Cotton's Guide to Camera Shopping, 2016

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Sony RX100, Olympus E-M5 II, Sony A7, Nikon D750 SLR (from

I've recently had a couple friends asking for camera purchase advice. Both know their way around a camera but are mystified by the bewildering array of new choices in digital that have cropped up in recent years. Digital photography is an inherently complex area. The following – despite being six pages long – is my attempt to provide the minimum amount of information necessary to making an informed decision, without getting too deeply into technicalities.

As well as background information, I also provide some product recommendations, which of course should be taken with a suitable helping of salt. That said, these recommendations are based on extensive dialogue with other experienced photographera, whose skill-sets complement my own. (Ditto for the brand critiques.)

Camera choices now branch into:

Interchangeable-lens designs:

Fixed-lens designs:

(A prime lens has only a single focal length, i.e.: is non-zooming. This typically results in less distortion away from the centre of the image than zooms can achieve.)

The rangefinder design pre-dates SLR and is now almost extinct. Leica makes a digital rangefinder but it's extremely expensive. I won't go into the details, but it's very hard to find any advantages left to the rangefinder when compared to mirrorless, so I'll ignore it, as does nearly everyone else.