If you're shopping for the best camera for creatives, there's one thing that's for certain: it needs to be significantly more capable than a smartphone. After all, we all carry digital cameras around in our pockets, and they do the job for Instagram and other quick snaps. How can we justify spending money on a new camera?
A good camera does many things a smartphone can't. A big one is optical zooming, whether because it's a compact with a zoom lens attached, or because it allows the user to swap lenses as well. There's also the fact that cameras have physically larger sensors than smartphones, which means they produce less image noise and can cope better in low light and high-contrast situations. Large sensors also are better for producing images with shallow depth of field (i.e. the main subject sharply in focus and the background attractively blurred), which is hugely handy for portraiture and still life.
Cameras also have faster burst rates, better video resolutions, slots for accessories like microphones or flashguns, strong battery life, fast memory card compatibility... we could go on. So, whether you're adding photography to your portfolio of professional skills, or just want to punch up your social media presence a little, it makes sense to invest in a proper camera. Even the most sophisticated camera phones can't compete.
There are lots of cameras out there, from beginner compacts to professional DSLRs. If you're not sure where to start, we definitely recommend checking out our what to consider when buying a camera section, where we break down the main types of camera you can find. This guide includes DSLRs, mirrorless cameras and fixed-lens compacts, all of which have their own advantages and disadvantages, so it's worth familiarising yourself with the basics before dropping dollar on anything. If you are a total beginner, then you can also check out our best cameras for beginners guide.
The cameras on this list vary dramatically in price, but we're happy that all of them represent great value for different users. If you need accessories, check out our guide to the best tripods, or if you're looking for 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.
See more on Nikons in our guide to the best Nikon camera.
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.
The flagship full-frame mirrorless camera from Nikon, the Z7 II, is designed to woo photographers who might have been swayed by showboaty mirrorless models from Canon and Sony. So it's got similar specs to the likes of the EOS R5 or A7R IV, with 45MP of resolution, speedy burst shooting and high-quality 4K video. It may not have headline-grabbing specs like 8K video, but it is more affordable than its rivals in the same class.
Overall, the Nikon Z7 II is a very impressive all-around package. It handles like a dream and produces images that look seriously impressive. Any pro or serious enthusiast photographer will find this camera does everything they could need and more, and does so with welcome extras like an upgraded battery that lasts longer compared to the original Z7. Dual card slots too! Very nice.
Any negatives? The monitoring situation is a little disappointing, with an LCD screen that only tilts and isn't fully articulated, and an EVF that's lower resolution than some rival cameras. None of this is deal-breaking though, and if you're looking for a full-frame mirrorless system to jump into, Nikon's Z series is definitely worth considering.
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.
The original Panasonic Lumix GH5 was one of the most highly regarded consumer video cameras around. Panasonic has given it a quick, light, 2021 refresh in the form of the GH5 II, and while it doesn't reinvent the wheel, it does make another compelling argument for being one of the best, most cost-effective video cameras you can get right now.
Producing pristine 4K video, the GH5 II offers 60p video capability, the V-Log L profile, VFR (Variable Frame Rates), 10-bit internal recording and more. It's no slouch with stills either; while 20MP might be a little limiting for some, the GH5 II can shoot at up to 12fps and has a big stills buffer capacity. The headline specs might not be the highest around, but in truth the GH5 II is one of the most capable all-rounders available right now.
The GH5 II uses the Micro Four Thirds sensor and lens mount. This means there are a huge number of lenses to choose from, with the ability to use Olympus lenses as well as Panasonic. The sensor is smaller than full-frame or APS-C, which some will turn up their noses at, but the GH5 II provides many features to compensate, such as 6.5-stop image stabilisation. This is a powerful camera, especially for hybrid photo/video content creators.
The Nikon Z series of mirrorless cameras has mostly been full-frame up to this point, the only exception being the relatively straightforward Z50. The exciting new kid on the block is the Nikon Z fc, an APS-C mirrorless camera styled after the film SLRs of yesteryear. It's retro on the outside and cutting-edge on the inside, with 11fps burst shooting, 4K 30p video, a 2.36 million-dot electronic viewfinder, and more.
Nikon's latest hybrid autofocus system makes this a fast and capable camera for most situations. A few cutbacks have been made to keep the price low: there's no image stabilisation in body, and the chassis isn't weather sealed, so you'll want to keep it out of the rain. All this is kind of fair enough, though some users may bemoan the lack of UHS-II card support.
It's also worth bearing in mind that there aren't very many DX-format (APS-C) lenses for the Z system... yet. This is a problem that will correct itself as the system expands, but for now you are quite limited in your choices. Despite its retro looks, the Nikon Z fc is a future-facing camera, and is an exciting choice for enthusiasts who want to get in on the ground floor.
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 a grand. 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. If you specifically want to capture wildlife remotely, take a look at our guide too the best trail cameras.