Ask LH: What's A Good 'Retro' Camera For A Hipster Photographer?

Hi Lifehacker, I'm a young student and I'm interested in photography, but I don't have much money. I'm looking for one that takes good photographs — better than a point and shoot. $500 is my highest price point, but I'd rather spend around $300. Retro styling would be a big plus! Any recommendations? Thanks, Camera Cravings

Camera picture from Shutterstock

Dear CC,

Unless it's imperative to maintaining your hipster lifestyle, we'd cross "retro styling" off your wish list. Traditional designs tend to command a surprisingly high premium when it comes to cameras. For example, Leica models are famous for their old-school finishes, yet they are priced far higher than most competing brands. If your budget is limited to $500, forget about style and stick to functionality.

Here are some good, affordable cameras that fall roughly within your price range (provided you do a bit of online hunting). Despite our earlier protestations, we've also tried to include models with a vaguely retro-esque flavour. We're nice like that.

Sony NEX-5T

This is an entry-level DSLR that comes with a 16-megapixel sensor, inbuilt NFC/Wi-Fi for fast photo uploads, 1080p video recording and a slim 16-50mm power-zoom lens for added portability. It also sports a three-inch touch LCD panel on the back that flips 180-degrees. Originally retailing for $899, the NEX-5T can now be snapped up for around $400.

Panasonic Lumix DMC LX7

The Panasonic Lumix DMC LX7 is getting a bit long in the tooth, having debut back in 2012. However, it remains a highly impressive compact camera that won't break the bank: you can find it online for well under $300, which is less than half the original RRP. It comes with a 1/1.7-inch image sensor and a Leica-manufactured lens that opens up to an aperture of F/1.4. While it ostensibly falls under the 'point-and-shoot umbrella', the LX7 boasts a dizzying array of manual controls.

Olympus PEN EP5

The Olympus PEN EP5 is a 16MP Micro Four-Thirds camera. According to our chums over at Gizmodo, it provides the best image quality, low light performance, and focusing to be found on a micro four thirds camera. Originally costing $699 for just the body, the unit can now be snapped up with a 14-42mm f3.5/5.6 lens for around $500.

On a final note, it might also be worth trawling online auction sites such as eBay and Gumtree for cheap second hand offerings. If you strike at the right time, you can land some great bargains this way. Click here for some tips on how to save money when shopping online.

As always, we're happy to hear any additional suggestions from readers. If you have a sub-$500 camera that takes great photos, let CC know about it in the comments section below.

Cheers Lifehacker

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    I like cameras
    I dont like hipsters

    This article has been useful on what cameras NOT to buy lol

      If you base your purchasing decisions on what you think 'hipsters' do, you are far worse than them.

    Cant believe you didnt even mention the X100 or x100s... Those are amazing small cameras for around 800ish.

      $500 is my highest price point, but I’d rather spend around $300.

    If you want a Hipster Camera go and ask a Staff member at JB, I'm pretty sure that being a Hipster is an employment prerequisite.

    Umm, last I checked the NEX-5T (and all the NEX's really) lacked the pentaprism/pentamirror to be called a DSLR? In fact, that's the main feature lacking from most ILC's, an optical viewfinder.
    You failed to mention film cameras which are the ultimate in hipster cred. Obviously $500 can't buy you a Leica, but it can get you a Contax G2 or a Nikon FE or SP if you're lucky.
    Of course you'll need to fork out a bit in film and processing, but that'll only (sarcasm)"encourage you to take less useless shots"(/sarcasm).
    I prefer to do this though:

    Last edited 28/04/14 6:08 pm

      You won't pick up a G2 and a lens for under nine hundred bucks. But god damn they are sexy little things.

    Surely a true hipster would be best off sourcing a hand made pinhole camera from etsy, like this

    I picked up my EOS-M with two lense kit and speedlight flash for under $500. Value of them totally tanked due to slow autofocus, which has since been fixed with a firmware update :D


    Why waste your time with mirrorless? Awkward to shoot and overpriced. You can pick up a 50D with a prime for the price of a Nex5T, and it will actually focus on things. Moving things. Not to mention it's built like a Sherman tank.

    Real men would buy a Bronica SQ-A.

    Last edited 29/04/14 11:26 am

      Try Kogan, they have awesome prices for the amount of camera you get

    Bugger all of those. Cheap repro, plastic film cameras would be what this hipster is after - Lomo Diana, Holga etc. Or even a vintage Polaroid.

    Hipsters - a whole concept of being an individual by being like everyone else.

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