Five of the best new and affordable digital cameras
From Sony’s A6400 for photography enthusiasts to a good beginner’s option from Nikon, Matthew Partridge reviews the options if you’re in the market for a new digital camera.
This year Sony released several new digital cameras, including the A6400, a camera intended to appeal to "prosumers" people who are more enthusiastic about photography than the average user, but don't want to break the bank. Designed in a "rangefinder" style, with the viewfinder to the right of the lens (though you'll still, of course, see the image that comes through the lens), it is relatively lightweight and compact yet remains easy to grip.
With the A6400 Sony aims to deliver several improvements over previous models in terms of the speed and precision of the autofocus system. You can set it so that it automatically focuses on the eyes of the subject. It also has improved video features, including the ability to record for an unlimited time without interruption, very useful if you are recording plays or extended talks. The display can even flip 180 degrees so that your subject can view themselves being recorded.
I have tested it extensively under a variety of conditions and the autofocus system works well, producing clear, high-quality images, even at the fastest setting and using the electronic shutter, which allows you to take photos silently. Battery life is solid, producing just over an hour's worth of video or around 800 still shots before the battery needs to be recharged. If you plan on taking even longer videos, you can plug it into the mains.
A few drawbacks
The camera does have a few drawbacks, although these are relatively minor. Sony's colours tend to be a little on the vivid side, for example, which produces great outdoor shots, but means that pictures taken under fluorescent lighting tend to be oversaturated. It is possible, however, to customise the colour scheme. Similarly, the controls and the menu system can be confusing to begin with, so it's a good idea to go through the manual, even if you're familiar with digital cameras.
All in all, this is a strong camera, which provides excellent value for money. With Sony about to release two similar models, it might be worth looking for secondhand bargains. The 16mm-50mm kit lens is fine for general use; the more expensive 18mm-135mm F3.5-56 lenses gives you a much greater zoom range. The 50 F1.8 is also worth picking up if you want to shoot in low light. £949 body only, £999 with 16mm-50mm lens, £1,249 with 18mm-135mm lens
The X-T30 is one of the best cameras you can buy today for under £1,000, says Mark Wilson on Trusted Reviews. Packing all of the punch of its predecessor, the X-T3, into a more compact body, it makes for a great all-rounder for both stills and video. It shoots video in 4K, has a speedy autofocus that easily locks subjects in frame and has a mechanical shutter as well as an electric one, meaning it allows for shots at between eight and 30 frames per second, making it as good at capturing landscapes as fast-moving action. The X-T30 is a solid investment. £849, shop.fujifilm.co.uk
The Nikon D3500 makes for a good entry-level camera that will give you room to grow, says Jim Fisher in PC Magazine. The camera also features guide-mode for users who want to explore and "take some creative control". Considering that a lens is included, it's also a bargain. It is better quality than other brands' low-cost starter models too. It shoots video at a resolution of 1,080 pixels, so it might not be for those who want to shoot longer video footage, but it's a fine choice for those looking to experiment with shooting shorter videos. £239, nikon.co.uk
Canon EOS Rebel SL2/EOS 200D
If you're after a "small and unintimidating camera, but want image quality that surpasses that from a compact model", the Rebel is the one to go for, says Phil Hall on TechRadar. The image quality is excellent as the resolution has been improved with an upgraded sensor. The camera has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, a "selfie" mode and skin-smoothing and background-blurring controls. It also allows you to share images quickly on social media it's "the perfect replacement for the avid smartphone photographer looking to step up to their first camera", says Canon. With all of these features, it's hard not to agree. £489.99, store.canon.co.uk
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III
Previous models of the OM-D E-M10 have ranked first on Digital Camera World's list of best travel cameras and the latest Mark III is no different. It's an update of previous models, with new features including 4K video and a more powerful image processor. This iteration of the OM-D EM10 is "small, powerful, and really rather good", said Digital Camera World when it came out in 2017. It's ideal for enthusiasts who want to take creative control and for smartphone upgraders who will find it easy to manoeuvre, thanks to its high-quality touchscreen.£629, olympus.co.uk