to pass the class (yes, I’ve had to do that), this camera will do nicely.

When the class is over you’ll be able to keep this compact for a while and use it to capture all those other college memories.

Panasonic GH1/Olympus EP-1


These two are grouped together because they’re the same format- Micro Four Thirds. Click on the link to learn more about it but what makes it so important is the fact that you’ll be able to use almost any lens from any camera system as long as you can get your hands on the adapter. Each camera will fulfill a different niche audience’s needs in college. The GH1 may be better for photojournalism students because of the inclusion of video mode and the fact that we’re constantly being told to bring back compelling stills and video in order to create better content. The EP-1 will suffice for the art student partially because of all the art filters. It can give you a 1up advantage over everyone else when it comes to post-production and working with Photoshop.


Granted though, you are learning and so the cameras will need you to master that learning curve in order to make the most out of them. The 12MP sensors on both cameras will allow you enough space to crop, edit and print all you could possibly need for class. For those of you that value compactness, these two cameras are the smallest interchangeable lens cameras on the list.

Nikon D90


Three of my mentors shoot with this camera- two of them are photojournalism adjuncts that also work the streets and one is an art teacher that lives in the artistic hub of Manhattan. The D90 is fast, rugged, and complete with the features that you need to shoot images artistically and for photojournalism/sports. It also has a video mode, but that feature isn’t very highly praised.

If you need a fast camera, you (or your roommate) are a clutz that may drop it, and you’d love to potentially use some very nice zooms and primes then this is the camera for you. The D90 has a great dynamic range (the colors available), excellent low-light and high ISO qualities (the grain you see, here’s how to use it to your benefit) and will surely be able to stick with you throughout college and beyond.

Canon 50D/T1i


These two cameras are grouped together because of their similarity and the fact that they both fulfill different niches. The Canon T1i has the sensor of its bigger brother, the 50D. The difference is that it’s smaller, slower, and has video recording mode. It is highly regarded in the tech/photography world and will suit the photojournalism students well. You may read some reviews of the 50D that aren’t very positive because of the fact that it doesn’t seem like much of an upgrade over the 40D (it’s predecessor.) The 50D is a very fast camera (faster than the D90) but doesn’t shoot video, so the art students that are more of the “purist” type may want to splurge the money on the more expensive 50D. However, if you can find a 40D for a good price I do recommend getting your hands on one.


Like the D90, these cameras have great dynamic range capabilities, are fast, do well in low-light and will probably not give you a reason to buy another camera for years.

Sony A700


Ask around and check with your other family members. If someone in your family was a Minolta shooter, you may be able to borrow their lenses and get your hands on a Sony A700. In all honesty, the Sony A700 doesn’t have the nice noise control that other cameras do nor the dynamic range. To be fair though, coupled with Minolta or Sony glass the output from the sensor can be very nice and will give you Photoshop hacker-wannabe’s some good learning challenges but not to the point where you will want to freak out and will become extremely frustrated (at least it shouldn’t.)

This camera is highly recommended for students with Minolta shooters in their family or those interested in going into fashion and advertising photography (you’ll eventually be able to move up to the A900 and similar cameras and keep your lenses.) Otherwise, you may be better going with Canon or Nikon.



  1. Sloaah says

    Any student should seriously consider getting a second hand camera. Cameras do not change a *huge* amount generation to generation, and if you get a decent SLR it will far exceed the quality of any of the G11 and easily match the 4/3rds cameras in areas such as dynamic range, colour, etc. Also, don’t rule out film cameras – they are extremely good for learning when matched with a basic 50mm or 35mm prime lens.