Picking An Everyday Family Camera

If I were to buy a DSLR camera for everyday use with my family, what would I buy?

I really enjoy taking photos of everyday life and capturing great facial expressions and fun family moments. Having a good DSLR really helps me to be able to capture those moments. So what are the features that I would look for in buying my next family cam?


Within your price range, find a camera with the best ISO capabilities that you can. ISO, in super simple terms, is the ‘film speed’ setting in a digital camera. The higher the camera can go on its ISO settings and still produce quality photos, the easier it will be to take photos in low lighting. I find that since my primary focus is on taking photos of family stuff, that usually means a lot of my photos are taken in areas that don’t have very good or very much lighting. Dinner with family, game night, museums, church, etc. are all places that we often take photos that don’t have great or a lot of light. Because my camera can go fairly high in ISO before the pictures start to look terrible, I am able to get a lot of the photos that I want.

Size and Weight

If I had found 2 different cameras that were capable of about the same ISO and I wasn’t sure which one to get, I would get the one that is smaller and lighter. Carrying around more weight and bulk when you have kids is bleh. You want a camera that you are willing to take with you. Even if the camera is super amazing and it has quatro ballistic turbo lifters, if you don’t take it with you, you won’t put it to good use.


I would stick with the 2 big players, Nikon or Cannon. They both have a long history and they produce a ton of equipment! This means there is a good possibility of picking up your camera, lenses, or accessories used! If you decide to sell your camera in the future there will be a better market for it and if you want to upgrade to pro equipment, they have it.


Most DSLR cameras come in a kit with a ‘kit lens’. This is typically a lens that will have a decent zoom range and allow you to take photos in a wide range of situations. These are fine, and I have used them, but prime lenses are where the party is at. A prime lens is one that doesn’t zoom. Prime lenses are usually lighter, simpler, cheaper, ‘faster’ and higher quality than their zooming counterparts. Why doesn’t everyone use prime lenses? Because prime lenses don’t zoom in and out which turns out to be a really nice feature. A ‘fast’ lens is one that lets more light in than others. This is critical for getting great photos in not so great lighting. This is very important for me similar to ISO since it allows me to capture quality photos in poor lighting situations. For me, it’s fairly easy to fix the lack of zoom by moving closer or farther away using my feet. For most family type activities I love using a 35mm prime lens.

Focus System

One of the last components that is important to my family photography is how quickly I can focus the lens and snap the photos. Not being able to react quickly will mean missed facial expressions and events. Often times you can anticipate by focusing on an area by pressing the shutter button down half way and then just waiting for the right moment to press the button the rest to capture the photo. This little trick works great but it doesn’t always fit the situation. Sometimes you just won’t have the time to setup the shot so you need a quick focus system.

My Current Camera

I currently run a Nikon D5100 which is priced at $430 today on amazon.com. I also have the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G which is priced at $200 on amazon.com. This probably isn’t the best choice for you but I thought you might be curious about what I use. According to a recent post on Adorama, the Nikon D5200 is at the top of its class with an ISO range between 100-6400 and usable up to 1600. At $750 for the kit on amazon, that’s a good deal.