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The best Canon cameras for beginners, video and more

Best Canon cameras
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The best Canon cameras are innovative, powerful and made for everybody, from novices to professionals. If you’re a creative looking to learn the ins and outs of photography and videography, whether it’s to add a new string to your bow or just to give your Instagram feed a little more love, a Canon camera is an excellent place to start.

To make this guide easier to navigate, we’ve split it up into sections by camera type. Here are the three main types of Canon camera you need to know about:

Compact cameras: A compact camera is defined as a camera that has a fixed lens. While this restricts their versatility, it does make compact cameras more portable and easy to use, as well as generally cheaper. If you’re a total newbie, we’d recommend starting here – and check out our guide to the best compact cameras to see more.

DSLRs: Digital single-lens reflex cameras are made for all-purpose shooting. They allow for the lens to be changed, and tend to have a decent amount of weatherproofing. DSLRs use an internal mirror system to reflect the image from the lens into an optical viewfinder, making composition a breeze.

Mirrorless cameras: Like DSLRs, mirrorless models allow lens changes. However, they eschew the mirror system, relying on electronic viewfinders and LCD screens instead. This does allow them to be smaller and lighter than DSLRs. Mirrorless cameras also tend to include more sophisticated technology, including on-sensor autofocus systems for instant focus acquisition.

You can click the section headings to jump straight to your preferred section. We also have guides to the best cameras from all brands if you want to see some other choices, and a guide to the best camera drones if you have an urge to take to the skies. But for now, let’s look at the best Canon cameras you can buy in 2021.  

The best Canon cameras in 2021

Best Canon compact cameras

Best Canon camera: G9 X II

(Image credit: Canon)

01. Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II

This 1-inch sensor compact is affordable but highly capable

Best for: Beginner to intermediate; travel photographers
Frames per second: 8.1
AF points: 31
Weight: 206g
Battery life: 235 shots
Reasons to buy
+Small and highly portable+High-quality sensor
Reasons to avoid
-Lens is slightly soft-Poor battery life

These days, when everyone has a perfectly good digital camera built into a device in their pocket, compact cameras need to do something special to be worth the investment. Enter the Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II, which packs a 1-inch sensor into a tiny pocketable body. This means it has much better dynamic range than a smartphone camera, and can therefore cope much better with a broad spectrum of lighting conditions. It’s a perfect camera to take everywhere, equipped with an optical zoom lens – something else smartphones don’t have – covering an equivalent focal range of 28-84mm. It’s a camera that’s pretty good at everything, and is a great choice especially for travel photography.

Best Canon camera: G1 X III

(Image credit: Canon)

02. Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III

Canon’s most sophisticated compact, with a larger sensor and weather-sealed body

Best for: Enthusiasts
Frames per second: 9
AF points: 49
Weight: 399g
Battery life: 200 shots
Reasons to buy
+Superb image quality+Exceptional handling experience
Reasons to avoid
-Very poor battery life-Disappointing max aperture

The Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III is one of the few compact cameras around that can tick three particular boxes – larger sensor, pocketable size and versatile zoom lens. This makes it a pretty powerful prospect for anyone looking for a camera that really does everything. Images from the G1 X Mark III look terrific straight out of camera, and the impressive autofocus does a great job of keeping up with the action. It isn’t perfect – that 200-shot battery life is woeful, though USB charging does mean you can at least plan around it. However, even with its foibles, the PowerShot G1 X Mark III is the best Canon compact, and one of the best compact cameras around full stop. Its impressive APS-C sensor also makes it one of the best low-light cameras you can buy right now.

Best Canon cameras: Canon PowerShot Zoom

(Image credit: Canon)

03. Canon PowerShot Zoom

This palm-sized power-zoom puts 800mm in your pocket

Best for: Birdwatchers, hikers, plane-spotters and gadget-heads
Frames per second: 10
AF points: Not specified (contrast-detect AF with 100% coverage)
Weight: 145g
Battery life: 150 shots
Reasons to buy
+Incredible zoom power+Truly pocketable
Reasons to avoid
-So-so image quality-No manual settings control

Canon used to be accused of being a rather conservative, risk-averse manufacturer, but those days are long gone. These days we’re seeing more and more quirky “concept” cameras bearing the Canon badge, one of which is a real pocket rocket, the Canon PowerShot Zoom.

In short, it’s a camera that can achieve incredible zoom lengths – up to 400mm optically, and up to 800mm digitally – and is still tiny enough to fit in a pocket, or even hang around your neck. 

While experienced photographers will likely chafe at the lack of manual controls, novices will appreciate how ridiculously easy the PowerShot Zoom is to use. The sensor is pretty small, so it’ll struggle in low light, but there are some surprisingly advanced features in there too. A burst rate of 10fps is no slouch on a camera like this, and makes it useful for birdwatchers and wildlife-spotting hikers.

Is the image quality up to the standards of a full-frame Canon DSLR with a Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM lens attached? No, it is not. But does it cost about $299, as opposed to about $15,000? Why, yes it does. For newbies, hikers and casual snappers, the PowerShot Zoom is terrific value. 

Best Canon camera: Canon Ixus 185 HS

(Image credit: Canon)

04. Canon IXUS 185 HS

The cheapest compact on the block for those working to a strict budget

Best for: Beginners
Frames per second: 0.8
AF points: 9
Weight: 126g
Battery life: 210 shots
Reasons to buy
+8x optical zoom+Highly affordable
Reasons to avoid
-Not hugely better than a phone -Uninspiring design 

Okay, it’s not going to win any design awards, or imaging awards… or really any awards for that matter. But the Canon IXUS 185 HS does have one thing going for it – it’s one of the cheapest “proper” cameras around, often findable for a two-digit asking price, and that’s a rare thing in the photo world. 

While the imaging sensor isn’t greatly different from that you’d find on a smartphone, having an 8x optical zoom lens covering an equivalent range of 28-224mm is definitely an upgrade from anything a phone can do. If you’re on a budget and just need a camera that works then this will do that, though if you can stretch to any other camera on this list you’ll find it noticeably more capable.

Best Canon DSLR cameras

Best Canon camera: Canon EOS 90D

(Image credit: Canon)

05. Canon EOS 90D

An all-rounder DSLR for video and stills alike

Best for: Intermediate to enthusiast
Frames per second: 11
AF points: 45
Weight: 701g
Battery life: 1300 shots
Reasons to buy
+Top-notch RAW quality+Uncropped 4K video
Reasons to avoid
-Limited shooting buffer-Unreliable JPEG noise reduction

Canon has done a superb job of filling out the middle of its DSLR range with cameras that are capable in all situations. The EOS 90D is a real wunderkind, just as comfortable firing off high-quality stills at 11fps as it is shooting glorious uncropped 4K video. It excels when shooting in the more versatile RAW format (in truth, the JPEG noise-reduction can be a little unreliable and over-zealous), and provides an unbeatable handling experience with those DSLR ergonomics. 

The handgrip is chunky and satisfying, while the optical viewfinder can’t be beat for image composition. Whether you want to shoot a sporting event, start a YouTube channel, or both, this is a great camera to choose. 

Best Canon camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

(Image credit: Canon)

06. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

The full-frame workhorse for professionals and serious enthusiasts

Best for: Enthusiast to professional
Frames per second: 7
AF points: 61
Weight: 890g
Battery life: 900 shots
Reasons to buy
+Excellent Dual Pixel autofocus+Great high-ISO quality
Reasons to avoid
-Cropped 4K video-Fixed rear screen

The Canon EOS 5D series turned the world of DSLRs on its head, becoming one of the most cost-efficient ways to shoot professional-quality 4K video. The EOS 5D Mark IV continues the line admirably, and while it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it does everything that a working photographer or videographer needs and more, consistently and reliably. 

Image quality from the full-frame sensor is fantastic, and the Dual Pixel autofocus system means you never miss a moment. The heavy 1.64x crop on 4K video is a little disappointing, but this is still a hugely capable camera for professionals by any reasonable metric.

Best Canon camera: Canon EOS 2000D

(Image credit: Canon)

07. Canon EOS 2000D

Canon’s budget DSLR is a great little buy for newbie photographers

Best for: Beginners
Frames per second: 3
AF points: 9
Weight: 475g
Battery life: 500 shots
Reasons to buy
+Easy to get started+Good battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Only 3fps-Lacklustre autofocus

Entry-level DSLRs exist in a competitive marketplace, and Canon has typically gone for the jugular in terms of pricing with the cheap-as-chips EOS 2000D. It’s by no means an exceptional camera, but with 24 megapixels of resolution to play with you’ll find plenty to like for the money here, even if the AF and burst drive are both a little dated. 

There are useful beginner modes to help newbies get to grips with how to operate the camera, making it a solid starter point for someone dipping their toes into the world of photography. However, you may find it isn’t long before you itch to upgrade. 

Best Canon mirrorless cameras

Best Canon camera: Canon EOS M6 II

(Image credit: Canon)

08. Canon EOS M6 II

Small but mighty, the EOS M6 II exceeds expectations to roll with the big players

Best for: Intermediate to enthusiast
Frames per second: 14
AF points: 143
Weight: 408g
Battery life: 305 shots
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic 32.5MP APS-C sensor+Super-fast burst shooting
Reasons to avoid
-EF-M lenses are limited-No in-body stabilisation

Canon gave its EOS M series a shot of life with the EOS M6 II, bumping up the resolution to a hugely impressive 32.5MP and making a camera that’s a major player for the enthusiast market. Small and portable but powerful and versatile, the EOS M6 II produces images of excellent quality in both JPEG and RAW formats, with a highly effective autofocus system that basically just works. 

The burst speeds are hugely impressive too, putting this camera in play for photographing fast action and sports. The EF-M lens range could still do with fleshing out a bit, but there’s plenty of scope for pretty much any photographer to get something out of the M6 II.

Best Canon camera: Canon EOS R5

(Image credit: Canon)

09. Canon EOS R5

Canon’s flagship full-frame mirrorless model is professional powerhouse – with a few quirks

Best for: Professionals
Frames per second: 20fps
AF points: 1053
Weight: 738g
Battery life: 320 shots
Reasons to buy
+Class-leading image quality+Exceptional image stabilisation
Reasons to avoid
-Infamous overheating issues-Very expensive

Let’s get this out of the way – the Canon EOS R5 is one of the best cameras on the market, and in fact one of the best ever made. Its image quality, autofocus and in-body image stabilisation are all class-leading, pushing the limits of what was thought possible in cameras, and its video quality is superb. 

Hybrid shooters will have a field day, and if it’s within your budget and your remit, you’re probably already halfway to ordering one. The only caveat is the unfortunate business of the overheating issues that curtail video recording times, meaning it isn’t one for pure video shooters. 

Best Canon cameras: Canon EOS M50 Mark II

(Image credit: Canon)

10. Canon EOS M50 Mark II

A novice-friendly mirrorless model, good for Full HD vlogging

Best for: Beginner to intermediate
Frames per second: 10
AF points: 143
Weight: 390g
Battery life: 235
Best for: Travel and vlogging
Frames per second: 10
AF points: 3,975
Weight: 387g
Battery life: 235 shots
Reasons to buy
+Very good auto modes+Can live-stream
Reasons to avoid
-Vicious 4K crop-Minor upgrade over M50

If you fancy a mix of photography and vlogging, the EOS M50 Mark II will likely tick a lot of your boxes. It produces great-looking stills straight out of camera with its 24MP sensor, and its Auto modes are actually really quite decent, with scene detection functions that make it easier for inexperienced users to access the right settings. 

The Full HD video looks great, and can be live-streamed to YouTube. Canon’s on-sensor Dual Pixel Autofocus is snappy and reliable, and you can even shoot video in the vertical aspect ratio – handy for social content that’s going to be viewed on a smartphone.

While the EOS M50 Mark II can shoot 4K, it does so with a pretty vicious 1.5x crop, and the autofocus tends to suffer in this mode. We wouldn’t recommend buying the EOS M50 II if you’re specifically going to shoot in 4K, but otherwise, it’s a capable all-rounder of a camera.

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Jon Stapley

Jon is a freelance writer and journalist who covers photography, art, technology, and the intersection of all three. Interests include old film cameras, new digital gadgets, and pounding the pavements of London looking for fresh photo opportunities. If he finds any, he will let you know.