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Every year, I like to send you a Black Friday Camera Guide. With both Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals left and right, hopefully this will help you be prepared.

Before you Start – These tips from last year still ring true:

Prioritize. Think of what’s missing and what you wish you had. Sometimes, a new lens is a better purchase than a whole new camera.

Know where to look for sales. Amazon’s great, but check the major brand sites themselves like Olympus and Fuji and watch B&H Photo or your local camera store, too. And if you find what you need at BestBuy, their price match guarantee means you can apply deals you find elsewhere to products on their sales floor.

Don’t rule out buying used. Both B&H Photo and KEH are reputable re-sellers. 

Consider refurbished. Amazon Renewed offers a plethora of pre-owned and refurbished products at reduced prices on their special Amazon Renewed site. Everything is inspected and comes with a 90-day warranty.

Is it time for a new camera?

Truthfully, you can take a great photo with any camera. It’s all in your vision, composition, and the light. Buying a new camera won’t make you a better photographer. Investing in your skills will.

That said, newer cameras offer:

• Better image quality (especially in low-light situations).
• Weather proofing.
• Customizable buttons that make changing your settings faster and easier.
• More reactive auto-focus for action shots.
• Better video capability.
• And, if you buy a mirrorless camera, you’re buying lighter weight.

If any of these things are bothering you with your current gear, it might be time to upgrade. If they’re not, you might consider investing in a new lens instead. High-quality lenses are some of the best investments you can make for your photography.

That or some classes to improve your technique with your current gear!

What kind of camera should you get?

If it’s time to upgrade, you’ve got a lot of great choices out there today.

Note: I no longer recommend cameras that aren’t mirrorless. After all, if you’re reading this newsletter, I assume you’re shooting photos for profit AND fun and that you want a camera that you’ll actually bring on your travels and use. Typically, that comes down to weight. If you need a big lens to “look” more professional (which is important in some photography jobs), you’ll want to look elsewhere for your reviews.

My favorite camera on the market today is still the Olympus E-M1, Mark II (body only—don’t buy the kit lens).

I bought this camera last year and still LOVE it! It just came with me to Tanzania, and I couldn’t be happier.

I upgraded because I needed a higher video quality. We shoot a lot of videos here at GEP, so this is important to me.

I also wanted sharper images at high ISOs. I photograph my daughter’s swim meets in the summer, and I need the high ISO to get the action shots I want.

For seven years, I shot with the same camera—the Olympus E-M5—and I’d still be shooting with it today if I didn’t need to record 4K video. It’s a great camera and I worked around its shortcomings (it doesn’t have an audio-in jack for video and there’s a slight delay on the shutter… something I learned to deal with).

If you’re looking for a good value, the E-M5 and the E-M5 Mark II can be found used on eBay for $200 – $300. The newer E-M1 is a little more—around $400 – $500—and all three are great. If you’re looking for something more pro, the E-M1 Mark II is my recommendation. You can find it for around $1,600 new. There are also some used and refurbished options out there for $1,200 and under.

The lenses I use most often are in this order:

Leica 25mm f/1.4 Micro 4/3 lens—for pretty much everything. I miss the zoom but find my best photos are always with this lens. Since I can’t zoom with the lens, I zoom with my feet. 

Olympus M.ZUIKO 40-150mm f/2.8—for trips to Africa where my feet can’t zoom and for kids’ sports and special events at school. You, on the other hand, might prefer this: 12-40mm f/2.8 with a little less zoom for everyday use.

My second favorite camera on the market right now is the Fuji X-T2. (Note: Fuji just released the newer X-T3, which is getting rave reviews, too.)

There are four big “pluses” in Fuji’s column:

1. They make GREAT lenses. Plain and simple.

2. They’ve created a unique, new sensor that makes colors more vibrant (just like Fuji film used to do).

3. The large viewfinder on these cameras is unsurpassed (you’ll find this a particularly great feature if your eyes aren’t getting any younger).

4. All of the dials and controls you need are on the body of the camera instead of a menu on the LCD screen.

You can find the Fuji X-T2 new, without a lens, for $1,099. Or the brand new X-T3 for $1,600 (with improved sensor and frame rate). The older X-T1 is also still available from Amazon for $800.

Bonnie Caton, Shelly Perry, Sarah Ehlen, and Charlie Bulla all own the X-T2 and love it. The ONLY reason it’s not my favorite is because I prefer the skin-tone colors that come out of the Olympus.

For you, you can’t go wrong with any of these bodies. If you struggle with your eyes, maybe go Fuji. If you’re more likely to have an unsteady hand or take a lot of indoor shots, go Olympus (they’re the only brand to put image stabilization in the body of the camera and not on the lens).

For lenses consider:

Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 (or, for a better deal you can bundle the very similar 18-55mm f/ 3.6-5.6 kit lens with your purchase of the X-T2 and save $400). I don’t always recommend kit lenses, but this is a great lens and it’s $399 cheaper when you buy it WITH the Fuji XT-2 camera and not separate.

Otherwise, the Fujifilm XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 gets really good reviews and is typically $799.

And the Fujifilm XF 23mm f/2 ($399) is comparable to the one I shoot with the most and can be used for everything from portraits to landscapes.


There’s a never-ending selection of camera lenses, so ask yourself two questions to narrow down the field:

1. What focal length do you want?

All of the mirrorless cameras I’ve recommended above have what’s called a “crop factor” when you compare the focal length of their lenses to the old 35mm film cameras. Without getting too much into it, it basically means a 25mm lens acts a lot like an old 50mm lens.

50mm used to be the most commonly used lens. 70-200mm lenses are considered telephotos. And under 50mm is wide angle.

Typical travel, portrait, and client/event photographers want something in the 70-200mm range (40-140mm on these mirrorless lenses).

Landscape photographers typically like wide angle such as 14mm.

2. What aperture do you need?

Wider apertures mean lower f-stop numbers, which means more blur (bokeh) in your image. But you get what you pay for as lower numbers come with more glass and are therefore more expensive.

How to buy?

A full lens kit will include:

• A zoom lens that covers a range of focal lengths.

• A portrait or landscape lens (put your money here and get something with a really low f-stop number). Prime lenses (lenses that don’t zoom) can allow you to purchase high-quality glass with a wide aperture opening at a more affordable price.

One last piece of advice: If you can get into a camera store to actually hold a few cameras, try the dials and buttons—you’ll get a much better idea of whether or not you like it… and would take it on your travels.

In the meantime, I hope this camera guide helps you get a great start in the right direction.

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