I try to make choices for simplicity in my technology. But, when it comes to cameras I’ve decided some factors outweight the simplicity and convenience of using an iPhone for my primary photography instrument. I believed the iPhone was the best way to go for most people. The photos are crisp and clean and getting better every year. The apps and always-connected nature of the device means your photos actually make it out onto social networks and blogs so much more easily. It’s even easy to have fun and be creative using the iPhone camera.

The problem is that too many of my iPhone photos were not turning out. Mainly because most of our family photo moments happen in poor lighting. Our apartment is situated so that not much natural light comes in, especially during the afternoon and evening hours. Exacerbating the issue, the artificial light in our living room is all provided by table and floor lamps, which just don’t do enough for smart-phone cameras.

Also, I know enough about photography to know what I’m missing out on. I understand the concepts of aperture and shutter speed, ISO sensitivity, auto-focus speeds and optical image stabilization. I also have the desire to express my creativity through photography and videography to a further extent. So, I started looking for better tools.

I had been looking for a long time, but we have a new baby arriving this week!

I’ve had various cameras in my Amazon wish lists over the years, but my requirements broke down like this:

  1. Low-light performance: primarily from image stabilization and buying a faster lens.
  2. Video performace: full HD video at 60FPS allowing for buttery smooth 1/2 speed shots.
  3. Cost: Camera, kit lens, fast prime lens, tripod and a few basic accessories for less than $1,000. Which is expensive, but cheaper than some consumer electronics investments for the family.
  4. Image quality: clarity, color, and megapixels.

I read a lot of reviews, for the cameras in the middle pro-sumer range. I think The Wirecutter Camera Guides are very well written and thoughtful. I also love the depth of detail available at dpReview. I also enjoy reading the reviews at Tools & Toys, though I often come to different conclusions than they do.

NEX 5-T

I eventually decided I wanted a Sony. The new Sony a6000 with kit lenses can be found refurbished on places like Newegg for decent prices, but I was a little nervous about investing in a refurbished unit. I decided to drop down to the NEX-5T which is about 2 years old at this point, but is still available new in retail packaging from Amazon.

NEX-5T and accessories Here’s the whole kit.

I then picked up a fast 35mm Prime Lens which allows me to take photos in extremely low light and get really shallow depth of field, creating the bokeh look.

Example of Shallow Depth of Field

I still had enough Christmas money for an affordable tripod, camera bag, and a few filters, as well as a new EyeFi SD card and a copy of Adobe Lightroom.

In my mind the ability to get all of this under my budget number was the biggest deciding factor. I got as much camera as I could afford and still get the lenses and accessories that will make my photography experience that much better. The camera body can be upgraded in a few years if I feel the need to do so, Sony seems committed to the E-Mount Lens system for now. I plan on getting a few years of solid family and personal photography into this kit, I can imagine in 2-3 years smart phone photography may have closed some of these gaps.

Watch here for Part 2, my guide to getting this camera connected into a photo management system.