As we get ready to close out one year and start another, it’s time for my once-a-year Camera Buyer’s Guide. If you’re looking for a first, second, backup, or upgraded camera, my two-part guide for 2024 to the current marketplace for cameras is designed to help you sort out many of the confusing aspects to buying into a modern interchangeable camera system.
Just like last year I’ve divided the guide into two parts: Section I – Camera Fundamentals takes you through the features and options you need to be aware of; Section II – Camera recommendations looks at the strengths and weaknesses of the different brands and specific recommendations for different types of photographers. Experienced and savvy photographers can jump right to section II if they just want to see the recommendations. Section I is designed for those new to photography, those that haven’t been paying close attention to the market, and of course for anyone that just wants to brush up on the basics.
2024 Camera Trends
A continuing trend in the market, noted from last year, is a decrease in the number of new models introduced over the previous 12 months. It seems to me that there are notably fewer entry level cameras available. The reasonable conclusion for this is that fewer people are “getting into” photography. The smartphone with its ever-improving camera seems to be siphoning away more and more potential photographers.
Notable New interchangeable-lens Cameras
Despite this reduction at the lower end of the market, the mid- to upper-end seems to be as strong as ever. I don’t have access to actual camera sales, but through my collection of Complete Camera Guides I can gather a good idea to what is most popular.
Our three best selling camera classes for the 2023 year are the Nikon Z8, Canon R5, and OM System OM-1. All three of these are high-end, top performing cameras, usually used by pretty dedicated photographers. What about Sony and Fujifilm? They too had strong sales overall, but it was spread out among different cameras.
Complete Camera Guide for 2024
For those of you that are interested in what camera classes I’ll be creating in 2024, it will largely be based on what is most popular with all of you. With what I can see at this time, that means classes for the mid- to higher-end of the market. First up, and breaking into new territory with medium format cameras, is the Fujifilm GFX100 II. My first impression with this camera is that it’s one of the greatest cameras ever made for particular uses and that it’s going to be a very interesting class.
The new Sony A9II is next up and it looks to be a ground-breaking camera focused on a particular segment of the high-end market. Its new global shutter looks to revolutionize what a camera does and doesn’t have, so I’ll be talking about that a lot. As for other potential cameras, they are all rumors at this point. Canon seems about ready to reveal an R1 and maybe an R5 Mark II. Nikon has a pretty well-rounded lineup at this point, but a Z6 III wouldn’t be too surprising. All of these cameras are class-worthy in my opinion, but I’m guessing that they won’t be the only ones we’ll bring out.
Choosing a New Camera
If you are in the market for a new camera, notably your first interchangeable lens type, I’d look most strongly at what brand and lens system you want to be a part of. This is how I made my entry into the world of cameras (read: How I found my first camera in a previous blog). Once you are into a system, it becomes increasingly difficult to switch systems, so it is worth your time getting that question figured out.
As for determining what’s the “best” camera, that’s a fool’s quest. The real question is what’s best for you, and what can you live and work with. Chances are most cameras will get the job done for what any of us want to do, but there are a lot of devils in those details.
The Most Popular Camera System
For the 2024 Camera Buyer’s Guide I wanted to determine what are the strongest camera systems on the market, so I developed my own ranking of all the popular options. I developed my own system, based on what I thought was most important to a typical photographer: new cameras and lenses introduced over the last 4 years and the total number of lenses available. Based on these three criteria you should see pretty clearly what systems are healthy and which ones are weak.
I developed a scoring system where new cameras were worth 50 points, manufacturer-made lenses were worth 20 points, and aftermarket lenses were worth 1 point. I realize that some people may think my aftermarket lens value is low, but this is where I thought it should be. If you don’t like my value settings, that’s okay, you can recalculate using my system but your own numbers.
When all the numbers were tallied, the four systems that came out on top were:
- #1 – Sony FE-mount
- #2 – Fujifilm X-mount
- #3 – Nikon Z-mount
- #4 – Canon RF-mount
These results were, at first, surprising; but then seemed to make sense when you dig into the details.
Sony is number one partly because they’ve been making cameras and lenses for their FE-mount longer than anyone else. It also helps their score that they allow aftermarket manufacturers like Sigma and Tamron to make lenses for their system. Canon’s reluctance to let others make lenses for their RF-mount resulted in a lower overall score for them.
Fujifilm scored very high, also thanks to being in the mirrorless game for a long time and allowing aftermarket lenses to be produced for their X-mount. Nikon and Canon are neck and neck with no significant difference between the strength of their overall systems. Right now I give Nikon a nod for their strength in telephoto lens options; sports and wildlife shooters have a lot of good choices with them.
If you are deep into the world of DSLRs, I’ve got some bad news for you. Over the last 3 years, Nikon and Canon have introduced a total of zero new DSLR cameras and lenses. While DSLRs still produce as good of photograph as they did when they were new, this is not where development and support is happening on the photographic front. While I still have one DSLR myself, I’ve pretty much abandoned recommending them at this point.
You can see much more about my camera ecosystem in section 2 of my Camera Buyer’s Guide: 2024. Be advised this is just information, not facts on what is best for you. There are a number of lower scoring ecosystems that may be perfect for you and your needs. For most of us, a system with lots of options is the best choice, however if you have everything you need then you don’t need to worry about what everyone else is doing.
So if you are looking for a new camera, I highly recommend you watch the entire 2024 Camera Buyer’s Guide to arm yourself with the best information available. This guide is available completely free. I’m not sponsored or paid by any company or manufacturer; I’m fully independent and am happy to tell you how I see it.
I hope the guide helps you find the camera that is right for you or even just helps you understand something new about photography. I’ll keep bringing out new buyer’s guides to help you out, but don’t feel pressured to buying a new camera before it’s time. I like the idea of developing a strong understanding and “relationship” with a camera, and then seeing what you can do with it.
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