What makes for the best camera a creative can get? It's a tough question, best answered on an individual basis; after all, different people have different needs when it comes to cameras.
We've put together this guide to help you find the best camera for you, no matter whether you're looking for professional-grade models or a cheap little camera to take everywhere with you and capture images for Instagram. You can spend a lot or a little, but either way, you'll be surprised by how many advantaged a camera gives you over even the best camera phones.
All types of camera will tend to have larger sensors than smartphones. This allows them to produce better images in low light, handling large dynamic range (difference between lights and darks) in an image to create a balanced exposure. Some cameras offer the ability to swap out different lenses (DSLRs and mirrorless cameras), while others will have a fixed lens on their front that may be a flexible zoom, or a fixed-focal-length "prime" lens that's made for pin-sharp quality. These are known as compact cameras; we've included a broad selection of all types in this guide.
If you're finding all this technical terminology confusing, jump straight to our what to consider when buying a camera section, where we break down a few key points to make things easier.
Whatever your budget and skill level, we're confident there will be a camera for you. Plus, if you need some image editing tools, don't miss our round ups of the best photo editing apps and the best laptops for photo editing.
The best cameras available now
Though it isn't the super-star headline-grabber of the EOS R series (that honour belongs to the EOS R5), we reckon the Canon EOS R6 is the best all-around camera you can buy right now. A superbly speedy machine, it takes full advantage of the sophisticated RF lens mount to deliver lightning-fast autofocus, with exceptional communication between camera and lens.
With twin card slots and some of the best in-body stabilisation in the business, the Canon EOS R6 ticks pretty much all the boxes for any working professional or enthusiast photographer. It lacks the 8K video and 45MP resolution of the EOS R5, meaning it's a substantial cost-saving for those who don't need such things. One could argue that 20.1MP is perhaps a smidge too low, but as long as you aren't committed to making huge prints of all of your images, this should be more than enough for most purposes.
Lightweight, snappy and sophisticated, the Canon EOS R6 is on the cutting edge of photo technology. We can't wait to see what comes next!
The Nikon D850 is still top dog in the DSLR world, and unchallenged by Canon when you consider just how many things it gets right. Normally such cameras are intended to excel in one area, such as speed or resolution, but the D850 delivers in all of them. Its 45.7MP sensor produces richly detailed images, particularly as it lacks an anti-aliasing filter, while 7fps burst shooting can be boosted to 9fps with an optional grip and battery. The 153-point AF system, meanwhile, is still Nikon’s most comprehensive iteration. And naturally, 4K video is on board too.
Around its solid core, this camera is ready for unlimited creativity, with time-lapse shooting, slow-motion video output in Full HD, in-camera Raw processing and a raft of other post-capture adjustments all falling to hand. Shooting at night? Many of the camera’s controls light up, and the ISO range stretches to a setting equivalent to 102,400 – a rarity on a camera with such a populated sensor. Need to shoot silently? This is not possible on many other DSLRs, but here you can fire 30fps bursts in complete silence.
Targeted at photography pros – and as at home in the studio as it is in the field – the Nikon D850's body usually comes on its own. But if you don’t already own a lens you’ll be well served by partnering it with the excellent AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR for general use.
The world of APS-C mirrorless cameras is a fiercely competitive one, but the Fujifilm X-T4 might still be top of the pile. With its retro-cool looks and dial-led controls that characterise the X series, this stylish shooter backs up its fashion credentials with serious capable imaging technology.
It's hard to think of a box this camera doesn't tick. The combination of a 26.1MP X-Trans sensor with the X Processor Pro 4 results in a camera that produces gorgeous images at enviable speeds. While you can shoot in JPEG or RAW, one thing Fuji cameras are famous for is how good their JPEGs look straight out of camera, making this camera a perfect choice for anyone who doesn't want to spend a lot of time in Photoshop. The inclusion of in-body stabilisation also expands the camera's utility in low light, removing blur caused by camera shake at slow shutter speeds.
What's not to like? Very little! Okay, it's a fair amount of money for an APS-C camera, and you could probably spend a similar amount to go full frame. But Fujifilm has put so much work into making this mirrorless camera that it more than justifies its price tag with its extensive list of features, and we reckon it's still one of the best buys you can make right now.
Canon has been making really affordable digital SLR cameras for years, and with the EOS Rebel SL3 it has best entry-level DSLR around. Known as the EOS 250D outside North America, the Rebel SL3's design is sophisticated while still being friendly to the novice – boasting the guided Creative Assist mode to help you get to grips with what the camera can do. It’s fully connected, with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for super-fast shot transfer and remote control, and it also can now shoot 4K UHD video at 25p, further expanding your creative options.
Another big plus is the Live View functionality – composing and focusing using the rear screen rather than the viewfinder – which has been radically overhauled from the previous model and is now much improved, with whip-fast Dual Pixel autofocus that’s actually much better than the 9-point system offered in the viewfinder. Composing with Live View can be useful in all sorts of creative situations – if for example you’re photographing human subjects, it’s much easier to give directions without a camera pressed up in your face. The Rebel SL3 is also extremely small and light for a DSLR, weighing just 451g, and won’t take up too much space in your bag.
The EOS 250D blends many of the advantages of DSLR cameras with those of mirrorless models, creating a fantastic DSLR that’s suitable for everyone from entry-level users to more advanced shooters – for an excellent price, too.
You can grab it as a body-only option, although most people just getting started will no doubt want to spend a shade more to pair it with the EF-S 18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM lens. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even opt for a kit with the all-encompassing EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM instead, and if you fancy something similar but with a bit more powerful, take a look at the Canon EOS 90D, which has a more solid construction and better-suited to experienced photographers.
Though they're not as flashy as Sony's headline-grabbing full-frame cameras, the APS-C A6000 series has made a reputation for itself. These are fast, portable and durable cameras, boasting fast autofocus rates and brisk burst-shooting speeds to capture action of any kind. If you anticipate having to photograph difficult or fast-moving subjects, the A6600 is definitely one to consider.
Able to acquire focus in as little as 0.02sec, and boasting a weather-sealed magnesium alloy body, the A6600 is very much a camera for all situations. It's also got one eye on the world of video, producing crisp 4K HDR video with no limits on recording length. You can shoot and shoot to your heart's content.
While the camera is light at 503g, the small build does also mean that the controls are a little cramped. You might find yourself relying on the touchscreen a lot more than the physical buttons or dials; if that doesn't sound like your cup of tea, you might want to try one of the DSLRs from this list, which boast more tactile controls.
Lastly, if the A6600 is too dear, we also really rate the first camera in this series, the Sony A6000, which Sony has kept in production and is still a really solid mirrorless camera.
It’s difficult to know where to start with the Panasonic GH5; it's such a good camera that there’s a lot to pique the videographer’s interest. 4K footage can be recorded in both DCI 4K and UHD 4K flavours without the heavy crop factors that plague other 4K models, and this is captured in high-quality 10-bit 4:2:2 (internally). You can also use focus peaking to get focus bitingly sharp, call on an anamorphic shooting option, capture at high speeds for slow-motion output and opt for a (paid-for) log option. Video aside, there’s plenty more to love, from the excellent 3.6 million dot viewfinder and articulating LCD through to 9fps shooting and 225 AF points, all inside a sturdy, weather-sealed body.
Not quite what you need? The newer Panasonic GH5S variant opts for a 10.2MP sensor for better dynamic range and low-light performance, but misses out on sensor-based image stabilisation and is more of a video-only option.
Number 6 in our list is the Nikon Z50. After Nikon joined the Great Full-Frame Rush of 2018, where it felt like practically all the major manufacturers were unveiling new full-frame mirrorless systems, photographers everywhere were keen to know where they'd go next. The Z6 and Z7 were and are excellent – and expensive – cameras. What next?
The answer: the exceptional Z50. An APS-C model, the Z50 is no mere slimmed-down version of its flagship siblings, but is an excellent mirrorless camera in its own right. Its physical handling is simply superb, with a chunky grip that makes the camera easy to operate one-handed. On the inside too it's just as sophisticated, with a gorgeous sensor and sophisticated autofocus, and what's more it comes at a price specifically tailored to undercut its close competition like the Fujifilm X-T30. What's more, thanks to the FTZ mount adapter, users can also enjoy the incredible legacy of Nikon F-mount lenses. Shooting as fast as professional DSLRs, the Nikon Z50 isn't just a good camera – it represents amazing value and a truly sublime shooting experience for any creative. Look out for the twin-lens Z50 kit, which is a superbly-priced bundle.
Just as Nikon’s D850 quickly became the DSLR that everyone wanted to switch to, Sony’s A7 III has mirrorless users saving up their pennies. While many models have their specific focus and target audience, the A7 III really is a camera for all. A 24MP full-frame sensor, hybrid AF system that covers a staggering 93 per cent of the frame and 4K video from oversampled footage are just a sliver of the highlights. Sony has focused on the details too, installing the useful AF joystick that found fans on previous models, and boosting battery life to a very respectable (by mirrorless standards) 710 frames.
The A7 III is a great all-rounder, with a versatile feature-set that makes it a great fit for a range of applications, but the older Sony A7 II is still very much on a sale and worth considering if you fancy something more keenly priced. Either way, grab it with the FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 OSS if you’re just getting started, unless you already own a lens or two.
Nikon proves the DSLR is well and truly alive and kicking with its 2020 release, the D780. A mid-range full-frame DSLR, this camera has that rugged, chunky handling that DSLR photographers love but also packs in loads of great features cribbed from mirrorless cameras, making it a superb combination of the two. And access to the incredible stable of F-mount lenses is the icing on the cake that makes the D780 a truly tempting choice for creatives looking for a camera with real versatility to it.
It's designed to handle both stills and movies with aplomb, producing uncropped 4K video that's downsampled from 6K capture. If your work involves video content in any way, this is a superb choice of camera; if it doesn't, consider the lower-priced Nikon D750 which is a great low-cost full-frame DSLR that is still in production.
The D780 borrows a few top-of-the-line features from its more expensive siblings, including the 180k RGB metering and scene recognition system from the D850 above, so you can be sure you are still getting plenty of bang for your buck. As it's a DSLR, the body is unavoidably large, so those who want a more portable system will want to consider one of the mirrorless or compact options on our list. It's also still going roughly at launch time, so if your needs aren't urgent, it may be worth waiting a little while and keeping an eye out for any limited-time offers or deals.
Small, light, fast and high-quality, Sony's RX100 series of compacts is hailed by many as the best of best in terms of what compact cameras have to offer. Whether or not you agree, you can't deny there's a compelling case for it. Two standout pieces of evidence are, first, the fact that Sony keeps all the older models in production even when newer ones come out, and second, that they've produced seven of the things and show no signs of slowing down.
So why have we plumped for the RX100 VI – why not the more expensive VII or the cheaper V or IV? We think this model offers the best balance between price and quality, providing frankly amazing functionality and features in a body that costs less than £1,000. A key advantage of this model over older ones is its bigger zoom lens - that gives you the coverage equivalent to a 24-200mm superzoom, which will allow you to tackle practically any picture opportunity that presents itself.
It's capable of burst shooting at a mega-impressive 24fps in both JPEG and Raw formats with full autofocus. It inherits the winning combination of a 1-inch sensor an a 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 lens, and captures incredibly detailed 4K video, as well as super-slow-motion footage,
Really, there’s not a huge amount this camera can't do, and the fact that Sony packed all this tech into such a tiny, pocketable body is nothing short of a miracle. The high-resolution screen also flips around, making it a great camera for vlogging if this is a string you'd like to add to your bow, and it's got all the wireless and connectivity functionality you'd expect from a modern camera.
While GoPro HERO rivals have existed for almost as long as GoPro itself, many of them are either very cheap knock-offs that don’t have the same level of reliability, quality and support, or hyper-expensive imitators like Sony’s RX0 that are aimed more at the professional video sector. No longer. The DJI Osmo Action is a GoPro-like action camera that’s clearly designed to upset the kings, undercutting its rival the HERO8 Black on price and offering many features that camera lacks, such as an additional front-facing LCD screen that’s hugely useful for vlogging, and a maximum shutter speed of 1/8000sec for capturing those super-fast moments.
In terms of tough features, the Osmo Action is waterproof down to 11m without a case – outpacing GoPro by 1m in a way that feels… somewhat deliberate. It can withstand drops of up to 5ft, and if you’re planning on heading into the snow, it’ll endure temperatures as low as -10°C.
In terms of video quality and stabilisation it’s more or less on a par with the HERO7 Black – which is to say that it’s very, very good. Video footage looks super-smooth even when the camera is being handheld in challenging conditions, and the Osmo Action can record 4K at 60p, ensuring your videos will look absolutely fantastic, with crisp detail and rich colours. It’s also one of the more user-friendly action cameras, arguably easier to get to grips with than a GoPro, and it has some welcome quality-of-life features like screw-on lenses (handy if one breaks) and a Quick Set button on the top that makes it easy to toggle between settings without using the touchscreen. The value you get here for the GoPro-undercutting price means the Osmo Action is our pick for the best action camera around right now.
Also read: The best cheap GoPro deals for filmmakers
Smartphones may have shrunk the compact camera market to a fraction of its former size, but the presence of cameras like the PowerShot SX620 HS prove that there are still good reasons for the two formats to co-exist. After all, what smartphone offers a stabilised 25x optical zoom range that stretches from 25-625mm (in 35mm terms), together with the SX620 HS’s level of physical control?
Despite its beefy focal range, Canon has designed the camera with a svelte body that will still slip inside your pocket without any bother. This makes it great for those after a basic travel camera that’s as happy to hone in on far-off details as it will capture sweeping landscapes. And with Wi-Fi and NFC on board, you can quickly get your creations out into the wider world without hassle.
If you’re after something similar but don’t quite need that monstrous zoom, the arguably more handsome PowershotElph 180 or IXUS 285 HS are worth popping on your shortlist.
The best camera: What to consider
Cameras that use interchangeable lenses come in two main types: DSLR and mirrorless. DSLRs are bigger, but many prefer their chunkier handling, while mirrorless cameras generally are less hardy but more portable. DSLRs use a mirror system that allows them to field an optical viewfinder, while mirrorless cameras have to make do with an electronic version, if they offer one at all.
Both DSLR and mirrorless cameras are available at a huge range of price points, from entry-level budget models to the sophisticated and expensive cameras for pros. Mirrorless models tend to be a little better when it comes to video, while DSLRs generally come from longstanding ranges with many more great lenses available.
DSLRs are less expensive – and budget mirrorless cameras are smaller and more portable. Both types are available at a wide range of prices, and can be capable of pro results. The video capabilities tend to be better with mirrorless models – and lenses tend to be cheaper for DSLR systems.
(A caveat: we're talking very generally here, and there will often be exceptions on each side. The best way to familiarise yourself with the peculiarities of different types of camera is to shop around and get to know what's on offer).
If you don't see yourself needing the ability to swap lenses, then the alternative is to buy a compact camera or one of the best point-and-shoot cameras and have a more portable photographic solution that'll also be cheaper! We've included all three of these types of camera on this list though, so have a look and see what feels right for you.