Choosing the best Canon camera can be tricky. With so many models, and so many features, picking the right one for you can feel like a bit of a minefield. But we're here to help. So if you're a creative looking to add a Canon camera to your arsenal, this article will guide you to the right product.
To make it a little easier to navigate, we’ve split the guide 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 guides to the best compact cameras and the best point-and-shoot 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
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. Hands down, one of the best Canon cameras available now.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.