From Thrill to Thrift: Low-Cost Options for High-End Camera Features

JANUARY 28, 2014

By Theano Nikitas

Desiring products that are beyond our means is a common notion, particularly among photographers. But buying the most expensive camera on the market isn’t always in the cards, nor is it always the only choice. Time and again in the last few years, we’ve seen manufacturers incorporate innovative camera features and top-of-the-line sensors into their lower cost models. Before you whip out that credit card, take a look at the features available in pricey flagship models compared to those in some of the more economically feasible options in a range of camera categories below.


Canon EOS-1D X full-frame camera Priciest: Canon EOS-1D X

Basic Specs: 18.1-megapixel DSLR; EF mount lenses; dual CF card slots; 61-point autofocus; 1/8000 to 30 second shutter speeds; bulb; 1/250 X-sync; full HD video; 3.2-inch, 1.04-million-dot LCD; optical viewfinder with interchangeable focus screens; continuous shooting up to 14 frames per second

Pros: Advanced feature set; fast continuous shooting

Cons: Expensive; large and heavy body

Notable Features: Super-fast continuous shooting; dual CF card slot

Read a full review of the Canon EOS-1D X

Nikon D610 full-frame cameraLess Expensive: Nikon D610

Basic Specs: 24-megapixel sensor; compatible with both AF and AF-S lenses; dual SD/SDHC/SDXC card slots; 39-point AF system; 1/4000 to 30 second shutter speeds; bulb; 1/200 of a second sync (up to 1/400 of a second FP high-speed sync); full HD video; 3.2-inch, 921k-dot LCD; continuous shooting up to 6 frames per second; built-in flash with commander mode

Pros: Solid feature set; user-friendly options; built-in flash; interval and multiple exposure modes; 100 percent viewfinder coverage

Cons: Requires optional accessory Wi-Fi and GPS units (but is Eye-Fi compatible); expandable ISO up to 25600

Notable features: Interval shooting for timelapse; dual card slots

Read a full review of the Nikon D610

Sony Alpha 7 full-frame cameraBargain: Sony Alpha 7 (Mirrorless)
$1,700 or $2,000 with kit lens;

Basic Specs: 24-megapixel sensor; E mount lenses (FE for full-frame) with A-mount and other brand lenses via adapters; single SD/SDHC/SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo card slot; hybrid AF with 117-point phase detection; 25-point contrast detection; 1/8000 to 30 second shutter speeds; bulb; 1/250 of a second X-sync; full HD video; 3-inch, 921,600-dot, tiltable LCD; OLED EVF with 100 percent field of view; continuous shooting up to 5 frames per second; Wi-Fi/NFC

Pros: Smallest and lightest full-frame interchangeable lens camera on the market; extremely customizable feature set; focus peaking

Cons: Currently limited lens selection (or requires optional adapter); no built-in flash; ISO expandable to 25600; CIPA rating 340 shots per charge (using LCD)

Notable Features: Wi-Fi and NFC; wireless apps; tiltable LCD; focus peaking; user programmable features


Nikon D800E no optical low-pass filter cameraPriciest: Nikon D800E

Basic Specs: 36-megapixel sensor; AF-S and AF lenses; dual CF and SD/SDHC/SDXC card slots; 51-point AF system; 1/8000 to 30 second shutter speeds; bulb; up to 1/320 of a second sync speed (up to 1/8000 FP high-speed sync); full HD video with headphone and external microphone jacks; built-in flash with commander mode; 3.2-inch, 921k-dot LCD; continuous shooting up to 4 frames per second

Pros: High-resolution, 36-megapixel sensor; same advanced feature set as D800; midsize and lightweight (smaller and lighter than Nikon D4); optical viewfinder with 100 percent field of view

Cons: Super-large image files; relatively slow continuous shooting; Wi-Fi and GPS available only via optional accessories; ISO expandable to 25600

Notable Features: D-Lighting bracketing; dual card slots (CF/SD); headphone and microphone jacks; ability to view video during recording on LCD and external monitor

Pentax K-3 no optical low-pass filter cameraBargain: Pentax K-3
$1,650 (with DA 18-135mm WF lens);

Basic Specs: 24-megapixel sensor; KAF2/3/KAF and KA lenses (other Pentax lenses compatible via adapters); dual SD/SDHC/SDXC card slots; 27-point AF system; 1/8000 to 30 second shutter speeds; bulb; 1/180 of a second sync (high-speed sync also available); full HD video; 3.2-inch, 1,037k-dot LCD; optical viewfinder with 100 percent field of view; built-in flash; native ISO 100 to 51200; Eye-Fi and FLU card compatible; selectable AA filter; up to 8.3 frames per second continuous shooting

Pros: Selectable AA filter; good feature set; dual SD card slots; compact body; wide range of lenses (even screw mount lenses with adapter)

Cons: Some consumer-oriented features; not as sophisticated as other OLPF-free cameras

Notable Features:
Offers the first user-selectable anti-aliasing filter so you can flip it on or off, depending on what you’re shooting; fast at 8.3 frames per second (60 JPEG/23 RAW)


Sony Cyber-shot RX1 compact cameraPriciest: Sony Cyber-shot RX1


Basic Specs: 24-megapixel, full-frame sensor; fixed, f/2.0 24mm Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* lens; SD/SDHC/SDXC (or MS Duo) single card slot; 1/4000 to 30 second shutter speeds; bulb; pop-up flash; continuous shooting up to 5 frames per second; ISO expandable to 102400 with multi-frame noise reduction mode; no viewfinder

Pros: Full-frame; built like a tank; advanced features; fast wide-angle lens; built-in flash

Cons: No built-in viewfinder and optional EVF is $450; not pocketable

Notable Features:
High-resolution, full-frame sensor; extraordinary build quality; external microphone jack; multi-frame noise reduction

Read a full review of the Sony Cyber-shot RX1

Nikon Coolpix P7800 compact cameraBargain: Nikon Coolpix P7800

Basic Specs: 12-megapixel sensor; 7.1x f/2.0 optical zoom (28-200mm); SD/SDHC/SDXC single card slot; 1/4000 to 60 second shutter speeds; bulb; ISO expandable to 6400 (with a low of 80); full HD video; built-in EVF; 3-inch, vari-angle, 921k-dot LCD; continuous shooting up to 8 frames per second

Pros: Built-in EVF; fast continuous shooting; vari-angle LCD

Cons: ISO expandable only up to 6400; requires optional wireless adapter for Wi-Fi

Notable features: Solid build; relatively compact; zoom lens; 12 megapixels for better low-light/high-ISO images


Olympus OM-D E-M1 interchangeable lens cameraPriciest: Olympus OM-D E-M1

$1,400 (body only);

Basic Specs: 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor; MFT lenses (four thirds lenses with adapter); SD/SDHC/SDXC card slot; 81-area AF (contrast-detection AF); 37-area multiple AF (phase-difference detection AF); 1/8000 to 60 second shutter speeds; bulb; full HD video; 2.36-million-dot EVF; 3-inch, tiltable, touchscreen, 1,037k-dot LCD; Wi-Fi; continuous shooting up to 10 frames per second

Pros: Fast, continuous shooting; built-in EVF; bundled small external flash; hybrid AF

Cons: No built-in flash; pricey; Micro Four Thirds sensor (versus APS-C)

Notable Features: Built-in Wi-Fi; QR code for quick set up; real-time adjustable hue and chroma; art filters and bracketing; 2-axis image stabilization; focus peaking

Read a full review of the Olympus OM-D E-M1

Fuji X-E2 interchangeable lens cameraModerately Priced: Fujifilm X-E2
$1,000 (body only) or $1,400 (with 18-55mm kit lens);

Basic Specs: 16-megapixel, APS-C, X-Trans, CMOS II sensor; X mount lenses (M mount adapter available); hybrid AF; full HD video; 2.360k-dot resolution, OLED EVF; pop-up flash; built-in Wi-Fi; geo-tagging; 3-inch, 1,040K-dot LCD; ISO expandable to 25600; continuous shooting up to 7 frames per second

Pros: Fast AF (according to Fuji specs); cool vintage design; lens modulation optimizer; one-touch wireless transfer

Cons: Continuous HD video records only up to 14 minutes; ISO expandable to only 25600

Notable Features:
Digital split-image technology for manual focusing; film simulation modes; lens modulation optimizer; Wi-Fi; EVF; flash

Samsung NX300 interchangeable lens cameraLess Expensive: Samsung NX300
$800 (with 18-55mm lens);

Basic Specs: 20-megapixel, APS-C-size sensor; NX mount lenses; SD/SDHC/SDXC single card slot; hybrid AF (105-point phase detection; 247-point contrast detection); 1/6000 to 30 second shutter speeds; bulb (up to four minutes); full HD video; 3.3-inch, AMOLED, tiltable, touchscreen LCD; no viewfinder; bundled with small external flash; Wi-Fi and NFC on board; optional GPS module needed for geo-tagging; ISO 25600; continuous shooting up to 8.6 frames per second

Pros: Fast; Wi-Fi and NFC; direct sharing to social network sites; high-quality touchscreen

No optical or electronic viewfinder; no on-board flash

Notable Features:
Very fast continuous shooting; comes with small external flash; tiltable, touchscreen, AMOLED LCD

Panasonic GM1 interchangeable lens cameraBargain: Panasonic GM1

$750 (with 12-32mm lens);

Basic Specs: 16-megapixel, Micro Four Thirds sensor (the same as the Panasonic Lumix GX7); MFT mount (four thirds and other lenses compatible with adapter); SD/SDHC/SDXC card slot; contrast-detection AF; 1/16000 to 60 second shutter speeds; 3-inch, 1,036k-dot LCD; full HD video; on-board flash; Wi-Fi; up to 5 frames per second (with AFS)

Pros: Small; lightweight; same sensor as higher end GX7; on-board flash and Wi-Fi

Cons: No EVF; tiny controls; maximum 230 images per charge

Notable Features: High-end sensor in tiny body; highly portable

Read all of our hands-on camera reviews at

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