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The best Nikon camera: top Nikon cameras for every budget

Best Nikon cameras
(Image credit: Chris F on Pexels)

Picking the best Nikon camera is a formidable task. The firm has built up an incredible stable of cameras in all different categories – DSLRs, mirrorless cameras and compacts – and which is right for you depends on your experience level, your budget, and what you plan to shoot. We’ve taken this into account and come up with a broad list of the best Nikon cameras on the market in 2021.

You might be looking to shoot high-resolution stills, pristine 4K video, or both! You may prefer the rugged build and handling of a DSLR, or the cutting-edge tech of mirrorless cameras. Wherever you’re at, this guide should have a camera that’s right for you. 

Nikon represents an exciting world of imaging. With some of the best lens ranges in the business, Nikon is an ideal brand to invest in and develop your own photography or videography setup. If you’re still feeling undecided between brands though, remember you can always check out our guide to the best cameras overall. But for now, let’s get to the best Nikon cameras you can buy right now!

The best Nikon cameras available now

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(Image credit: Nikon)

01. Nikon Z 6II

The best all-around Nikon camera for both stills and video

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Full-frame CMOS 35.9mm x 23.9mm
Megapixels: 24.5
Monitor: 8cm (3.2in) tilting TFT touch-sensitive LCD with 170° viewing angle (approx 2100k-dot)
Continuous shooting speed: 14FPS
Viewfinder: 0.8x 1.27cm (0.5in) Approx 3690k-dot (Quad VGA) OLED EVF
Max video resolution: 3840 x 2160 (4K UHD) 30p
User level: Intermediate
Reasons to buy
+High 14FPS+4K UHD Video
Reasons to avoid
-Only 24MP-No illuminated buttons

We’ve picked the Nikon Z 6II as the best overall Nikon camera for most users. While there are cameras on this list with better specs and higher resolutions, the Nikon Z 6II provides an unbeatable balance of performance and price for the majority of users. It can shoot stills and video in superb quality, and boasts such high-end features as 5-stop in-body image stabilisation (IBIS). 

Then there’s also the 14fps burst shooting, the gorgeous UHD 4K 30p video, the excellent handling. The Nikon Z 7II is a flashier camera with more megapixels, but if you don’t need all that resolution (and unless you’re a very specific kind of photographer, you probably don’t), then the Z 6II will do everything you need it to. For what you get, this is amazing value. 

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(Image credit: Nikon)

02. Nikon D6

The best Nikon camera if you have a limitless budget

Specifications
Type: FX DSLR
Sensor: Full-frame CMOS 35.9mm x 23.9mm
Megapixels: 20.8
Monitor: 8cm (3.2in) TFT touch-sensitive LCD with 170° viewing angle. Approx 2359k-dot (XGA)
Continuous shooting speed: 14FPS
Viewfinder: 0.72x optical
Max video resolution: 3840 x 2160 (4K UHD) 30p
User level: Advanced
Reasons to buy
+Incredible build quality+Fast continuous burst speed
Reasons to avoid
-Big and bulky-Expensive

If you're not limited by budget, then Nikon’s flagship full-frame DSLR is hard to beat. The Nikon D6 is the best Nikon camera in terms of specs and meets the needs of professional photographers who need a device they can depend on in any situation.

Its robust, durable frame and superb weather sealing allow it to stand up to extreme shooting conditions. The 20.8MP resolution might not seem the most impressive, but the D6 can shoot RAW images at up to 14 bit, allowing outstanding tonal detail to be captured. It can also keep up with even the fastest-moving subjects thanks to its 14FPS continuous shoot speed, which can capture up to 200 RAW files before it shows signs of slowing. 

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(Image credit: Nikon)

03. Nikon D3500

The best Nikon camera for those on a budget

Specifications
Type: DX DSLR
Sensor: Crop-sensor CMOS 23.5mm x 15.6mm
Megapixels: 24.2
Monitor: 7.5cm (3in) TFT LCD with 170° viewing angle. Approx 921k-dot (VGA)
Continuous shooting speed: 5FPS
Viewfinder: 0.85x optical
Max video resolution: 1920 x 1080 (Full HD) 60p
User level: Beginner
Reasons to buy
+Great price+High resolution
Reasons to avoid
-Low burst speed-Crop-sensor

If you're not ready to invest in a device like the D6 or DZ II, then the Nikon D3500 is the best entry-level Nikon camera for those on a budget. It's a versatile, all-round device that serves as a good introduction for beginner photographers, capturing high-resolution stills at 24.2MP with its DX image sensor while also recording Full HD video. 

It can run on Auto and also boasts a Guide Mode, which can help novice photographers learn how to adjust the camera settings to obtain the kind of images they're after until they feel ready to take greater control themselves. This makes it a strong choice for those starting out who want to take a deeper dive into photography and shoot with an interchangeable lens system.

Best Nikon cameras: Nikon Z50

(Image credit: Nikon)

04. Nikon Z50

The best Nikon mirrorless for beginners

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: APS-C CMOS 23.5 x 15.7mm
Megapixels: 20.9
Monitor: 8cm (3.2in) tilting TFT touch-sensitive LCD with 170° viewing angle (approx 1040k-dot)
Continuous shooting speed: 11fps
Viewfinder: 039in approx 2,360k-dot (XGA) OLED EVF
Max video resolution: 3840 x 2160 (4K UHD) 30p
User level: Beginner to intermediate
Reasons to buy
+Great ergonomic handling+Fast burst and autofocus
Reasons to avoid
-Poor battery life-Few DX-format Z lenses

When the Nikon Z mirrorless series began, it seemed like it would be the preserve of professional and serious enthusiast photographers only. But the Nikon Z50 brought it to a wider user base by being the first Z-mount camera with a smaller APS-C sensor. So while it doesn’t quite have that professional sheen of the Z6 II and Z7 II, it is much more affordable and lightweight.

The Z50 is still a camera that’ll suit enthusiasts, and boasts plenty of impressive specs. Being able to burst-shoot at 11fps is handy no matter what level you’re at, and the 4K UHD video from the camera looks pretty amazing. We’re also big fans of the comprehensive autofocus system, which provides a beefy spread of 209 autofocus points. 

Even a couple of years down the line, we still rate this as the best Z-mount APS-C camera. The newer Nikon Z fc is very flashy and tempting, with its gorgeous retro looks. However, the Z50 is both significantly cheaper, and has a few practical features the Z fc lacks, like a built-in flash.

Best Nikon camera

(Image credit: Nikon)

05. Nikon D850

The best high-end Nikon DSLR

Specifications
Type: FX DSLR
Sensor: Full-frame CMOS 35.9mm x 23.9mm
Megapixels: 45.7
Monitor: 8cm (3.2in) tilting TFT touch-sensitive LCD with 170° viewing angle. Approx 2359k-dot (XGA)
Continuous shooting speed: 9FPS
Viewfinder: 0.75x optical
Max video resolution: 3840 x 2160 (4K UHD) 30p
User level: Intermediate to Advanced
Reasons to buy
+Super high resolution images+Class-leading ISO range
Reasons to avoid
-Files can be large-9FPS with battery grip only

The Nikon D850 is another good Nikon device for those who want to switch between shooting both stills and video, this time in the form of a DSLR. The D850's 45.7MP image sensor captures stills with plenty of detail, and the capture size can be reduced for those that require it.  For filmmakers, the camera can shoot 4K UHD footage, making this a professional-level camera for hybrid shooting.

The fast and reliable autofocus works even in low light thanks to the camera's dedicated AF processor, while a handy touchscreen allows rapid navigation through hundreds of images, making this a real workhorse of a DSLR.

Best Nikon camera

(Image credit: Nikon)

06. Nikon D5600

The best Nikon camera for intermediate photographers

Specifications
Type: DX DSLR
Sensor: Crop-sensor CMOS 23.5mm x 15.6mm
Megapixels: 24.2
Monitor: 8.1cm (3.2in) TFT vari-angle LCD touch screen with 170° viewing angle. Approx 1037k-dot
Continuous shooting speed: 5FPS
Viewfinder: 0.82x optical
Max video resolution: 1920 x 1080 (Full HD) 60p
User level: Beginner to Intermediate
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight and portable+Vari-angle touchscreen 
Reasons to avoid
-Crop sensor-Only 39 focus points

The Nikon D5600 is the best Nikon camera for beginner photographers who perhaps already have some familiarity with DSLRs and want to take things up a step. This camera boasts the same frame-advance bar seen in superior professional models like the D5 and D500 professional-level cameras. It also has a variable-angle touchscreen, which allows the camera to be operated from any position without photographers needing to contort themselves to use the viewfinder. The screen also responds to gestures with options such as pinching to zoom and to trim images. 

The D5600 has a deep grip that's comfortable to hold. Its monocoque carbon-reinforced shell gives it a solid but lightweight build, which makes it a good choice for intermediate users who want to start taking photographs out on the road.

Best Nikon cameras: Nikon D780

(Image credit: Nikon)

07. Nikon D780

The best general-purpose Nikon DSLR

Specifications
Type: FX DSLR
Sensor: Full-frame CMOS 35.9mm x 23.9mm
Megapixels: 24.5
Monitor: 8cm (3.2in) tilting TFT touch-sensitive LCD with 170° viewing angle. Approx 2359k-dot (XGA)
Continuous shooting speed: 12fps
Viewfinder: 0.7x optical
Max video resolution: 3840 x 2160 (4K UHD) 30p
User level: Intermediate to Advanced
Reasons to buy
+Sublime, DSLR handling+Dual high-speed card slots
Reasons to avoid
-Bulkier than mirrorless-No in-body stabilisation

While the Nikon D850 is still the king Nikon DSLR for resolution and high performance, the Nikon D780 is ideal for those looking for a strong all-rounder. This full-frame shooter boasts that satisfying DSLR-style handling that’s impossible to replicate – the chunky handgrip gives you a real sense that you’re holding a powerful machine in your hands.

Under the hood, the D780 is equally impressive. The 12fps burst speed meets the quality of a full-frame sensor, and the autofocus is lightning-fast. That weather-sealed body will keep on shooting in the vast majority of conditions, and while its resolution pales in comparison to the mighty D850, we should once again point out that most all-purpose shooters simply do not need 45 megapixels.

It’s uncertain how many DSLRs Nikon will make in the future, with the company’s focus increasingly dedicated to its mirrorless Z series. If the D780 is the swansong of the Nikon DSLR, then it’s a hell of a way to go out.  

Best Nikon camera

(Image credit: Nikon)

08. Nikon Z 7II

The best Nikon camera for video

Specifications
Type: FX Mirrorless
Sensor: Full-frame CMOS 35.9mm x 23.9mm
Megapixels: 45.7
Monitor: 8cm (3.2in) tilting TFT touch-sensitive LCD with 170° viewing angle. Approx 2100k-dot
Continuous shooting speed: 10FPS
Viewfinder: 0.8x 1.27cm (0.5in) Approx 3690k-dot (Quad VGA) OLED EVF
Max video resolution: 3840 x 2160 (4K UHD) 60p
User level: Advanced
Reasons to buy
+4K UHD 60p video+5-stop IBIS 
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-1.08x crop on 4K video 

We've already mentioned several strong hybrid cameras, but if video's your main thing, the Nikon D7 II is likely to be the best Nikon camera for you. The 5-stops of in-body image stabilisation smooth out video, giving it a gimbal-like quality, which is excellent for handheld shooting. Its 4K UHD 60p video footage is superbly detailed with an outstanding dynamic range thanks to the N-log movie options and HDR (HLG) output.

With 493 AF points, the hybrid AF system offers pin-sharp focus across approximately 90% of the image sensor, allowing users to easily focus almost up to the edges of the frame. It also boasts Eye-Detection AF, which automatically tracks subjects, and even Animal-Detection AF to capture wildlife.

Check out our roundups of the best cameras for vlogging and the best cameras for YouTube for more video capture options.

Best Nikon camera

(Image credit: Nikon)

09. Nikon Z 5

The best Nikon camera for capturing portraits

Specifications
Type: FX Mirrorless
Sensor: Full-frame CMOS 35.9mm x 23.9mm
Megapixels: 24.3
Monitor: 8cm (3.2in) tilting TFT touch-sensitive LCD with 1701.27cm (0.5in) Approx 3690k-dot (Quad VGA) OLED EVF viewing angle. Approx 1040k-dot
Continuous shooting speed: 4.5FPS
Viewfinder: 0.8x 1.27cm (0.5in) Approx 3690k-dot (Quad VGA) OLED EVF
Max video resolution: 3840 x 2160 (4K UHD) 30p
User level: Intermediate
Reasons to buy
+Detailed EVF+90% AF frame coverage 
Reasons to avoid
-No top plate display-Cropped video 

The Nikon Z 5 is a dream for shooting portraits thanks to its full-frame sensor and detailed EVF. Its Eye-Detection AF is precise and tracks movement across the frame on a range of subjects, from humans to dogs and cats. Another plus for portrait photographers is the lightweight magnesium alloy body, which makes the camera comfortable to work during long sessions of shooting. 

The Z 5 has a wide ISO range for low-light shooting, and the camera can be charged by USB, which means you can grab a power bank and shoot all day long. The UHS-II SD compatible dual card slots mean portraits can be backed up on the spot.

Best Nikon camera

(Image credit: Nikon)

10. Nikon Coolpix P1000

Nikon's best compact camera

Specifications
Type: Compact digital camera
Sensor: 1/2.3in type CMOS 6.17mm x 4.56mm
Megapixels: 16
Monitor: 8.1cm (3.2in) vari-angle TFT LCD. Approx 921k-dot (RGB)
Continuous shooting speed: 7FPS
Viewfinder: 1cm (0.39in) Approx 2359k-dot OLED EVF
Max video resolution: 3840 x 2160 (4K UHD) 30p
User level: Beginner
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic optical zoom+4K UHD video
Reasons to avoid
-Limited ISO range-Low resolution stills 

For beginners who aren't interested in using interchangeable lenses, the P1000 is Nikon's best compact bridge camera. Its lens offers incredible zoom capability for a compact camera, with 125x optical zoom. That means photographers can zoom in on even the most distant subjects, from wildlife to craters on the moon. 

The P1000 also boasts a host of built-in shooting modes that are useful for beginners who want to experiment without delving into the technical nitty-gritty. The camera can synchronise with Nikon's SnapBridge app via Bluetooth to share images and trigger the camera remotely. 

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Jason Parnell-Brookes is an Internationally award-winning photographer, educator and writer. He won Gold in the Nikon Photo Contest 2018/19 and was named Digital Photographer of the Year in 2014. Jason is a qualified teacher, Masters graduate and the former technique editor for N-Photo magazine.